Gülen community heading toward a junction

Gülen community heading toward a junction

It was confusing that in the last hearing of the ODA TV case last week, despite the verdict to release the former Director of the Security Department Hanefi Avcı, he was not released. 

And then it was remembered that this police chief, who has spent a significant portion of his life fighting against leftist organizations, was sentenced to 15 years and three months in prison in another case because he assisted a left terror organization named “Devrimci Karargah.”

One can infer from this that Hanefi Avcı’s cooperation with a leftist terror organization was something that the Turkish public were pressed to believe by some people. Nobody has the right to insult another person’s intelligence. A major portion of the Turkish public has the ability to grasp that cooperation with a leftist organization was a pretext to the case. The arrest of Avcı has coincided right after he wrote the book, “Haliç’te Yaşayan Simonlar” (Devoted Residents of the Golden Horn). This book was about the organization of the “Gülen” community within the state. 

The credibility problem the judiciary experienced in the eyes of the public in Turkey in 2013 also stems from the kinds of practices where the rule of law takes a serious hit. And, the list of victims like Avcı, who has been subjected to foul play is a long one. 

Interestingly, everybody sitting on the stands is aware of the “power exercise” behind the apparent fouls exerted in the pitch. 

Probably, the existence of an autonomous structure that has the freedom to act with an agenda of its own within a segment of both the police and the judiciary is probably seen more clearly today as a reality in Turkey. 

Right at this point, a significant duality is emerging in terms of the platform the Gülen community bases itself on. 

When “Gülen Community” is mentioned today in Turkey, there is a “multi perception.”

In the first perception, a movement emerges that opens high quality schools both in Turkey and in many places in the world, the one that defines itself as “hizmet (service),” one that builds its existence using this this concept as a foundation. We are talking about a global movement that acts within the tenets of tolerance, which tries to activate an inter-faith dialogue. 

However, at the same time, the movement’s name has also embedded itself in the memory of the public with operations that are conducted with a harsh tone Turkey, the legal credibility of which is controversial. 

There is a third dimension of the issue which makes it even more complicated; the movement possesses its own political targets. It can make its voice heard strongly through its media. It has a foreign policy of its own; for example, it is able to assert that good relations should be conducted with Israel, conflicting with the government’s approach. In domestic politics, it can openly support a political party. For example, if the local elections are in question, it does not neglect intimating that the power of the movement is a factor in the equation. 

This movement has a stance on almost every topic that is relevant to the country’s agenda, becoming a directing force in intellectual level discussions; ultimately it is trying to alter the bearings of of the enormous ship called Turkey toward a destination that will serve its own interests. The Gülen Community, with its political identity, has become the second biggest shareholder of the governing bloc that is ruling Turkey after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the past 10 years. 
Today however, it is voicing its criticisms from a position outside the governing bloc. Nevertheless, with this new identity, it again continues to be a significant factor in the equation. 

The most essential problem regarding the community faces us here; despite its participation in the political processes as a determining factor, this movement does not bear the responsibility of “accountability.” When criticized at this stage, it starts defending itself by saying “I am a movement that seeks to serve,” arguing that the democratic obligations demanded of political parties cannot be taken as a basis for itself. 

This contradiction can be formulated by taking a different platform into account. The community, at least in its initial period, was acting as a civilian movement based on voluntarism to a great extent. In time, it has evolved into a key player within the state by filling civil servant roles with its own people and without hesitating to exert its force in following its own agenda. 

At this point, the multi-perception also appears in the conflict between the civilian identity of the movement and the player within the state identity. 

It looks as if it is time that the movement, which has undergone an enormous development in the past 15-20 years, has reviewed the question of “from where to where” in light of recent debates. 

Which identity will the Gülen movement put forward now?; By adopting which function will it continue?
How will it consolidate the absolute musts of democracy such as transparency and accountability with its journey from now on? 

One would be justified in saying that it is questions like these that are hanging over the community. 

Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Dec 17. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.