SECOND ANNUAL CONFERENCE ON ISLAM IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD: THE FETHULLAH GÜLEN MOVEMENT IN THOUGHT AND PRACTICE
3 ‐5 November 2006 The University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA
DEFAMATION AS A SMOKE SCREEN: A CASE STUDY IN MODERN TURKEY
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]
“Do not approach prayer” – The Qur’an, excerpt from verse 04:43. “Woe to those worshippers” – The Qur’an, excerpt from verse 107:04. The Gülen movement has been recognized inside and outside Turkey as an apolitical but philanthropy‐altruism 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‐nationalists and radical Marxist‐ laicists in Turkey. An extreme example took place during the summer of 1999, when allegations were made against Gülen 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 Gülen, 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 Gülen and the banking legislation that was at the national assembly during this campaign was noticed by Turkish intellectuals as well as by Mr. Bülent 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 Gülen movement and its opposition. We will then describe the context of media inquisition campaign against Gülen 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 Gülen Movement The Gülen movement has been characterized as an apolitical, non‐reactionary, philanthropy and altruism‐based 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 Gülen 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 Özal has been a strong supporter of the educational activities of the movement. After serving in various government positions and at the World Bank, Özal 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. Özal met with Gülen in the late 1960s when the former was an official in the government’s office of central planning (DPT). He later followed the educational activities of the Gülen 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 Özal gave a personal assurance to the president of Uzbekistan about the schools with the words “I am a guarantor for these schools” (Turgut 1997).
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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 Gülen 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 Gülen movement are present (Turgut, 1997):
“I 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.” – Sali Berisha, The President of Albania
Former prime ministers Ecevit (left) represents an interesting example of a supporter for the Gülen movement. Ecevit expressed his support for both the educational activities of the movement as well as the person of Gülen on various occasions.
“I 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.” (Ates et al. 2005:30)
Other political leaders or intellectuals who supported the educational activities of the Gülen 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 Gülen 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‐religious 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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Opposition to the Gülen Movement Staunch opposition to the Gülen movement come from two segments: The radical, militant laicist, anti‐religious Marxist/Maoist/Atheist left and radical, militant, anti‐ religious ultra‐nationalists. These are distinguished from the critiques of the movement in that their allegations and accusations are not supported by evidence, refuted by legal verdicts and are otherwise inconsistent. It is possible to find both positive news as well as critiques about the Gülen movement in most newspapers and TV channels. There are two exceptions to this trend: The Marxist‐Maoist Aydinlik (The Enlightenment) magazine and the militant laicist Cumhuriyet (Republic) newspaper famous for its antagonism toward the Islamic faith. Led by Dogu Perincek and known for its Marxist‐Maoist line, Aydinlik has been a flagship publication of Turkish radical leftist revolutionaries. Perincek was also the leader of the Workers Party (IP) which never received more than .01 percent of votes in general elections. Both Aydinlik and Cumhuriyet have been consistently anti‐Gülen movement throughout three decades. A respected Socialist‐Kemalist thinker and columnist of Cumhuriyet, Prof. Toktamis Ates, who was the chairman of the Ataturkist Thought Foundation, participated in the dialog and tolerance activities led by Gülen. He was forced out of his chairmanship position due to his embracement of Gülen’s message of tolerance. Ali Kirca was a TV host and anchor during the media campaign against Gülen. Kirca is a former military officer with Marxist/revolutionary leanings who was kicked out of military for alleged involvement in a robbery for organizational benefit1. Concurrent Developments Prior to and During the Campaign The media inquisition campaign against Gülen started at a time of significant political and economic developments in the country. The first was the general atmosphere of the so‐called “February 28th Post‐modern Coup” and the public desire of some high ranking generals for the continuation of the pressure on the political parties2. There
Incidentally, seven years after airing the excerpts from Gulen’s video on ATV, Ali Kirca himself was the subject of a video scandal. High resolution video footage of Kirca having sex with a woman was first submitted to newspapers but was not published. Later the footage was made publicly available over the Internet. Kirca condemned the perpetrators, sued those who made the tape publicly accessible and temporarily left his anchorman position following the scandal. 2 Leicht comments on a recent case of friction between military hard liners and the government in the context of democratic reforms as part of Turkey’s process of joining EU (Leicht, 2003): “On the day before the parliamentary vote on the package (a package limiting the role and powers of the National 4 | P a g e
were also allegations that some generals in the military wanted to go break traditional ascension conventions to secure higher ranks. The second, more immediate concurrent development was an unauthorized wiretapping scandal (named “tele‐ear” scandal) that involved some officers from Ankara Department of Public Safety. The second development was the capturing, imprisonment and trial of the separatist terrorist leader Abdullah Öcalan. A third development was the passing of banking regulation laws and the establishment of BDDK, the equivalent of the U.S. OCC due to pressure from International Monetary Fund on the government to clamp down on corruption and the looting of the private banks. The Atmosphere of the February 28th Post‐modern Coup Despite dating back to 1850s, the Turkish experience in democracy has not been free of problems. Military coups of some form have played a jugular role in shaping Turkish politics for the past two centuries. During its relatively short existence of 83 years, the Republic of Turkey witnessed three military coups and one so‐called “post‐ modern” coup. On May 27th, 1960, a truck full soldiers entered the Ankara Radio House and announced the “Revolution” that would put the country back on its track after 10 years of Democratic Party rule. The coup resulted in political power changing hands, dissolving of the parliament and the banning of the democratic party, the arresting and subsequent hanging of the vastly popular prime minister of two terms Adnan Menderes. Although Menderes was never seen in his lifetime as offering Islamic prayers, he was charged with trying to take country backwards into a theocratic regime. His major crime was allowing the call to prayer to be spoken again in Arabic, after years of being spoken in Turkish. The coup in March 12, 1971 was effected through a letter given to the ruling party by the chief of staff of the military. Again, military trucks came to the TV Broadcasting Station of the TRT (Turkish Radio Television, the state media monopoly of the time) as well as the Radio Station. Although this coup was not as ruthless as the 1960 one, still the ruling party had to resign, the political power changed hands and a regime of military presence was observed. Both coups resulted in the changing of political power structure, enforcement of political bans, and hangings.
