April 18, 2015

Making a terrorist out of Mevlana

Abdülhamit Bilici

It's no longer possible to ignore Turkey's rapid journey away from justice and democracy. What we see is this: journalists thrown into jail, corruption investigations shut down, bold regime interventions into court procedures, legislation of bills aimed at creating a police state, overt pressures placed on the business world, bans on social media and much more.

International esteem for Turkey dwindles daily. This despite all the recent praise for the democratic reforms a few years back. Suddenly, even old allies don't trust Turkey; we have become a country that is now compared to those with openly autocratic regimes.

Two events last week reveal particularly well how Turkey seems to be headed down the wrong path. Last Friday, news agencies reported that the Ankara 2nd Criminal Court had accepted a list of allegations claiming that Fethullah Gülen was the leader of an armed terrorist organization. These are essentially the same charges on which he was tried -- and acquitted -- back in 2008 by the Supreme Court of Appeals, following a case brought about by the coup-planning cadres that drove the Feb. 28 process.

During that time, those planning the coup had urged certain newspapers to publish headlines claiming that Gülen had “3,000 suicide commandos” at his disposal. These new versions of the allegations slander Gülen similarly, even dipping as low as to accuse him of “car theft” at one point.

In the end, though, it's a bit tragicomic to accuse a man who has dedicated his life to education and dialogue of having ties to terrorism. And, in fact, the latest allegations are so weak that Law Professor Metin Günday attests: “If I had a student who ran an investigation this way, I would have serious doubts about whether he had ever even studied law. I would give him a ‘zero' grade.”

Yes, it's ridiculous, but it's where the new Turkey stands now. We live in an era when Hidayet Karaca can be thrown behind bars for a television series, and Ekrem Dumanlı can be detained because of the content of two newspaper columns. What about Sedef Kabaş, accused of threatening public officials because of a tweet she wrote rejecting the closure of the corruption investigation? These are times when the reigning ideological approach turns the justice system on its head.

The fact that Gülen was given the world-famous “Ghandi-King-Ikeda Peace Award” on the same day that the list of new allegations about him was accepted by a top court in Ankara casts the vicious slander against him into new light. It also shows clearly just how far Turkey has become distanced from certain universal values.

Just think about it for a moment: accusations of terror against a civilian organization that, never mind guns, has never even picked up a hammer. And again, the absurdity of the situation becomes even more apparent when, on the same day said list of allegations is accepted, the very person you are accusing is seen fit to receive an award that had previously gone to such civilian leaders as Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

In a speech at the awards ceremony, Professor Scott Alexander talked about how Gülen was akin to a Mevlana of our day, and how the Gülen movement has managed to offer education in diverse communities internationally, prompting peace and dialogue in doing so. Another speaker at Morehouse University, Professor Lawrence E. Carter, noted how honored he was to be giving such an award to Gülen, who has done so much to contribute to global peace, who put such a focus on collective human values, and who used his Islamic faith as a point of departure to try and solve shared problems.

Of course, not long after Gülen was awarded this prestigious title, the pro-government media set to work, implying that the award had essentially been bought, and that one of the awarding councils was directly linked to the Gülen movement. But, of course, in the end, as one of the professors from Morehouse noted, the Turkish people “are not stupid enough to believe these lies.” As we say in Turkish, you cannot cover over the glare of the sun with plaster. And the only damage being done is to our country.

Published on Today's Zaman, 18 April 2015, Saturday