December 26, 2014

Journalist platform’s dialogue center evacuated by municipal police

Municipal police evacuated a dialogue center belonging to the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV), whose honorary chairman is Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, on Friday morning, an act that GYV officials are calling unlawful.

According to media reports, a person who said he came from the General Directorate of Foundations (VGM) -- but who did not show any identification -- brought some officials from the governor's office to the Intercultural Dialogue Center (KADIM), located on Kara Süleyman Tekkesi Street in the Eyüp district of İstanbul, on Friday morning. The VGM official then forced police officers to evacuate the building as soon as possible. The reports say the lawyers of the GYV were not even allowed to speak against the evacuation. The items inside the building were also carried out by the municipal police.

Recep Usta, a high-ranking GYV official, spoke with the press about the evacuation, saying that it is completely unlawful.

Usta stated: “We [the GYV] had a protocol signed with the VGM. The protocol states that VGM technical teams can come to the building and make some examinations and if any violation of the protocol is detected by the inspectors, a month is granted to us [to fix any issues]. If the deficiencies are not eliminated within one month, the VGM can force the foundation members to evacuate the building within a week. Unfortunately, such a time period was not granted to us. … A written notice should have been sent to us beforehand regarding the issue. And one month should have been given to us. Last week, an officer from the Eyüp Police Station came to us and asked us to evacuate the building within a week.”

Dr. Ahmet Muharrem Atlığ, secretary-general of the GYV, also spoke with the press regarding the evacuation on Friday, saying that the GYV had signed a 10-year protocol with the VGM. “We have been operating here for four years. Although everything is on our side legally, this [the evacuation] is being done in an unlawful manner without our knowledge. The inspectors who had come to the building prepared their reports. There was no official notice sent to us,” he said.

Democratic Progress Party (DGP) leader and independent deputy İdris Bal came to the building in Eyüp to criticize the evacuation. Bal said that what is happening is “unethical.”

A smear campaign and operation are being conducted by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government against the individuals and institutions affiliated with the Hizmet movement, inspired by the teachings of Gülen, since a major corruption and bribery investigation that implicated some high-ranking government officials and pro-government businessmen on Dec. 17 of last year. The government called the investigation "a coup attempt" orchestrated by the movement to overthrow the AK Party ruling.

The government has been carrying out a huge media campaign to discredit the movement in the eyes of society. The pro-AK Party media has been publishing fabricated news regarding the Hizmet movement, Hizmet-affiliated institutions and Gülen.

In addition of the media campaigns, some government-backed judicial acts have also been taken against movement followers or the individuals and state officers who the government profiled as being close to the movement.

Hundreds of police officers have been removed from their posts and detained in police operations since July 22. On Dec. 14, Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca were detained as part of a media crackdown against the journalists close to the movement. The recent media crackdown attracted harsh criticism from both inside the country and abroad.

Since Dec. 17, 2013, various Hizmet-affiliated institutions have witnessed discriminatory practices by municipalities.

In July, the Bolu Municipality shut down two schools belonging to businessmen close to the movement. The municipality hung a sign in front of the closed schools claiming that the buildings had not been approved and that their construction was not in line with municipal regulations. In August, the same municipality constructed a road inside the courtyard of Fatih College, a school that is affiliated with the movement, despite the fact that the school is surrounded by empty plots of land and that there are no residential areas around the school.

The İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality stopped the construction of an education complex on privately owned land in early June on the pretext that the land would be used as a green area and meeting point in the event of an earthquake. The complex reportedly belonged to Fetih Eğitim İşletmeleri (Fetih Educational Operations), which has close ties to the Hizmet movement.

On June 25, the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality removed a billboard ad belonging to the Hizmet-affiliated Fem prep school in Mecidiyeköy on the grounds that the school had violated the municipality's advertising regulations.

Published on Today's Zaman, 26 December 2014, Friday