January 31, 2016

Pro-gov’t trolls, dailies launch defamation campaign against Bülent Arınç

Pro-government Twitter trolls and dailies have launched a campaign of defamation targeting former Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç after he criticized a government-backed witch hunt against the Gülen movement in televised remarks on Friday night.

Talking to prominent Turkish journalist Taha Akyol in a live broadcast on CNN Türk, the former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy said most operations targeting the Gülen movement do not comply with the law, adding that he, a former lawyer, wishes he could put on the cloak worn by lawyers again to defend the people victimized by the operations against the “parallel structure,” a term invented by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to vilify people affiliated with the Gülen movement.

The Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, is a religious community inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Arınç also claimed that he personally knows that President Erdoğan knew about the blueprint for a resolution of Turkey's decades-old Kurdish issue, known as the “Dolmabahçe consensus,” that was declared after talks between the government and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in February of last year.

President Erdoğan earlier claimed he was not informed about the blueprint before the meeting and directed surprise criticism at the Dolmabahçe meeting. “I will never accept the term ‘Dolmabahçe consensus.' There can be no such thing. Why? Because the government is here and a political party there. Who is reaching a consensus with whom, on what and for what purpose?” Erdoğan told reporters after Eid al-Fitr prayers in İstanbul last year, insisting that any consensus that will affect the future of the country should come from within Parliament. He claimed that he was not informed about the blueprint before the meeting.

Following Arınç's remarks, pro-AK Party Twitter trolls, columnists and journalists attacked the politician on social media. Hilal Kaplan, a columnist for the pro-government Sabah daily, called the former deputy prime minister “Lawrence of Manisa” in her tweet, referring to Thomas Edward Lawrence, a British scholar, writer and soldier who mobilized the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire in World War I and became famous as “Lawrence of Arabia.” Manisa is Arınç's city of birth. Kaplan's tweet continued, “We do not take political corpses into account.”

Arınç quickly became a trending topic on Twitter after the program, with mainly AK trolls calling him a traitor. The trolls insult, target and profile prominent political and social figures who do not embrace the ruling AK Party's ideals and practices.

The pro-government daily Güneş called Arınç “Robed Bülo” on its front page, referring to his remarks that he would like to wear his lawyer's robe again. “Bülo” is a shortened version of his first name and often used by those living in rural areas.

Since the program, broadcast on CNN Türk, an affiliate of the Doğan Media Group, the daily also accused media mogul Aydın Doğan, who owns Doğan Holding, of trying to defame the government via Arınç.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 31 January 2016, Sunday