GYV expresses concern over claims of government profiling of its citizens

(Photo: Today's Zaman)
(Photo: Today's Zaman)


Date posted: December 5, 2013

The Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV), whose honorary chairman is Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, released a statement on its website on Thursday in which it said it is worried about the profiling of citizens, civic groups and public employees.

Journalists and Writers Foundation’s Press Release

The Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) has felt the need to issue the following press release as the hotly debates issues in recent days, particularly including those related to the government’s prep schools reform, the National Security Council’s (MGK) 2004 decision and the claims about the government’s profiling of its citizens have produced a tension that threatens social conciliation:

Education reform and prep schools

As long as there are exams which students are required to take as well as diversities in students’ university/high school choices, privately-run enterprises should not be prohibited from meeting the resulting demands.

Certainly, the government has invested heavily in reforming the country’s failing education system and its efforts have been praiseworthy.

Despite the fact that prep schools are the natural byproducts of the flaws, inefficiencies and inequalities in the education system and they have been operating in compliance with laws and the principle of free enterprise for many decades, the government’s plan to force them to shut down by passing a law to that effect is in breach of universal principles and norms of law, particularly including the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, as well as fundamental human rights and democratic values.

In a truly democratic country, individuals and society cannot be forced to believe in what is needed and what is not and any social engineering efforts are unacceptable. Individuals and society cannot be deprived of the freedom of choice about education.

Today, the democratic world is in search of more pluralistic and diversified education models. It is in contravention of general trends in the democratic world for the government to acknowledge the need for prep schools but announce that this need will be met by the state — via people training centers, weekend courses at schools, etc. — and this attitude is in contradiction of the interests of free enterprise and civil society.

The efforts to justify the banning of activities conducted by civil society and the private sector as being in the general interest of society by portraying these activities as “shadowing” the state’s similar activities are at odds with democratic achievements.

In line with the principles it sticks to, the Hizmet movement raised its voice against the closure of imam hatiphigh schools — a type of secondary school with a religious curriculum along with the standard curriculum — and the restrictions on the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression and all sorts of violations of rights in the past. And today, it is raising objections to the prohibition of prep schools with the same mindset.

Profiling and purges

The fact that Cabinet members undersigned in 2004 a MGK decision that called for the tracking and profiling of many civil society organizations (CSOs), including the organizations and volunteers acting in line with the principles of the Hizmet movement, both at home and abroad, as well as for the drafting of action plans targeting these organizations cannot be ignored. It appears that the decision in question had been signed involuntarily by the civilian government in the anti-democratic circumstances of the time, but this decision does not tally with the government’s subsequent democratic practices. Departing from this point, it must be noted that it is of crucial importance to revise all the legislations that are reminiscent of the old, anti-democratic Turkey to ensure their full compliance with fundamental rights and freedoms.

It is worrisome to witness developments that echo the said MGK decision, such as the plan to ban prep schools, the profiling of public employees or the purging of bureaucrats who are affiliated with certain communities.

Defending rights and political engineering

To portray civilian/democratic reactions to the plan to ban prep schools as well as to anti-democratic moves as a political conspiracy is to wander off from the main issue and distort reality. It should be noted that it is not the Hizmet movement which stirred the debate over the plan to ban prep schools. And the Hizmet movement is not the only addressee in this debate nor is it the only party that opposes the plan. If the government believes that there truly is such a political conspiracy, it is still possible to put an end to this debate and defuse the tension by introducing education reforms and democratization moves that would reinforce the rule of law.

All conspiracy theories that suggest that by opposing — which are nothing but civilian and democratic in nature — the plan to close down prep schools the Hizmet movement is actually seeking to “divorce the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,” “prevent Erdoğan from being elected as president,” “establish a political party and seek a political career,” “conspire with foreign powers against the AK Party” or purse similar political projects are totally baseless, unfounded, clearly slanderous and defamatory.

Trying to suffocate the rightful objections to the ban on prep schools — a prohibition that is hard to be found in any democratic country — by claiming that the Hizmet movement has become an “autonomous organization” or that it is secretly conducting ill-intentioned “operations” against the government is a clear distortion of the facts and these claims do not mesh with the facts as noted in the statements which our foundation had previously made. (http://www.gyv.org.tr/Aciklamalar/Detay/78/)

Supporting a political party

As is well known by the public, the approach adopted by the Hizmet movement — being a voluntary movement — to politics relies on fundamental principles such as rule of law, democracy, pluralism, universal human rights and freedoms, justice, equal citizenship, compliance with international law and conventions, transparency of the state and accountability.

Those who are inspired by the Hizmet movement are free to lend their support to any political party and/or candidates based on their personal and conscientious convictions about the compliance of these parties and/or candidates with these values. Personal and conscientious choices so made are not only democratic rights but also the requirements of personal responsibility for the country and future generations.

The Hizmet movement is supported by volunteers with a diverse array of political and ideological conceptions and therefore, it is impossible for it to encourage its members to lend support to any specific political party or candidate. In particular, some recent approaches that put the spotlight on certain targets or political choices are completely illusory. Therefore, the success which any party achieves in elections is closely dependent on its policies and its capacity to persuade voters about those policies.

The Hizmet movement nurtures a heartfelt desire for Turkey to be endowed with true democracy, transparency and full-fledged rule of law and shows due respect to the nation’s democratic preferences and to Parliament.

In the run-up to a marathon of elections, it is clear that the Hizmet movement disapproves of all sorts of immoral and illegitimate methods in politics and in other areas of life.

It should be noted that we are witnessing alarming signs that certain immoral methods and moves for violating privacy that were employed prior to the past elections have been put into motion again. All sorts of ill-intentioned attempts to leverage social tension with a view to cast shadows on rightful, legitimate and democratic demands should be strongly denounced by everyone. Moreover, the ways in which legitimate demands are voiced should not be offensive and should not allow those demands to be perceived as unjust.

The support already given and to be given by civil society representatives, intellectuals, opinion leaders and media members to democracy, social consensus, rights and fairness during the current challenging period is well appreciated. History and future generations will remember those who act rightfully in these trouble-laden times in high esteem.

The Hizmet movement, as a civilian initiative, will continue to hold on to its attitude of glorifying social consensus and advocating democratic rights and freedoms.

It is hereby announced to the public.

Source: The Journalists and Writers Foundation , December 5, 2013


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