November 1, 2014

Top security council's vague wording draws reactions

A vaguely worded statement issued by Turkey's top security body on Thursday, which listed internal and external threats directed at Turkey, drew harsh rebuke from opposition parties.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli reacted harshly to the National Security Council's (MGK) declaration, saying that those who included the Hizmet movement on the list of threats protected the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and gave it a series of privileges.

“The attacks staged by the PKK were not added in the MGK final declaration. The meeting, which is said to have broken a record in terms of its duration, has not made any serious decisions concerning the nation's interests. Doesn't the MGK feel uneasy about terrorist groups, which will spell trouble for Turkey?” Bahçeli questioned.

In a statement issued after a record 10-and-a-half-hour meeting, chaired for the first time by the president, MGK said the participants emphasized that they will, "determinedly continue the fight against parallel structures that conduct illegal activities under the guise of internal or external legal structures and illegal formations that threaten our national security and disrupt public order.”

The term “parallel structure,” which was coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the wake of a major corruption investigation that went public with a wave of detentions on Dec. 17, 2013, refers to alleged sympathizers of Hizmet in state bureaucracy. Hizmet is a popular social movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The detainees in the corruption investigation included the sons of former ministers, bureaucrats and businessmen close to the government.

Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time, dismissed the investigation as an attempt to bring down his government by the “parallel structure” and foreign collaborators, vowing that he would do whatever it took to eliminate the “parallel structure” even if it meant a “witch hunt.”

Masum Türker, the leader of the Democratic Left Party (DSP), said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government is keen to take over or exert pressure on any institution that is deemed disloyal to its rule.

“The government can easily classify bar associations, unions or civic groups as legal institutions but as ones conducting illegal activities threatening Turkey's national security,” Türker said.

“Even foreign embassies of several countries may be placed under the same category,” he underlined.

In contrast to Erdoğan's use of the term “parallel structure” in singular form, the MGK statement referred to “parallel structures,” signaling that it may not be solely aimed at Hizmet but may very well include other disparate groups as well.

It was not clear whether the veiled MGK reference to the Hizmet movement would have legal implications or what measures the promised fight would involve. News reports in the pro-government media had said before the MGK meeting that the council was set to include the Hizmet movement in the "Red Book," a classified document listing external and internal threats to Turkey's national security.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Musa Kuşoğlu has criticized MGK's focus on the “parallel structure” issue and said the main focus should be on PKK terrorism.

"The PKK established its own courts in the east of the country. The MGK should have handled this threat," he said.

Having held a press conference in Parliament on Friday, Kuşoğlu stressed that the lack of public order in one-third of the country, referring to the PKK's intensified illegal activities in the region, should have been mentioned and went on to say: "If a state cannot perform the tasks that it is responsible for and cannot maintain law and order, then some structures take advantage of the power vacuum. Today we see such a vacuum. No one can deny that there are de facto PKK courts there. Their so-called security forces collect tax. The local people are afraid of the PKK, not the state. MGK should address this problem."

MHP Parliamentary Group Deputy Chairman Oktay Vural also criticized MGK's final declaration which did not address the graft issue that implicated members of the government, asking whether corruption and bribery were not real threats to the country.

“The MGK meetings revealed that they are not following real threats to the country, such as the settlement process and fight against PKK terrorists. It turned out that they are far from responding to the country's real challenges and are instead conducting meaningless gatherings,” he noted.

Vural also slammed the definition the Hizmet movement was given in the meeting, “…the parallel structures conducting illegal activities under the guise of legal image,” saying: “What does it mean? You call something legal or illegal. This definition paves the way for portraying anyone at anytime as a threat which is in contradiction with the law. It means they were established in compliance with the law but illegal in essence. What nonsense. It only serves to disregard the rule of law.”

Enraged by the lack of reference to the corruption scandal surrounding the government Vural added: “Our people are indeed wondering whether the graft gang's intervention in the judiciary was dealt with during the meeting. Are not corruption and bribery a threat for the country? I wonder when MGK will express an opinion asking for the mobilization of the law against those who were implicated in the graft.”

MGK, a body which meets bi-monthly and consists of the president, top government leaders and military commanders, said it also discussed a settlement process, which is aimed at resolving the Kurdish issue, and vowed to take measures to maintain public order in the face of, “provocative incidents designed to ruin the positive atmosphere and peace resulting from the settlement process.”

The process, which involves secret talks with the imprisoned leader of the outlawed PKK initiated in 2011, faced a major test when PKK sympathizers took to the streets in violent demonstrations to protest the onslaught by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani and Turkey's reluctance to help in the town's defense. Nearly 40 people were killed in the protests earlier this month.

The military members of the MGK reportedly expressed their concerns regarding the murders of the members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in the country's east, following these same violent demonstrations.

The murders of the military members are considered damaging to the settlement process.

Published on Today's Zaman, 31 October 2014, Friday