JWF statement on allegations against Hizmet movement

Date posted: August 14, 2013

The Journalists and Writers Foundation’s (JWF) response to allegations against Hizmet Movement.

In recent days there has been a growing campaign of defamation and misinformation against the Hizmet Movement; this campaign has been directed particularly through social media. Despite the maxim that “the one who makes allegations bears the burden of proof”, it seems that those making them will continue to do so and claim that “such things cannot be proven.” Although such libels have been addressed many times before, the Journalists and Writers Foundation feels obliged to issue this statement to show respect for the public’s right to be properly informed.

Allegation 1: ‘The Hizmet Movement was behind the Gezi Park protests.’

Taking into account, Fethullah Gülen’s various statements about the protests and the Hizmet Movement’s overall attitude towards these incidents, it becomes clear that this allegation holds no water.

By virtue of its respect for democracy and democratic engagement, the Hizmet Movement is not opposed to the right to peaceful protest. However, since such protests risk spilling over into violence and/or being exploited for other purposes, the Movement does not encourage its participants to take part in them.

When the protest first began, it was completely peaceful and solely about the environment. At this point, many people from all walks of life supported the protests including some people close to the party in power. At this early stage, some people sympathetic to the Hizmet Movement may have looked supportively on the protests out of personal choice and concern for the environment. This, however, in no way proves or supports the allegation that the Hizmet Movement was behind or in some way involved in a conspiracy supporting the protest.

Also, in a speech in which our Honorary Chairman Fethullah Gülen stated that the protestors should not be referred to in derogatory terms such as ‘capulcu’ (translated as ‘looter’, ‘plunderer’), he added that the protests, which had arisen out of innocent and genuine demands, were later exploited and manipulated by certain marginal elements with ulterior motives and that some international media outlets were broadcasting the news in a manner that could be interpreted as hostile to Turkey or biased. (http://www.herkul.org/herkul-nagme/323-nagme-taksim-gezi-parki-hadiseleri-ve-problemlerin-temeli/)

Many people from diverse backgrounds sympathized with the concern for the environment of the protestors and were critical of the excessive force used against them in the early stages. President Abdullah Gül’s, “the ballot box is not everything”, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç’s apology, Culture Minister Ömer Çelik’s, “the message has been received”, Education Minister Nabi Avcı’s, “we united the entire opposition”, EU Minister Egemen Bağış’s op-ed in the New York Times in which he describes the Gezi Park protests as a reflection of “plurality and democracy”, and finally AK Party Deputy and Member of Parliament Prof Dr. İdris Bal’s report on the Gezi park protests in which he states that “the government made a strategic mistake” in its response to the incidents are not significantly different from the Hizmet Movement’s views on this matter.

Immediately following the Kazlıçeşme rally that was held in response to the ongoing Gezi Park protests, Prime Minister Erdoğan attended the closing ceremony of the Turkish Olympiads where he commended the Hizmet Movement. The Prime Minister has access to all intelligence work in Turkey and would not have made such a speech if he suspected that the Hizmet Movement were behind a ‘Gezi conspiracy’.

Allegation 2: ‘Gezi protestors were released by judges and prosecutors close to the Hizmet Movement.’

All prosecutors and judges are public officers subject to the authority and oversight of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). If there are any irregularities or mistakes in the performance of their duties, then the responsibility lies solely with the Ministry of Justice and HSYK.

Besides, due to a large number of news reports in recent times, it is public knowledge that those members of the judiciary who were alleged to be close or sympathetic to the Hizmet Movement have now been dismissed from their posts.

Not too long ago the guardians of Old Turkey sought to undermine the legitimacy of the ‘Ergenekon trials’ by claiming that there was a ‘pro-Gülen judiciary’ behind the scenes. It is ironic that those who have been complaining for some time of the lengthy detention periods during trials are now contradicting themselves by criticizing the courts for not detaining the ‘Gezi park’ protestors. The allegations are being aired by other circles and yet they are not met by any reaction or rejection.

Allegation 3: ‘Police officers affiliated with the Hizmet Movement caused the protests to grow by burning the protestors’ tents and using excessive force.’

