Wednesday, 29 January 2014

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

The interviews that Fethullah Gülen has recently given to Western media have provoked critical comments in the pro-AKP media. Abdülkadir Selvi questions Gülen’s claim that the rift between his movement and the AK Party was caused by the government’s back-tracking on democratization. Mustafa Akyol offers what he calls a “friendly warning” to the Hizmet movement, writing that its involvement in Turkish power games endangers its global influence. Meanwhile, Mümtaz’er Türköne, in the Gülenist daily Zaman deplores that Islamism has been undone by graft and by the attempt of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to monopolize the surplus of the state for his part of the Islamic movement. Liberal commentator Mehmet Altan warns that the government is courting a danger of the worst kind by opening the door for the military in order to evade justice.


Abdülkadir Selvi in Yeni Şafak notes that Fethullah Gülen in a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal stated that the “Turkish people deplores that the democratization process has been reversed during the last two years.” The claim of the esteemed hodja that the problem that they are having with the AK Party has to do with democratization being reversed does not reflect reality. The list of democratic reforms that were undertaken during those two years runs to a considerable length. The age-limit to attend Quran classes, a legacy of the February 28 regime (in 1997) was revoked; after the same was done for university students, the ban on the headscarf was lifted in government offices; it was made possible for deputies to be present in the general assembly of parliament wearing the headscarf; the education system was changed, with courses on the life of the Prophet and the Quran being added to the curriculum; the graduates of Imam schools are no longer banned from entering the police academies and the military schools; and most importantly, the peace process with the Kurds, to which the esteemed hodja lent support, was initiated. I don’t know if there is anything in this list that displeases the esteemed hodja; if the government has indeed back-tracked on democratization, is it by instituting an empire of fear, by turning the country into a republic run by the police and judges that you are going to ensure democratization? What I do know is that in the era of the old governments, we would have been eternally grateful to any government that would have done just of the things that have been realized during the last two years.



Mümtazer Türköne in Zaman writes that Islamism in Turkey is buckling under the wheels of graft, and not as is the case in Egypt, under the oppression of secular tyrants. In spite of everything, the history of Islamism, so full of plight and troubles, did not deserve this sorry ending. It has now become apparent that religiosity has been used to shield the simplest, age-old, material aspirations. The goal to “raise pious generations” by the state was not achievable without sharing the surplus of the state in a pious fashion. But the prime minister decided to constitute his own congregation, deploying the state’s money and its monopoly on education. The reason he is locked in a struggle with the Gülen congregation was apparently this intention to secure a monopoly. In fact, the confrontation between the government and the congregation erupted as a result of the attempt to impose the AK Party’s specific religious understanding, with its roots in the National Outlook movement’s religious view, with its Sharia references. But nonetheless, this confrontation does not translate a genuine form of religiosity or understanding of religion. The government elite that gathered around the state’s network of surplus distribution used religiosity as an ideological wrapping of their political and economic interests. Islamism was undone by the Islamists themselves, not by anyone else.



Mustafa Akyol in Star asks how the global mission of the Hizmet movement is going to be affected by the perception that is a congregation which is engaged in a ruthless power struggle in Turkey and is claimed to be using the police and the judiciary for this purpose. The answer is simply that it will unquestionably have an extremely adverse effect. Because, when the Hizmet is perceived as a hard-edged political force in Turkey, it will invariably be viewed as such globally as well. The discussion here about a “parallel structure” is also going to raise questions, kindle doubts and ultimately cause problems elsewhere. To say that “that perception is an outright lie, created by our enemies”, is of no avail. Thus, I’d like to offer a friendly warning: The ongoing fight in Turkey is an accursed fight that will not have any winner. Whatever side that wins, is going to be badly dented; indeed, Turkey is going to suffer. But Hizmet is not only going to sustain damage within Turkey, but also globally. The legitimate terrain of Hizmet is civil society; it is schools, capital, media and charity organizations. I will continue to defend its rights in this realm; but it is absolutely essential that this story of a “parallel structure” is concluded, that the Hizmet demonstrates good will, transparency and effort to this end.



Mehmet Altan on the t24 news site writes that the government’s newfound love for “Sledgehammer” and “Eregenkon” is an expression of the fear, as it faces the prospect of being prosecuted for graft. They know full well that ultimately they are going to have to stand trial; legally, it is not possible that they can escape it. That is why they need a structure that destroys the law. By aligning themselves with coup makers, the old “deep state” and the architects of Ergenekon, they are attempting to lay the foundations for a sort of martial law that would suspend the role of the judiciary. They are trying to secure the support of the military by enacting a new law according to which generals will be brought before justice only if the prime minister consents to it; by increasing officers’ salaries; by releasing coup makers and by scratching the back of Ergenekon. They are doing the most dangerous thing that can be imagined. Historically, every time civilians have relied on the military to help them run the country, coups have been the outcome. It will always be the same. If no laws are to be abided in governing the country, if only those who have the most power are to be allowed to have a saying, then, those who are most powerful – the military – are going to assume full control. We are confronted with the lunatic plans of a government that has been caught red-handed and that is terrified of being prosecuted. We are not headed in a good direction at all. I say this to the AK Party: If the military leaves their barracks, they are not only going to hand-cuff democrats; they are also going to crush your heads.



Yalçın Akdoğan, Prime Minister Erdogan’s advisor, writes in Star that certain circles after the events of December 17 (when the graft probe was launched) predicted that the government was going to become inward-looking, authoritarian and that it would resort to anti-democratic methods; indeed, they wished that all of this would come about. But what happened has been the opposite. The government has embraced the people and has put the parliament at the forefront in order to deal with the problems; the AK Party has taken care to solve the problems with more democratization. The democratization of the judiciary is going to be accomplished in accordance with structures and principled considerations. Instead of moving away from the EU, Turkey is becoming more integrated with the EU. It is not possible for a country that becomes more integrated with the EU to fall prey to anti-democratic inclinations. There is only one path ahead for the AK Party, and that is more democratization. Those who think that the government will choose another path are mistaken.

Read 7489 times Last modified on Thursday, 30 January 2014

Visit also





Joint Center Publications

Op-ed Halil Karaveli "The Rise and Rise of the Turkish Right", The New York Times, April 8, 2019

Analysis Halil Karaveli "The Myth of Erdogan's Power"Foreign Policy, August 29, 2018

Analysis Svante E. Cornell, A Road to Understanding in Syria? The U.S. and TurkeyThe American Interest, June 2018

Op-ed Halil Karaveli "Erdogan Wins Reelection"Foreign Affairs, June 25, 2018

Article Halil Karaveli "Will the Kurdish Question Secure Erdogan's Re-election?", Turkey Analyst, June 18, 2018

Research Article Svante E. Cornell "Erbakan, Kisakürek, and the Mainstreaming of Extremism in Turkey", Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, June 2018

Analysis Svante E. Cornell "The U.S. and Turkey: Past the Point of No Return?"The American Interest, February 1, 2018

Op-ed Svante E. Cornell "Erdogan's Turkey: the Role of a Little Known Islamic Poet", Breaking Defense, January 2, 2018

Research Article Halil Karaveli "Turkey's Authoritarian Legacy"Cairo Review of Global Affairs, January 2, 2018


The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.


Sign up for upcoming events, latest news and articles from the CACI Analyst