February 1, 2015

Education Minister Avcı: the most unfortunate member of the Cabinet

Ali Aslan Kılıç

The graft and bribery scandal that went public on Dec. 17, 2013 continues to undermine the prestige of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

It is true that a judicial investigation into the case was put on the back burner with the prosecutor's eventual decision of non-prosecution. It is also true that Parliament voted not to proceed with a probe into the allegations.

But the loss of prestige does not stem from the ongoing discussions about corruption and bribery or from the emergence of new documents showing evidence of them.

On the contrary, the ruling party is skilled in coming up with controversial new topics for debate so that the graft and bribery allegations are kept off the agenda.

What makes the prestige of the government melt away like snow in the sun is its exaggerated and revengeful attitude in dealing with Dec. 17. It was easy for the ruling party to discredit the graft investigation as a "judicial coup" through a series of campaigns designed to manipulate the public's views. The same campaigns were successful in making the typical AK Party supporters believe this judicial coup was staged by a so-called "parallel structure" -- a term frequently used by government officials about the Gülen movement, a faith-based movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

However, consider the following:

- First of all, the witch hunt against public sector employees created questions in people's minds.
- The terror charges raised against the Gülen movement in connection with the script of a soap opera, two columns and a news report could not be made to stick so easily.
- Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca was unlawfully arrested and has been in jail for 50 days, and conscientious people cannot support his victimization.

If there is concrete and strong evidence, the judicial process must be set in motion. Anyone who violates laws must be tried and punished by the court. But the ruling party has been unable to produce anything to prove the “judicial coup” claim it has been making for the last 13 months. Thus, without proving this claim, it sounds libelous to accuse a group of being a “parallel structure.”

Unfounded allegations and slanderous charges will work up to a point. After that, its credibility starts to disappear.

The plan to shut down Turkish schools abroad -- which are run by Turkish entrepreneurs inspired by the ideas of Gülen, who is well-respected around the world -- is such a point. This move is so fallacious and unfair that the perception engineering campaigns are unable to support it.

It is quite strange that the head of the state seeks to undermine a project which is a source of pride for the nation. Pitting the state and the nation against each other brings up bad memories in this country.

This move that triggers the loss of prestige of the ruling party is so misguided that it will discredit it whether it is successful or not. Indeed, an article that appeared in Nigeria's reputable newspaper Leadership, titled "That Erdogan's War With Education In Africa," draws attention to this irrationality.

This fallacy is a breach of diplomatic courtesy and would mean meddling in the domestic affairs of a country if it was to be voiced during a tête-à-tête with the host leader, but yet it is being publicly voiced by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

This move undermines the ruling party's prestige both at home and abroad, and has rekindled the debate about Turkey's failing education system. And Nabi Avcı, the Cabinet's unluckiest minister, has been tasked with defending Turkey's paralyzed education system and Erdoğan's "war on education." What can one say to defend the suggestion, "Shut down the Turkish schools and we, the Ministry of Education, will open up new ones."

I have been acquainted with Avcı for about 30 years. He is a polite and respected person, but if he had known that he would have to deal with such a situation, I am sure he would not have resigned from the university he was at and gone into politics.

All members of the Cabinet, particularly Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, are going through an arduous test. But my dear friend Avcı is the most unfortunate one. Apparently, he is going through the hardest time of his life.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 01 February 2015, Sunday