More Repression, Turkey, and the Gulen Movement
March 7, 2011 last updated Mar 12, 2011
Our background page on Turkey (Turkey 101) was written in summer 2010, and much has happened since then. At that time we wrote that there were increasing concerns that the Ergenekon investigation was being used mainly as a vehicle to silence or intimidate critics of either the AKP government or the Gulen Movement. We updated that page in September 2010 after author and former police chief Hanefi Avci's arrest, which was widely believed to be in retaliation for his book on the Gulen Movement. Unfortunately, since then, there have been more detentions and arrests of journalists and writers, and the impression that these are attacks on free speech and that the Gulen Movement is involved has only deepened.
We believe that the actions of the Gulen Movement in Turkey have a bearing on how this movement should be viewed in the United States.
A reading list with a few excerpts follows, including ones that mention the connection of recent events to Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen Movement. (See also our page "Repression in the Name of Tolerance" regarding Gulenist retaliation.)
It is also worthwhile contrasting the articles below on media repression and journalists' arrests with the recent remarks of Dilshod Achilov, formerly an administrator at Sonoran Science Academy (a Gulen charter school) and now a professor of political science at East Tennessee State University. In an interview with the International Business Times in Feb 2011, Achilov said "It is important to note that the state of open civil society (including the media) in Turkey is very high." Yet in October 2010, Reporters Without Borders issued its 2010 Press Freedom Index, with Turkey ranking 138 out of 178, and this was before the new wave of raids and arrests in Feb-Mar 2011.
March 10, 2011 The Economist
A dangerous place to be a journalist: More arrests stoke fears that the government is intolerant of criticism
"Some argue that Turkey’s most influential Islamic brotherhood, led by Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based imam, can be seen behind the recent wave of arrests."
"At the time of his arrest Mr Sik was about to publish a book on the influence of the Gulenists within the security forces. 'Whoever touches [them] burns,' Mr Sik shouted as he was arrested."
"Yet leaked transcripts of their interrogations show that Mr Oz grilled them about several books, including one written by a former police chief, Hanefi Avci, which also attacks the Gulenists."
March 7, 2011 eurasia.net Nicholas Birch
Turkey: Ankara Coup Investigation Credibility Under Attack
The article talks about how arrested journalists Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik had both written about the involvement of the Gulen Movement in Turkey's police force.
"As he was taken away by police March 3, however, Ahmet Sik made it clear why he thought he was being targeted. 'Get too close and you burn,' he told bystanders, referring to the Fethullah Gulen Movement, Turkey's most powerful faith-based movement."
"Sener's book about the murder of the Armenian-Turkish journalist presented a wealth of evidence about the role policemen believed to be close to the Movement had in preparing the ground for the murder."
March 7, 2011 Financial Times Delphine Strauss
Turkey accused of stifling political critics
"But both men had been critical both of Mr Erdogan and of the powerful religious brotherhood led by the preacher Fethullah Gulen, whose followers are often sympathetic to the government and believed to be influential within the police."
March 6, 2011 New York Times Sebnem Arsu
Turkish Court Jails 2 Journalists
“The Turkish Journalists’ Association said that thousands of journalists faced prosecution, and about 60 were in jail because of their writings.”
March 6, 2011 Time Magazine Pelin Turgut
Why Is Turkey Arresting Journalists?
"Both Sener and Sik had been critical not just of the government but also of a key government backer: a powerful Islamic brotherhood led by a reclusive Pennsylvania-based imam called Fethullah Gulen, whom some critics allege now controls the Turkish security forces. ....Sik was about to publish his own book on the Gulen network, provisionally titled The Imam's Army. 'Whoever gets near this [issue] burns,' Sik said as he was arrested."
March 4, 2011 The Guardian Roy Greenslade
Seven journalists arrested in Turkey
"A US state department spokesman, Philip Crowley, said last month that the US had 'broad concerns about trends involving intimidation of journalists in Turkey.' "
March 3, 2011 New York Times Sebnem Arsu
7 More Journalists Detained in Turkey
“Whoever touches it gets burned!” Mr. Sik shouted, referring to the Gulen movement.
March 3, 2011 Dani Rodrik's weblog
The Turkish prosecutors’ pyramid scheme
"Another bizarre set of police roundups today in Turkey: eleven people, mostly journalists, were subject to early morning house searches and reportedly issued arrest warrants."
February 15, 2011 Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
Oda TV raid renews fears of media witch hunt in Turkey
"Press organizations and journalists have reacted harshly against a police raid on the headquarters of Oda TV, a website that is known for being a fierce critic of government policies."
Note: Oda TV has also published many articles sharply critical of the Gulen Movement.
February 11, 2011 The National Interest Dani Rodrik
Democracy in Turkey
"We recounted in a previous article the myriad inconsistencies and violations of due process in this case."
"But no publication worked harder to discredit us than Zaman, Turkey’s largest-circulation daily."
[Note that Zaman is a newspaper run by the Gulen Movement.]
Feb 6, 2011 Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
Former Turkish police chief to face trial in case against outlawed group
"Avci has been in the media spotlight since publishing a book last year titled “Halic’te Yasayan Simonlar: Dun Devlet Bugun Cemaat” (“Devotee” Residents of Halic: Yesterday State, Today Religious Community), which alleges that the religious Gulen community has covertly taken control of the state. // The former police chief was arrested following the book’s publication for his allegedly contacts with the Revolutionary Headquarters. Prior to the publication of the book, Avci was known to be close to the Gulen community."
August 13, 2010 Congressional Research Service Carol Migdalovitz
Turkey: Politics of Identity and Power
"Skeptics charge that the AKP is using a fictitious affair to intimidate and weaken opponents in the military, judiciary, media, and elsewhere who are ardent secularists, and that the authorities’
handling of suspects fails to meet international legal standards, thereby marring Turkey’s
democratic advance. They also suggest that the enigmatic and powerful Fethullah Gulen
Movement, a religious group, may be driving the investigations."
"It is unknown if AKP or the Gulen Movement (see below) has devised Ergenekon for the
purposes of revenge and intimidation. However, there has been considerable and convincing
criticism of the conduct of the investigations, with practices such as defective search warrants,
excessive reliance on wiretap evidence, prolonged detention without charge, and harsh treatment
of those indicted."
"Critics charge that the Fethullah Gulen Movement is the force behind the Ergenekon investigation and other anti-military campaigns, seeking revenge against those who had prosecuted Fethullah. If true, this would contrast sharply with the benign public image that Gulenists have cultivated over the years. As noted above, Gulenists reportedly play a major role in the police and in its intelligence bodies. Leaked documents related to the investigations are publicized in Zaman
newspapers, known for their anti-military line. Columnists harshly criticize and even threaten
those who question the veracity of the Ergenekon affair or the benefits of AKP rule, or who shine
a contrarian light on the movement."
"Other critics suggest that the movement’s understanding of democracy is narrow in that it
sometimes focuses on religious freedoms such as the right to wear headscarves and attend
universities after graduating from theological high schools, while also advocating stifling of some
free speech. (See disparagement of perceived opponents immediately above.) They warn “naïve”
Westerners not to be beguiled by the Gulenists."