Hizmet movement and perceptions

Markar ESAYAN
Markar ESAYAN


Date posted: December 20, 2013

MARKAR ESAYAN

The agenda-setting development of last week was a graft investigation that was launched on Dec. 17. Several people, including the sons of some ministers, businessmen and the general manager of Halkbank were detained. First, Government Spokesman Bülent Arınç, then, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, made remarks about the matter.

It was a positive move that they highly stressed that corruption would not be covered up. However, it was obvious in their statements that they didn’t perceive the probe as a “normal” investigation. They see it as “an operation launched by a state within the state,” targeting the government. Then, many police chiefs were removed from office within the police department. Two new prosecutors were appointed to join the investigation.

With the recent prep schools debate, the press coverage on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) passing a decision to “finish off” the Gülen movement — or the Hizmet movement– during a National Security Council (MGK) meeting in 2004 and the recent probe, has become Turkey’s main agenda item. The Taraf daily’s story about how the government collaborated with the military in preparing a plan to finish off the Gülen movement didn’t sound convincing to me. I saw it as a move to cut off the already strained relations between the government and the Hizmet movement. Indeed, the paper’s claim seemed to ridicule my memories of the developments of the last 11 years.

On the other hand, I have penned a number of articles arguing that the prep-school debate should be kept within its sphere and people should defend their rights based on principles. This is because the Hizmet movement played a significant role in the process of purging the military tutelage and it deserved the appreciation of many. For this reason, it was important for all of us who sincerely sought to promote democracy and save the country from the “deep state” to keep the “democratic coalition” intact, at least until the reforms were completed. I am a close witness to how eager the members of the Hizmet movement are to foster democratization. I believe it is critical that this community should not be hurt or be a victim of false perceptions.

For this reason, I continue to watch the developments with concerns. I hope this matter will not grow out of proportion and start to threaten the country’s independence, its improving economy or stabilized public order. No one will profit from this.

Many times, I have written about it. The referendum on constitutional amendments, held on Sept. 12, 2011, was the end of an era. The military tutelage was forced to step back. It was no surprise to that the abovementioned “democratic coalition” would start to have political differences. As the AK Party’s function as a “founding party” — assumed back in 2002 — diminished and as the country broke free from the pangs of the tutelage system, long ignored differences were sure to come to the surface, which is actually another parameter of normalization.

It was quite natural for the Hizmet movement — at least those members who are represented in state organs — to disapprove of certain political acts by the government. What mattered was this disapproval be voiced on political platforms and represented at a civil society level, and that the government heeds the objections against its acts.

Politicians and society in new Turkey could not continue to use the forms of relations that are now artifacts of the tutelage regime. The problem was how to re-establish these relations in a country where the tutelage system was no longer the kingmaker.

It seems that there is a problem in this area. Clearly, we have been unable to make a democratic and peaceful transition to a post-tutelage era. The power that was successfully taken back from the military has yet to be channeled democratically. No one can disapprove of graft probes. But the manner in which this probe is conducted, as well as how it has historically become functional, creates an overall uneasiness in the general public. I believe the Hizmet movement will never support the overthrowing of the government through antidemocratic methods, even if its concerns about the government are very serious. But we have responsibilities for how we are perceived by the public. There is a serious problem in this respect for the Hizmet movement. The social media performance and the media outlets owned by or close to the Hizmet movement do not create positive perceptions. I say this as a friend, as Mr. Fethullah Gülen has stated that the Hizmet movement does not approve of any antidemocratic operation against the government.

The Hizmet movement may have numerous criticisms and concerns about the government. They may well be right about some of them. It is a democratic right to pen articles or publish stories or conduct civil society efforts to give voice to them. The Hizmet movement may even part ways with the AK Party and it may announce this and partner with another political party. However, at a time when the political and public order is threatened, we should have clear attitudes. Political contention with the government and the responsibility of civil society should be well-balanced. The Hizmet movement has very serious clout. The world is not a bed of roses. This clout must be well controlled and protected from those who seek to abuse it.

The claim that there are autonomous units in the police department and in the judiciary creates serious concerns. Such claims are associated with the Hizmet movement. I know it is hard to control this in a big community like the Hizmet movement. Of course, no bureaucrat can take the initiative to overstep the jurisdiction of the government. When there are signs to this effect and when this is associated, in some way or another, with the Hizmet movement, those at the top should take up the defense of this in the eyes of the public. There may be mistakes or omissions in my assessments, but, as I said above, we are responsible for how we are perceived by others.

It may be hard, but not impossible, to advocate principles and, at the same time, take an individual stance during critical periods like the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and Gezi Park crises, the prep-school debate, the MGK document disclosure and the latest graft probe. We may disapprove of corruption and advocate the independent judiciary to make moves to deal with fraud but, at the same time, we may also raise strong objections to overall dangers in the picture. When this is done, your criticisms will be more effective. From where I stand, I see grave threats to the political and public order in Turkey. We cannot lend unconditional support to the government. The civil political order that we have created together is the greatest guarantee for our democracy. This goes beyond the government and Erdoğan. The government may be penalized during the elections and it may be replaced with another one. But if those who harass the regime through anti-democratic interventions and if the road to a new bureaucratic tutelage is paved, our willpower will be hijacked and this will be detrimental to the entire country.

During the Feb. 28, 1997 coup, Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and the coalition government of the Welfare Party (RP) and the True Path Party (DYP) — known as the Refah-Yol government — also made mistakes. Prime Minister Adnan Menderes had made mistakes before he was hanged in the wake of the 1960 coup. But those who stayed focused on these mistakes at that time and saw the operation as a normal thing, and those who failed to show the proper reaction felt utter regret and they became victims of the tutelage system.

In sum, we are going through a very critical period. We need the common sense and support of all the precious members of the Hizmet movement as we have never needed them before. We must protect our democratic gains. I pen this article as a person who closely sided with the Hizmet movement during the attacks of Ergenekon — a clandestine organization nested within the state trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government — and the deep state, and who backed its justified objections to the government’s plan to shut down the prep schools. I have never categorized the Hizmet movement and I will always side with them in the face of any injustice against them, no matter how incidents may develop. We have a popular saying: “Every cloud has a silver lining.” I hope we gain precious experience from these hard times and step into a better future.

We don’t have another country.

Source: Today's Zaman , December 20, 2013


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