Power struggle in Turkey: Erdogan versus Gulen

By Cagri Cobanoglu – the foreign news editor of Akşam – a national Turkish daily

Erdogan vs Gulen

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.

Fidan Case

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.

Study Courses

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.

6 Responses

  1. micheal

    turkey is a place where you are not allowed to become a part of the government or enter politics if you are not part of the ruling elite- nepotism is rife & bribery/larceny is common place-meeting with the local mayor starts from a $5000 donation to one of his kids… thousands are listed & fired/exiled according to their social/religious affiliations-you would keep yourself quiet as-well… telling you say-that he has not returned-even when invited last year or so by ERDOGAN himself-but we find out this past week that erdogan signed a list of targets to be eliminated including GULEN back in the early 2000’s… would you return FACED WITH A TURKISH prison???

  2. Seref

    Let’s try to see what has been happening from this angle: Erdogan thought that he has gained enough power to control Gulen Movement (strongest social structure that can lead justice in Turkey) by offering a secret asylum in return of their being quiet about corruption scandal. Gulen and his followers rejected to be under the auspices of any political organisations. And after many years of preparation, Erdogan and his helpers started their gradual attacks on Gulen Movement. Then the Movement exposed dirty secrets of two-faced government.

  3. Nor Cal

    It is not a power struggle between Gulen and Erdogan. Gulen is not a politician and his followers do come from all walks of life; politically or socially. It is simply a struggle for democracy, human rights, and corruption-free government. Every single figure in Gulen Movement calls for justice be served for if there is any kind of parallel state as depicted by Erdogan and should be done so in courts. OTOH, Erdogan gov’t has been playing coverups since the corruption scandal news broke out on Dec 17.

  4. Ayhan

    Erdogan and his closest friends and ministers are corrupt to the core and has been taking their ‘cut’ as bribes and with this
    illegal gains they have been buying judges and prosecutors to silence any protest and journalist which should be routine in a democracy. He is also trained liar and lies to the nation to keep his control and influence public opinion.
    He is becoming more and more despotic and wants to
    play only with his own rules and lately he has become more desperate not to loose power due to blatant corruption charges he is acting like mad dog barking orders to Justice system moving thousands of police chiefs and prosecuters to prevent the real facts to be made public about his and his sons shady dealings in billions of dollars. He is in cover-up phase but truth will
    come out eventually and Turkey will get rid of the worst
    politician. There are many more points to make but the space is limited.Turkey will be a happier place without
    him and his corrupt friends.

  5. Ayhan

    Last ten days since I first posted a comment proves how right I was because instead of letting justice department do its job and go after the wrongdoings of Erdogan and his ilk ,his new Justice minister has been calling local prosecutors NOT to follow any leads and basically cover up the whole sordid affair which billions of dollars were
    exchanged hands and some ministers and their sons including Erdogan’s son made fortunes illegally. Members of the parliaments should rise up and stop
    this charade and unless Erdogan comes clean as soon as possible he should resign and face a real unbiased justice system and be barred from politics for life or better admitting his guilt go to jail for the rest of his life.

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