Securitizing the Hizmet / Gulen movement

Thousands occupy Taksim Square and Gezi Park in Istanbul, June 2013/Demotix/ Colin Boyd Shafer/All Rights Reserved
Thousands occupy Taksim Square and Gezi Park in Istanbul, June 2013/Demotix/ Colin Boyd Shafer/All Rights Reserved


Date posted: February 3, 2014

MUSTAFA DEMIR and OMER SHENER

Turkey’s most influential and widely respected civil society organisation, the Hizmet movement, is under continual attack by PM Erdoğan who accuses it of seeking to establish a “parallel state”. Such rhetoric and ‘securitization’ may destroy the democratic fabric of Turkish society.

Turkish PM Erdoğan is now in his third term. In trying to control certain segments of Turkish society, including groups which supported him in his struggle against the military tutelage, he is becoming increasingly aware that they are outside his sphere of control.

As observed in the Gezi protests, Erdoğan securitized the liberal segments which did not obey him and took a stance against him, while another segment of the liberals were aligned with and became part of Erdoğan’s AKP (‘Justice and Development Party’). At the present moment, Erdoğan is trying to intimidate and suppress the Hizmet movement, trying to create a negative image of Hizmet in the eyes of the public and AKP supporters, through defamation and unfounded claims such as alleged links to the CIA, Israeli and other foreign powers.

‘Securitization’ as a concept is used to analyse the policies of those, particularly politicians, who want to change the perceptions of the masses towards any movement, groups or simply to engender negative thoughts. In a way it is a form of social engineering or perception management. Securitization is a process in which there are three actors: the securitizer or securitizing actor, the target and the audience. The main tool in the process is speech, the power of which the securitizing framework praises, regarding it as an act in the same sense as language theorists might. The success of the process is measured by looking at whether that speech is accepted by the audience or not.

Recent developments and mounting tension between the ruling AKP and the Hizmet movement reveal that in its third term the AKP elite considers any group or movement outside its control, a threat. The mainstream media has addressed this anomaly, referring to the attitude of the AKP government as resembling a fundamentally religious, Kemalist approach to power, particularly in respect of its willingness to embrace extraordinary measures of subordination and suppression.

Why has the movement been securitized?

Professor Elisabeth Ozdalga of Middle East Technical University, states “when public institutions fail to integrate citizens, the demand on other organizations and communities to fill this void increases. The Gülen [Hizmet movement] community plays a significant role in this.” For Ozdalga the Gülen Movement functions as what would be recognized in the west as a “civil society” organisation. As such, Ozdalga does not see it as a threat or in competition with the state. If anything, the Gülen Movement’s activities complement the state’s function of integrating its citizens. Such checks on the power of public institutions are indispensable in democracies. In developed democracies this is not confined to opposition political parties alone but includes other civic, interest groups.

In the case of Turkey, it seems that following the elimination of military tutelage and other Kemalist institutional strangleholds over civilians, the ruling AKP, taking around 50 per cent of the vote to secure its third term, has been doggedly determined to consolidate its power. In some academics’ words the AKP in its third term became the state itself.

This can be inferred from Erdoğan’s language as well. In his speeches he calls state ministers “my ministers”, referring to the Turkish armed forces as “my army” and similarly using appellations such as “my court”. He not only uses such language but also seeks to put these possessive phrases into practice, as evidenced during his third term, or as commonly referred to in Turkish media, Erdoğan’s ustalık dönemi (mastery phase). This approach is a real threat to one of the main principles of democracy: the separation of powers. To keep this 50 percent on his side he has shamelessly manipulated and scapegoated with the aim of obfuscating and covering up such negative developments in Turkey. This was the case after the Gezi protest and is so now following a recent corruption scandal.

Securitizing Hizmet?

The recent speeches of Erdoğan indicate that a deliberate campaign is under way to discredit the Hizmet movement. It is claimed that some members of Hizmet infiltrated state departments: but there is a lack of concrete evidence to prove this. Attempts to scapegoat the movement have occurred previously. It has been claimed that after the government’s attempt to close the dershanes(private cramming schools) down, prosecutors affiliated with the movement took these steps. Yet there is no basis for a connection between the two events; at best it demonstrates the perfect example of a ‘post hoc, ergo propter hoc’ type of logical fallacy.

