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Aslandogan, Ya - Defamation as a Smoke Screen

Aslandogan, Ya - Defamation as a Smoke Screen

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Published by gamirov
Conference Paper about Gulen Movement
Conference Paper about Gulen Movement

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Published by: gamirov on Jul 14, 2008
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3\u20105 November 2006
The University of Oklahoma,
Norman, Oklahoma, USA
Y. Alp Aslandogan, PhD
[Please Note: This paper is not for quotation without permission from the author, since it is
subject to checking and finalisation before publication]
\u201cDo not approach prayer\u201d \u2013 The Qur\u2019an, excerpt from verse 04:43.
\u201cWoe to those worshippers\u201d \u2013 The Qur\u2019an, excerpt from verse 107:04.

The G\u00fclen movement has been recognized inside and outside Turkey as an apolitical but philanthropy\u2010altruism based civil society movement which focuses totally on education, intercultural coherence/harmony and peaceful cooperation of civilizations. On the other hand, the Movement was subjected to harsh attrition primarily from the interest circles of both the ultra\u2010nationalists and radical Marxist\u2010 laicists in Turkey. An extreme example took place during the summer of 1999, when allegations were made against G\u00fclen that he had been secretly pursuing to overthrow the secular Turkish government through public workers embedded in various state offices. Parts of Turkish media played a jugular role in initiating and fostering such a campaign. The same accusations have been used numerous times against other public figures throughout the history of the Republic. Doctored video clips were played on some private TV channels and montages made from speech


excerpts without context were broadcast for a media inquisition of G\u00fclen, as well as for a warning to people who sympathized with his social project ideas. A concurrent phenomenon that happened exactly during this period was the passing of important legislation for the regulation of the banking sector and a banking crisis that eventually cost the state treasury the equivalent of nearly 100 billion dollars. The peculiar coincidence of the media campaign against G\u00fclen and the banking legislation that was at the national assembly during this campaign was noticed by Turkish intellectuals as well as by Mr. B\u00fclent Ecevit, then the prime minister of Turkey. Ecevit voiced his opinion that the media campaign was intended to divert public attention from important legislation to the detriment of the country. Later revelations and developments over time have unfortunately confirmed the prime minister.

In the rest of this paper we will first overview the support for the G\u00fclen movement and its opposition. We will then describe the context of media inquisition campaign against G\u00fclen which started in June 1999, the nature of the allegations and the concurrent developments. We will describe the major players in the campaign, their backgrounds, political inclinations and connections. We will present various theories regarding the motivations for the perpetrators of the campaign and conclude with an analysis.

Support for the G\u00fclen Movement

The G\u00fclen movement has been characterized as an apolitical, non\u2010reactionary, philanthropy and altruism\u2010based civic movement focused on the service of the community and humanity in general through education, intercultural harmony and peaceful cooperation of civilizations. The friends and supporters of the G\u00fclen movement include a long list of intellectuals, political leaders, academicians, retired and government officers from all segments of the Turkish political spectrum.

The late president \u00d6zal has been a strong supporter of the educational activitiesof the movement. After serving in various government positions and at the World Bank, \u00d6zal was elected the prime minister of Turkey and served between 1984 and 1989. He was elected president in 1989 and served in this capacity until his death in 1993. \u00d6zal met with G\u00fclen in the late 1960s when the former was an official in the government\u2019s office of central planning (DPT). He later followed the educational activities of the G\u00fclen movement closely and offered support in various forms. He has visited schools in the Balkans and in the Central Asian Turkic countries. During his last trip out of the country, he visited such schools in the Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, between April 3rd and April 15th, 1993. He died only 24 hours after returning to Turkey on April 17th, 1993. Journalist Hulusi Turgut reports that during this trip he personally assured the leaders of these countries about the positive roles these schools can play in developing the relationships between the their respective countries and the contributions the schools can make to the youth of their country. Turgut reports that \u00d6zal gave a personal assurance to the president of Uzbekistan about the schools with the words \u201cI am a guarantor for these schools\u201d (Turgut 1997).


The former president Demirel (center right) supported the educational activities of the GM through visits and official recognition letters. Demirel was also a participant in the intercultural dialog activities organized by the Journalists and Writers foundation of which G\u00fclen is the honorary chair. The president of Albania gives an example of positive remarks by heads of governments in all of the countries where educational activities of the G\u00fclen movement are present (Turgut, 1997):

\u201cI wish great success to the first Turkish school in Albania, in educating the future geniuses of Albania and in preserving and developing the close relationships among our countries.\u201d \u2013 Sali Berisha, The President of Albania

Former prime ministers Ecevit (left) represents an interesting example of a supporter for the G\u00fclen movement. Ecevit expressed his support for both the educational activities of the movement as well as the person of G\u00fclen on various occasions.

\u201cI tried to follow the activities of these educational entrepreneurs and educators abroad and I was pleased with what I saw. First of all, regardless of the country, the educators were providing modern education. They were offering Turkish language classes to their students. And they were offering education in English language, which is a prerequisite for scientific development today. Together with the local language, these schools were providing education in three languages. This is a great humanitarian service.\u201d (Ates et al. 2005:30)

Other political leaders or intellectuals who supported the educational activities of the G\u00fclen movement include Mesut Yilmaz, one time prime minister and a center right party leader, former prime minister Hikmet Cetin (center leftist), Recai Kutan, leader of a religious right party, Aydin Bolak, former chairman of the Turkish Education Foundation (Ergun, 1999:374), Uzeyir Garih and Jef Kamhi, jewish citizens and entrepreneurs of Turkey.

Current prime minister Erdogan (right) have either participated in events organized by the movement, have made public statements supporting the movement activities, or provided letters of reference.

The variety and trends in the news and commentaries on the G\u00fclen movement have usually reflected the political inclinations of the owners as well as the general political climate. A number of columnists have expressed support for various activities of the movement, but especially on the dialog/tolerance and educational activities. Most columnists have celebrated the non\u2010religious nature of the schools as well as the highlighting of Turkish as an optional second or third language in the private schools established by Turkish entrepreneurs.

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