Date posted: January 21, 2014
Since 2010, democratization efforts have slowed down to an important degree.
In this context, critiques and concerns regarding the changing discourse and policies of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government have been raised in some circles. The Zaman and Today’s Zaman dailies, affiliated with the Hizmet movement, have tried to direct friendly criticism to the government with the aim of shedding light on the importance of democracy and pluralism for Turkey. However, the AK Party government has begun to ignore these friendly comments. Especially since the beginning of the corruption scandal, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as the head of the government, has stigmatized the opposing voices, among which Hizmet is the bravest and most influential, as traitors collaborating with external forces to overthrow the government.
Since Dec. 17, Erdoğan’s discourse has become more and more strict and a major smear campaign has been initiated by the pro-government media against the Hizmet movement, which has been active in education activities all around the world. The Hizmet movement and the followers of Hizmet have never been affiliated with violence or any other crime-related issues. This was proven as a result of a judicial process. Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, was accused of ruling an illegal organization seeking to undermine the regime of Turkey and acquitted in 2008; however, nowadays the government is trying to take advantage of this idea to portray Hizmet as an illegal organization that bypasses the law and the rules of bureaucracy in order to put an end to the government.
It is quite shocking to see how much Erdoğan and the government have changed with regard to the Hizmet movement. In June 2013, at the Turkish Olympiad, a language festival organized by the International Turkish Education Association (TÜRKÇEDER), Erdoğan saluted the Hizmet volunteers who work as teachers all over the world saying, “Students from around the world make the Turkish language the language of love. They manage to spread the love, tolerance and respect of the Anatolian people to all continents and to all geographies. I heartily congratulate the teachers [at Turkish schools around the world] who are working with self-sacrifice in countries very far away from their homelands.” (Today’s Zaman, June 17, 2013). Although Erdoğan did not mention any names in that speech, everyone agreed that the salute was apparently for Islamic scholar Gülen.
“We want this longing to end,” Erdoğan said during the final event of Turkish Olympiad, which brought students from Gülen movement schools all around the world together. Erdoğan said, “We want to see those who are abroad and longing for the homeland among us.” (Hürriyet Daily news, June 16, 2012)
Today (mostly since Dec. 17), Erdoğan has completely changed his stance and discourse toward Hizmet. Erdoğan now associates Hizmet with the Hashishiyyas (Assassins). Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) Chairman Mustafa Yeşil strongly rejected the label, saying that the goal of the Hashishiyyas was “murder” and that it is absolutely unacceptable to compare the Hizmet movement to a community of killers.
It is a really shocking change that the government has recently been going through. I hope that Erdoğan and his associates can realize that they are on the wrong track.
Source: Todays Zaman , January 21, 2014