By Cagri Cobanoglu – the foreign news editor of Akşam – a national Turkish daily
After more than a decade in power, the AK Party of Turkey is facing its biggest crisis yet.
After a massive corruption scandal involving sons of three cabinet ministers broke out on 17 December, the government has had to deal with several accusations from different political circles. It was equally telling that prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan could not stop investigation against his ministers’ sons before they were detained. The sons of the interior minister and the economy minister have been arrested while the son of the environment minister was freed.
Indeed, Erdogan did not know about the investigation until the ministers’ sons were arrested by the police. Normally, a powerful government would be aware of what’s going on within the police and judiciary but this is not the case in Turkey. It is no secret to anybody living in the country that the police and judiciary is under control of an influential US-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen. Although they were an ally of Erdogan’s government in the past, things has changed. It is said that Gulen movement (or ‘the Cemaat’ commonly in Turkish) wanted to get more power but the government did not let them become more influential.
Both sides went on to a political war spurred by the arrest of Turkish intelligence (MIT) chief Hakan Fidan, but Erdogan changed the law and saved Fidan from being arrested. The reasoning behind Fidan’s arrest revolved around the Kurdish question; Turkish forces and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have been fighting for almost 30 years. Erdogan’s goverment made an initiative to stop the fight by negotiating with PKK, however, Gulen movement wanted to solve the question by itself.
Their method was similar. They arrested hundreds of Kurdish politicians by using their power on the police and judiciary. Erdogan’s government didn’t do much to stop the arrests. Many analysts think that their non-objection would be used as a card in negoatiations with PKK. However, when Gulen’s followers tried to arrest the intelligence chief, things has changed and the war began between the two political opponents.
Before the corruption scandal, Erdogan passed a law to close down study courses in Turkey. Study courses are important in Turkey because people who want to go to the university have to pass an exam to gain entry. It is a national exam and not easy to pass, which is why many study courses prepare students for the exam and have developed a large market in doing so.
The ‘Gulen Movement’ is well-organised in this regard. The courses are aligned with the movement and have become financial sources too. Students are thus indoctrined in their study courses by different methods, with religious teaching sessions – not part of the university exam – and by providing accommodation to students.
Erdogan would strike a major blow to the Gulen movement by closing down the courses. When Gulen followers saw this threat they utilised their police and judiciary power to open a corruption investigation.
“We need to stand against Gulen Movement”
Journalists Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık are beig trialed for preparing a plot against the government. However, both of them wrote against Gulen movement and its activities in the police and judiciary system. Nedim Şener lately gave an interview to Al-Monitor in which he said:
“Turkey is not facing corruption charges for the first time. Therefore, we also need to question the Cemaat’s motivation in this setting, as well… The government can’t stay in charge after such a scandal. It is best that it resign, but the corruption issue is now secondary. One really needs to see that Gulen movement is actually directly aiming at Erdogan. It simply showcases that it has grown so strong that it can even bring down the country’s prime minister when it wants to… We also need to stand against Gulen movement establishment in the state institutions. There is a reason why it is grouped in intelligence units and the judiciary. There are video recordings that show Gulen asking his followers, at the least 20 to 30 years ago, to start finding employment in police, judiciary or military. … He tells them they should stay quiet and not reveal their identities until the time comes. This is scary.”
Lately Erdogan’s goverment started a counter-campaign against Gulen followers by accusing them of being conspirators who are partners of foreign powers.
Gulen, who has denied any involvement in the corruption investigation against the government, left Turkey in 1999 after being accused by the then government of plotting to establish an Islamic state. He was cleared of that charge, but has never returned to Turkey, now living in Pennsylvania, USA. A very telling tale indeed.
The article is a personal opinion.