Security Council), the army head of staff, Hilmi Özkök, paid a surprise visit to Prime Minister Erdogan, in order, as the press reported, to “communicate the concerns” of the army. Then, several days after the vote, Erdogan took part in a meeting of the Supreme Military Council (YAS). According to reports (probably passed on personally by generals to the newspaper Cumhuriyet), the meeting included vigorous attacks on Erdogan and even threats of a new putsch. A leading army commander, Cetin Dogan, was quoted as saying, “Forces, which will not allow any change to the secular form of the state, will act in unison...if necessary the army and the nation will act to achieve results hand in hand.” Dogan is alleged to have warned Erdogan that the government can still profit from the reforms because “of the love of the Turkish people for the EU, but one day they will pay the price.” 5 | P a g e
The coup on September 12, 1980 was advertised as military’s response to the failure of the government in stopping ideological and sectarian anarchy which claimed the lives of thousands of Turkish youth. The parliament was dismissed, political parties banned and the political landscape changed one more time. The military leaders did not answer then prime minister Demirel’s question of why they did not use the same means to stop the anarchy without a military coup. The coup of the 28 February, 1997, was termed a “post‐modern coup” by its authors. Although the military played the central role, some self proclaimed civil organizations as well as media played important roles as well. The leading players of the February 28 coup expressed their desire and plan for its effect to be lasting. The chief of staff Hilmi Özkök, who served between 2002 and 2006 was criticized by some since he was “too democratic” an did not enforce the power of the military on the ruling AKP party which was seen as a continuation of the former RP by some. A powerful group of generals behind the February 28 post‐modern coup made clear their desire for the continuation of pressure on the political parties. Although generals agreed on the necessity of riding the government of the RP, they disagreed on the means. A hard liner group desired a more direct involvement of the military and swift enforcement of the policies set forth by the generals. The group around the current chief of staff preferred a more balanced, more democratic process. Ultimately, the hard liner group succeeded in following through their plan for the immediate period following the February 28 declaration. In the long term, however, members of the hard liner group were retired and the military influence subsided. An investigation into the corruption allegations against the leader of the hard liner group and subsequent revelations of abuse of his position played a jugular role in this action. During the days leading to and following the February 28 declaration there was an orchestrated media campaign against both the RP as well as all faith‐based communities in general. Every other day some figure with a Muslim identity was displayed with despicable actions or attributes, or as involved in a scandal of some sort. Some of the key figures the media campaign against Gülen were in action during this time as well. Another aspect of the February 28 coup that did not receive much public attention was the fact that it happened immediately after the formation of a congressional investigation committee to investigate the deep state‐mafia relationships based on an accident in which a state officer and a mafia member died in the same car (Known as the Susurluk incident). The deep state mafia is an armed clandestine organization similar to Italian Gladio, originally intended to weed off the communist and the separatist threats but due to their illegal status went out of control to get involved in drug trafficking, arms dealing and blackmailing. According to some columnists, the February 28 coup was organized at that time to divert public attention from the deep state mafia relationships.
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Illegal Wiretapping and Blackmailing (“Tele‐ear”) Scandal An important event that preceded the media campaign was the revelation of an illegal wiretapping scandal initiated by the Ankara Police Department. According to a government investigation, the director Cevdet Saral along with a group if his subordinates organized the unauthorized wiretapping of a number of celebrities, government officials and bureaucrats. According to the newspapers reports of the investigation, the wiretapping did not spare even the prime minister (see picture). Upon the revelation of the scandal, the director and his team of subordinates were expelled from their positions. Director Saral commented that “this is only the first round” according to newspaper reports. The Capture of Abdullah Öcalan, a.k.a. Apo The separatist‐terrorist leader Abdullah Öcalan, who was wanted for the murder of 30,000 civilians was captured in Kenya and brought to Turkey. Öcalan led the terrorist organization PKK with a Marxist‐Leninist ideology. But since most of the Kurds in Turkey were Sunni Muslims, his ideology did not appeal to the Kurdish population. In recent years he changed his rhetoric. It was expected that the trial of Öcalan would result in a death penalty. Banking Regulation Laws Turkey experienced baking crisis on the 1980s and early 1990s. There were suspicions of widespread fraud, looting and embezzlement of bank assets by owners who were also media moguls. International Monetary Fund was putting pressure on the new coalition government to clamp down on private banks whose financial practices were irresponsible even by liberal Turkish standards. Exactly during the days when the media inquisition against Gülen started, an important law, Bank Act No. 4389, was at the grant national assembly (Turkish congress) which dictated the formation of BDDK, Banking Regulation and Supervisory Agency, the equivalent of OCC in the U.S. This law was a signal that with the pressure of the International Monetary Fund behind, the coalition government would scrutinize the risky and suspicious actions of the private financial institutions. The Media Inquisition Campaign Against Gülen The first sign of the media inquisition campaign against Gülen appeared in a magazine called “Aydinlik” (Enlightenment). The magazine talked about a report that was prepared by the Ankara Department of Public Safety that found Gülen and his sympathizers to be involved in a secret organization aimed at taking over the government to turn it into a theocratic state.
