Is the Hizmet movement resisting normalization?


Date posted: December 12, 2013

SELIM SAVAŞ GENÇ*

“Seizing control within the state” is one of the gravest unwritten crimes that can be committed in this country because when those who believe that they acquired state power before you make this accusation, they are actually admitting that they had seized the power which they have.

Those who put pressure on people via illegal wiretappings, profiling and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) in 2013 make accusations indicating that someone is trying to seize the state; this is nothing but diverting attention. The concern associated with the failure to fulfill the dream of the transcendental state of the Islamist approach which sanctifies the state and believes that everything will be solved once the state apparatus is controlled or by sharing that power with different legitimate actors on democratic grounds actually explains some of the rows in Turkey.

Bringing up those individuals and groups which demand further democracy and don’t find the granting of second-class freedoms sufficient of the statistics and examples of old Turkey is no different than the attitude of the Jacobin White Turks who suggest, “Bon pour l’Orient” (This is good enough for the East).

Acting more democratically in relative terms compared to the parties of old Turkey was enough at the beginning, but the fact that the current stage of our democracy is found to be insufficient actually explains the current tension.

The argument that “I am the best among the alternatives that are available” lags fairly behind the popular demands for democracy and freedom and it becomes an ordinary reflection that this egocentric stance, which contradicts universal values and considers its actions as normalization itself, has been generating additional problems. It is also no coincidence that some clichéd and chronic issues, including media freedoms, the Alevi issue, intraparty democracy and freedoms, individual preferences and the banning of prep schools, are taking place on the country’s daily agenda. The attempt by the ruling party, which declared that it has disconnected with the National View (Milli Görüş) heritage, to take credit for the achievements in the struggle against the guardianship regime staged by a huge coalition for its own authoritarian ambitions and its desire to become the only power in the country by ignoring all legitimate institutions and groups keeps the tension high. The efforts to make legislative control and the Court of Accounts dysfunctional and to weaken checks and balances, the most important tools of a parliamentary democracy, are not acceptable. Raising a struggle to restrict the roles of dominant actors in democracies, including civil society and the media, within the system make the boundaries of the normalization dreams of the ruling party questionable.

The discussions that started with references to prep schools and later focused on the existence of the Hizmet movement were subsequently based on allegations with respect to a “parallel state” which were previously raised by neo-nationalists. The move on prep schools, which apparently now seeks to deal with the Hizmet movement, was not explained or justified because the documents exposed by the media show that the government was involved in profiling people. As a result, in order to justify this action, some circles argued that the Hizmet movement should be seen as a parallel state structure.

Centrally controlled propaganda

It is interesting to note that such publications and propaganda arguments were all made at the same time, suggesting that they might be actually centrally controlled. The weak and unsubstantiated arguments of the holders of power, who adopted an aggressive and offensive strategy, were responded to many times; however, despite all this, they have been repeating the same arguments over and over again as a strategy to manipulate the perceptions of the public. Briefly speaking, the main argument of semi-official experts who write columns and speak on TV shows suggests that the state is being normalized but the Hizmet movement is resisting it or that Hizmet should adapt to this process of change and normalization.

We are currently dealing with a state of affairs where there is no trace of intraparty democracy, where the deputies who want to run for office again are taken hostage, where parliamentary controls and checks are minimized, where media organs are acquired by the companies that are granted public tenders and where the other media outlets are placed under heavy pressure via state power and “routine inspections.” Should we view Turkey’s ranking of 154th place out of 174 countries in terms of media freedom despite the fact that it is ranked 17th in terms of economic development as a sign of normalization? Should we perceive the existence of the National Security Council (MGK), military courts and the Higher Education Board (YÖK) as normalization? It would not be convincing if we view the election of a chair by 2,000 delegates and him picking the 2,000 delegates as a system of normalization.

