June 18, 2015

Turkey’s largest religious publication group denied spot at Ramadan book fair

Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (DİB) has refused to allocate exhibit space at a Ramadan book fair to the country's largest religious publication group over its links affiliated with the Gülen movement, a social movement at which the government has been waging a war.

In an apparent politically-motivated decision, the directorate, which has been recently under fire for being a tool for government favoritism, barred 20 publishing houses including, Kaynak Kültür Publication Group, from participating in the 34th Turkey Book and Culture Fair starting on Wednesday, organized by the directorate and the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality's cultural department, Kültür A.Ş, during every Ramadan.

According to Özden Demir, general manager of the Kaynak Publishing Group, barring the largest religious books publisher in the country from the 34th Turkey Book and Culture Fair is discriminative. Demir told the Cihan news agency on Tuesday that the reason for them not being allowed to participate in the fair is “limited space,” which he claims is not reasonable.

Demir said they were unable to register for space at the fair after being told by officials at the directorate of the decision. Demir also noted they have been participating in the fair every year since 2000 and never faced any problem before.

Kaynak Publishing Group consists dozens of publishers that publish books in different categories and languages. The group is also known as the publisher of the books of Gülen.

Since a major corruption probe became public on Dec. 17, 2013 implicating people close to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), media outlets, publication houses and even NGOs close to the faith-based Gülen movement -- popularly known as the Hizmet movement and inspired by the views of prominent Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen have been targeted by the government.

The AK Party and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuse sympathizers of the Gülen movement, especially those in the police force and the judiciary, of being part of a plot against the government by carrying out the graft probe. However, Erdoğan and AK Party circles have yet to present any concrete evidence proving their accusations. The movement, inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, has strongly denied all claims.

In a similar move last year, the Religious Affairs Directorate (DİB) refused to allocate exhibit space at the same book fair to Ufuk and Zaman Kitap Publishing Houses, which have ties to the Hizmet movement. It had also halved the square-footage allocated to the Kaynak Publishing House.

Event officials claimed that they did not have enough room for all the publishing houses this year because the fairgrounds, located in İstanbul's Beyazıt district, were reduced in size as a result of a recent restoration project.

However the directorate allocated stands to the government-controlled Yeni Şafak and Star dailies -- which were allegedly bought using a pool of money to which businessmen close to the government contributed -- although neither publication has the status of a publishing house.

The directorate's attitude is reminiscent of the period that led to the Feb.28, 1997 unarmed military intervention in Turkey. However, at that time, it was the publishers printing the Risale-i Nur collection written by Said Nursi, a prominent Islamic theologian, who were not allowed to participate in the fair.

Published on Today's Zaman, 18 June 2015, Thursday