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The main campaign started with the publication on June 10th of 1999, on the Star newspaper, owned by the Uzan family, of the very same report that was allegedly prepared by the Ankara branch of the Department/Directorate for Public Safety (“Emniyet Mudurlugu”, or National Police Department) upon a request by the National Security Council. 10 days later National Security Council denied any association with the report and stated that the report was neither prepared, requested or discussed by the council. The second phase of the campaign started with the airing of video clips on ATV channel, owned by the Bilgin family, in which Gülen was speaking to government workers. Ali Kirca, the host of the show had five guests: Gulseven Yaser, the chair of the Contemporary Education Foundation, author Necip Hablemitoglu, Turkan Saylan, chair of the Organization for the Support of Contemporary Life, Hasmet Atahan, a former Marxist‐Leninist, and Kemal Yavuz, a retired general. Kirca aired the video clips with commentary. The following excerpt is one of the first pieces that appeared on the media (OzgurPolitika 1999):
Following revelations about a report that was allegedly prepared by the Ankara Police department, segments from a video cassette was aired on public media channels that referred to Gülen sympathizers that are embedded as civic servants in various government offices and had the effect of a bomb shell in political circles.
Known for his staunch defense of Fethullah Gülen, prime minister Bülent Ecevit claimed that the cassette was aired in order to turn public attention from important developments. Some political commentators, on the other hand, attributed the surfacing of the cassette to political arm‐wrestling among factions in government. After a video cassette revealing embedded sympathizers of Gülen in government was revealed on public media, a busy day was experienced in political circles. Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit answered the questions of reporters yesterday. Ecevit said:
“I do not wish to delve into this issue. There are important developments currently underway. In the agenda of Turkey there are issues such as the constitutional changes regarding national security courts and banking laws. I can not accept shifting the nation’s focus from these to other issues. Adding that he does not find speaking before hearing the response of the accused, he nevertheless added “Our citizens can rest assured that no one can divert our secular republic from the path drawn by Ataturk. No one has ever done and no one ever will.”
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Inter‐factional Wars Allegation A government official who asked to remain anonymous pointed out to the surfacing of the cassette at this particular time despite it being known for a while. Referring to the firing of security officials upon the unlicensed phone‐tapping scandal (Tele‐ear scandal), the official attributed the choice of this particular time to the inter‐ factional wars within the government. The same official emphasized that the incident would take on much broader scope within the coming days. The chief attorney for the Ankara National security court Nuh Mete Yüksel has started an investigation into the matter. It was later revealed that the clips that formed one of the bases of the campaign were excerpted without context and montages were done to leave the impression that Gülen was organizing a secret group of government workers to later take over the government. These turned out to be context‐free cut and pastes from multiple cassettes that left a completely different impression of the speaker’s intentions. Indeed they were meant as recommendations for faithful government workers who were under scrutiny for political reasons. During the CHP Istanbul City Congress on August 22, 1995, Mehmet Mogultay, the minister of interior from CHP declared that he and his predecessor from the same party have collectively employed 3000 judges who belonged to their party during his reign. Mogultay also said the following:
“I have expelled 5000 personnel from my department during my term. Should I have given these positions to the rival MDP or RP instead of my party? During my predecessor Seyfi Oktay, 2000 judges were appointed. During my term 1000 judges were appointed. A total of 3000 judges were appointed.” “For 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, we have been away from the government. No, indeed the wisest thing to do is to employ people from your party during your governance. These employees will grow through time and will open your way. I have expelled 5000 workers from the government. Since 1970s we could not get any government positions. Now, during our 2.5year term, 2000 judges were appointed by my predecessor Seyfi Oktay. These are democrat personnel who will bear fruit later. If this is a crime, I will do I again. I will never leave my post.”
Kurtul Altug expresses the following opinion about those who are not leftist in Turkey in his book entitled “From May 27th to March 13th”:
“The coup de tat of May 27, 1960 was a leftist move. Indeed, in this age, not being a leftist is equivalent to not being a human.” p. 376.
These statements make it clear that Gülen’s advise was given to an audience of faithful government personnel, who were afraid of losing their jobs due to the partisan policies of the ministers of interior. However, during the airing of the tapes, these details were left out and Gülen was shown as organizing a secret force to take over the government.
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The report that was the basis for the media inquisition campaign referenced heavily a book by Faik Bulut3 entitled “Who is This Fethullah Gülen?”. Bulut was involved in socialist‐Marxist student movements in the 60s and 70s. He was tried and sentenced for involvement in ideological terrorist activities. Çağdaş Eğitim Vakfı (Contemporary Education Foundation) headed by Gulseven Yaser joined the media inquisition campaign against Gülen with a book entitled “Hocanin Okullari” ("Khodja's Schools"). According to a statement made by the Security Division of the Istanbul Police Headquarters, the organization was not on police records at the time of the publication of the book but as the book was being put on the market, an application for such an organization was made to the legal authorities. This book was used a evidence in the criminal case against Gülen at the Ankara State Court of Security. The attorneys of Gülen later sued the alleged authors of the book and the chairwoman Gulseven Yaser for damages resulting from false allegations and accusations in the book. On March 24, 2001, the court found the authors and the publisher guilty of charges of defamation and ordered them to pay a total of 1,5 billion Turkish liras or the equivalent of 1 million dollars. Gülen’s Response Gülen responded to the report about him and the revelations of the video tape with an article published in the Aksiyon magazine (16 June 1999) and the Zaman newspaper and two TV interviews with Reha Muhtar (22 June 1999). In these responses Gülen categorically denied any allegations of trying to take over the government and suggested that his comments were taken out of context and doctored to leave a completely different impression on the viewers. Here is a transcript of his interview with Reha Muhtar of ShowTV private national channel (Muhtar 1999):
Host: According claims in the media based on some video cassettes you are planning to take over the state and for this purpose you have been covertly getting organized within the government institutions? Is that right? Gülen: It is impossible for me to accept the claims made against me based on the cut‐and‐paste version of the video tapes taken from some of my recorded speeches. Let me clarify a few points: First of all, such claims have been made before and all of them were dismissed either during the investigation or by the court. Secondly, while the media in question is so diligently unearthing such devastating evidence against me what have the state’s intelligence agencies been doing? Thirdly, all business operations and entities claimed to be connected with me are legitimate business organizations and foundations operating within the laws of Turkish Republic. Even if one had the intent to take over the government, one can only be prosecuted for his actions, not for his thoughts. This is an important rule of law.
