By Dr Aland Mizell:
A phobia is defined as the unrelenting and irrational fear of a situation, activity or thing that causes one to want to avoid it. Today the Gulenists’ media is bombarding audiences with a series of flatly untrue stories that render the Kurdish elected BDP party and the Kurdish rebel PKK within a framework of hostility, if not terror. The Gulenists’ mediascape arguably does not represent the Kurdish cause in a fair and true light; stereotypes that deem the BDP as a dangerous and disruptive force pervade the media.
The real danger is in the interpretation of such hostile images and views in socio-political dynamics. Moreover, the discourse that exists in the Gulenists’ media and cultural institutions at large sets up an imaginary border between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and thereby creates a regenerative hostility that impedes peaceful interaction and coexistence. Gulenists are not really advocating tolerance, peace, and love; instead, they are advocating Gulenism. Everything is about Gülen and his ideology. They praise Gülen more than the Prophet Mohammed; they disseminate more about Gulen’s work than about Mohammed’s sunna; they publish more of Gulen’s books than the Quran itself. Through this ideology they are disseminating a Kurdish phobia in tandem.
The representation of the PKK in the media in the past few decades has been largely negative. In reality, as the Kurds gain power and as the democratic wave moves across the Middle East region, the Gulenists are increasingly present in the political landscape in the Turkish media, radically shaping the audience’s view of realty. Therefore, the Kurds’ cultural identity is in the spotlight, and it is definitely changing. The question now is how will the media play a role in changing the representation of the BDP, the PKK and the KCK, and how will their identity change in relationship to past narratives? How will the BDP and the PKK use the media to try to dispel stereotypes and to build a more favorable image for themselves? The clear answer to those questions is that as long as Kurds are united in vision, not divided into factions, they will prevail because they are right; and when you are right, no one can criticize the truth. Truth will prevail.
Under the Gulenists’ regime Turkey is very similar to the authoritarian Iranian regime in which nothing can be done without approval based on the Mullah’s decision. Without Gulen’s decision in the Gulen movement nothing can take place. Gulenists are opposed to the idea of Kurds allying themselves with pro-democracy, tolerance, and peace and of Turkey solving its Kurdish problems with rule of law, equality, and justice. They oppose Turkey’s possible rejection of the Gulenists’ authoritarian ideology denying the Kurds’ right to be recognized as citizens.
Everyone in the West thinks Turkey is the stabilizing element of the Middle East and that only Turkey can restore calm to the Middle East. Now, however, the confusion about the Middle East and Syria has caused a Kurdishphobia to surface irresponsibly in the Gulenists’ Turkish media. Their influences reach out across the nation. They originate the news, focus on issues to their liking, elevate public figures they approve of, and denigrate those they do not. For example, when Gulenists and the AKP party were on their honeymoon terms at the beginning of the AKP party, the new administration was glamorized. In fact, the Zaman newspaper appeared to be owned by the AKP, party because every day they would elevate the Prime Minister and his policies. But once the Prime Minister objected to Gulen’s view on how to handle Kurdish issues, Palestinian issues and military issues, then they switched their allegiance. Now they are launching a campaign against Erdogan and elevating President Gul because Gul visits Gulen’s schools abroad and, whenever they approve of his tour, he goes to that school. Soon he will tell the Turkish people what movies to see, what books and magazines to read, what records to buy, what art to admire, what sports to support, what mosques to pray in, what restaurants to frequent, what businesses to support, which person to hate, and which business companies to go after.
They influence how society thinks on the Kurdish issue and, in fact, they frequently choose to target those who are sympathetic to the Kurdish struggle and those who fight for Kurdish problems. Whoever looks at Gulen’s media will note that they sound like they are being paid to promote negative news sometimes as well as misinformation about the BDP, KCK, PKK and those who support them. Foreigners, English speakers, academicians, business people, and political devotees read the Gulenists’ English version Today’s Zaman. It sets up foreign, political, and social views on Kurdish issues.
