December 16, 2015

Graft scandal swept under rug but lingers on with own lexicon

Thursday marks the second anniversary of when the infamous corruption probes of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 first became public, making history as the biggest alleged government graft scandal in the country's history.

Despite a large quantity of evidence collected by prosecutors and the police against the suspects, which included sons of three then-ministers and other pro-government figures, those suspects are now all free, while those who revealed the alleged graft have been sent to jail. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is said by many to have covered up the corruption allegations by launching a witch hunt against the faith-based Gülen movement, accusing it of an attempt to overthrow the government through the investigations, and the witch hunt still continues at full speed today. Although the original graft allegations have been shelved, many words and phrases that became popular during the December 2013 process have made their way in the lexicon of the people in Turkey.

Dec. 17 corruption and bribery scandal from A to Z

Action plan to finish off Gülen movement: A document prepared by the National Security Council (MGK) on Aug. 25, 2004 persuading the AK Party government to implement a series of measures to curb the activities of the Gülen movement.

Acquittal: AK Party members of a 15-member parliamentary commission established in May 2014 to investigate corruption allegations saved four government ministers who had been implicated in the corruption probe and later resigned from being tried at the Supreme Court.

“Alo Babacım” (Hello Daddy): Wiretapped phone conversations between then-Prime Minister Erdoğan and his son, Bilal, during the course of the corruption probe always began with Bilal using the phrase “Alo Babacım" when answering calls from his father. Songs have even been made using the phrase.

“Alo Fatih” (Hello Fatih): A reference to Mehmet Fatih Saraç, a former executive at the Habertürk daily and TV station whose name made headlines in February 2014 when a phone call between him and then- Prime Minister Erdoğan was leaked on the Internet, revealing that Erdoğan had instructed Saraç to censor the broadcasts of opposition leaders.

Babek Zanjani: An Iranian businessman who is allegedly the partner of Reza Zarrab, another Iranian businessman who is a prime suspect in the graft scandal in Turkey. A death sentence is being sought for Zanjani in Tehran over charges of embezzling $2.7 billion from Iran's state-owned petroleum company.

Bank Asya: Turkey's largest Islamic lender, the administration of which was unlawfully taken over on May 31, 2015 as part of a government-led witch hunt against individuals and organizations tied to the Gülen movement.

Başçalan (Head thief): The name of a Twitter whistleblower who posted wiretapped phone conversations allegedly featuring then-Prime Minister Erdoğan and others after the graft scandal went public. This account posted 42 videos, including wiretapped phone conversations that were viewed by more than 14 million people. The police chiefs who were removed from their posts after Dec. 17 filed criminal complaints against this whistleblower.

Baqara-makara: A blasphemous phrase allegedly used by former EU Affairs Minister and chief negotiator Egemen Bağış to refer to the name of the second chapter of the Quran, “Surah Baqarah,” in a phone conversation joking with journalist Metehan Demir that was leaked online in March 2014.

Benevolent: A word that had a positive meaning in the past but the connotation of which changed after then-Prime Minister Erdoğan described Reza Zarrab as a "benevolent businessman" after Zarrab was implicated in the graft probe. Meanwhile, others who were described as benevolent in the past have been treated like terrorists over the past two years.

Bilal Erdoğan: Erdoğan's younger son, who is among the most controversial figures of the Dec. 17 and 25 investigations due to his alleged involvement in graft.

Bribery: In the words of Reza Zarrab, it is a kind of tip that should be given to both "prostitutes and civil servants beforehand."

Can Dündar: The Cumhuriyet daily's editor-in-chief who, along with the daily's Ankara representative, Erdem Gül, was imprisoned in November over a report in the daily about National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks that were intercepted in early 2014 when allegedly transporting weapons to opposition groups in Syria.

Chocolate box: A box that was allegedly used to take bribery money to former minister Bağış by one of Reza Zarrab's men.

Coupon land: A phrase used by Erdoğan to refer to high-value land. In an audio recording leaked online in March 2014, Erdoğan criticizes a high-ranking government official for selling a valuable plot of land in İstanbul without his permission.

CPJ: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based group advocating the rights of journalists worldwide, has, along with the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), been speaking up the loudest against the pressure on journalists in Turkey following the corruption probe.

