Turkish people upset that democratic progress is being reversed: Islamic scholar Gülen
Pennsylvania-based scholar has expressed his discomfort with AKP's policies in an e-mail interview with the WSJ published Jan. 20.The Turkish people are upset that democratic progress has gone into reverse over the last two years, Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has said, speaking in his first interview since the graft probes that have damaged the government and widened the rift between his movement and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Gülen emphasized that his movement had the same values as when it lent its support to the AKP, suggesting that it was the latter that had “changed.”
In the interview, published in The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 20, he also hinted that members of his Hizmet (Service) Movement - often referred to as “Cemaat” in Turkey - may like to see a political alternative.
“When the opportunities come, Cemaat participants, just like any other citizen, make their choices based on their values,” the reclusive scholar said in the interview, which was conducted via e-mail.
Without specifically naming any party, Gülen did not rule out that his followers could give their support to the current opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), in what would be a surprising shift of allegiances.
“It is possible that people who share core values will make choices along the same lines,” Gülen said, taking particular care not to specify the new figures who could receive the movement’s support.
“Whether the stance or actions of the political actors are consistent with their earlier record should be decided by the Turkish people and unbiased observers,” he added.
The AKP has repeatedly accused Gülen’s movement of orchestrating the probes in an attempt to topple it from government. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has denounced the existence of a “parallel state,” referring to Gülen’s followers who are known to hold key positions inside the police and the judiciary, allegedly taking decisions upon the movement’s orders.
The government has responded to the graft scandal with a massive purge within the police and with the preparation of a judicial bill that has drawn controversy for increasing the executive’s control over the judiciary.
Purges ‘a practice from the past’
During the interview, Gülen expressed his disappointment with the recent purges. “Purges based on ideology, sympathy or world views were a practice of the past, which the present ruling party had promised to stop,” he said.
He had earlier voiced his discomfort in a letter to President Abdullah Gül, which was disclosed in the Turkish media.
Gülen noted the “irony” that the same police and prosecutors were praised during the probes into coup cases. “It is ironic that members of the police force and the judiciary who were applauded as heroes a few months ago are now being shuffled in the middle of winter without any investigation,” he said.
Gülen’s statements come as the government is pushing the key judicial bill restructuring the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) for a vote at Parliament’s General Assembly.
It also comes as several MPs close to the movement have resigned from the AKP following the crisis that followed the graft scandal.