Repression in the Name of Tolerance:
What happens to Gulen's critics in Turkey?
October 30, 2010
The University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Ohio State University, all public institutions of higher learning, do not appear to be fully informed regarding the two-faced nature of the Gulen Movement. These institutions are sponsoring a conference entitled “The Gülen Movement: Paradigms, Projects, and Aspirations,” which will take place at the University of Chicago only a few days from now.
The conference “Call for Papers” says that “the Gulen movement is a human welfare movement rooted in the teachings of M. Fethullah Gulen.” Martha Ann Kirk, one of the speakers (who, incidentally, will be paid a $500 honorarium for her trouble), has written in her abstract that “Gulen emphasizes that persons should be taught tolerance of others and respect for life.”
While the conference speakers celebrate Gulen for his “tolerance,” a number of journalists will continue to sit in jail in Turkey, their only “crimes” being criticism of Fethullah Gulen and his Movement. Here is what has happened to some of Gulen’s critics in Turkey:
Hanefi Avci, police chief
August 2010: Appearance of Avci’s book, “Simons on the Golden Horn,” which accuses the Gulen Movement of infiltrating Turkey’s police, justice system and other institutions.
September 2010: Avci was arrested and is facing charges of affiliation with a left-wing terrorist group. Given his history, the charges are highly improbable.
Avci's case has received a large amount of media attention and has resulted in criticism of the Gulen Movement:
Oct 15, 2010 Nicholas Birch "Gulen Movement Taking PR Beating in Arrest Row"
Oct 11, 2010 Hurriyet column, "A heartfelt warning to the Gulen Movement"
Oct 10, 2010 Hurriyet column by Mustafa Aykol, "Today I am closer to the secularists"
Sep 28, 2010 Harvard Professor Dani Rodrik, The Craziness in Turkey Reaches New Heights
Necip Hablemitoglu, history professor, author
Hablemitoglu, a history professor at the University of Ankara, was a highly vocal critic of Fethullah Gulen. His book, “Kostebek” (“The Mole”) describes the Gulen Movement’s infiltration of Turkey’s police. He was writing it at the time of his death, and it was published posthumously.
Hablemitoglu was assassinated in 2002; the case has never been solved.
Merdan Yanardag, journalist, author
Yanardag wrote a book, “How was Turkey Besieged: Behind the Curtains of the Fethullah Gulen Movement,” describing how the Gulen Movement has infiltrated the Turkish government. Yanardag alleged that the US secretly supports Gulen.
Yanardag was detained in October 2008 and is facing charges of being “a member of Ergenekon Armed Terrorist Network.”
Tuncay Ozkan, investigative journalist, author, former owner of television network
Ozkan is a prominent journalist and author whose book on Ergenekon makes frequent mention of Gulen. The Central Asia-Caucasus Initiative, Feb 13, 2009: "The second category of alleged coup plotters consists of those, like maverick journalist and politician Tuncay Ozkan, who have expressed strong opposition to the growing societal and political power of the Islamic movement led by preacher Fethullah Gulen."
Ozkan was arrested in Sep 2008 and remains in jail.
Nedim Sener, Journalist, Author, Named “World Press Freedom Hero” by the International Press Institute
Sener has served as a journalist for Milliyet and Cumhuriyet, both major national newspapers in Turkey. In 2008, Sener faced charges that would have led to from 28 to 32 years in prison. Officially, these charges related to his book "The Dink murder and the intelligence lies" (“Hrant Dink ve Istihbarat Yalanlari”) alleging that the Turkish government was partly responsible for journalist Hrant Dink’s murder and has failed to investigate the murder properly. However, it should be noted that Sener is also the author of a book, “Ergenekon Belgelerinde: Fethullah Gulen ve Cemaat,” (“Ergenekon Documents: Fethullah Gulen and the [Gulen] Community”) linking Fethullah Gulen to Ergenekon. On June 15, 2010, the International Press Institute named Sener a World Press Freedom Hero. That same month, Sener was acquitted of most of the charges, but still faces some.
Hurriyet Daily News, 2008 "20 years for murder, 28 years for murder book"
Bianet, June 7, 2010 "IPI's 'Press Hero' Nedim Sener Acquitted"
Mustafa Balbay, Journalist
Mustafa Balbay was a prominent columnist for the major Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, and a critic of Fethullah Gulen, as well as the AKP government which is closely associated with Gulen.
Balbay was arrested in March 2009 and remains in jail. He faces charges of overthrowing the government in connection with the Ergenekon case.
BIA's Media Monitoring Report 2009, First Quarter
Salon.com Oct 26, 2010 "Turkish media comes under legal pressure"
Ilhan Selcuk, legendary journalist, author, co-founder of Turkish Human Rights Association
Selcuk was editor in chief of Turkey’s major newspaper, Cumhuriyet, and a highly vocal critic of Fethullah Gulen.
