March 30, 2015

GYV: 2010 KPSS investigation is another gov’t plot against Hizmet

Mustafa Yeşil, the president of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) -- of which prominent Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen is the honorary president -- said in a press conference on Monday that a case pertaining to alleged cheating in the State Personnel Examination (KPSS) in 2010 is the latest example of a ruling government plot against sympathizers of the Gülen movement, which is inspired by the teachings of the Islamic scholar.

Yeşil characterized recent arrests in the government investigation into the 2010 KPSS as part of a smear campaign against the Gülen movement, which is also known as the Hizmet movement. Yeşil said the accusations in the investigation are part of the hostility that once produced the phrase, “I can declare them [Gülen movement sympathizers] terrorists with a prosecutor and three policemen and finish them.”

Media outlets reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had allegedly told Turkish ambassadors in a meeting in 2011 when he was prime minister that if the activities of Turkish institutions abroad affiliated with the movement disturb him and his government, he can declare them a terrorist group with the help of a prosecutor and few policemen.

Gülen, members of the movement and its supporters have been targeted by Erdoğan and members of his inner circle within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. Erdoğan accuses the Hizmet movement of instigating far-reaching corruption probes that came to public attention on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 and implicated people from the government and his inner circle. Erdoğan has said that the corruption investigations were an attempt by what he calls a criminal organization to overthrow his government. The movement has denied the allegations.

In the KPSS 2010 investigation, a total of 30 of the 69 suspects detained were released on Friday pending trial on charges of forgery of official documents, membership in an alleged illegal organization and engaging in aggravated fraud. The court issued arrest warrants for 32 people in the investigations. The seven remaining suspects were released earlier in the week.

The KPSS investigation was initially launched in 2010 after more than 3,227 people answered most or all of the questions on the KPSS correctly, leading to claims that some of the candidates had either cheated during the test or obtained the questions beforehand. The investigations has been revived five years later amid complaints by opposition members that the government is using the operations as a springboard to further its own agenda.

Yeşil noted that questions surrounding the 2010 KPSS investigation had been put to rest by then-Prime Minister Erdoğan and Ali Demir, the chairman of the Student Selection and Replacement Center (ÖSYM), which conducts the exam. Erdoğan, in response to media reports at the time about allegations of cheating in the 2010 exam, said that Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members had tried to cheat on the exam but the government stopped it. Demir also said that no cheating had taken place in all the exams the ÖSYM had conducted, including the 2010 KPSS.

Yeşil, addressing questions to the government and the ÖSYM in the press meeting, asked what made the ÖSYM renounce its declaration and what led the AK Party government and Erdoğan to accuse the Hizmet movement instead of the outlawed PKK. Drawing attention to the government's policies regarding the PKK, Yeşil asked whether the government is trying to find a new enemy or trying to cover up corruption and other allegations against it.

According to Yeşil, it is noteworthy to mention that the timing of the renewed focus on the 2010 KPSS investigation coincided with allegations of nepotism in the ruling AK Party government, which may result in a loss of votes in the lead-up to the June parliamentary elections.

Turkey was earlier shaken by statements made by Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman and spokesperson Haluk Koç on Dec. 7, 2014 that revealed the extent of nepotism within the AK Party government. Koç provided a list of 85 individuals who had been hired at state institutions based solely on their relationships with government officials.

Following Koç's claims, Turkish Public Workers' Labor Union (Kamu-Sen) Secretary-General Fahrettin Yokuş claimed on Jan. 13 that the number of people who had been assigned to public posts illegally by the AK Party was higher than previously estimated, at around 20,000. Yokuş claimed that this number, far exceeding the CHP estimates, included children, relatives and friends of AK Party officials.

According to a report in the Taraf daily on Jan. 19, the AK Party government has prepared a plan to remove the requirement to take the KPSS altogether for those seeking positions in civil service, paving the way for government loyalists to be employed by the state.

Recalling the reports in the media on the AK Party's nepotism, Yeşil asked whether the AK Party's real aim in abolishing the KPSS exam is to grant employment to supporters of the AK Party who were unable to enter state agencies.

Yeşil underlined that these accusations against Gülen and sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the 2010 KPSS investigation are as baseless as the accusations by pro-government media in February saying Gülen ordered the assassination of Erdoğan's daughter, Sümeyye Erdoğan, ahead of the June 7 general elections. Yeşil said that the political situation in Turkey is reminiscent to the US in the early 1950s when Senator Joseph McCarthy and his supporters accused thousands of Americans of being communist party members, communist sympathizers or Soviet agents and initiated a witch hunt by using state institutions and their loyal media as a tool. According to Yeşil, the pro-government media is a "thick dark curtain" hiding the truth from society.

Yeşil also discussed the GYV's international activities with the United Nations, saying the foundation was recently selected as one of 13 governing board members of the UN Department of Public Information, which has 1,700 members. Yeşil noted that, in spite of all of these difficult circumstances, Hizmet-inspired institutions will continue to serve society by working within the framework of democracy and the rule of law.

Published on Today's Zaman, 30 March 2015, Monday