Law enforcement personnel are public officers who are attached to the Interior Ministry. It is illogical to hold a civil society movement responsible for the actions of law enforcement officers who are under the authority of and answerable to the government.

Besides, it later emerged that all strategic decisions on how to respond to the protests had been taken by the government from the very beginning and that the tents were set on fire by the local municipal officers.

Prime Minister Erdoğan publicly stated that he personally instructed the law enforcement officers on their response to the incidents. He also stated that he supported the reaction of the officers and finally rewarded them for the performance of their duties.

Allegation 4: ‘The Hizmet Movement does not oppose the coup in Egypt.’

It is impossible for a movement victimized by every coup in Turkey not to oppose coups. It is clear that such claims aim to discredit the Movement’s public standing and reputation. A Movement that has been criticized for years for maintaining in the public arena a highly critical focus on coup threats cannot be in favor of coups whatever the context.

Herewith, let us reiterate that the  military intervention in Egypt against the legitimately elected President Morsi was and is a coup and cannot, under any circumstances whatsoever, be approved.

Fethullah Gülen made a speech following the events in Egypt in which he plainly said ‘democracy has been dealt another blow’ [the original word used for ‘blow’ in Turkish by Gülen was ‘darbe’ which also means ‘coup’] (http://www.herkul.org/herkul-nagme/352-nagme-misirda-darbe-ve-ramazanda-tevbe/). Gülen clearly stated that the removal of Egyptian President Morsi from power in his first year in office on the pretext that ‘he had made mistakes’, like the Turkish coup d’états of 27 May 1960, 12 March 1971 and 12 September 1980, will go down in history as a black stain.

None of the media outlets close to the Hizmet Movement maintained an editorial stance that was sympathetic to the Egyptian coup; in fact all of the reports coming out of these media organs were opposed to and critical of the coup. These media outlets were also very critical of the unprincipled position of some Western political circles in relation to the coup in Egypt.

Allegation 5: ‘The path to alternative power passes through Pennsylvania. Those seeking a power alternative to the government visit Gülen.’

It is both wrong and misleading to present visits to a civilian opinion leader, respected by different segments of society, as a search for an alternative power. It would be contradictory to his aims and values for Gülen, who has always kept his door open and been in dialogue with people from all backgrounds his entire life, to now decline those wishing to visit him should his health permit. Just as many respected people from different backgrounds visit Gülen, so have members of the ruling party visited Gülen on many occasions.

What is more, it is extremely mistaken to evaluate Gülen’s relations with people from a purely political perspective and attempt to restrict their dynamic and depth accordingly.

In the past, there were some people who were disturbed by Gülen’s presence in his own country. Apparently, they are now disturbed by Gülen’s visitors abroad as well. It should be noted that this attitude contradicts the democratic rights of a free person and indicates a further effort to isolate Gülen from others [by creating the false impression that those visiting him are doing so for political reasons and/or seeking to make a political statement].

Allegation 6: ‘By infiltrating and controlling the bureaucracy, the Hizmet Movement wants to establish tutelage and share the government’s power.’

In democracies, governments come to power by election and leave power by election. Between elections citizens and civil society actors have the right to criticize and make suggestions on any subject, and this cannot be seen as interference in governance or administration.

Ongoing supervision of legitimately elected governments is a basic tenet of participatory democracy within the framework of the European Union, which Turkey wants to join. Society fulfils this right and responsibility through civil society organizations, opposition parties and the free and critical media.

Presenting civil society groups that offer suggestions or criticisms as if they are seeking to replace the government or share political power or telling them that they should ‘not meddle in politics’, ‘that they should found a political party’, or that they should ‘wait for the next election’ is against the spirit, norms and values of democratic systems and is completely unacceptable.

Furthermore, there are many people from different social backgrounds who have internalized the principles and ideals of the Hizmet Movement, and it is natural that there are those with Hizmet sympathies who exercise their basic rights as citizens in a democratic country to arrive at certain positions within the civil service through their own merits and achievements.

Whatever their personal views or lifestyle choices, it is not possible to present those who have taken public office in their own country in accordance with the law as ‘taking over the state’, ‘infiltrating the state’, ‘establishing tutelage’ or ‘creating a parallel government’. This cannot be argued in good faith and what is more, such accusations are reminiscent of Old Turkey’s way of thinking and discrediting others.

