December 16, 2015

The Hizmet movement, bureaucracy and tutelage

İhsan Yılmaz

From time to time, our friends and colleagues, influenced by Justice and Development Party (AKP) propaganda, ask us if there are some Hizmet volunteers in the state bureaucracy who have deviated from the movement, and if Hizmet is defending and protecting these people.

This has never been the case. It is true that there are many Hizmet volunteers and sympathizers in the Turkish state bureaucracy, and Hizmet has never denied this. As Turkish citizens are entitled to such positions. But since the state has always preferred Homo LASTus (laicist, Atatürkist, Sunni, Turkish) individuals over others and regularly waged witch-hunts against non-Homo LASTus groups, some Hizmet volunteers have preferred to hide their affiliation with Hizmet. Nowadays, the state under the reign of the Kemalo-Islamist AKP prefers Homo Islamistus bureaucrats, so all others try to hide their non-Islamist identities. This is the vicious cycle of the Turkish state!

Since the Hizmet movement is not a rigid formal body and does not have headquarters or central registration, it is not possible to know who is who in the state. But Hizmet has repeatedly declared that it will not condone acts or behavior which is illegal, unethical or immoral from anybody, even if they are Hizmet volunteers. Hizmet has never used concepts such as “our boys,” and a mistake is a mistake, regardless of who commits it. We can never know who did what in the state. Nobody can blindly vouch for bureaucrats just because of their religious or ideological affiliations. Everybody is innocent until proven guilty, and it is up to impartial judicial bodies to investigate matters objectively on reasonable grounds and concrete evidence. But if some people are unlawfully targeted just because of their suspected affiliation with Hizmet, Hizmet will defend its rights.

The movement made its stance on state-democracy issues very clear on Aug. 18, 2013, well before the Dec. 17-25, 2013 investigations. Below is a long but relevant excerpt from a Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF) declaration made on Aug. 18, 2013. The JWF felt the need to make this declaration after some AKP figures started making accusations about Hizmet-affiliated bureaucrats being behind the Gezi protests, etc.

Accusation: By infiltrating and controlling the bureaucracy, the Hizmet movement wants to establish tutelage and share the government's power.

JWF: “In democracies, governments come to power by election and leave power by election. Between elections, citizens and civil society actors have the right to criticize and make suggestions on any subject, and this cannot be seen as interference in governance or administration.

Ongoing supervision of legitimately elected governments is a basic tenet of participatory democracy within the framework of the European Union, which Turkey wants to join. Society fulfills this right and responsibility through civil society organizations, opposition parties and a free and critical media.

Presenting civil society groups that offer suggestions or criticisms as if they are seeking to replace the government or share political power, or telling them that they should ‘not meddle in politics,' ‘that they should found a political party,' or that they should “wait for the next election” is against the spirit, norms and values of a democratic system and is completely unacceptable.

Furthermore, there are many people from different social backgrounds who have internalized the principles and ideals of the Hizmet movement, and it is natural that there are those with Hizmet sympathies who exercise their basic rights as citizens in a democratic country to arrive at certain positions within the civil service through their own merits and achievements.

Whatever their personal views or lifestyle choices, it is not possible to present those who have taken public office in their own country in accordance with the law as ‘taking over the state,' ‘infiltrating the state,' ‘establishing tutelage' or ‘creating a parallel government.' This cannot be argued in good faith, and what is more, such accusations are reminiscent of old Turkey's way of thinking and discrediting others.

Of course, bureaucrats are required to assist and follow the instructions of their elected superiors alone (so long as these instructions are within the law). For this reason, if there are bureaucrats who allegedly violate the laws or fail to comply with the instruction of their superiors, they should be investigated and, where necessary, dismissed or prosecuted.

However, if there is an attempt to rid the various levels of bureaucracy and civil service of a certain ‘type' of people or ‘segments' of society on the unfounded claim that they are ‘establishing a tutelage' or ‘seeking to gain political power,' as has been done in the past, then this is against the most fundamental principles of law and democracy. Of course, the political and administrative decisions of a government elected by popular vote should be respected, however, labeling people (which contravenes the Turkish Constitution) as ‘sympathetic to the Hizmet movement' and then dismissing them from their posts is utterly undemocratic and illegal."

Published on Today's Zaman, 16 December 2015, Wednesday