December 17, 2014

What is happening in Turkey?

Emre Uslu

Turkey again attracts attention in the world as a country where press freedom is controversial. The Zaman daily's Editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı and Samanyolu TV's head Hidayet Karaca have been detained now for four days. The reason for their detention is the allegation that the Gülen movement conspired against a group called Tahşiye. Most probably you have already read about the allegations. The reason for this is obvious. The prosecutors who invented crimes out of a TV series in 2009 are acting in this way to please President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, not to comply with the law. Erdoğan is trying to teach his rivals a lesson and to intimidate others at the same time.

The day Dumanlı and Karaca were placed under arrest, President Erdoğan also threatened businessmen and told them to choose their side. This is the point of the matter. In addition, there is this thing the pro-government media is trying to focus on: the debate on the Tahşiye group. They allege that Fethullah Gülen, relying on his power within the police, ensured the detention of the leader of this group because he viewed them as his rivals.

The people who do not know the difference between the Gülen movement and this group may believe this allegation. Let us first review whether or not this is possible and then try to analyze where this debate on Tahşiye came from.

Could Tahşiye be a rival of Gülen?

Those who defend the Tahşiye group argue that Gülen conspired against the Tahşiye leader because he viewed the group as a threat. Tahşiye is a very small group with only a few thousand supporters and members. However, there are thousands of students in just one of Gülen's schools. It is just ridiculous to argue that Tahşiye could be a rival of Gülen. If Gülen was attempting to eliminate the other Nur groups he views as rivals, I think Tahşiye would have been one of the last to deal with. Why would Gülen target Tahşiye alone despite the fact that there are many other Nur groups and communities?

In addition, an independent observer would conclude that the leader of the Tahşiye group, Mehmet Doğan, should be a student of Gülen. Doğan seems to be so illiterate -- I listened to three recorded tapes of him addressing his followers; and I realized that he is talking nonsense -- that he cannot be a rival to Gülen.

What makes the Tahşiye group important?

To answer this question, it is necessary to know how the intelligence service works in Turkey. In addition, it is also necessary to take a look at remarks by Doğan and their implications for the followers of the Nur movement.

Let me start with the second part of the answer: it is proven that Doğan has made remarks since 2001 where he praised al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. He wrote in 2003 that bin Laden was a hero who would pave the way for the Mahdi in this century and that he would create an Islamic state in Baghdad after defeating the US. In his writings, he referred to books by Said Nursi, trying to transform his books into reference tomes for violence. This raised problems among other Nurcu groups. For instance, Abdülkadir Badıllı -- he is a staunch opponent of the Gülen movement and an ardent supporter of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) -- says Doğan is a follower of Osama bin Laden, not Said Nursi. In his responses to Doğan, Badıllı proves that Doğan loves bin Laden.

In 2009, Gülen, referring to Doğan's Tahşiye Publishing House, implies that Doğan might be an agent who tries to give the impression that a Nur movement is associated with al-Qaeda. In his speech, Gülen warns his followers of the possibility that some intelligence organizations may try to associate Nurcu groups with violence. Like Badıllı, Gülen also refers to Doğan. Which one is true? Is Doğan really a member of al-Qaeda or is he an apparatus who is being used by intelligence services to give the impression that Nurcu movements are violent?

To answer this question, it is necessary to know how the Turkish intelligence service works. The Turkish intelligence service has intimate relations with social and religious groups. The strategy the Turkish intelligence relies on frequently works as follows: the intelligence bodies maintain relations with the groups and political movements they view as threats. The first goal is to criminalize those groups they consider as threats. In the 1970s, the intelligence service forced the leftist movements to resort to violence in an attempt to criminalize them; in addition, they also sponsored the creation of similar leftist groups by their own members to terrorize the left-wingers. The Aydınlık group is a good example of this. Subsequently, they supported the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to weaken the Turkish left by creating a Kurdish left.

This strategy has been used for all groups the intelligence service viewed as a threat, including the National View movement. Some unusual figures like Ali Kalkancı were promoted first, then they were used to prevent the rise of National View by operations held during the Feb. 28 process. In recent years, Nurcu movements, representing a domestic version of Islam in the face of imported Islamism, have been target of this campaign and strategy. With the support of Erdoğan, who in Turkey represents imported Islam, a decision for an operation against Nurcu groups was taken at the National Security Council (MGK) meeting in 2004.

The decision taken at this meeting, as published by the Taraf daily, reads as follows: “To stage an effective combat against the Gülen group and other fundamentalist elements and groups, some legal arrangements should be made to introduce heavy sanctions against some communities and associations seeking to undermine the security of the state through reliance on sacred values and elements.”

At this point, it is necessary to focus on Doğan and his organization. I will keep writing on this matter in my further columns.

Published on Today's Zaman, 17 December 2014, Wednesday