GYV: Hard-won democratic gains sacrificed for short-term interests


Date posted: May 8, 2014

 

The regression in democratic values, human rights and freedoms in the country in recent years has become worrying for many and has triggered harsh criticisms both inside and outside the country.

The democratic and pluralistic atmosphere that our society has struggled for so many years with a heavy price is being sacrificed for short-term political gains. Many respected international organizations, particularly including the European Union, a staunch supporter of Turkey’s democratization process for the last 10 years and a benchmark for the ruling party as well, frequently and emphatically find the current direction of the country unfortunate.

Ominous developments are sadly being observed with regards to freedom of the press, a sine qua non ingredient of democracies. The 2014 reports of international organizations that measure countries’ performance regarding freedom of the press list Turkey as a country that is “not free.”

Otherizing and demonizing different social segments

Certain politicians representing the ruling party tend to employ hate speech and polarizing discourse in an effort to otherize and even demonize those social segments who nurture and profess divergent views. This poses an unprecedented threat to our national unity. In addition, a threatening schism at a level never seen before in recent years is being formed among social groups, particularly among the conservative segments of society. These developments pave the way for social paranoia that has the potential to persist for many years to come.

Many people and organizations including the Constitutional Court, media outlets, businesspeople and human rights organizations are targeted or discredited with massive campaigns when they happen to voice any diverse or critical views. The Hizmet movement has for a while now been receiving its share of such black propaganda campaigns. The lynching campaign imposed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, certain Cabinet members and government media outlets against the Hizmet movement has long amounted to hate speech. In addition, proponents of different or critical views are quickly accused of betraying the country or trying to overthrow the government and the resources and facilities available to the government are amply mobilized to this end. Such practices and discourses are not acceptable in a democratic country guided by the rule of law. It clearly violates fundamental human rights and freedoms. The power and authorities that are at the disposal of the executive branch are being used to shelve the due process of the law.

Efforts to defame and discredit Turkis schools abroad

There are efforts to defame and discredit the schools which are run by Turkish entrepreneurs in many countries around the world, which have been acknowledged as the pride and leading trademark of the Turkish nation. There are attempts to shut down these schools using public resources. The move to seek the extradition of Fethullah Gülen using irrational justifications, the pressures on those businesspeople who sympathize with the Hizmet movement and the boycotts and sufferings that came in the wake of Erdoğan’s threat, “Do not given them [the Hizmet movement] even a single drop of water,” are the sort of developments unseen even during coup eras. It must be noted that there is no guarantee that this unlawful lynching attempt of the Hizmet movement will not target other religious communities or civil society organizations in the future.

Demanding extradition of Fethullah Gülen from the US

Speaking to an American TV network, Prime Minister Erdoğan said: “I hope the US, as our strategic partner, will extradite Fethullah Gülen. It should at least deport him.” It is scandalous for Erdoğan to ask the US to extradite Mr. Gülen despite the fact that there isn’t any single ongoing judicial investigation about him. This also signifies that any future investigation that might be launched against Mr. Gülen will be completely politically motivated. Moreover, Mr. Gülen was tried and acquitted in connection with various claims and slanders of a similar nature in the past. There is no evidence acceptable in terms of legal principles and norms and international practices that can justify Mr. Gülen’s extradition. Given that, with this move mediated via the media, Erdoğan is clearly seeking to create the perception that the Hizmet movement is under the control and guidance of the US.

However, the Hizmet movement attaches great importance to universal human rights, the rule of law and peaceful coexistence and has been conducting its education-centric activities in over 160 countries, including the US. The efforts to portray these activities as being controlled and guided by a foreign state, culture or secret service constitute a grave slanderous insult against the supporters of the Hizmet movement who come from diverse religions, languages, ethnicities and cultures around the world, particularly including the altruistic people of Turkey.

December 17 graft and bribery investigation

The graft and bribery investigation made public on Dec. 17, 2013 is a process conducted by the judiciary within the framework of the due process of the law and in compliance with existing laws and regulations. If there are any irregularities both in terms of procedures or merits, our legal system has the proper review mechanisms. Given the fact that four ministers had to resign from office and may be tried by the Supreme State Council in connection with the charges against them, the efforts to portray the judicial investigation as an attempted coup against the government instead of explaining the charges and helping the judicial authorities fulfill their duties amount to a reversal of the truth. If there is anything that can depicted as a coup in connection with the Dec. 17 process, it is the executive’s meddling with the judiciary, breaching the provisions of the Constitution, exerting pressures on the media, banning social media, imposing restrictions on freedoms and turning the country into a surveillance state.

