Gülen’s biggest strategic mistake
RUŞEN ÇAKIR email@example.comEven though I accept the significance of the difference of attitude that emerged during the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, I believe that the turning point of the collapse of the alliance between the Gülen Community and the government is the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) crisis that erupted on Feb. 7, 2012. I see that as the biggest strategic mistake Fethullah Gülen has made up to now.
Shortly after the incident, I had concluded that it was not impossible for the government and the Community to work together to prevent this crisis from becoming chronic. I had assumed that Fethullah Gülen would make up for this strategic mistake.
There were several reasons for this:
1) The alliance that took shape with the April 27, 2007 e-memorandum was extremely successful, especially in the sense of counteracting the military tutelage. Its continuation was for the benefit of both sides.
2) Even though there are two different traditions that have always stood at a distance from each other, during this successful alliance period, there must have been mutual confidence mechanisms formed between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Community.
3) Having good relations with the government has provided the Community with more opportunities domestically and internationally. This is so much the case that we can define the period between 2007 and 2012 as the “golden age” of the Gülen Movement.
4) Fighting with the government could have negatively affected the situation of the Community members inside the state.
5) Most seriously, there was the risk of losing those segments that have emerged in recent years: Those who love both the Community (Gülen) and the AKP (Erdoğan).
As a matter of fact, considering what has been experienced, (more precisely what has not been experienced), in the first months after the MİT crisis, we started thinking that the crisis was being solved. However, soon afterward we saw that the gap between the two power groups had not been eliminated but had, on the contrary, further widened. Looking at the intensity of the prep schools crisis, it could be said that we may soon be talking about a breakaway. In the Tuesday press conference held by Education Minister Nabi Avcı on prep schools, representatives of the media outlets in line with the Community were not allowed in, (which is a sad and troubled practice in terms of press freedom), and this can be regarded as the first concrete example of the breakaway.
Back to the question at the beginning: Why was Gülen unable to make up for his strategic mistake in the MİT crisis?
The first answer to this question may be, “He did not want to make up for it anyway.” Or, he may have thought that even if he wanted to make up for it, this would not have been possible.
Actually, no satisfactory explanation about the MİT crisis came from Gülen, or anybody or institution representing the Community. Recently, from Prime Minister Erdoğan’s reproachful words, we understand that the committers of that crisis have not been found and punished.
Secondly, we could think that the convergence between the sides experienced during the alliance years was not too real. As a matter of fact, the level of rage and fury both sides demonstrate for each other cannot have emerged just over the prep school debate.
Finally, the government, more precisely Erdoğan, looks as if he has adopted the break with the Community after the MİT crisis as a strategy to be implemented, step by step. His insistence on the “transformation of prep schools” project, even though it has no particular urgency and not very sound bases, must be because of that.
*Ruşen Çakır is a columnist for daily Vatan in which this piece was published on Nov 27. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.