Turkey’s largest religious publication group denied spot at Ramadan book fair

According to Özden Demir, general manager of the Kaynak Publishing Group, barring the largest religious books publisher in the country from the 34th Turkey Book and Culture Fair is discriminative. (Photo: Cihan)
According to Özden Demir, general manager of the Kaynak Publishing Group, barring the largest religious books publisher in the country from the 34th Turkey Book and Culture Fair is discriminative. (Photo: Cihan)

Date posted: June 19, 2015

Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs has refused to allocate an exhibit space at a Ramadan book fair to the country’s largest religious publication group over its affiliation with the Gülen movement, a faith-based movement with which the government has been waging a war for some time.

In an apparent politically motivated decision, the directorate, which has recently been under fire for being a tool for government favoritism, barred 20 publishing houses, including the Kaynak Kültür publishing group, from participating in the 34th Turkey Book and Culture Fair which started on Wednesday. The fair is organized by the directorate and the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s cultural department, Kültür A.Ş, every Ramadan.

According to Özden Demir, general manager of the Kaynak Publishing Group, barring the largest publisher of religious books in the country from the 34th Turkey Book and Culture Fair is discriminatory. Demir told the Cihan news agency on Tuesday that the reason given for them not being allowed to participate in the fair is “limited space,” which he claims is completely without merit.

Demir said they were unable to register for space at the fair after being told by directorate officials of the decision. Demir also noted they have been participating in the fair every year since 2000 and have never faced any problem before.

The Kaynak publishing group consists dozens of publishers that put out books in different categories and languages. The group is also known as the publisher of books written by US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who inspires the Gülen movement — popularly known as the Hizmet movement.

Since a major corruption probe became public on Dec. 17, 2013 implicating people close to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), media outlets, publishing houses and even NGOs close to the Gülen movement have been targeted by the government.

The AK Party and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused sympathizers of the Gülen movement, especially those in the police force and the judiciary, of being part of a plot against the government by carrying out the graft probe. However, Erdoğan and AK Party circles have yet to present any concrete evidence proving their accusations. The movement has strongly denied all claims.

In a similar move last year, the directorate refused to allocate exhibit space at the same book fair to the Ufuk and Zaman Kitap publishing houses, which have ties to the Hizmet movement. It had also halved the square footage allocated to Kaynak.

Event officials claimed that they did not have enough room for all the publishing houses this year because the fair’s grounds, located in İstanbul’s Beyazıt district, were reduced in size as a result of a recent restoration project.

However the directorate allocated stands to the government-controlled Yeni Şafak and Star dailies — which were allegedly bought using a pool of money to which businessmen close to the government contributed — although neither publication is associated with a publishing house.

The directorate’s attitude is reminiscent of what was seen in the period that led to the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention in Turkey. However, at that time, it was the publishers printing the Risale-i Nur collection written by Said Nursi, a prominent Islamic theologian, who were not allowed to participate in the fair.

Source: Today's Zaman , June 18, 2015

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