September 30, 2014

Civil servants spy on one another for higher posts

More and more civil servants are tending to spy on one another to win the government's favor for promotion to higher posts, Today's Zaman has learned.

The servants send petitions to the Prime Ministry's Coordination Center (BİMER) in which they claim some of their colleagues are members of the “parallel structure,” a reference the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) uses for the faith-based Hizmet movement. The petitions, however, mostly lack any evidence to suggest that the spied-on civil servants are involved in any irregularity or wrongdoing. They fail to explain if being a member of a civil society organization is a crime, either.

BİMER, in response to the petitions, includes the spied-on civil servants in a “red list” and assigns inspectors to ascertain if the civil servants are really Hizmet members. If the inspectors decide as a result of the examination that the civil servants are Hizmet members, then they are either removed from their job or sacked.

Similar petitions are also filed at the National Police Department.

Many police officers report to their superiors about the “suspected activities” of their colleagues, expressing “worry” that their colleagues may be followers of the Hizmet movement. A senior police officer, who wanted to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns, told Today's Zaman that the spying activities at the police force have almost reached the level of a “witch hunt.” He said members of the police force are feeling increasingly paranoid that they may face accusations of being a Hizmet member from their colleagues.

It was recently revealed that the Ministry of Family and Social Policy gave people within the ministry a special code if they are thought to be affiliated with Hizmet. Code “111” was allegedly used to classify people who are suspected members of the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The classification was carried out by a team within the ministry.

It is a crime in Turkey to profile people, but no legal action has been taken against the Ministry of Family and Social Policy's profiling team so far.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has been at odds with Hizmet, especially since Dec. 17, 2013, when a major graft operation implicating senior government members became public. Several government officials and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claim the operation was orchestrated by the Hizmet movement with the motive of overthrowing the AK Party government. They have not provided any evidence to prove their claim, and the movement denies the accusation.

Since Dec. 17, the government has been waging a war not only against individuals who are linked to Hizmet but also to Hizmet-affiliated institutions. More than 40,000 police officers, civil servants, judges and prosecutors have been reassigned for no official reason other than having suspected links to the Hizmet movement. Critics have described the arbitrary reassignments as a “witch hunt.”

A bureaucrat who was recently removed from his post at the Ministry of Family and Social Policy told Today's Zaman that he was sacked due to a complaint filed against him at the ministry that he was a follower of the Hizmet movement. “I have no links to Hizmet. But a complaint was filed against me that I have links to this [Hizmet] group. Then I was removed from office,” he stated. The bureaucrat also said hundreds of employees of the ministry have shared the same fate as him since Dec. 17.

F.A., a bureaucrat who was sacked after Dec. 17, said civil servants are competing against one another to spy on their colleagues so as to secure higher positions for themselves. “I was working at the ministry [which he asked not to be disclosed for privacy issues] for several years. My administrator knew my worldview. But he spied on me and filed a complaint against me arguing that I was member of the 'parallel structure.' I am not feeling sorry for myself. But I am disturbed by the fact that unskilled people are promoted to the posts of people who are fired for no reason at all,” he noted.

A police officer who called himself M.Ş. told Today's Zaman that policemen are forced by their superiors to file complaints against some of their colleagues that they are Hizmet members. He said the policemen who agree to do that are promised promotion to higher positions. “I received a similar offer. But I did not agree to this vileness,” he stated, but added that dozens of officers tend to bow to such demands coming from their superiors.

Published on Today's Zaman, 30 September 2014, Tuesday