In March 2008, at the age of 83, Selcuk was arrested in a predawn raid. He was questioned and later released, yet still faced charges in connection with the Ergenekon investigation. Selcuk’s friends believe the arrest had a serious effect on his health, and he died in June 2010.
Haci Bogatekin, journalist, newspaper editor
On June 27, 2008, Reporters without Borders, an international organization that works for freedom of the press, noted its concerns about Haci Bogatekin, owner and editor of the newspaper Gerger Firat, having been imprisoned for more than two months and facing a jail sentence of over ten years. Bogatekin’s problems apparently stemmed from having accused a prosecutor of being a Gulen sympathizer, and from writing an editorial entitled “Feto and Apo,” which used the derogatory nickname “Feto” for Fethullah Gulen.
Bogatekin is also mentioned in a Bianet’s 2009 Annual media Monitoring report entitled “Getting Rid of Freedom of Thought...”
In March 2010, The Committee to Protect Journalists called for the overturn of Bogatekin’s conviction. They wrote “In an interview with CPJ, Bogatekin said authorities targeted him after he published a January 2008 piece suggesting that Turkey faced a greater threat from a religious movement led by conservative author and cleric Fethullah Gülen than it did from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Bogatekin said he was summoned by Gerger state prosecutor Sadullah Ovacikli, who reprimanded him for insulting Gülen. Bogatekin was ordered to write an apology in the following issue of Gerger Firat; instead, the editor recounted his interrogation by prosecutors.”
Turkan Saylan, doctor, professor, social worker and activist; winner of International Gandhi Prize in 1986
Gulenists seek to silence not only their critics, but anyone who stands in the way of their agenda. Saylan, a doctor and renowned medical academic, was internationally known and respected both for her work to eradicate leprosy and for her efforts to increase Turkish girls’ access to education. She was also a staunch secularist.
In April 2009, while she was 73 and dying of cancer,Turkan Saylan was interrogated and her home and office were raided. Along with many other Ergenekon suspects, she was accused of plotting a military coup. Saylan died in July 2009.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Initiative, April 24, 2009: “Türkan Saylan seems to have been chosen as a target in her capacity as founder of the Association for the defense of the modern way of life (Cagdas yasami destekleme dernegi, CYDD). The association provides for the education of destitute children and adolescents, not least to girls, notably in the Eastern parts of Anatolia. In so doing, it has become the only secular, civil society organization to rival the Fethullah Gülen movement."
Click here for the London Times obituary of Saylan.
Turkey’s persecuted Yezidi minority
The Gulenist repressive tactics are also employed on certain groups whose religious views are not in alignment with Gulen's own. From Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume 5 Issue 128, July 7, 2008 "Pro-AKP media steps up disinformation campaign over Ergenekon," by Gareth Jenkins: “Gulen and his supporters have long accompanied condemnations of violence in the name of Islam with attempts to transfer the blame for such acts to non-Muslims. In the past, Zaman, the Gulen movement’s flagship newspaper, has also attempted to shift responsibility for the atrocities committed by the Turkish Sunni Muslim Hezbollah organization (see Terrorism Monitor, January 24) onto Turkey’s much persecuted, and as a result now almost non-existent, Yezidi religious minority (Zaman, February 10, 2000).”
University of Utah professor says Gulen Movement "is terrorizing people"
On October 5, 2010, University of Utah Professor Hakan Yavuz was quoted in an article on eurasia.net by Nicholas Birch:
"Character assassination, sexual and racial innuendo aimed at destroying people's reputation in the eyes of conservatives, invented news stories, transcripts from illegal police wiretaps …," said Hakan Yavuz, a political scientist who has written extensively and, until recently, sympathetically about the movement. "In its fight to be the hegemonic power, the movement stops at nothing. It is terrorizing people."
Why are U.S. universities sponsoring the Gulen Movement?
We believe that if the University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Ohio State University were fully informed about the repressive activities in Turkey that the Gulen Movement has been associated with, they would reconsider their sponsorship of Gulen Conferences. At the very least, such conferences should function as an occasion for true examination of all aspects of the Gulen Movement, rather than an opportunity to fete and advertise Fethullah Gulen's alleged "tolerance."
For it is not only in Turkey that the Gulen Movement seeks to silence their critics. They are trying to employ similar tactics here in the United States on parents, teachers, and community members who are questioning the Gulen Movement's publicly-funded charter schools in the U.S. as well as the methods employed by the cemaat for acquiring political influence. A number of individuals have been targeted with "cease and desist" letters in an attempt to intimidate them. Consider, moreover, the chilling words "Keep your hands off of that keyboard of yours," appearing in the comments section to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on the Fulton Sunshine Academy, and addressed to a blogger who has been investigating this and other Gulen charter schools. These words were written by none other than Hakan Berberoglu, assistant director of the Niagara Foundation, and the contact person for the Chicago Gulen conference.