Prosecutors find Gülenists everywhere except the AKP
On May 23, prosecutors demanded the arrest of two educators, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who have been on a hunger strike for 76 days for ruining public order with a potential to trigger acts of terror.
Reportedly feeding on water and sugar only, the two have been protesting their dismissal from public jobs with a state of emergency decree that was made possible after emergency rule was declared following the July 15, 2016, military coup attempt.
“We want our jobs back” was written on the placards they were holding next to the Human Rights Monument in central Ankara, just some 300 meters from the Education Ministry and the Prime Ministry. In the court case that started in Ankara on May 22, ranking generals and other military officers who are accused of plotting and implementing the coup on instructions of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamist preacher living in the U.S., started their defense before the judges.
The state of emergency decrees are meant to remove Gülen sympathizers from public offices who are believed to have been placed there with stolen exam questions and rigged job interviews arranged by the illegal Gülenist network for their long-term strategy to take the state apparatus from within. The claims of injustice in mass dismissals forced the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government to set up a commission to look into complaints which would also serve to decrease the number of files likely to go to the Constitutional Court and then to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
As a matter of fact, mass dismissals have not only affected suspected Gülenists but left-wing academics as well – thousands of them, like Gülmen and Özakça – as Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), has been voicing since the early stages of the state of emergency. Actually, he called on the two educators to give up their hunger strikes, underlining that the CHP has been trying to correct mistakes in the parliament.
The result is that the two academics have been taken into custody, while the generals in court are saying they don’t have any knowledge about the coup plot in which jets and tanks bombed the parliament and people killed 249 on one night. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Monument is surrounded by the police – ironically enough that a seasoned theater artist, Genco Erkal, shared a photo of that on his Twitter account, saying it was a piece for the Venice Biennale for contemporary arts.
But in the meantime, the release of Ömer Faruk Kavurmacı, a known Gülenist and the son-in-law of the AK Parti mayor of Istanbul, Kadir Topbaş, has further agitated the reaction to courts and the government.
Also on May 23, all three opposition parties in parliament, the CHP, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – which cooperated with the AK Parti on April 16 referendum for the executive presidential shift – and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which focuses on the Kurdish problem, have criticized the fact that the political links of the Gülenists within the AK Parti have neither been revealed nor prosecuted so far.
That is an issue that is being discussed among the public as well. Gülen and his network have been among the closest supporters of the AK Parti rule since it took power in 2002. With the help of their already existing network in the judicial system, security and education bureaucracy, they gained an indispensable position in the eyes of then-PM and now-President Tayyip Erdoğan. They successfully abused the old habits of the military to intervene in political affairs, opened up court cases to curb not only the military but also the secular establishment in cases that are now understood to be based on mostly fabricated evidence and false witnesses to enhance their positions. At one point, Erdoğan allocated an armored prime ministry limousine for one of the chief prosecutors of the cases, Zekeriya Öz, who is now subject to an arrest warrant on charges of leading a terrorist organization, namely the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), as it is known in the indictments.
The first time that Erdoğan perceived a direct threat to himself and his government was in late 2012 when allegedly Gülenist prosecutors sought to interrogate Hakan Fidan, the head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) because of its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He was later understood to be starting a dialogue process with the PKK’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, on Erdoğan’s orders. But Erdoğan was still trying to avoid losing that alliance. Once he complained with those words: “Is there anything that they [Gülen and followers] have asked for and we did not give?”
The links were severed in late 2013 when prosecutors – all either in jail now or facing an arrest warrant – opened graft probes involving Erdoğan’s ministers, party executives and even family members. In 2014 the government declared the existence of a Gülenist “Parallel Formation within the State – PDY,” a terrorist network as dangerous as the PKK. It was open war after the 2016 coup attempt.
“We were deceived,” Erdoğan said after the defeat of the coup attempt with the collective resistance of the government, opposition, the rest of the army and the people taking the streets. “May God and the people forgive us.”
Now as the dust has started to settle, the main court cases have begun being opened and Erdoğan has accrued all the executive power after the April 16 referendum, people have turned their eyes to an in-house cleaning within the AK Parti, the government and top positions in government agencies.
The rhetoric that “We already cleaned them away after 2013” has not convinced either the opposition or the man on the street.
The eyes are on Erdoğan as well because the prosecutors and judges of the independent and unbiased Turkish judiciary, as it is described in the constitution, can find Gülenists everywhere, from leftist teachers’ unions to sports clubs, but nowhere in the AK Parti, despite all those years side by side.