By Tevhid Basturk
When examining the occurrences in Turkey over these last few weeks, an air of confusion emerges for those that are unfamiliar with the recent history of modern Turkey.
These past few weeks has seen the national news of Turkey flooded with the arguments over the bill to close prep schools, political interference caused by the Gulen movement, and the attempts at political interference from the aforementioned Gulen Movement after the inconceivable December 17th operation.
All this to the outsider's eye just begs the questions of what exactly are preschools within the Turkish context, and what is the Gulen movement, how exactly could a social movement have the ability to perform such a huge defamation operation?
With this article I aim to briefly and simply offer some insight behind the modern history that brought forth the Gulen movement, how they reached power within the new AK Party government, and how fractionation between the two over the past few years have brought us to the conundrum which we face today.
Military tutelage and the birth of the Gulen movement
It could be argued that from the founding of the Republic of Turkey till 2002 there was a period of military tutelage in Turkey. For up till the 2002 elections, shortly after periods of multi-party politics, sooner or later military intervention would cause for the toppling of administrations. This trend starting with the hanging of Adnan Menderes in 1960, to the postmodern coup which forced the resignation of Necmettin Erbakan, these military interventions always brought back a single party political system governed through military tutelage. Even after the 2002 elections, the military remained politically influential until 2007 when measures were taken to restrict them to their professional duties.
It was during this era that many social movements focused on conservative values denied to them by the oppressive military regimes were founded. The Gulen movement named after their founder was created following the religious interpretations by Gulen over the works of scholar Said Nursi. The movement gathered much ground obtaining many followers for their movement that preached the importance of public service, receiving the nickname of "Hizmet" out of public respect that emerged as a result.
It was after the postmodern coup when Gulen had to flee the country to avoid arrest due to his alliance with Erbakan that the movement's public service took to a global arena. By this time the Gulen movement had acquired many followers, amongst them affluent and members and much wealth. The movement began opening schools all across the globe, in the US they took the shape charter schools, while in Turkey they came in the form of prep schools. These prep schools aimed to prepare students for the entrance exams required by students to enter universities in Turkey.
The Gulen enterprise
Those that are familiar with prep schools and charter schools know that these institutions are formed and run based on their ability to produce mass capital. The mindset of these institutions reflected that adopted of their father movement, for what started as a movement of service transformed into a massive capital producing institution.
The Gulen - AK Party alliance
The AK Party, founded as a modernist conservative party entered and came to office with the 2002 elections. Due to shared conservative beliefs and stemming from the era of shared oppression, the two became natural allies. This alliance would continue and strengthen reaching a peak between 2007 and 2010 for the era of military influence had come to an end, removing the opposition which the two had been opposed by and struggled against for years.
The closing stages of 2010 began to show an emerging split between the two. This was perhaps first publically visible when Gulen refused to offer his support to the government following the Israeli raid of the Mavi Marmara human aid vessel. The interests of the two began to pull them apart, and as time progressed interior conflict between the two became more and more evident. But through their policy of integration the Gulen movement had been able to not only infiltrate government offices, but also the Turkish police force.
By encouraging many young members to enlist in the police force, and assisting them in preparing for the entrance exam, the Gulen movement had successfully been able to form a large body of loyal supporters within the nation's police force. Which brings us to the operation conducted on the 17th of December. Bitter over the government's intention to convert these profitable prep schools into higher maintenance less yielding private schools, the Gulen movement set course to influence the political atmosphere of the state. Bewildered by their failed attempts at changing the public and political opinion through protests and their media outlets, they took charge and pulled the pin on an operation that would attempt to force the government to surrender thorough the arrests of those in office, or members of their families.
Lacking concrete evidence, with secret cases they built solely on speculation, Gulen followers within the police force conducted an operation based on alleged corruption to coerce the AK Party government into submitting to their demands. The order for this extreme measure was given without knowledge of the Istanbul chief of police, and Istanbul police crews were given instructions in the mess hall, within sealed envelopes, to conduct high profiled arrests not only in Istanbul, but also in Ankara even though the Turkish capital was far outside their jurisdiction. To make matter more suspect, the prosecutor involved in this secret unauthorized operation just happens to be Zekeriya Oz, a known member of the Gulen movement. As a matter-of-fact Mr. Oz just happens to be the very same prosecutor involved in the unlawful arrests of journalists, including Nedim Sener. Oz had been the prosecutor that authorized the wire-tapping and prosecution of Nedim Sener, a case that was dismissed due to mistrial, abuse of police power and lack of evidence, a case which is now widely regarded as a revenge operation intended to punish Sener for a book he wrote exposing suspect police officers for their involvement in a murder.
Though the Gulen movement claims to still abide by the nature of social assistance on which they were founded, their actions over the past few weeks speak volumes about how that is not the case. For what started as a social movement has without a doubt mutated into a lobby which now attempts to alter democratic politics and silence free speech in-lieu of their own financial gains. They have become the oppressor of which they were formed under, for now they wish to restore the era of tutelage, but wish to do so in their own favor.