Of course, bureaucrats are required to assist and follow the instructions of their elected superiors alone (so long as these instructions are within the law). For this reason, if there are bureaucrats who allegedly violate the laws or fail to comply with the instruction of their superiors, these should be investigated and where necessary dismissed or prosecuted.

However, if there is an attempt to rid the various levels of bureaucracy and civil service of a certain ‘type’ of people or ‘segments’ of society on the unfounded claim that they are ‘establishing a tutelage’ or ‘seeking to gain political power’ as has been done in the past, then this is against the most fundamental principles of law and democracy. Of course, the political and administrative decisions of the government elected by the popular vote should be respected; however, labeling people (which contravenes the Turkish Constitution) as “sympathetic to the Hizmet Movement” and then dismissing them from their posts is utterly undemocratic and illegal.

Allegation 7: ‘The Hizmet Movement opposes the peace process of the Kurdish issue.’

The Hizmet Movement has supported the peace process from the very beginning. Fethullah Gülen, our Honorary Chairman, stated very early that ‘peace is good, and good is in peace.’(http://www.herkul.org/herkul-nagme/195-nagme-sulh-hayirdir/)

Gülen’s statements both long before and after the peace process started are very clear, unequivocal and far beyond the government’s current position.  Gülen has clearly stated his position in his various talks and most recently in an interview to Rudaw newspaper published in Erbil (http://www.zaman.com.tr/yorum_hak-ve-hurriyetler-pazarlik-konusu-olamaz_2103914.html ). For example, in the said interview, Gülen clearly states that education in one’s mother tongue is a basic human right and cannot be the subject matter of a negotiation.

On the other hand, sincere views, suggestions or warnings on the peace process and its course cannot be seen as opposition to the process itself. On the contrary, these should be seen as positive contributions intended to help the peace process become successful.

The Jounalists and Writers Foundation has held many meetings about the Kurdish issue in many cities, including in Diyarbakır and Erbil. Schools opened by Hizmet participants have been active in Iraqi Kurdistan for the last two decades, offering education in Kurdish. The first legal private TV station broadcasting in Kurdish was also launched by entrepreneurs inspired by the Hizmet Movement.

When this is the clear position of the Hizmet Movement on the Kurdish issue, to suggest that the Hizmet Movement is behind the KCK investigations, which are clearly supported by the AK Party government, is a gross injustice and a clear attempt to mislead the public.

Allegation 8: ‘The Hizmet Movement was going to have the prime minister arrested in the February 7 incident.’

Those who make this claim are unable to offer any plausible, rational or convincing explanation as to what the Hizmet Movement could possibly seek to gain by having the prime minister arrested and why, having worked so hard for constitutional reform in the referendum just 9 months ago, the Movement might suddenly decide to conspire in such a way.

The Hizmet Movement and media outlets deemed ‘close’ to it have supported all democratization efforts in Turkey, as well as all efforts to expose Turkey’s deep-state structures and relations. That is why the Movement and various media outlets supported the Ergenekon trial. That is also why some media outlets ‘close’ to the Movement reacted positively to the KCK-related MIT investigation; they considered these processes to be inter-connected with larger efforts of democratization in Turkey. This, however, does not prove that there was a conspiracy against the prime minister.

It is a well-known fact that in Turkey even the chief public prosecutor at the Supreme Court of Appeals – let alone a lower-ranked public prosecutor – does not have the authority to file a case against the prime minister or other ministers. Taking this into consideration, the claim that ‘the prime minister would be arrested’ is obvious nonsense.

It is not clear why AK Party members of parliament and administrators who are lawyers by training allow these rumors and baseless allegations to go unchallenged.

Claim 9: ‘The Hizmet Movement will establish an electoral alliance with certain political parties and people.’

The fact is that the Hizmet Movement has never entered into an alliance with a political party or person to date and will not do so in future.

Entering into an alliance with a party runs contrary to the Movement’s practice of remaining above and beyond party politics and contrary to the fact that it has sympathizers from all political parties and views.

