February 7, 2015

Details of the witch hunt

Ali Yurttagül

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has now lost control of everything.

Let as look at what government spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç says: “We have studied the matter in details for seven hours, but we have been unable to find a simple solution.” Are you wondering what is he talking about? What they discussed for seven hours is not Turkey's EU membership bid, the Kurdish issue, the currency crisis, the Syrian issue, the civilian constitution or the deteriorating image of Turkey in the world. They discussed how they would close down the schools affiliated with the Hizmet movement abroad. And of course, many are asking why a civil society movement opens schools in Vietnam or Mozambique. And they may be right. Why do they insist on the Vietnamese curriculum or tell their students to stay in Mozambique? It is not hard, however, for European intellectuals and leftists who are aware of the brain drain issue to understand the Hizmet schools in Vietnam and Mozambique.

But why do the government and its ministers spend hours and tireless efforts to ensure that Hizmet-affiliated schools are shut down? It is not a coincidence that nobody asks this question in Turkey. It is a state tradition to confiscate political parties, unions and community-affiliated banks that defy and question the state order. Every structure questioning the state order and activities is always considered dangerous. Being suspicious of every social movement is the basic character of despotism. The law exists to reinforce state domination and to control a society. Despotism loves the submission of the people and is not open to a social structure exhibiting signs of solidarity. Those who question illiteracy and poverty are considered dangerous for despotism and so their assets are confiscated. Turkish society is not unfamiliar with this culture; people find it pretty normal.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu uses the suspicion that emerged in this culture in these populist remarks: “Why does a religious community or group have a bank? Why does it employ the media or the law? Transforming a religious activity into a bureaucratic and economic activity and imposing a political agenda cannot be accepted.” Davutoğlu is well aware that Hizmet does not have its own prosecutors or legal system. Only the state has a legal system and judicial members. But some prosecutors, teachers or judges may feel close to Hizmet. This is legitimate because others may be affiliated with other groups. A prosecutor who violates the law and the rules prescribed by the state cannot stay as a prosecutor. The state cannot tolerate it. But if the state is a despotic apparatus which relies on arbitrary decisions, it uses prosecutors and judges affiliated with a certain group depending on the conditions. Patronage rather than the law is influential within the state. It is possible to see that this culture has a widespread impact in our society. Look what Ümit Kıvanç says: “Do those who gather around the Bank Asya buildings to raise objections to what happened to the bank ask why they have such a bank? Why does Hizmet have a bank? This is a legitimate question given that it seems rather strange to create a bank given that banking-related activities involve interest-based transactions. Yes, I am repeating this naïve question: Why does this religious community have a bank? When we ask these questions, why do we not receive an answer?” (riyatabirleri.blogspot.com). But Hizmet does not have a bank; there is a bank founded by businessmen or people who are affiliated with the Hizmet movement. They created this bank at a time when the state was involved in corruption. Perhaps confidence was a major motive for this. Is founding a bank a bad thing? Environmentalists created banks focusing on environmental issues in Europe. They support environmentally friendly projects. Is this bad?

If they had properly analyzed the second half of the 19th century when socialist movements took root, our leftists would have asked the proper questions. They would have seen why workers created banks, insurance companies or unions and why the state tried to undermine the economic power of the socialist movements by confiscating their institutions. The proper question is why the Hizmet movement stands against the AKP. Or why the Hizmet movement is the new target of the witch hunt which targeted Sabahattin Ali and Nazım Hikmet in the past. While seeking answer to this question, we need to see that the conservatives who support democracy have become targets and victims of the witch hunt. This struggle will continue until society gets rid of the remnants of despotism and a democratic order is established.

Published on Today's Zaman, 07 February 2015, Saturday