The report contained slurs against the Messenger of Islam (pbuh) and the Qur’an. 10 | P a g e
Fourthly, as far as I can remember, the cassette in question is the collection of answers given to some questions asked by the members of a group with deference to my opinions. Some of the questions broadcast in the program had to do with the favoritism shown to special interest groups and gangs in filling of many bureaucratic positions within the Justice Department. This was confessed to and defended at the party congress by one the Minister of Justices of that time. I simply offered some advice to those who lost their jobs or somehow hurt by such action. I said that in such fights for ideology such things would happen and that they should not be overly disturbed by such events. I have also advised those who were professionally hurt by mafia, gangs and ideological groups, not to disturb them, under the influence of their religious and nationalistic feelings. Of course, these were presented in the montage ‐ made from a number of sources collected from a number of archives over the years ‐ in such a manner as to depict me planning to take over the state, and prosecute me in a kangaroo court. Was the same treatment made against those who misused their official power in manning many justice department positions which they themselves admitted? If not, the reason this time is not to show the alleged activity but some other ill intent. In fact, some members of the media have admitted this. Rumors are flying that some one has “pushed the button.” Who are they? Why did they do it? In whose behalf did they push the "button?” Or, are they ‐ whoever they are ‐ are after gathering power to take over the state? Or some ‐ by a new 'irtica' campaign, ever a soft spot in the regime, to reach their goal? Here, I like to put my finger on an important point. In the general atmosphere in Turkey, attacks on Islam under the pretense of irtica and religious fundamentalism, lead every Muslim to outrage and extreme approaches. In order to prevent such tendencies, in some talks and speeches, depending on the Justice Minister in question was Mehmet Mogultay (CHP) place and time, the truth may need to be presented from varying perspectives. Throughout the history, the truth has always been uncovered. The truth behind this dastardly attack shall also come out; the innocent and the guilty will come out. I would like to touch upon one more important point here: We do not judge a book by its cover alone. Therefore, one should be judged in view of all the information available on him, not by a word or two alone. One will have to consider the time and purpose and circumstances under which statements are made. To date, I have had a number of books published and recorded sermons and speeches available to anyone. I should be judged on the content of all these data. In many of the speeches I have emphasized that a true believer would not ‐ and must not ‐ have desire for a worldly gain or position in service to his nation, and that one can have no higher reward than winning the pleasure of God and the rank attained in the service of faith and Quran. It would be no exaggeration if I claim to have repeated this hundreds of times. The believer should enter the hearts and should make people love God, in the name of spiritual life and love, should strengthen the faith of everyone he can and give hope to humanity. To serve some self interests, however, I am being executed without a trial. The heavily doctored video twists the truth 180
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degrees and gives it exactly the opposite meaning than what is actually said. For example, on a TV channel I am quoted to say, "Whenever I have entertained thoughts as to if we only had ‐in this service of faith and Qur'an‐ our bureaucracy in Interior and Justice Departments I receive a (divine) slap in the face". What is meant here is that for a believer any thought and wish to be a man of faith and love is the basic principle, and nothing else. That is, such expectations have no place in the service of faith and Qur'an and that they should never be entertained. These warnings I have given were twisted just like those I had made before. All this shows that the purpose of the other side here is quite different and in order to reach their goal the end justifies any means. In any case, the matter has been brought up to the courts. I will respect any decision the court renders. An interesting part of the interview was the time when the host referred to the allegation by a former military general that Gülen was Kurdish. This question is interesting in the sense that it reveals a mentality that constructs a certain notion of ethnicity without which a person is not seen as eligible to play an important role in the Turkish society. Host: Retired General Kemal Yavuz suggested that you come from a Kurdish background? Gülen: Look at this irony. While some accuse me of being a Turkish nationalist at the extreme, another makes mention of my 'Kurdish heritage'. Does faith recognize any choice for us what family, color, race, physique, and parentage I wish to come from. Would it have been a crime had I come from a Kurdish background? I am even shocked that someone should bring up this question. But, just to respond to this outrageous crime, I come from a true blue Turkish blood. Many generations back there was a Kurt (=Wolf) Ismail Pasha among my forefathers. Many have over the years read this as Kürt (=Kurd) on purpose I suspect. Out of this they conclude that I have Kurdish blood.
Another question highlighted the nature of the doctoring tactics:
Host: There is an allegation that when you spoke about the leftist/socialist parties DSP, CHP and SHP, you said “they are doomed to hellfire” is this true? Gülen: I never cursed in my life. In my most difficult situations, I prayed to God saying “O Lord, I am weak. I put my trust in you.” And this is something I said against those who were openly pursuing anti‐country, anti‐nation and anti‐faith agendas. To show DSP, CHP and SHP as enemies of faith reveals total ignorance of faith. To associate faith with political parties is disrespect to faith and disrespect to the rights of political parties. I did not say those words that are attributed to me. On the contrary, I said that some people make such claims and nobody has a right to say any such thing. What was done was the preceding and succeeding phrases of mine were cut and only the middle portion was published.
