Setting the facts straight on the Gülen movement

James C. Harrington (Photo: Today's Zaman)
James C. Harrington (Photo: Today's Zaman)


Date posted: April 25, 2012

25 April 2012 / JAMES C. HARRINGTON

Much of what Dan Bilefsky and Şebnem Arsu’s recent article in the International Herald Tribune (“Shadow Force Grows in Turkey,” published on April 18 describes about Fethullah Gülen and Turkey’s recent history is accurate, but the authors cast a shadow of innuendo and loose conclusions, apparently more driven by personal predispositions than reality.

The attack on the Gülen movement (aka Hizmet movement) is disingenuous, especially the oft-repeated but never proven claim that Gülen supporters have infiltrated the national police for some perfidious purpose. Surely, there are Gülen followers in the police, just as there are Catholics in American police forces. But attributing an unfounded agenda is unworthy without evidence. It is equally unworthy to create a fact by innuendo by reporting an American embassy cable that whether the national police is controlled by Gülen followers ”is impossible to confirm, but we have found no one who disputes it.” How can the lack of confirmation become a fact? I recently published a book on the eight-year political trial of Gülen, 2000-2008. One of the charges against him involved the police infiltration allegation, and many others, some of which your article re-plays (such as the Islamist “hidden agenda”). The three-judge trial court painstakingly discredited each charge in a 48-page opinion, and acquitted him. An appellate panel upheld the verdict, as did the plenary appeals court. This was a courageous decision by the trial judges, who are appointed by an arm of the state because the message to convict Gülen was clear.

In fact, the judges ruled that the taped sermon of Gülen to which the article refers was fabricated, not “manipulated,” as the article puts it. It was a splice job. The court opinions in English and Turkish are posted on the website associated with my book: http://gulentrial.org/. They were easily available to the article’s authors.

Why the article ignores the gist of this trial is a mystery. Maybe because it runs contrary to its thesis. The article also ignores that Gülen folks strongly supported the recent constitutional amendments of Sept. 12, 2010, which generally are what we would consider a civil liberties Bill of Rights.  Seventy-four percent of the people voted in the referendum and approved the amendments by a 58 percent margin.

It’s impossible to see how the current Ergenekon and Sledgehammer conspiracy trials, overreaching at times to be sure, can be attributed in part to the Gülen movement since the prosecutors and judges in those cases were appointed by the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), a self-selecting and self-perpetuating institution, which historically has functioned as a “border watchdog” against “non-approved” political change. The fact this institutional organ is prosecuting military officers is a significant development, something that could not have happened a few years ago — and in sync with the European Union’s mandate that Turkey establish civilian control over the military, if it wants to enter the EU. The Gülen folks may support the prosecutions, as do most Turks; but they hardly control it.

Another critical fact the article omits is that Zaman newspaper, which associates itself with Gülen supporters, has been very sharply critical of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his handling of free speech and free press issues and other human rights matters. Zaman columnists have repeatedly decried jailing journalists, even if they were involved in Egenekon.

Nor does the article mention the Gülen movement has strongly supported EU membership from the beginning, which means assuring civil liberty, changing the legal system to European standards and separation of the secular state from religion. Hardly what one would expect from a group with a supposed Islamist agenda.

I’m no apologist for the movement; but, in my view, it has been good overall for democracy in Turkey and has done good things in other parts of the world. And, for a journalist, what’s fair should be fairly reported.

*Harrington is a human rights lawyer in Austin, where he also teaches at the University of Texas Law School.  He is the author of “Wrestling with Free Speech, Religious Freedom, and Democracy in Turkey: The Political Trials and Times of Fethullah Gülen” (University Press, 2011). The court opinions in English and Turkish are posted on the website associated with the book: http://gulentrial.org/.

Source: Today’s Zaman http://www.todayszaman.com/news-278603-setting-the-facts-straight-on-the-gulen-movement-by-james-c-harrington-*.html


Related News

Turkey’s Erdogan and onslaughts against opposition

Gulen movement, which is inspired by the highly-respected United States based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, has been brazenly targeted for total destruction by President Erdogan after the failed coup in that country few months ago. The iron-hand President accused members and sympathisers of the movement as being behind the coup.

Global education turns Turkish teachers into world citizens

İBRAHİM ASALIOĞLU, ANKARA Selfless Turkish teachers never hesitate to go wherever they are needed, and are always quick to win the hearts of people when they arrive, an accomplishment largely due to their determination to acquaint themselves with the culture and language of their new home. The majority of them being polyglots, these teachers themselves […]

Chorepiscopus Yusuf Sag: Fethullah Gulen’s service is admirable

Chorepiscopus Yusuf Sag, Vicar General and leader of the Syriac Catholic Church in Turkey: “I wish every country had its own Fethullah Gulen. I watched the students performing at the recent Turkish Olympiads in admiration. They all sang in Turkish like angels. I have to ask: Is it better that they sing Turkish songs or hold guns in their hands?”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticizes Cabinet ruling on Kimse Yok Mu

Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the cabinet ruling that cut the Kimse Yok Mu aid organization’s ability to collect donation without state approval.

Turkish school in Afghanistan opened

Turkey is continuing to invest in Afghanistan’s future by building schools countrywide. The most recent of them, a high school built by the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) in the town of Kızılayak in Sheberghan province, was opened on Wednesday. The ceremony was attended by Mohammad Hashim Zari, Sheberghan’s governor, Özgür Arman, Turkish consul […]

A Festival of Dialogue Exploring Multiculturalism and Language Diversity

At a dialogue festival in South Africa, teenagers embraced true multiculturalism and helped the author to envision a new world – one of harmony, respect, and engagement

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

I object to AK Party’s ‘New Turkey’ (2)

Cambodian PM congratulates students from Turkish high school on GENIUS Olympiad success

Fethullah Gulen talks to major international media on Turkey coup attempt

War on Gulen Movement undermines Turkish diplomacy

Communists in Cold War, reactionaries in Feb. 28 coup and Gülenists in Erdoğan era

International community’s Erdoğan problem

Is there anybody there for Kimse Yok Mu?

Copyright 2024 Hizmet News