It is completely unfair to treat the Hizmet movement as a scapegoat by accusing it of working as “agents” or “spies” of foreign governments as part of some incredible conspiracy theories. These slanders, voiced without any concrete evidence but based on “personal convictions, feelings or perceptions,” are intended to halt the investigations into corruption and bribery allegations and in fact constitute a hate crime.

GYV strongly condemns unlawful wiretappings

As a principle that should not be compromised, we strongly condemn unlawful wiretapping of personal communication and breaches of privacy and demand that the perpetrators of such unlawful acts be brought to court in no time. However, it is interesting to note that no concrete proof regarding these wiretapping claims has been produced, though several months have passed since these claims were first voiced. In universal principles of law and fundamental values of Islam, it is asserted that the “one who makes an allegation is supposed to prove it” and “one is considered innocent until proven guilty.” Although the unlawful wiretapping of personal communication is condemned, we sadly observe that the conversations of those who are close to the Hizmet movement, particularly including Mr. Gülen, were unlawfully wiretapped and posted onto the Internet and, more scandalously, that these unlawfully wiretapped conversations were disclosed at public rallies by certain politicians as part of collective efforts to declare the Hizmet movement guilty.

Although there all sorts of powers and authorities as well as state-of-the-art technology at its disposal, the executive is deliberately dragging its feet in not launching the proper judicial processes to determine the perpetrators of the unlawful wiretapping, but instead enthusiastically use these claims as a tool for purging and pressuring certain people, institutions and groups. The prime minister announced that many people including the president, the chief of General Staff, the head of the Constitutional Court and former ministers and businessmen had been unlawfully wiretapped or have recordings of their conversations. Erdoğan’s failure to produce any proof of his claims or pave the way for launching investigations into them sends the impression that this is part of another form of blackmailing of the said people. The fact that the sex tapes of Deniz Baykal, former leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and some executives and deputies from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) had been used in the past to engineer the political scene in the country adds credence to these concerns.

Irrational explanations for the wiretapping of the Syria meeting

Likewise, the claims that the prime minister’s personal office had been bugged and that a Syria meeting at the Foreign Ministry had been wiretapped remains unproven. Government media outlets try to offer irrational explanations for the wiretapping of the Syria meeting, claiming that an airborne bug was used to wiretap the meeting or accuse guards, tea boys or cleaning people of being involved. Oddly enough, no step has been taken by Foreign Ministry inspectors, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the police, the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) or judicial authorities to shed light on the allegations.

Instead, abusive slanders are being hurled at the Hizmet movement. It is a fact that state-of-the-art technology and gadgetry are required to eavesdrop on places that are protected by tight security measures. It is completely unfair and irrational to accuse a civil society organization of being behind this incident — which can be properly depicted as an interstate counterintelligence activity — by saying, “I have personal convictions [about the involvement of this organization].” Indeed, the incident constitutes a serious threat to the state and the nation. It is a matter of honor for the government to find out and penalize those who wiretapped and leaked the state’s top-secret meetings as well as those who neglected their duties so as to create the security weaknesses that allowed this to happen.

Similarly, the recent crises about the stopping of certain MİT semi-trailers traveling to Syria occurred purely between judicial authorities and the state’s security and intelligence units. There were however irrational attempts to suggest that the Hizmet movement was behind them. While the proper course of action was to ensure that this scandal stemming from an apparent lack of coordination among state organs should be settled with reference to legal procedures, attempts were made to justify some extrajudicial purges and operations with an ulterior motive  Real threats to Turkish economic stability

The Hizmet movement was even accused of influencing the imbalances of the economy in the wake of the Dec. 17 investigation. However, economy experts and analysts rightly noted that the government’s process of exerting total control over the judiciary will lead to foreign investments leaving the country, undermining the business atmosphere in the country and negatively affecting the country’s economic performance. The real threat to economic stability is the elimination of the rule of law and arbitrary interventions into freedom of enterprise.

The Hizmet movement will continue to hold fast to its much advertised principle of positive action with an emphasis on peaceful coexistence, peace and conciliation in its education and dialogue activities. Unfettered by the attempts to undermine social peace, provocations, hate speech and demonizing and discrediting attempts, it will maintain its dignified position by not holding a grudge against anyone and accepting everyone as he/she is in compliance with its roots of spiritual essence.

We observe that the majority of the party’s grassroots do not accept the polarizing and otherizing language utilized by a small oligarchic group of the party’s executives. Our society has always managed to live together peacefully despite our diversity and we thus believe it will be able to overcome this short-term uneasiness. The Hizmet movement will stick to its commonsensical approach for the sake of the restoration of social peace and consensus.

We hereby announce our hope for a Turkey based on democratic values, human rights, the rule of law and a place which no one experiences otherization or polarization.

Source: Todays Zaman , May 7, 2014


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