Initiating “routine financial inspections” against those businessmen who do not comply with the government’s requests and stage oppositions may be seen as signs of normalization in the so-called “new Turkey.” However, the lawsuits filed with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the monies paid in the form of compensation cannot be viewed as an indication of normalization. A call by civil society which considers Turkey a regular democracy despite the fact that it does not have a civilian constitution can be perceived as normal only with respect to their own democratic norms. In addition, the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) proposal to introduce a presidential system without a senate that seeks to establish some sort of combination of powers system leads us to question the dreams and intentions of the decision makers of Turkey.

Hizmet members and volunteers who have been active in educational activities in 170 countries have never considered forming a party to come to power and if they had such an ambition, they would not have wasted their energy on a global scale and would have taken action to promote their activities during the 2001 crisis, when the conditions were perfect for such an initiative.

Dreaming of a democratic state

By the time the state is truly normalized in this land, all groups, including the Hizmet movement, will be engaged in their primary fields of activity. The contributions of Hizmet volunteers and members as a pressure group who, while staying within the limits of the laws in effect, dream of a state that is democratic, accountable and relies on the supremacy of law should not bother anyone in Turkey. However, references by even friendly columnists to parallel state accusations require the movement to work on different projects that would build confidence.

The most important confidence-building asset of the movement is its existence and activities in different countries at the same time. Hizmet, which is active in 170 countries, is closely being followed by different capitals for its activities in its home country, Turkey. It is inevitable that the Hizmet movement will become questionable if it engages in anti-democratic activities in Turkey. Because it has not been academically studied in Turkey, the auto-control mechanisms and democratic commitments of the Hizmet movement are not sufficiently known. Unlike common beliefs, the Hizmet movement periodically defends the same principles of transparency, democratization and media freedoms and a state structure on EU standards; it also takes the pulse of EU membership rigorously and meticulously.

Arguing that the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) and the Hizmet movement, which pays attention to issues of human rights, including Alevi issues and minority rights, and holds workshops and shares the outcomes with the general public, are not sensitive to the issues in Turkey and only raised their voices when the ban on prep schools was brought up is unfair to this movement of volunteers. In any case, the GYV and the Hizmet movement should think about what they did wrong in that such a perception emerged and what approach they should adopt to address this problem.

Accusing the Hizmet movement, which insistently demands the fulfillment of the steps towards democratization which I referred to above and contributes to the process of change as evidenced by its stance in the referendum, of serving as a parallel structure indirectly means: “I will not change myself and introduce universal reforms. You have to live with this painful fact for the normalization of the country and take your steps accordingly.” It is sad to see that those who make comments similar to those made by AK Party member Mazhar Bağlı in an interview with the Taraf daily that the AK Party has become a status quo force, or those by deputy Şamil Tayyar, who said in 2009 that only 1 percent of the deep state has been addressed, are being accused of being servants of Israel. Is it possible to believe that no single member of MİT, the black box of the state, has been identified as a member of the deep state structure given that extensions of the Ergenekon gang within different state institutions are being held responsible by the judicial organs? Today, AK Party Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik defines the illegal profiling as disgusting; is he giving some insights on a structure in MİT that is able to act beyond the government’s control?

The Hizmet movement, rather than relying on a populist and conservative discourse and assuming the repressive role of the Salafi groups which placed pressure upon the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, has taken risks and repeatedly declared that it will extend full support for the government in the name of democratization, transparency and liberalization. The attempts by those who have been caught red-handed during the process of liquidation of the volunteers from the state structure and of profiling people to justify the whole situation by arguing that Hizmet is a parallel state exacerbates the problems instead of fixing them. As underlined by the GYV previously, every bureaucrat who argues that he is a member of the Hizmet movement is subordinate to the elected units and actors all the time and has to obey their policies and programs. Any bureaucrat who does not comply with this should be held accountable and taken to trial. This will relieve the Hizmet movement and its volunteers. Accusing Hizmet members who are engaged in global activities of abstract claims and not filing a single legal case based on these accusations is not an explainable and justifiable attitude.

*An associate professor at Fatih University.

Source: Today's Zaman , December 12, 2013


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