The government claims that there is a parallel body in the state that has harmed the AKP intentionally, following the corruption scandals as a result of which three state ministers resigned. While this was happening, PM Erdoğan used inflammatory remarks implicating the Hizmet movement and accusing it of betraying the ‘national will’. He extolled the AKP’s election by the public and made a further series of unrealistic allegations that Hizmet is an apparatus of Israel, the USA, or part of a larger “international conspiracy”. Gülen himself reacted and invited those who made these claims to swear that their claims are true. In an emotional speech, he strongly condemned anyone who engaged in corruption and any party that was involved in corruption scandals.

The AKP government has also been citing the economy as his justification for the securitization of certain groups. During such incidents, it has been claimed by the PM that the “interest lobby” is the real power trying to harm Turkey’s economy and the current government. These same arguments were used during the Gezi Protest as well. As such, the PM presents the AKP as the guarantor of the Turkish economy,and deploys a rhetoric of fear that says, “if I lose, the Turkish economy will lose as well”. Ultimately, through these efforts, he seeks to distract attention away from corruption scandals towards the failing economy – a state of affairs caused by those he scapegoats.

Our evaluation of such intense developments in just a couple of months leads us to conclude that the government has at least the intention of suppressing Hizmet, the most influential civic movement in Turkey. To do so, it seems ready to describe Hizmet as an existential threat to the state, a “parallel state” in the police force and the judiciary that collaborates with exogenous powers. All of these claims serve the aim of securitization without any evidence. A number of columnists have also pointed to the rhetorical aspect of these claims, arguing that even the PM does not believe them; rather, his interest is absorbed in directing attention away from the judiciary and the results of the corruption scandal.

This reaction of Erdoğan is not exclusive to the Hizmet movement but extends to any civic movements questioning steps taken by the government, though few others receive as much media coverage in Turkey. To suppress Hizmet, the government has started a determined smear campaign aimed at the eyes and ears of the public, using threats and unfounded claims, supported by pro-government media outlets, and slowly turning the movement into a scapegoat for every negative development in the country.

Source: Open Democracy , February 3, 2014


Related News

Gülen movement’s silent majority

After all, it is not difficult to understand that the reasons pushing so many people so far from home have been a love of service and a love of their own country. During the course of my travels, I also had the chance to meet a few of the teachers dedicated to their service and to teaching in these schools. Most of them had sacrificed some of their own opportunities so that they could simply contribute to the schools at which they are working.

Erdoğan’s imaginary power struggles

When we look at international media coverage of the recent corruption scandal in Turkey, we see that the events are generally seen as a “power struggle” between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the Hizmet movement.

Turkey’s Judicial Purge Threatens the Rule of Law

But nothing in those proposed laws came close to undercutting Turkey’s justice system like the judicial purge does. If they want to be consistent, European leaders should insist on the reinstatement of the fired judges, or at least case-by-case adjudication of their alleged wrongdoing. The U.S. should make similar demands on its NATO ally. The future of the rule of law in Turkey lies in the balance.

Erdogan Uses Coup Like Hitler Used Reichstag Fire, Austrian Far-right Leader Says

Turkey’s failed coup and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s subsequent purges of state institutions are reminiscent of the Reichstag fire in Nazi Germany and its use by Hitler to amass greater power, the head of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party said.

TUSKON: Media raids discourage foreign investors

Foreign investors will not come to a country where the media faces intense pressure, Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) President Rızanur Meral said, speaking in front of the Zaman daily offices in İstanbul on Tuesday.

US Court Dismisses Turkey-backed Lawsuit against Fethullah Gülen

A US District Court in Pennsylvania today dismissed a politically-motivated lawsuit against Fethullah Gülen, an internationally respected Turkish scholar, preacher and peace activist. Brought about by three Turkish nationals with the backing of the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan-led Turkish government, the baseless lawsuit alleged persecution of the Doğan Movement at the direction of Mr. Gülen.

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

Kimse Yok Mu meets Syrian refugees’ needs through sister families

The tragic echoes of Turkey’s anti-Gülen campaign in Turkmenistan

Ikbal Gürpınar Hospital is connecting Sudanese people to life

Erdogan’s problem with his well-educated citizens

Why Fethullah Gulen will never support a coup?

Pro-Kurdish deputy welcomes Gülen’s support for peace talks

Gülen: purge of public officials seems ‘arbitrary’

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News