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Opinions of Leaders During the Media Inquisition Campaign Primer Minister Bülent Ecevit pointed to a possible smoke screen tactic (OzgurPolitika 1999). Deputy prime minister Yilmaz commented that if some within the government are publicizing such reports with precise timing, this would amount to the government crafting enemies and this could never be acceptable (Baris, 1999: 189, 202). President Demirel commented that: “These are serious allegations and should be investigated. But rest assured that we will not allow anybody to undermine our laws.” (Baris, 199:133). Recai Kutan, the leader of a religious right party commented: “The goal of this campaign is not Gülen, but all of the faithful citizens of the country. Why would a person who wants to take over the government lead the way for the opening of 300 schools abroad? Would it not be a lot easier to open those schools within the country?” (Baris, 1999:201). Liberal feminist columnist Gülay Göktürk made the most surprising comment about the incident. Göktürk suggested that the issue was not about taking over the government, but instead the refusal of an oligarchic elite, who seized the government early on, to yield to democratic powers (Baris, 1999:247). The Case Against Gülen and Its Resolution State prosecutor Nuh Mete Yüksel, who was famous for his radical actions and his indictment of the now prime minister Tayyip Erdogan for a poem he read at a party event, filed for the arresting of Gülen on August 3rd, 2000 at the Ankara State Court of Security. On August 7, the court rejected Yuksel’s demand for the arresting of Gülen, who was in the U.S. at that time due to health problems. On August 11, the same court ordered the arrest of Gülen in absentia. On August 28th, Istanbul State Security Court dismissed the arrest order. On August 31, 2000 Yüksel brought the formal case against Gülen. Yüksel charged that Gülen and his sympathizers organized a gang to change the secular government and turn it with a theocratic state4. According to the 7th article of the Law Against Terrorist Activities, Yüksel demanded 5 to 10 years of imprisonment for Gülen. The trial started on October 16, 2000. After years of bickering and delays, the case against Gülen was finally dismissed by the state security court on May 5, 2006 and Gülen was cleared of any wrong doing.
Menderes, the former prime minister of Turkey who was hanged after a military coup in 1960, late president of Turkey Turgut Ozal, former prime minister and president of Turkey Süleyman Demirel and current prime minister Tayyip Erdogan each have formerly been accused of trying to establish a theocratic state or assisting those who are trying. 13 | P a g e
Developments Following the Campaign Important developments following the media inquisition campaign against Gülen revealed some of the relationships among the leading figures of the campaign and as well as their motivations. These were a banking crisis and subsequent delinquency of several private banks, revelations of a secretly videotaped adulterous relationship of the state prosecutor with an employee of the interior ministry, and the declarations of a former media owner about the pressure from military on the publication of fabricated news. The Banking Crisis and Looted Banks The first important development was a banking crisis that left the treasury with the burden of the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars embezzled by bank owners and their partners. As a result of investigations, several private banks were transferred to the control of the Turkish Banking Regulations and Monitoring Organization (BDDK) which had to close most of them and paid the deposits and debts. Coincidentally, the media owners, whose media outlets participated in the media inquisition campaign were charged with corruption, embezzlement and looting and some were indicted and imprisoned. Writing for LeMonde Diplomatique, Nur Dolay comments about the corrupting power of the media moguls as follows (Dolay, 1997):
The other papers, funded by the big banks, had already formed themselves into powerful media blocs, each with multiple publications and their own television network, sporting a wide range of journalists with disparate views ‐ from a tame left to a civilized right ‐ all in the name of pluralism.
But everyone knew the lines not to be crossed in this "supermarket" democracy, out of proper respect for their backers. Huge government funding, in different forms, or loans at extremely favorable rates (to be repaid only in the case of "mistakes") had been invested in juicy deals which had nothing to do with journalism. The power of these press empires and their collusion with the politicians were such that people talked of participation by the Sabah group in one of the numerous government coalitions formed by Mrs. Çiller ‐ as if a newspaper could be a political partner of elected politicians... Meanwhile, Milliyet and Hürriyet, two other big groups, had merged under the name of Dogan Medya to compete more effectively with their rival, Sabah. Three media organizations, the Star group, owned by Uzan family, Sabah group owned by the Bilgin family and the Dogan group, owned by Dogan family had each financial interests that were investigated. The Uzan family was also indicted and found guilty of defrauding Motorola corporation of the U.S. and Nokia corporation of Finland billions of dollars.
