Courtesy Reuters

Misreading Turkey's Twitter Controversy

By Y. Alp Aslandogan

In a recent article (“Trial by Twitter”), Halil Karaveli repeated the allegations of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey’s ruling party, that sympathizers of Fethullah Gülen are engaged in wiretapping. But he relies on innuendos, not evidence. Gülen has categorically rejected illegal phone tapping or the unauthorized publication of the transcripts made from legal phone taps, including recordings of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He views investigating or publicizing people’s faults as a sin and, indeed, has himself been the victim of an illegal phone-tapping scheme, in which Erdogan used the contents of his private conversations for defamatory purposes.

If Karaveli wants to decode Gülen’s intentions, he should rely on Gülen’s words and actions of the last 50 years, not on conspiracy theories. Gülen and the participants of the movement he helped create have no interest in the privileges of power, which is evident from their purposeful abstention from holding political office or negotiating for political advantage. In their projects focusing on education, health care, humanitarian assistance, and intercultural dialogue, they are driven by intrinsic rewards alone.

The notion of Gülen supporters being entrenched in the judiciary is both unlikely and impossible to prove. The judiciary employs roughly 13,000 people. In 1995, Justice Minister Mehmet Mogultay publicly stated that he and his predecessor had hired some 5,000 people from the Turkish social democratic party Republican People’s Party (CHP), including 3,000 judges. And there are thousands of Kemalists, liberals, Marxists, Alevis, nationalists, and AKP sympathizers in the judiciary as well. If anything, then, Gülen sympathizers are likely to be a small minority in the judicial branch, with no way of having the kind of oversized influence that Karaveli suggests. In fact, a 2010 investigative report by Aksiyon, a Turkish news magazine, noted that members of an association of judges and prosecutors known for its Kemalist orientation were disproportionately represented in the higher judiciary.

Gülen’s sympathizers have consistently supported democracy in Turkey. Like other engaged citizens, they practice their democratic right to be involved in policy debates. To suggest that it is nefarious that “Gülenists are prepared to fight against policies” is simply undemocratic. Similarly, by suggesting that Turkey’s recent municipal elections were inconsequential, Karaveli insulted Turkish citizens and revealed his own biases. He was also wrong to claim that Gülen has endorsed the opposition. In a recent BBC interview, Gülen said that encouraging people to vote for a party is an insult to their intellect.

Gülen has devoted his entire life to advancing democracy and equal opportunity. His supporters have established several nonprofit organizations that play a vital role in Turkish civil society. Articles such as this one do Gülen and all of his supporters a great disservice.

Y. ALP ASLANDOGAN
President of the Alliance for Shared Values, a non-profit organization associated with the Hizmet movement in the United States.

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