International community’s Erdoğan problem

BÜLENT KENEŞ
BÜLENT KENEŞ


Date posted: May 6, 2014

BÜLENT KENEŞ

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has returned to his agenda of political Islamism since the 2011 elections even though he had rejected it in the past, and he quickly set out to implement his plan to purge the Hizmet movement, a plan he had made long ago.

Bureaucrats sympathetic to the humanitarian activities of the Hizmet movement and the ideas of Fethullah Gülen have been profiled and the gradual purging of these bureaucratic has begun. Despite the fact that these bureaucrats received their high-quality Western educations from schools run by the Hizmet movement, whose main area of activity is education, and despite the fact that they were entitled to their posts through objective merit-based criteria, they have been silently removed from their posts. In other words, these purges started long before the tension between the Hizmet movement and the government surfaced. These purges — which obviously constitute a discriminatory practice according to any legal criteria — later took the form of preventing bureaucrats suspected of sympathizing with the voluntary activities of the Hizmet movement from being appointed to various posts right from the word “go.” In other words, discrimination peaked in its crudest form. Those who graduated from schools run by the Hizmet movement were treated as suspects.

With the widespread graft and bribery scandals made public on Dec. 17 and Dec. 25, Erdoğan’s intention to purge the Hizmet movement evolved into a plan to eradicate it entirely.

Actually, Erdoğan had betrayed his intention to finish off the Hizmet movement publicly as well as in the private sector long before the Dec. 17 scandal. The first step in this plan was to shut down the privately run preparatory schools (dershane), as about 20 percent of these dershanes are run by the Hizmet movement. But Erdoğan’s real attack against the Hizmet movement came in the wake of the Dec. 17 investigation, as he has started to openly target the movement and mobilized a black propaganda machine that has used all sorts of insults, lies and slander against the Hizmet movement and tried to discredit, antagonize and demonize Fethullah Gülen for the last four-and-a-half months.

In conjunction with this black propaganda campaign that seeks to discredit Gülen and the Hizmet movement, he effectively breached Article 138 of the Constitution, which safeguards the separation of powers, in an effort to make the judiciary fully submissive to the government. He came up with a “parallel state” lie to remove from office anyone who fulfills his or her lawful duties. He undertook massive extrajudicial executions by purging thousands of police officers, bureaucrats and judicial members without any legal investigation. It is estimated that some 16,000 public servants were removed from their posts and re-appointed to other provinces.

Judicial processes have been meddled with. Prosecutors and judges have been rendered dysfunctional. Individuals removed from their posts with unfounded claims have been replaced with people believed to be loyal to Erdoğan. The first thing these loyal people have been expected to do is to halt investigations into corruption claims. They have been asked to ignore strong evidence that has become public and acquit the corruption suspects, including four ministers who had to resign from office in connection with corruption charges.

Finally, the gradual whitewashing of corruption started.

Erdoğan — who, together with his son, was accused of being involved in bribery on a scale of hundreds of millions of dollars, with serious evidence against him — didn’t choose to let the judicial process take its course to verify whether these accusations were true to not. Instead, he undermined the independent judiciary altogether. He did everything to exert and expand his total control over many media outlets and to silence and intimidate the remaining ones. As social media outlets started to fill the resulting void, he targeted Twitter and YouTube. Twitter was shut down for weeks. Access to YouTube is still prohibited. During this process, Erdoğan and the small oligarchic group of his aides started to threaten journalists and intellectuals. Likewise, they tried to make the banks and businesses run by dissident groups go out of business.

Of course, these anti-democratic and unlawful arbitrary practices didn’t go unnoticed by the international community. Thus, the Erdoğan administration received intense criticisms. In futile efforts, they tried to dodge criticisms from European Union organs and member countries. Against the corruption and bribery allegations, they shamelessly tried to sell the “parallel state” lie, arguing that they were attempts to overthrow them. However, their arguments weren’t convincing to the EU, the US and the rest of the world. They were even ridiculed.

Every day articles started to pop up in the international media, criticizing them for giving the impression they are part of a government that is knee-deep in corruption and is trying to cover up the truth. In an effort to distract attention from these harsh criticisms about their corrosive and unlawful acts, they sought refuge in the lie that circles close to the Hizmet movement are misguiding the EU, the US and the international media.

They went so far as to claim that the EU officials who voiced these criticisms were bought or manipulated by the so-called “parallel structure.” They even labeled German President Joachim Gauck as a “German Imam” of the Hizmet movement for his open and clear criticisms of the Turkish government. Gauck was humiliated and made fun of for his past identity as a pastor. They targeted the international organizations that drew attention to the increased violations of rights and freedoms, particularly the freedom of the press, trying to discredit them in the eyes of the Turkish public. This was exactly what they did to the Freedom House, which placed Turkey among the “Not Free” countries in terms press freedom, a label it had not received in 15 years. Depicting the Freedom House as a “cat’s paw for Zionists,” “Washington’s stick,” a “neo-con organization financed by George Soros” and an “organization headed by a Jew,” they argued that it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

In an effort to muster domestic support and consolidate their lies against the international community, they have accused people close to the Hizmet movement of treason, treachery and espionage without providing any evidence. Eventually, they started to mull the extradition of Fethullah Gülen from the US, although there is not a single judicial investigation against him. The first clear response to this plan came from The New York Times (NYT), a paper close to the Democrats and thus representing the mentality of the Barack Obama administration. In its editorial, the paper noted that the Turkish government’s demand was “a crass and cynical attempt,” as Erdoğan had tried to make other countries get involved in his own business.

Given all these developments, Erdoğan and his aides must realize that the international community does not have any problem with Gülen and the Hizmet movement. Rather, what the international community sees as a problem for Turkey is Erdoğan, who is growing increasingly authoritarian, disregards rights and freedoms and is making Turkey no longer a country guided by the rule of law, but an anti-democratic Middle Eastern country. When you go or look outside of Turkey, you will see only this concrete fact.

Of course, Erdoğan and his collaborators are very aware of this fact. For this reason, demanding the extradition of Gülen without any concrete investigation might be sinister, but it has never been a crass attempt, as the NYT suggested. Erdoğan and his cronies know full well that it is very unlikely that the US can extradite Gülen without any legal difficulties, except if Turkey offers great political or commercial concessions.

Perhaps this was their intention from the very beginning. They will ask Washington to extradite Gülen without any concrete basis, and their demand will be denied. Then they will launch an intense black propaganda campaign, saying, “We demanded his extradition, but the US didn’t extradite Gülen because Gülen works for the US.” Having lost all international support, the Erdoğan administration will use this opportunity to further radicalize its domestic support. As I said above, this plan is sinister and cynical, but not crass.

Source: Todays Zaman , May 6, 2014


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