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According to Canadian researchers Soral, Iscan and Hebb, the financial institutions used five bankruptcy‐for‐profit strategies (Soral, 2004): Artificially increasing capital/assets, loaning through foreign banks, back‐to‐back loans, not collecting interest on loans to related companies, and finally, temporary accounts. As an example of such bankruptcy‐for‐profit cases, Esbank alone had losses of nearly $500 million. According to BDDK, the Turkish Government’s Committee for Banking Regulation and Oversight, Uzan family who owned the media conglomerate embezzled $6 billion from Imar Bankasi, which belonged to the family. All the banks that were involved in back‐to‐back loans with Esbank were ultimately transferred to BDDK. Two reasons emerged with regard to the government’s allowing these financial institutions to continue their irresponsible behavior. These were (a) Borrowing needs of the government, and (b) Political help received from the media organizations owned by the bank owners. According to the authors, the BDDK has injected a total of over 41 billion dollars to the economy, paid by taxes, in order to compensate for the losses of these banks. These losses are assumed to be transferred to off‐shore bank accounts of their owners or their foreign investments. Confessions of a Former Media Owner Dinç Bilgin, the owner of Sabah newspaper which participated in the media inquisition campaign later gave an interview to journalist and former representative Ilicak. In this interview Bilgin talked about the influence of some generals on the media. In this part of the interview, host Ilicak asks Bilgin about the ANDIC incident in which two columnists from Bilgin’s newspaper Sabah were alleged to have received monetary benefit from terrorist chief Abdullah Öcalan, known as Apo, in exchange for favorable opinions in their columns. The translated transcript of this part of the interview is as follows (Ilicak, 2006):
Ilıcak: The country entered the February 28 atmosphere and we witnessed the ANDIC event5. Şemdin Sakık6 was captured and his testimony was taken. Things he did not say and later denied were put into his testimony and journalists Cengiz Candar, M. Ali Birand and Altan brothers were shown as collaborating with the terrorist chief Öcalan in exchance for monetary benefit. These allegations were published by both Hürriyet newspaper7 and Sabah8. Where did these information originate?
The ANDIC event in which press releases with fabricated news prepared by some generals were disseminated to media and the media owners were forced to publish or air them. 6 The aide of the terrorist chief Ocalan. 7 Owned by rival media mogul Dogan. 8 Owned by interviewee Bilgin. 15 | P a g e
Bilgin: This is what is called psychological warfare. Unregulated warfare. It was seen as necessary at some offices of the government and it was put into practice. It is clear that we9 did not act properly in that matter. I was out of country at that time, and I had Zafer10 with me. I was informed of the ANDIC story. We were called back in a hurry. I was told that some sources had related this information to us. Ilıcak: But this was sent to you so that you would publish it. It was published on the same day in both Hürriyet and Sabah newspapers. Bilgin: This psychological warfare is not some simple gossip. It was evident that it was planned carefully and the experts had discussed the strategy. This was the work of experts trained abroad. My concern was to protect my newspaper Sabah from negative public opinion. It would be a disaster for two columnists of Sabah to be perceived as having a financial relationship with the terrorist chief Apo. Of course I did not believe it. I knew that the only thing Mehmet Ali (Birand) would value would be newsworthy information. And he would do anything to get insider information that would make the news. Because he is a professional journalist. Cengiz (Candar) was a person I liked personally and we met as families. I knew that he would not do anything like that for money either. But my concern was to protect Sabah from the source that originated the ANDIC press release11. My second concern is to protect my newspaper from negative public opinion. The allegation that Sabah’s columnists are receiving money from Apo12 is disastrous news. Immediately the Hürriyet newspaper was contacted. Zafer Mutlu asked Hürriyet to skip this release and not publish it. But his request was refused. We learned that they would publish it. Ilıcak: It appears that they alse received the order from a high ranking office. Bilgin: Remember the forces in action during that period. It is the early phases of the February 28 period. All we could do was to cut the information a bit, delay, and earn some time. That was the only decision we could make there. But did I do the right thing? When I look retrospectively now I realize that I did not do the right thing. Ilıcak: Sabah was a strong newspaper. How does this happen? You claim to be civil and democrat and grew alongside the Özal wave. What could they do to you if you followed your conscience? Bilgin: Sabah started to become a different newspaper. Other concerns were becoming more important. This was one of our great mistakes that I am ashamed of. Ilıcak: Did the big newspapers have connections with the military leaders of the February 28th?
Referring to the media. An aide to Bilgin, possibly referred to as a witness to corroborate his statement. 11 The office of then assistant chief of staff of the Turkish military. 12 Nickname for terrorist chief Ocalan.
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Bilgin: Of course they did. At that time first the Ankara bureaus of the newspapers were influenced. These bureaus in turn tried to influence the headquarters13. Such a process started. Also, we media owners were also against the RefahYol coalition14 and that was a factor too. But on the other hand, even today when the newspapers receive something from the office of the chief of staff of the military, their tone changes. For instance when Ali Kirca15 receives such a release, his voice deepens and a statement in big fonts appears in the background.
Bilgin’s assertions about the dictated news from generals were corroborated by his editor in chief Ergun Babahan and columnist Can Atakli (Egin 2006, Babahan, 2006). Bilgin further claimed that some bank owners or board members were never prosecuted because they helped secure seats on those boards for ex‐military generals (Barlas, 2006). Economist Önis of Koc university corroborates Bilgin’s assertions about the relationship between media, businesses and the military‐government complex, which affected the attitude of the most influential business organization of Turkey, TUSIAD which represents the most powerful 350 Turkish corporations (Önis, 2001): A serious problem facing Turkish business in recent years has been the overt attempt by large holding companies to acquire media companies for the explicit purpose of supporting other business ventures, diffusing false information about competitors and putting pressure on political actors to their bidding. This is not exactly the type of behavior that an organization interested in greater transparency ought to endorse. Revelations About Prosecutor Yüksel Illicit Relationship and The Blackmail Possibility A year after bringing the case against Gülen based on video tapes, prosecutor Yüksel was the subject of a video tape scandal himself. Secretly taped sexual encounter of Yüksel with a subordinate were made public. Yüksel initially denied the authenticity of the tape. The Investigation Board of the Department of Justice started an inquiry into the tape and had the tape analyzed by experts. The board reached the conclusion that the tape was authentic and dismissed the prosecutor from his duty. A more curious dimension of this scandal was the fact that the tape was capture by the police in an investigation of the Contemporary Education Foundation headed by Gulseven Yaser, a witness and accuser of Gülen. Hundreds of other tapes of the similar blackmailing nature were found as well. This raised suspicions that Yaser and her organization might have pressured Yüksel for brining the case against Gülen. Here is a news excerpt about the event (Hürriyet, 2002):
Which are usually in Istanbul. The ruling coalition of center right Dogruyol party and political Islamic Refah party. 15 TV anchorman who first aired the tapes and claimed that he was the person who pushed the button for the media campaign.
