Yet more than three years since the public feud between Erdoğan and Gülen began, the allegations against the Gülen movement of infiltrating the state, plotting coups, and proselytizing students through its schools still rest on speculation.
Rumors have circulated throughout Turkey that, under the guise of averting a prison riot, Erdogan might order his forces to fire on the prisons. It is not a scenario beyond the realm of possibility; after all, the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi did something similar, killing more than 1,000 political prisoners.
Turkish engagement with Southern Africa will not be without challenges. The success of this engagement will depend on the Turkish attitude towards the Hizmet Movement. If Turkey decides to tackle the Hizmet Movement head on as it has done in Turkey and in other countries, it will risk alienation in South Africa and the wider region. The Hizmet Movement is generally popular in Southern Africa, with long standing ties to civil society and the political elite.
Turkey’s alliances with the US and EU are fraying badly. Above all, Mr Erdogan is moulding the country in his own image, with only a uniform message allowed. As one liberal intellectual puts it: “In the past you got arrested for what you said, but now you can be arrested for what you don’t say.”
Gulen movement, which is inspired by the highly-respected United States based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, has been brazenly targeted for total destruction by President Erdogan after the failed coup in that country few months ago. The iron-hand President accused members and sympathisers of the movement as being behind the coup.
I’ve been writing about Turkey for more than a decade now. It’s a beautiful country, rich in history, and a complex society but, boy, in recent years their trolling has left a lot to be desired. It’s not just the internet trolls who have fallen far behind but also Turkish diplomats and even senior aides to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Those in prison—educated, Western-oriented intellectuals and bureaucrats, liberals, Kurds, civil society activists, and supporters of exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen—are in mortal danger. When blood flows from the prisons, it will be no accident nor should anyone believe Erdogan’s security forces were simply reacting to a crisis.
Critics of the ruling AKP expect it to sell Gulen-linked companies to government allies in the business world at a large discount. In mid-October the AKP-linked Metro Holding applied to the TMSF to acquire all of Koza Ipek Holding’s shares. Akin Ipek, the fugitive former owner of the conglomerate, asked on Twitter how Koza Ipek’s $600 million in cash and $20 billion in mining assets could be acquired by a comparatively unimpressive entity. Metro Holding’s capital comes to just over $95 million.
I will start on high-note. The Hizmet movement is not a cult. The participants of the Hizmet movement are not terrorist. The Hizmet movement philosophy does not encourage any form of violence, let alone coup plotting. The Hizmet movement is anchored on love, tolerance, and peaceful co-existence.
The generals were never the script writers of the coups but only players. The script writers of the coup on July 15 in Turkey aimed to simulate a coup as if it was staged by the Gulen movement. It was simply a false flag. While only a few hundred soldiers were involved in the coup, more than ten thousand officers were purged and arrested. While the police officers challenged the coup plotters, twelve thousand police officers were fired two months after the coup.
The transparency of the Hizmet or Gülen Movement has long been a theme of various critics – writers, intellectuals and politicians. In the context of Turkey where secularism is deployed as a means to control religion rather than to separate it from politics, it is not hard to understand why this theme has been so popular.
Erdoğan’s ruling party has also begun issuing weapons permits to loyalists, especially through the Ottoman Youth Authority (Osmanli Ocaklari). I have previously reported Erdoğan’s appointment of former general Adnan Tanriverdi, the head of SADAT, to be his military counsel. Tanriverdi had been dismissed by the Turkish General Staff during the 1997 soft coup and appears bent on revenge against the secular order.
While critics say that Gülen is at best a cult figure, he is considered by many the legitimate spiritual leader of an Islamic movement that is focused on humanitarian service – hence the common name Hizmet – as well as interfaith dialogue and education.
Johanna Vuorelma Today’s Turkey is not the same Turkey that I experienced 10 years ago when I first lived there. Those years were filled with optimism, greater civil liberties, significant steps towards democracy, a booming economy and international admiration. Universities had become spaces for critical debates, opening new channels for discussions about some of the […]