You will never walk alone
As the police raids on daily Zaman and Samanyolu TV attract more criticism from the European and U.S. capitals, the Gülen movement’s cohabitation with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) governments (or vice versa) shows an impressive balance.
The AKP enjoyed the full cooperation of the Gülenists in its first term. At that time, the movement was mostly a charity movement with schools in the Central Asian Republics. Zaman was not a mainstream newspaper and the AKP did not have the intellectual or bureaucratic talent pool it needed to manage the state.
But what I mostly remember are the days of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s second election victory as prime minister. In Washington, there was very little debate about the AKP’s success. Gülen movement representatives were enthusiastic about the democratic reforms and structural changes. According to most Gülenists, beating the secular establishment was a revolution in itself and should not be challenged.
As vivid as it is today, I remember when former Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff General İlker Başbuğ was visiting the U.S. capital. During the height of the Poyrazköy and Balyoz investigations, he had invited Ali Aslan to his briefing at the embassy. Aslan was, and still is, the Washington representative of Zaman and was supposed to be blacklisted from all Turkish Armed Forces related events. However, Gen. Başbuğ had tried and managed to be fair and kind to him. Despite his bitterness toward the Gülen movement, and Zaman’s coverage of the investigations, his words ring even more true today: “You have an important role,” he said at the end of his briefing in Washington, “So please write the truth, this is all I am asking.” Aslan had then reported on the press conference in an objective and balanced column.
So, as Ekrem Dumanlı is taken into court and accused of “being a member of an armed terrorist group,” Başbuğ will probably recall his days of being the leader of a “terrorist organization.” The times, they are a’ changing.
The Gülen movement had once supported almost all of the deeds of the AKP government inside and outside of Turkey. In Washington, they were men and women influencing Congress; in Brussels, they were the ones pushing the anti-military agenda. They carried the diplomatic burden to faraway corners of Africa and took the risk of supporting this government until the end. Now, they see there is no such thing as “too big to fail.”
The AKP, on the other hand, enjoyed the luxury of outsourcing all their dirty work to the Gülenists. In return, then-Prime Minister Erdoğan openly said: “We gave them everything they wanted.”
It is refreshing to see Ahmet Şık and Aslan, both intellectuals from opposite ends of the political spectrum, exchanging tweets about empathy and fairness. But it is impossible for us to believe in the pro-AKP press hiding behind Şık and Nedim Sener.
For us, the song remains the same:
“Don’t be afraid of the dark / At the end of the storm / There is a golden sky / Walk on through the rain / And you will never walk alone.”