It was believed in 2016 that Erdoğan was carrying out a witch hunt to drive Hizmet into the ground so as to completely erase its history in Turkey. However, that witch hunt never seemed to stop. In fact, it continues even today. The most recent examples are Kenya and Kyrgyzstan.
On May 31, Orhan Inandi, a Turkish-born educator and Kyrgyz citizen who founded a popular school network in Kyrgyzstan went missing in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. After his car was found five miles from his house, all its doors open and tires flattened, his families contacted Kyrgyz authorities.
As outlandish as these accusations might seem, they follow Erdogan’s long pattern of abusing the rhetoric of “counterterrorism” to justify government repression and perpetrate some of the worst atrocities in an almost singular strategy to cling to power.
The seventh stage [of genicide] is “Preparation.” Erdogan and his supporters direct violent phrases at Hizmet participants, including “they will not have access to food and water” and “they will beg us to kill them to avoid torture.” Widespread propaganda calls Hizmet participants “assassins,” “terrorists” or pawns of foreign powers such as the CIA, Mossad or the Vatican.
Turkey’s long arm and espionage activities against dissidents living in exile in Canada has become a growing concern. As revealed in a startling recent news report, 15 Turkish-Canadians have been targeted by the Turkish government within the scope of a “terrorism” investigation.
The purge of the Hizmet Movement is what the Kurdish question was to Kemalism, a necessary tool with which to construct a new national identity, a tool to silence those who question it, and to design a social and political system that will foster it. Unfortunately, Turkey has no chance of going back, even to its fragile and dysfunctional democracy, without this narrative being completely rejected.
The Kemalist viewpoint in Turkey perceives the Gulen movement as a menace that had served as an instrument of President Tayyip Erdogan’s quest for power. This outlook suggests that if it weren’t for Gulenists’ aid, Erdogan would have faded out a long time ago. Recently, The Economist published an article that exhibits the same bias.
Turkey is where it is today, not because of Gulen and the Hizmet Movement but rather as the product of a change of heart in the current government leadership, flushing good governance and tolerance components from the country’s management affairs running systems. Solution to the Ankara crisis can only be found through establishing its root cause rather than finding a scapegoat.
South Africa is a good example of a country that has not been pressured into adopting the narrative touted by the Turkish government. Local politicians, students and academics regularly acknowledge the Hizmet Movement’s altruistic activities in the country.
What explains Gulen’s deep faith in peace, nonviolence, human dignity and inter-faith tolerance and dialogue as the cornerstones of Islam? For answer, we have to know something about the ‘Guru’ who influenced him – Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1878-1960), one of the greatest Islamic theologians of the last century.
One such case is the experience of thousands of Turkish people under the Erdogan regime after the failed coup attempt in July 2016. Soon after the coup attempt, Erdogan’s regime launched a crackdown on opponents and critics, detaining thousands of journalists, rights activists, lawyers, teachers and writers for their alleged involvement in anti-state activities.
Turkey’s strategic importance cannot be overestimated. However, Erdogan’s personal friendship with Trump alone cannot resolve the difficulties. Even if Trump may be willing to find a way to extradite Gulen or find another country to accept him in order to placate a NATO partner for geopolitical reasons, he must not. The damage to the rule of law would outweigh any benefit Trump hopes to gain from such an action.