March 1, 2015

Gov’t’s ‘parallel state’ claims collapse after it refuses parliamentary investigation

A parliamentary group proposal made by opposition parties to investigate claims of the existence of a so-called “parallel structure” was recently rejected by the government, prompting criticism of Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who readily use the term to ostracize and persecute their opponents.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) recently submitted a proposal in Parliament requesting an investigation into what the term “parallel structure” means. The proposal was rejected by AK Party deputies present at the parliamentary debate.

The term "parallel structure” is generally used by the Turkish president and his associates to refer to the Gülen movement (or Hizmet movement), inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. Erdoğan began using the phrase after declaring the group a “treasonous enemy” after a corruption scandal involving his family members and members of his inner circle. The scandal surfaced after graft investigations went public on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013. Erdoğan openly declared last year that he would do whatever it takes to “eliminate the parallel structure,” even if this requires a “witch hunt.”

The Gülen movement was a known supporter of the AK Party, especially during its first two terms, as the ruling party carefully guided Turkey from the grip of military tutelage and nudged it toward increasingly democratic rule and European Union values. However, the ties between the AK Party and the civil society organization, which mainly deals in education and interfaith dialogue activities in Turkey and around the world, were all but destroyed after the December 2013 graft investigations. Many believe Erdoğan is using the claims of a “parallel structure” to shift focus from the graft allegations by targeting the Gülen movement.

Speaking to Sunday's Zaman regarding the issue, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Mahmut Tanal said he considers the government's stance hypocritical because on one hand the government unceasingly makes the Hizmet movement a scapegoat for any kind of problem in the country, but on the other hand does not allow the launch of an investigation into the issue.

"We, as the CHP, demanded that the ‘parallel' claims be reviewed in detail through a parliamentary investigation. Who these people are, to what extend they have power or how they influence the course of the events within the state in the way the government is persistently claiming should have been examined. The government's rejection of it reveals that they are not sincere in their ‘parallel' accusations and the term is just used to intimidate, defame and silence those who oppose the government's wrongdoing and ill-intentioned practices," Tanal said.

Tanal further commented that the CHP requested the establishment of a commission to investigate the government's claims relating to the existence of a “parallel structure” and the fact that the proposal was rejected by the AK Party proves that the government has used the term to ostracize all who do not agree with the AK Party's politics, adding, "It means that the government created an enemy called the ‘parallel state' and benefits from it to cover up its unlawful actions."

Another point that Tanal stressed was how the term has turned into a means to defame all people, including state officials, who defend the rule of the law and the principles of democracy against the AK Party-led unlawfulness, going on to state: "Those individuals who oppose corruption are targeted and accused of being members of the alleged ‘parallel state.' Those who make such accusations against honest and esteemed people are mentally ill. They, unfortunately, rule the country and are damaging all the democratic gains that Turkey has made."

Hasip Kaplan, a HDP deputy, also spoke to Sunday's Zaman about the government's rejection of the investigation into the “parallel” claims and said that the refusal to agree to an investigation has indicated that the government is deceiving the whole country with fabricated allegations. "In the past, the governments of Turkey demonized certain ideologies to cover up their mistakes from being seen by the people and voters. They manipulated public opinion by drawing attention to fabricated threats in order to daunt society. The current government, in a similar vein, is using the term ‘parallel' to serve its goals," Kaplan added.

Meanwhile, the Hürriyet daily columnist Ertuğrul Özkök recently wrote an article questioning the government's hypocritical stance on the issue of the investigation into the “parallel” claims via the establishment of a commission in Parliament. In his article, Özkök said: "Brother! Well, you said it was an attempted coup against the government [referring to the Dec. 17 graft investigation into top government officials, who claimed it was a plot by the Hizmet movement against the ruling party]. All [ruling party deputies] joined the choir and claimed the graft probe was a plot against the government to bring it down. Did these people not visit certain African and Latin American countries to complain about [the Hizmet movement]? Then, something happened unexpectedly. The CHP, the [Nationalist Movement Party] MHP and the HDP demanded an investigation into the allegations. But the proposal was rejected by the votes of those who label the graft probe as plot against them."

In a similar vein, the AK Party recently rejected a legislation proposal by opposition parties in Parliament that aims to penalize the use and selling of bonzai, a drug which has become increasingly popular despite a number of adolescents dying after using it. Although leading AK Party officials have tried to create the impression to the public that any opposition to the bill reveals a belief that the fight against drugs should not be strengthened, all three opposition parties voted in favor of the article of the bill which said bonzai should be considered a narcotic and penalized.

Published on Today's Zaman, 28 February 2015, Saturday