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

Gulen-linked school manager released on bail by Tbilisi court

The manager of a private school linked to the exiled Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen was released on bail by a Tbilisi court on Monday. Mustafa Emre Cabuk was arrested in May, 2017 in what appeared to be a case of pressure exerted by Turkey on Georgian authorities to crack down on institutions associated with Fethullah Gülen.

Twitter users protest plan to close prep schools in Turkey

Turkish Twitter users are in an uproar over a report that the government has drafted a law which would close thousands of private preparatory education centres (known as “dershanes”) across the country. The schools are reportedly a point of tension between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and the Gülen movement that runs many of the schools.

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

Receiving students from a Turkish high school who won nine medals in a GENIUS Science Olympiad, an international high school competition featuring projects about environmental issues, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen congratulated them on behalf of the nation, adding that the Turkish school has contributed to the education of the country.

Government allegedly plots to blame Bingöl attacks on Hizmet movement

Twitter user @fuatavni has claimed the government has launched a plan to blame an attack in which two police officers were killed on Oct. 9 in Bingöl on the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Kimse Yok Mu offers cataract surgery to 2,000 Nepalese

Kimse Yok Mu reached out for help to Nepal, the roof of the world, too. Kimse Yok Mu local affiliate Nepal-Turkish Foundation performed 2,000 cataract surgeries in the country where the disease is remarkably widespread due to sunlight at high angle.

New developments regarding Gülen movement

MURAT YETKIN FROM RADIKAL DAILY I was first introduced to the Fethullah Gülen-inspired schools when I visited them as a journalist while following trips abroad by former President Süleyman Demirel. Since then I have been wondering why the Turkish state is reluctant to make use of such a great opportunity. By “state” I do not […]

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

Fethullah Gulen on a Global Scale

Turkish delegation calls on Chief Minister of Punjab

Fethullah Gulen’s books draw large interest in Sweden

Retired public servant under custody for distributing donations to post-coup victims

Bank Asya says it weathers ‘stress test’, still strong

Fethullah Gulen on Israel and Jews

Turkish police raid Zaman building, attempt to detain editor

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News