Çağlayan's watch: One of the most important symbols of the Dec. 17 process. A Patek Philippe 5101G watch worth 300,000 Swiss francs (TL 700,000) that former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan allegedly received from Reza Zarrab as a bribe.

Decision of confidentiality: An unlawful and arbitrary ban frequently employed by the AK Party government following the Dec. 17 graft scandal by means of the judiciary, which is largely under its control, so that the public is not informed about critical issues.

Detentions: A policy of intimidation mostly targeting followers of the Gülen movement in addition to all government critics as part of a “witch hunt" launched by the government.

Dismissal: The official name given to the witch hunt launched by the AK Party government against thousands of police officers, judges, prosecutors, bureaucrats, academics and media members in the aftermath of the Dec. 17 probe. Many people lost their jobs unjustly.

Efkan Ala: Former Prime Ministry undersecretary and interior minister who came to public attention during the graft probe process over his controversial remarks that disregarded the law and the Constitution.

Egemen Bağış: The EU minister whose name was directly linked to the Dec. 17 corruption scandal; the three other ministers who resigned were involved through their sons.

Erdoğan Bayraktar: The former environment and urban planning minister who claimed he had been pressured to submit his resignation in the aftermath of the corruption probe, as part of which, his son was detained. Bayraktar said during a live phone interview on TV that he acted on Erdoğan's orders and hence, then-Prime Minister Erdoğan should also resign.

Fixed deposit: A phrase used by Iranian businessman and graft suspect Reza Zarrab to refer to one of the prostitutes he arranged would visit foreign guests to provide them with a "special service."

Fuat Avni: A government whistleblower on Twitter who is the most mysterious figure of the Dec. 17 process. The account has made headlines for Twitter posts in which information was provided about upcoming government operations. Since the most recent election some popularity and credibility has been lost over inaccurate predictions of the results.

Hashashin: One of around 400 words of insult used by now President Erdoğan to refer to followers of the Gülen movement as part of a defamation campaign against the movement. The hashashin were a shadowy historic group that carried out politically motivated assassinations during the time of the Selçuk Empire.

HSYK: The structure of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) was changed following the 2013 graft scandal to bring the judiciary under the control of the AK Party government.

İpek Media Group: A media group that became the target of the AK Party government following the Dec. 17 probe due to its critical stance. A panel of trustees was appointed to the group in late October in what is seen by many as a politically motivated move.

Lair: Erdoğan has often spoken of "entering the lair" of enemies as part of the witch hunt launched against the Gülen movement.

Lies and slander: A method of communication frequently used by the AK Party government and the pro-government media following the corruption scandal in order to defame critics.

Mehmet Cengiz: A pro-government businessman who is known to have sworn at the nation, using the "f-word" in one of the evidential wiretaps included in the legally recorded tapes as part of the Dec. 17 investigation.

MİT report: A report presented to then-Prime Minister Erdoğan by MİT eight months before Dec. 17, 2013 which revealed that some ministers and their sons were involved in corruption with Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab. However, Erdoğan apparently took no notice of the report.

Muammer Güler: Interior minister at the time of the corruption investigations, whose son was among the detainees of the Dec. 17 probe. Güler is most remembered for his promise to Reza Zarrab to protect him in the event of an investigation. In a wiretapped phone conversation leaked in February 2014, Güler tells Zarrab “Brother, be comfortable,” adding, “I swear to God, if there is such a thing [an investigation], I will lie down in front of you [to shield you],” assuring the businessman not to worry.

Parallel: The biggest invention of the post Dec. 17 period and a term many believe was coined in order to cover up government corruption allegations. It is one of the words that has been mentioned most frequently in the Turkish media over the past two years and is used by Erdoğan and the pro-government media, in references to the “parallel structure” or “parallel state" to denote to the Gülen movement, based on accusations that the movement has established a “parallel structure” within the state that works against the government.

Penal Courts of Peace: Widely seen as courts of revenge established by Erdoğan in June 2014 to punish his critics. They are behind many unlawful operations taking place in the country at the moment and these courts are criticized for acting as government instruments to hunt opponents.

Perception management operation: An act frequently used by the AK Party government and the pro-government media to defame government critics in order to ensure that the public forgets corruption allegations against the government.

Police officers: Those who have been either reassigned or dismissed from their profession following the Dec. 17 probe on the grounds that they either revealed government corruption or have alleged links with the Gülen movement.

