April 29, 2015

Targeting Hizmet, Erdoğan says ‘obey state or perish’

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has signaled that radical steps will be taken against the “parallel structure,” a defamatory term used by Erdoğan to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement also known as Hizmet movement, by calling on affiliates of the movement in the state bureaucracy to comply with the state or otherwise perish, causing worry on the part of human rights advocates who fear that Erdoğan's hate speech might lead to unfair treatment and human rights violations against a segment of society.

Speaking to reporters on board a plane returning to Turkey from an official visit to Kuwait on Tuesday, Erdoğan hinted that the government will step up efforts to re-shape the bureaucracy by introducing more radical measures against the “parallel structure.”

The term “parallel structure” was invented by Erdoğan to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement inspired by the Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen, who lives in self-exile in the US.

“They [referring to the “parallel structure”] will respect state authority or will perish. We will [begin to] make different decisions after tomorrow's [Wednesday's] National Security Council [MGK] meeting,” Erdoğan told the reporters.

Speaking to Today's Zaman on Wednesday, President of the Human Rights Agenda Association (İHGD) and assistant professor of penal law at Çukurova University Günal Kurşun said that political leaders should avoid employing hate speech against a segment of the population due to the fact that the supporters of the leaders could be stirred up by the inflammatory speech of their leaders and might resort to violence against the targeted group.

“Politicians should be wary of using threatening words when making statements to the public. Their statements might be exaggerated by their supporters. When it was said that the ‘parallel structure will perish,' this statement resonates differently with a [certain] segment of society who might use violence against the targeted group,” said Kurşun.

Chairman of the Felicity Party (SP) Mustafa Kamalak, in his interview with Today's Zaman, lashed out at Erdoğan's remarks: “There is no such thing as obedience to the state. It [obedience to the state] is not a legal term. In a state, respecting the rule of law is the [only] principal. There is not any obedience [to the state] but [instead there is] respect [for the law]” said Kamalak.

Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Celal Dinçer told Today's Zaman that Erdoğan sees himself as not as the head of a democratic state but head of a non-democratic country in the north, referring to Russia.

“Erdoğan sees himself as a sultan. The Turkish people love democracy and neither the Turkish people nor the CHP will show obedience to him,” said Dinçer.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz commented on Erdoğan's remarks, saying that the president signaled that the government will intensify the heavy pressure on the Gülen movement in the near future.

“The government, which has been using all [aspects of] the state authority to crack down on the Gülen movement, will escalate the measures against the movement,” said Cengiz.

He also noted that if a group is cited as a threat in the national security policy document of the MGK, it would face severe pressure from the state, as seen in the past.

Erdoğan's remarks against the Gülen movement came after the government's blatant intervention in a judicial case when the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance on Saturday evening ruled for the release of Samanyolu TV Channel CEO Hidayet Karaca and 63 imprisoned police officers who have been kept under pre-trial detention for months despite a lack of evidence to support their incarceration.

The second chamber of the Supreme Court of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), an institution under the control of the government, swiftly convened on Monday and suspended three judges who ruled for the release, effectively preventing the enforcement of the court's ruling for the release of the detainees.

The Justice and Development (AK Party) government hastily crafted a theory about a so-called parallel state in the wake of a corruption scandal that broke on Dec. 17, 2013 in order to accuse the Gülen movement of masterminding corruption investigations targeting key members of the government.

Thousands of police officers were re-shuffled and hundreds were detained or arrested after the corruption scandals went public.

The government also put the judiciary under its control by appointing AK Party loyalists to the HSYK, an institution which has become an instrument for the government to re-assign judges and prosecutors, including those who were involved in legal cases critical of the government.

The EU and human rights organizations have been voicing concern over government control of the judiciary and human rights issues in Turkey following the demonization of individuals affiliated with the Gülen movement.

In an interview with the private Cihan news agency, Co-President of the Greens Group in the European Parliament (EP) Rebecca Harms said although the judiciary should be a guarantee of the rule of law, it has become an instrument of the Turkish government.

She also commented on the non-implementation of a court ruling for the release of Karaca and other detainees: "For İstanbul's chief prosecutor not to recognize the court's judgment in the Hidayet Karaca case is a travesty of justice. Erdoğan's new appointees seem more concerned about pleasing their benefactor than with seeing justice done,” said Harms.

The government's “parallel structure” theory also has not been successful in acquiring support outside of Turkey.

Vice President of the EP Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, speaking on the Europe Desk program aired on Samanyolu Haber TV on March, said that he personally did not see the “parallel state” theory as “credible.”

Alexander Lambsdorff

"We have people here in Brussels who read Turkish, speak Turkish and understand Turkey rather well and travel to the country quite regularly. None of them really think there is this big parallel state structure. There used to be a parallel state in Turkey, we should not forget that. That was the army. There is one thing that the AK Party government has really achieved for Turks, and that is to put the army back to its barracks where it belongs. It should not try to create a new parallel state just to have somebody to fight against. I think the theory is not really plausible,” said Lambsdroff.

Published on Today's Zaman, 29 April 2015, Wednesday