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Headline: Video Footage Brought the end of Nuh Mete Yüksel Minister of Justice Hikmet Sami Turk ordered an investigation based on a video tape that allegedly had footage of Ankara State Security Court Nuh Mete Yüksel having sex with a woman. The Higher Committee of Judges and prosecutors have condemned Yüksel who was dismissed from his position. The committee examined the tape and decided that the footage was authentic. Yüksel, one of the most controversial prosecutors of Turkey did not accept the accusations against him and stated that he was the subject of a conspiracy. Yüksel played a leading role in the investigations against Gülen and the German foundations and brought formal cases to the court.
According to the Hürriyet daily, at the time Yüksel was removed from office, he was preparing a case against the current prime minister of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan for organizing a secret group against the secular Turkish state (Hürriyet 2002). Resolution of the Case Against Gülen The case against Gülen initially brought by the state prosecutor Nuh Mete Yüksel was dismissed and Gülen was cleared of any wrong doing on May 5, 2006. Discussion A number of theories have emerged in Turkish media regarding the media inquisition campaign against Gülen. The media campaign against Gülen started based on a report allegedly prepared by some members of the Ankara Police Department. The chief of this department and his team was only recently found responsible for an illegal wiretapping scandal and allegations that the taped conversations were being used for blackmailing. Consequently there were allegations that the chief gave the report to media organizations in order to divert public attention from his wrongdoings. The terrorist leader Abdullah Öcalan who was held responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Turkish and Kurdish citizens was captured immediately before the media campaign against Gülen and was put to trial. He was expected to be sentenced to death. According to this theory, Öcalan’s ideological sympathizers, such as Dogu Perincek16, Ali Kirca17, Hasmet Atahan18, and Faik Bulut19, who are former or
The publisher of the Aydinlik magazine which first publicized the report prepared by the Ankara Police Department chief Saral and his team about Gulen. 17 Kirca was the first person to air the video tape excerpts about Gulen with intermittent commentary. He hosted the TV talk show with guests Hasmet Atahan, Necip Hablemitoglu, Gulseven Yaser, Kemal Yavuz and Turkan Saylan. 18 Atahan was a guest in Kirca’s show. He was charged and sentenced for Marxist‐Leninist ideological terrorist activities before. He was among the protesters who drove navy soldiers of the U.S. 6. Fleet off of Istanbul port. 18 | P a g e
current Marxist‐Leninist‐Maoists wanted him to be spared of death and tried to divert public attention from his trial20. Evidence for this theory is the public knowledge that the uniting factor among the media members, Cumhuriyet newspaper, some military officers and Öcalan is their Marxist‐Leninist orientation. The strongest argument regarding the motivations and the process of the media inquisition campaign against Gülen suggests a smoke screen for the looting of private banks by media owners who had close ties with the hard liner military generals. According to this theory, the campaign was orchestrated by hard‐line generals who were not happy with the national reconciliation, tolerance and embracement atmosphere led by a religious figure. These generals intended to create an environment of paranoia so that some military officers could gain more influence on politics. Some of these generals also pursued out‐of‐convention raises in rank and used the campaign as a justification for their ambitions. Important banking legislation was at the national assembly on the very day the first video tape excerpt of Gülen was aired. Backed by the International Monetary Fund, this legislation dictated the formation of a government agency for banking regulation and oversight. According to this argument bank owners, who were also media owners, foresaw the coming of government takeover of their banks. They have colluded with the hard line generals and sped up looting during the second half of 1999 and benefit from the expected bankruptcies as the public attention was focused on the Gülen case. The fact that the media moguls had close relationship with the military have been corroborated by multiple independent sources. These corporations participated in contracts by the military and hence had financial relationship with the military. They also employed former generals and had close relationships with some of the military leadership. Under the general atmosphere of the February 28 post‐modern coup, they were also under pressure for pursuing defamation campaigns against certain figures on the black list of those generals. They already successfully forced the Erbakan‐Çiller coalition to step down. The hard liner generals pressured the media to go after Gülen so that they could exercise greater influence on politics. Dolay comments on the media‐government‐military relationships at that time as follows (Dolay, 1997):
Turkey’s press has merged into powerful media conglomerates backed by public and private funding. These empires have used their increasing monopoly to sideline independent voices. They have also engaged in political machinations, covering up ex‐Prime Minister Tansu Çiller’s unsavoury dealings and conspiring to bring about the Refah Party’s fall.
