February 21, 2016

Gülen’s speech broadcast live for the first time after website banned

A speech by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania in self-exile, was broadcast live on YouTube and a number of channels for the first time on Sunday after Turkey's state-controlled Internet watchdog blocked access to herkul.org, a website that used to broadcast his speeches.

The speech began around 10:35 p.m. with Turkey time and lasted 50 minutes. During the speech, Gülen advised Muslims to respond to evil with goodness even during periods when people are oppressed most. But he added that a believer does not apologize to an oppresser.

The live broadcast drew millions of viewers across the world with hashtag #HocaefendiCanlıYayında (HocaefendiOnAir) quickly becoming a trending topic on Twitter. Hocaefendi is title used by Gülen’s followers to refer to him, meaning “venerable teacher.”

The Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) blocked access to herkul.org last week based on a decision taken by the İstanbul 7th Penal Court of Peace.

The move comes amid increasing pressure on the Gülen movement inspired by Gülen.

Since Turkey's largest-ever corruption investigation was made public on Dec. 17, 2013, following police operations in the homes and offices of people from the inner circle of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AK Party leadership have accused sympathizers of the Gülen movement, especially those in the police forces and judiciary, of plotting to overthrow the government. The movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it.

Since the scandal, a number of business groups, media outlets, aid organizations, civil society organizations, universities, private schools and prep schools that were established by people sympathetic to the Gülen movement have been targeted by government-orchestrated police raids and investigations.

Erdoğan has openly announced on several occasions since December 2013 that he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. He has also ordered officials in AK Party-run municipalities to seize land and buildings belonging to institutions that are linked to the Gülen movement by any means necessary.

Published on Today's Zaman, 22 February 2016,