December 10, 2014

Persecution of Hizmet movement in Turkey

İhsan Yılmaz

The Persecution of the Hizmet (Gülen) Movement in Turkey: A Chronicle by ReThink Institute
The Persecution of the Hizmet (Gülen) Movement in Turkey: A Chronicle” is the title of a paper published by the Rethink Institute, a Washington-based think tank, in December. The chronicle covers the persecution of Hizmet by the Turkish state in five categories: defamation; conspiracy; discrimination; blacklisting; and unlawful conduct. The report states that the information provided is not complete and only serves as representative of what has been and is currently happening in Turkey.

The Rethink Institute website is regularly updated. An excel spreadsheet that chronicles the persecution also includes hyperlinks to news reports with more details of the specific incidents. I think I should try to summarize the concept of the report below and kindly ask you to look at the whole report at
"Since the outbreak of the corruption scandal in Turkey in December 2013, Prime Minister and then President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government have been particularly targeting the Hizmet (Gülen) movement. According to Erdogan and his lieutenants, the alleged charges brought forward by Istanbul prosecutors on December 17 and 25, 2013, were in fact insidious attempts to topple the [Justice and Development Party] AKP government that were orchestrated by Hizmet. … While the corruption cases were effectively rendered obsolete through a series of laws and executive interventions aimed at courts, the attacks on Hizmet continue in full force, evolving recently from rhetoric to action.

"This work [Rethink report] aims to exhibit various human rights violations, defamation, hate speech, unlawful conduct, incrimination and other misconduct perpetrated by Turkish government officials and pro-government media against the individuals and entities associated with the Hizmet movement in Turkey. Special focus on the Hizmet movement is warranted for two reasons. First, although the increasingly authoritarian AKP government is generally averse to any form of dissent and has already produced many enemies and victims across the society, the attacks on the Hizmet movement have reached a level of obsession and collective delirium that makes the situation all the more worrying. Second, the Hizmet movement…has a presence in many countries outside Turkey. This fact, coupled with the efforts of the Turkish government to discredit the movement in the other parts of the world, gives the issue an international dimension.

"The relationship between the AKP government and the Hizmet movement in Turkey was one of amity and collaboration roughly until 2012. Hizmet supported AKP initiatives of membership in the European Union, limiting military influence in politics, and expanding rights and freedoms, largely through its media outlets such as Zaman daily and the Samanyolu broadcasting group. This relationship turned sour in the following years, after AKP leadership shifted its political vision from further democratization and a new civilian-drafted constitution to consolidation of power aimed toward an Erdogan-centered system of governance. Thus, coming to December 2013, this was also exacerbated by the Hizmet media's neutral standing during the Gezi protests and the tension brought by the prep-school debate in November 2013, and there was not much good will left between the AKP and Hizmet. … The ruling party and its leaders attempted to portray Hizmet as a ‘non-Islamic, foreign-led' adversary that ‘needs to be outlawed and eliminated.'

"The clash between the AKP government and the Hizmet movement was initially portrayed as a ‘power struggle,' ‘a tug of war,' between the two by some domestic and international observers. … In the meantime, taking advantage of the confusion, the AKP government passed a series of laws in the guise of fighting the ‘parallel structure' in the state, but essentially revoking separation of powers and restricting the rights and freedoms of everyone. … Developments adequately showed that the targeting of Hizmet is just an aftereffect of an overarching trajectory, namely the founding of a ‘new Turkey,' a new regime custom-designed by and for Erdogan with concomitant restructuring of the state apparatus.

“Therefore, the ongoing persecution of Hizmet in Turkey is not only a major blow to pluralism, democracy, and the idea of a progressive, globally appealing interpretation of Islam, but also a harbinger of things to come for all who dare to dissent in this new political setting.”
Published on Today's Zaman, 10 December 2014, Wednesday