Bulut was the author of the book entitled “Who is this Fethullah Gulen” and was well known for his Marxist‐Atheist views. His book was quoted heavily in the report prepared by the report about Gulen prepared by Saral’s team. 20 One of the guests in Kirca’s TV talk show, Necip Hablemitoglu was not known as a Marxist but he wrote extensively about and against the influence of the intelligence services of the U.S., Israel and Germany in Turkey. Similar to the Aydinlik magazine published by Marxist‐Maoist Perincek, Hablemitoglu connected Gulen with the Israeli and American intelligence services. He also charged German intelligence with interfering with Turkish internal affairs such as the gold excavations in the town of Bergama. 19 | P a g e
Employing ex‐generals for protection against prosecution, securing contracts in exchange for publishing fabricated news or remaining silent when necessary, were among the practices resulting from the close relationship of media‐business owners and the military. Önis also comments on the illegitimate practices of the media‐ business conglomerates, their relationship with the military and the impact of there relationship in pursuing democratization and openness in Turkish society (Önis, 2001):
In retrospect, the ambivalent stance of TÜSIAD with respect to democratization may be explained by the fact that the dependence of big business on the state has not been totally eliminated. Many TÜSIAD members continue to benefit from clientelistic ties, state patronage and protection. A number of TÜSIAD members also have close links with the military which is an important economic actor in the Turkish context. Although their rhetoric suggests that they are interested in a more rational or better‐governed state as well as greater privatization, there are numerous instances of TÜSIAD members appealing to various state institutions to defend their particular interests. It would be interesting, for example, to raise the question of how many TÜSIAD members have actually benefited from the socialization of their losses by the state in the context of recent bank failures. Hence, contradictory behavior may be discerned in TÜSIAD's approach to the issue of establishing an accountable state based on even application of laws and equal access to accurate information.
Conclusion In final analysis, it can be clearly seen that the media inquisition of GM served multiple purposes: First, it diverted attention from the illegal wire‐tapping scandal and the responsible security officials, who, curiously, were the source of one of the “intelligence” reports prepared about Gülen. Second, the Marxist leaning media pundits had an opportunity to attack the most respected religious figure while diverting attention from the trial of Marxist terrorist leader Öcalan. But most importantly, it diverted the attention from the ongoing looting and the related legislation. It took away the will of the government from pursuing the looters more decisively. Owners of the media organizations had close relationship with a hard liner group in the military which was pursuing a policy against any public role for religious leaders. Media owners colluded with the perpetrators since they wanted public attention diverted from the looting in their financial organizations. It was no coincidence that some of the entrepreneurs and their partners who were later charged with criminal conduct for their parts during the period were also the owners of the dailies and TV stations that played key roles in the media inquisition campaign against Mr. Gülen. In the end, the formal case brought against Gülen was dismissed and a former media owner as well as many columnists revealed the process of publishing fabricated news during that time. The media campaign against Gülen was based on a video tape excerpted without context and used for ulterior motives. The starting quote of this paper from the Qur’an illustrates this phenomenon. The
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excerpt appears like an injunction against prayer, which we know is against the basic spirit of the Qur’an. The full verse read as follows:
O you who believe! do not go near prayer when you are Intoxicated until you know (well) what you say. [The Qur’an, Chapter 04, verse 43]
Similarly, the second verse, which appears like condemning those who pray, reads in context as follows:
And woe to those worshippers (denying the Judgment), Those who are unmindful in their Prayers,1 Those who want to be seen and noted (for their acts of worship), Yet deny all assistance (to their fellowmen). [The Qur’an, Chapter 107:4‐7]
These examples remind us that, it is possible to turn the most innocent statements into harsh indictments by omitting the context, which is exactly what took place during the media inquisition campaign against Gülen. It can not be stated for certain whether one or more of the theories regarding the true motives of the perpetrators are true. However, the incident gives us a much better understanding of the potential conjunctural factors that can play a role in the formation of public perception of social movements. References Baris, Ferhat. 1999. Maskeli Balon, Istanbul: Timas Yayinlari. Ates, Toktamis; Karakas, Eser, Ortayli, Ilber. 2005. “Baris Kopruleri”, Istanbul: Ufuk Kitap. Babahan, Ergun. 2006. “ANDIC ve Medya”, Sabah daily, 11 May 2006. Barlas, Mehmet. 2006. “Denize Dusen Neye Sarilmalidir?” (What Should a Person Who Falls into the Sea Seek Help From?) Column in Sabah daily, 6 May 2006. Dolay, Nur. 1997. “No Delight for Turkey: Press Machinations”, LeMonde Diplomatique, July 1997. Egin, Oray. 2006. Aksam daily, “How was Birand and Candar fired?”, 20 February 2006. Ergun, Abdullah. 1999. “Medya Aynasinda Fethullah Gülen”, Istanbul: Merkur Yayinlari. Hürriyet. 2002. News excerpt, “Gundem” section, Hürriyet daily, 22 October 2002.
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Ilicak, Nazli. 2006. Excerpt from the TV Interview “Sozun Ozu”, Kanal 7 TV, 2 May 2006. Muhtar, Reha. 1999. Transcript of the interview with Fethullah Gülen that was aired on ShowTV on June 22, 1999. Available online at http://en.fgulen.com/ content/view/973/14/. Opcin, Tuncay. 2004. “Subat Uzar Bin Yil Olur”, Istanbul: Selis Kitaplar. Önis, Ziya, Turem, Umut. 2001. “Entrepreneurs, Democracy and Citizenship in Turkey,” RSCAS Working Papers, European University Institute, EUI RSC 2001/48 available online at http://hdl.handle.net/1814/1757. OzgurPolitika. 1999. Ozgur Politika (Free Politics) Web Site, Dated 20 June 1999 available online at http://www.ozgurpolitika.org/1999/06/20/ophaball.html. Soral, H. Bartu. Iscan, Talan B., Hebb, Gregory. 2006. “Fraud, banking crises, and regulatory environment: evidence from micro‐level transactions data,” with T. Iscan and G. Hebb, European Journal of Law and Economics, April 2006, Vol. 21, No: 2: 179 – 197. Turgut, Hulusi. 1997. Sabah newspaper, 27 January 1997. Leicht, Justus. 2003. “Turkey: Reform limits some military powers”, World Socialist Web Site, 19 August 2003.
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