AK Party gov’t behind anti-Hizmet declaration, leaked recordings allege


Date posted: March 19, 2014

İSTANBUL

A joint declaration by a number of civil society organizations to proclaim open support for the government during debates over the closure of dershanes (prep schools) was concocted by the advisors of the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and some associations were forced to lend their support, according to a number of new leaked recordings.

 

The National Will Declaration was published in almost all Turkish newspapers on Dec. 5 of last year amidst heated debates over the transformation of the dershanes into ordinary schools — which some have viewed as a direct assault by the government on the Hizmet movement — to hail the government for its achievement in term of democratic steps it had taken, especially emphasizing the termination of the era of the Feb. 28, 1997 post-modern coup. The Hizmet movement runs a considerable number of prep schools across Turkey to help financially disadvantaged students perform better in high school and university examinations.

Investigative journalist Mehmet Baransu had claimed even before the publication of the declaration that the government was behind it and was compelling some organizations to announce their support. The recordings, uploaded onto YouTube on Tuesday evening by Twitter user “Haramzadeler” (Sons of thieves), could well have confirmed these rumors. The phone conversations were intercepted legally, a text in the video clip claims.

In the tapes, Erdoğan’s advisors Mustafa Varank and Aydın Ünal call representatives of some civil society organizations and religious communities to solicit their support for the declaration. In some recordings, they are even heard discussing pressurizing those who are reluctant to put their names and logos underneath the text.

In one phone conversation, Varank purportedly asks Nail Olpak, the chairman of the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD) to lend support, but Olpak voices his reservations about the wisdom of publishing the declaration at a time when debates seemed to be fading away. It may reignite the controversies, he says to Varank, who responds that there won’t be any problems.

In another call, Varank talks to Selim Cerrah, the deputy chairman of the civil religious movement İlim Yayma Cemiyeti. He says that the purpose of this declaration is to isolate the Hizmet movement and to show that they lack popular support in their struggle against the government over the closure of the dershanes. The Hizmet had been defending the dershanes as private enterprises for the good of the community, claiming that closing them using legal means was an open breach of fundamental human rights.

In another voice recording, Aydın Ünal speaks with an unknown person. He is heard maligning the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) and the Civil Servants’ Trade Union (Memur-Sen) for their reluctance to voice their support for the declaration. Ünal tells the man on the other end of the phone that they were “on the verge scratching them [the İHH] out” and that “their attitude is ‘queer’,” using a Turkish slang term for homosexuality. Ünal thought that the İHH was dragging its feet after finding the text a bit lenient and they want its tone to be even more tough. Memur-Sen’s reluctance was due to the fact that the debates were dying down and that such a declaration may reignite them. Ünal tells the other man that the Memur-Sen may be convinced to show their support if they are told that Erdoğan is personally behind the declaration.

A final set of recordings are allegedly between Erdoğan’s son Bilal and Fatih Saraç, deputy chairman of the Ciner Media Group. They discuss a fee of TL 26,000 for the publication of the declaration and Bilal asks Saraç to take care of it. Saraç says in response that there is no need to worry about it and that no cost will be incurred.

Source: Todays Zaman , March 19, 2014


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