September 4, 2015

The Akın İpek Model

İhsan Yılmaz

There are two meanings for the term “the Akın İpek Model.”

The first is the meaning we use at the İstanbul Institute. As I've discussed briefly here before, a group of academics and people in the media formed a think tank called the İstanbul Institute last year for two main reasons. The first was to spend time thinking about the problems that afflict Turkey, as well as the global community, and to offer the public some practical solutions. The second main reason -- and the reason that makes the İstanbul Institute unique -- was to bring about a critical point of view to the Gülen movement, in terms of the new conditions and challenges it faces. In forming this new think tank, the encouragement offered by Fethullah Gülen was crucial.

And so, the term we use at the İstanbul Institute -- “the Akın İpek model”-- is based on the idea of encouraging people in the business world who have volunteered and developed strong ties with the Gülen movement to move forward in other areas of business. This model could be well-applied to the Gülen movement's main areas of focus, such as education, the media, publishing, healthcare and philanthropy.

It ought to be noted that the movement's presence in every arena, with what seemed like an almost socialist mentality, began to damage its founding spirit and philosophy. It also helped make the movement appear larger and more frightening to outsiders than it really was. On top of which, the moment a particular company's customers began moving in an opposing direction, the blame would be placed squarely at the Gülen movement's feet.

This is why it seems better to have business figures who have formed strong ties to the Gülen movement do their work professionally, and maybe hire proficient, Gülen-inspired volunteers to work in their organizations. These are, then, organizations that are run under the general Gülen ethos. For example, both Bugün TV and the Bugün daily have employees of every type, and from all over Turkey, and carry off this meritocracy with success.

In any case, though, the real point of this column is to talk about the second meaning that can be attached to “the Akın İpek Model.”

The second meaning of this term is one that concerns the entire elite category of Turkey. I am talking about a perfect role model, here. When I met the man behind this idea, I said to myself, “Here is my hero.” It's that level of thinking we're talking about.

Akın İpek was able to reject offers that came down from on high for years, refusing to work with the state (except when it came to getting licenses and paying taxes, that sort of thing), while at the same time making sure his work and workplace maintained universal standards and followed all rules. For these reasons, he also never bowed his head to the threats and pressures that came down from on high.

While others tried their hardest to fight rules on issues like taxation, or assigning state tenders unfairly, Akın İpek never stooped to this. In the process, he showed others in the Turkish business world that you can make good money without stooping, and that you can even go crazy providing charity while maintaining an ethical stance.

Yes, this is the second meaning of “the Akın İpek Model.” One can only hope the numbers of this sort of business increase.

With these thoughts, though, I also wish to congratulate, as well as commiserate with, the entire İpek family.

Published on Today's Zaman, 4 September 2015, Friday