While the Hizmet Movement does not enter into alliances with political parties, it supports policies and practices in line with democracy, pluralism, human rights, freedom of religion or belief and rule of law, whichever party proposes them, by virtue of not being partisan or in alliance with any of them. This is not just a democratic right but also a responsibility towards Turkey and the next generation. But if the reverse occurs, again by virtue of not being partisan, the Movement will not refrain from criticizing political practices and making suggestions. This is an approach that looks out for the national interest of the country, is determined by a set of principles, and is beyond party politics.

Claim 10: ‘The bug that was found in the prime minister’s office was planted there by people close to the Hizmet Movement.’

The Movement is not involved in a struggle between different elements of the state and so cannot be tarnished by claims that anyone in the Movement ‘bugged the prime minister’ and was eavesdropping on his private conversations.

It is thought-provoking that the issue has not been referred to the judiciary and that no action has been taken in the face of what is clearly a criminal act. The fact that rumors and articles that attempt to create doubts about the Hizmet Movement are allowed to circulate instead of seeking those that are responsible and prosecuting them indicates that ulterior motives are at play.

It is the responsibility of the government and of the judiciary to investigate this matter thoroughly, find those responsible, and resolve the issue.

Claim: 11 ‘Why does Fethullah Gülen not return to Turkey? He is influenced by the US because he remains there.’

Those who make this claim now used to make the same claim about Gülen many years ago when he was still in Turkey. They also argue that the United States of America dominates all parts of the world. According to this worldview, even if Gülen returned to Turkey, how could he escape the influence of the US? Such people also make similar allegations against others who have never set foot in the US in their lives. In fact, there were even those that claimed that the AK Party was a US-led project, especially in the early years of the party.

Gülen has explained on numerous occasions why he does not return to Turkey. He has stated that he fears that some circles might use his return and presence in Turkey as a pretext to stir trouble and reverse Turkey’s democratic gains where possible. Therefore, he has said that although he strongly desires to return to Turkey he will not until these concerns are allayed.

What is more, based on Turkey’s fast-changing agenda and the media attention he would inevitably draw, Gülen has said that ‘those who have persecuted me in the past, those that embezzled from the state by creating a media diversion using my name, those that made all kinds of allegations against me, those that sought to execute me extra-judicially will once again do the same things if I return. After a certain age, I think it would be difficult to return to a place where I would constantly be hearing the same things over and over again.’ Even if Gülen lived in another country other than the US, he would still face accusations and allegations similar to those he faces today.

Those who voice the allegations above also demonstrate their dark intentions by saying that ‘with one prosecutor and three police officers we can declare this Movement a terrorist organization and finish them off for good’. What is more, some present the government’s decision to close private university preparatory courses as a way of putting the Movement in its place. Furthermore, some claim that those bureaucrats and civil servants who are seen to be sympathetic to the Hizmet Movement are dismissed from their posts. It is truly regrettable that all of these are reminiscent of the deep-state reflexes and the Feb 28 post-modern coup process.

The Hizmet Movement has always continued its activities within the framework of the law. To claim that some of the Movement’s institutions which were founded through the sincere sacrifice of ordinary people and have been of great service to date will be shut down by the government in order to teach the Movement a lesson and put it in its place is a claim that no conscientious person of sound mind can accept.

In conclusion, the Hizmet Movement seeks to serve the whole of humankind. It is comprised of self-sacrificing volunteers who have been embraced with open arms by leaders, stakeholders and ordinary people in the 150 different countries in which it operates. The Movement has not and cannot, without changing its nature beyond recognition, engage in any form of activity that is contrary to democracy, human rights and the law of the land in which it is based. The Hizmet Movement is made up of people, and where there are people it is only normal and natural for there to be human error. Therefore, the Movement is not only open to criticism, it sincerely welcomes and encourages those that go to the trouble of offering it. That said, it is not possible to remain silent in the face of smear campaigns that seek to misrepresent the Movement and what it does. The purpose of this press release is not to prevent constructive criticism; rather it is to contribute to the formation of a healthier platform upon which such matters can be discussed.

Source: Journalists and Writers Foundation , August 13, 2013

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