Pool media: Pro-government media outlets were created through large amounts of money pooled by pro-government businessmen to buy over certain media outlets to allegedly slander opposition voices and bury the government's actions with lies.

Prep schools: Educational institutions offering extra lessons to students to prepare for centralized exams. Then-Prime Minister Erdoğan and the AK Party government aimed to close down these schools as part of their attack on the Gülen movement.

Prosecutors: People in the legal profession who have been the victims of various kinds of oppression because they conducted the Dec. 17 and 25 corruption probes and caught ministers red-handed in corruption. There are also other prosecutors who disregard the law and act on solely government orders to target its critics.

Resignation: Four former AK Party ministers who were implicated in corruption eight days after the graft probe became public on Dec. 17, 2013 tendered their resignations, perhaps involuntarily.

Reza Zarrab: The key figure in the Dec. 17 probe. An Iran-born businessman who lives in Turkey and has been accused of crimes such as money laundering and bribery. He remained in jail for 70 days before being released.

School raids: Police raids were conducted against schools linked to the Gülen movement as part of a systematic witch hunt launched by Erdoğan against the Gülen movement following the graft probe.

Shoeboxes: When police conducting the Dec. 17 raids found $4.5 million stashed in shoeboxes in the house of then-Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan, one of the suspects in the probe, shoeboxes became one of the symbols of the corruption probe.

Silencing of journalists: A systematic effort undertaken by now President Erdoğan and the AK Party government following the revelation of the graft probe to prevent journalists and news outlets from performing their profession independently so that they would not reveal government corruption and other wrongdoings. This is mostly achieved through legal action, threats, defamation campaigns, financial inspections, the seizure of media organs and police raids on news outlets.

Sons: Barış Güler, Salih Kaan Çağlayan and Oğuz Bayraktar, who were detained as part of the Dec. 17 probe but later released, are the sons of the cabinet ministers who resigned.

Summary of proceedings: A document prepared regarding the four cabinet ministers who were allegedly involved in graft. A confidentiality decision imposed prevented even parliamentary deputies from seeing it.

“They steal but they work”: An argument used by apparently pious pro-AK Party voters to defend the AK Party government in the aftermath of the graft scandal.

Tip: An amount of money that should be paid beforehand to both prostitutes and civil servants, according to Reza Zarrab in one of his wiretapped conversations, who said he learned this from his grandfather.

Transparency: The quality of being clear and open, which can be seen in countries with the rule of law, but which no longer exists in Turkey because there is no longer any parliamentary, civil society, judicial or media auditing of government actions.

Tutelage: A regime of guardianship that now President Erdoğan -- who wants to establish a single-man rule in Turkey -- wants to impose by taking the government, state organs and media organizations under his control.

TÜRGEV: The Foundation of Youth and Education in Turkey (TÜRGEV) is a civil society organization under the control of Erdoğan's son Bilal. It is known for the involvement of some of its top officials, including Bilal Erdoğan, in the Dec. 17 and 25 corruption probes. It is also alleged that TÜRGEV has been used by the government as a means to reap political benefits in return for money and property donations.

Twenty percent: A phrase used by pro-government academic Professor Ahmet Akgündüz to praise the AK Party government for stealing only 20 percent of the national income when previous governments had allegedly pocketed 80 percent.

Twitter: A social media platform that has allowed a flow of accurate news reporting following the Dec. 17 and 25 corruption scandals, at a time when the voice of the free media has been increasingly silenced.

Universities: Educational institutions and especially those tied to the Gülen movement face the risk of closure nowadays as part of the government's witch hunt against the movement.

Witch hunt: Ongoing acts of oppression and pressure against followers of the Gülen movement by the AK Party government following the Dec. 17 and 25 corruption probes. “If reassigning individuals who betray this country is called a witch hunt, then yes, we will carry out this witch hunt,” Erdoğan said in a speech in May 2014.

Zafer Çağlayan: A former economy minister who is accused of receiving a luxurious Swiss watch worth TL 700,000 from Reza Zarrab as a bribe.

Zeroing: The verb that became famous after then-Prime Minister Erdoğan instructed his son Bilal on the morning of Dec. 17, 2013 to “zero” -- or hide -- a large amount of money in his house, fearing a police raid, as revealed in a leaked voice recording.

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