President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who launched an all-out war against the faith-based Gülen movement in late 2013, kept his strategy to eliminate the group a secret until he decided to sever ties with it completely, Yeni Asya daily Editor-in-Chief Kazım Güleçyüz has said, adding the elimination strategy was state-sponsored.
Erdoğan launched the war against the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, after a corruption investigation targeting people in his inner circle became public with a wave of detentions on Dec. 17, 2013. Erdoğan accused police officers, judges and prosecutors he claimed are linked with Gülen movement of being behind the investigation, which he branded a “coup attempt.” The movement strongly denies Erdoğan's allegation.
Over the past two years, individuals and organizations believed to be close to the Gülen movement have been facing immense pressure from the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.
Güleçyüz said the war on the Gülen movement has its roots in a National Security Council (MGK) document that became public in 2013 but Erdoğan chose to keep secret his plans to finish off the movement for years.
A document prepared by the MGK on Aug. 25, 2004 persuading the government to implement a series of measures to curb the activities of the Gülen movement was published by a daily in November 2013. The document, which advised the government to adopt legal measures that would impose harsh penalties on Gülen-affiliated institutions, came as a shock to many because the AK Party government seemed to value the activities of the Gülen movement for years.
"When one takes a look at the details of the MGK document dated August 2004 and signed by all members of the council, you will see that many things that are being done [against the movement] today are mentioned there. The issue began with [government plans to close down] prep schools and turned into a campaign to eliminate all organizations that have ties to the movement. This means it is a state-sponsored operation," he said.
Erdoğan's war on the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, actually began with his government's plans to shut down prep schools (dershane), which became public in November 2013. Since many of such schools are Gülen-inspired, Erdoğan's move was seen as targeting the movement.
When asked about Erdoğan's call on Gülen, who has been living in the US in self-imposed exile since 1999, to return to Turkey during a speech in 2012, which was viewed as a sincere invitation by many back then, Güleçyüz said that was a matter of Erdoğan playing politics and keeping his real intention a secret before severing ties with the movement completely.
According to the Yeni Asya editor, politics in Turkey have been greatly polluted and moral degeneration in the country has reached its peak in the hands of the "pious" politicians.
Güleçyüz said that, at a time when politics have become so dirty, it is of utmost importance for religious people and communities to cut their ties with politics so that they can avoid being contaminated.
"There are many things we can do in platforms other than politics. We need to increase our partnerships in these civilian platforms that are free of political inclinations. We need to initiate serious work on values such as democracy, rights, freedoms and morality," he said.
Under the rule of the AK Party government, Güleçyüz said some religious communities that have cooperated with the government have undergone a significant erosion of prestige and have moved away from their raison d'être.
"They have undergone loss of identity and prestige. Their raison d'être has been greatly shaken. And they have become secularized. This is the main issue. The secularization of religious groups means they have moved away from their founding principles, their mission and moving from one side to the other under the influence of political winds. In fact, religious groups exist in order to enrich people's spiritual life and help them prepare a better life for themselves in the hereafter. … Unfortunately, religious communities were involved in businesses under the pretext of 'better serving the people' and things like properties, wealth, money and rank have come to the forefront. The means have become their ends," explained Güleçyüz, describing the situation as "very unsettling."
Güleçyüz has since 1992 been serving as the editor-in-chief of the Yeni Asya daily, which represents one branch of the Nur movement, founded by prominent Islamic scholar Bediüzzaman Said Nursi.
Yeni Asya has come under immense pressure from the AK Party government for its opposition against the monopolization of the exclusive publishing and distribution rights of Nursi's “Risale-i Nur” collection.
On a question on President Erdoğan's aspiration to switch from the current parliamentary system to a presidential system, Güleçyüz said if a presidential system is introduced under the current circumstances, there are serious concerns that it could result in a dictatorship.
"It is out of the question for a presidential system to introduce democracy to Turkey given the fact that [President Erdoğan] determines the list of parliamentary candidates himself and works to subordinate the judiciary, the executive branch, Parliament, nongovernmental organizations and the media to himself. It will simply bring about the opposite," he said.
President Erdoğan, who was the AK Party's former leader, is a strong supporter of a system switch as he wants to enjoy more executive powers under a presidential system. Erdoğan's post is largely ceremonial now. He talks about introducing a “Turkish-style presidential system," which worries critics and the opposition, who say that there will be no separation of powers and a one-man rule under the system Erdoğan wants to introduce.
Published on Today's Zaman, 20 February 2016, Saturday