The real fear for Gulenists is not that Kurds in Syria are going to have an independent or autonomous area; the real fear for them is the question of what if Kurds unite? Only 20 million Kurds live in Turkey, but a total of 40 million live in the Middle East. Consequently, Gulenists continue to divide them into the Good Kurds and the Bad Kurds, trying to prevent their having one voice if they unite. The Palestinians might be the most often internationally recognized nation without a state, but the Kurds, on the other hand, outnumber the Palestinians and live all over the Middle East. Thus, their future is going to be a global issue, and particularly the Kurds cannot be excluded in the Greater Middle East projects.
It is clear that today the biggest threat to the Kurdish struggle comes from Gulenists’ religion of Nationalism, the idea of ‘the Turkification of Islam’. There are signs everywhere that Gulenists are becoming increasingly hostile towards the BDP and millions of Kurds who support the BDP’s democratically elected representatives. It is the only party representing the Kurdish people and the only party openly criticizing the Gulenists’ ideology. The hostility is deeply embedded in the Gulenists’ idea that the Turks are the chosen people and must lead the world to bring the whole of the Sunni Islamic sect under a new Ottoman Empire, and that minorities should have the same semi–autonomous status they used to have under the Ottoman Millet system.
In Turkey, the daily newspaper you read is likely be Gulenist-owned or edited, and the same for some national news magazine you buy at the news counter. More than likely, the national cable or regular TV network you watch is Gulenist-owned; the publishers of the hardbacks or paperbacks you read, even the webpage domain and the record companies that produce the music you buy, will be probably be Gulenist-owned.
First, the danger is that so many Kurds have already been induced to believe the Gulenists’ ideology, because it places the authority of God over human morality. Second, today the media has become the greatest power within Turkish society, more powerful than the Turkish legislature or judiciary. One would like to ask, “Who owns the media, newspapers, NGOs, TV, radio stations, publishing companies, think tanks, universities, and schools? It is not the BDP or the Kurds, but Gulenists all dedicated to promoting the Gülen ideology, the chosen status of the Turks, and the way to be submissive to him. The Gulenists’ media is launching a dirty campaign against the BDP and anyone who supports the Kurdish people and their cause.
Because media groups are key social actors as they help shape the social world by exerting control over issues, framing information and gate keeping, they have great power. This is nothing new; in the past the Turkish state used this communication, and such platforms have played decisive roles at every stage of the existence of the Kurdish people and their struggle. The dominance of the Gulenists’ schools across the globe spreads a subjective history that Kurds do not have a problem in Turkey but their problem is only the invention of the West and other enemies of the great Turkish people. This history also teaches that Kurds flourished under the Ottoman Empire, and it envisions a new Ottoman Empire. In short, this story denies the reality of the Kurdish people.
Furthermore the sheer scale of privately educated men in positions of power in business, politics, media, sports, the judiciary, security, the police, and government is a proof of a deep problem in Turkey. Those who believe Gülen’s ideology stay privileged, but those who do not accept it remain marginalized or put into the camp of ‘the other’.
Today the Gulenists’ religious ideology draws lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’, creating a mentality that allows the fear of a few extremists to vent hostility towards all those who identify with the Kurdish cause. For example, Gulen’s closest friend, also known as Gulen’s spokesperson, wrote in the Turkish version of the Zaman, “We should not close the BDP party, but we should not spoil them anymore, and for those who support the BDP and the BDP members as well, we should not let them question the Turkish justice system, and we should not let them to be free.” Furthermore, Mr. Gulerce was expressing to the Kurds that they should not believe a lie: ‘If the Kurds are free and have more rights today, it is because of the PKK’. They should not vote for the BDP.
But the questions I would like to ask Mr. Gulerce are: Who gave the rights to the Kurds? Who took the rights from the Kurds? Did Gulenists do it? Did the AKP do it? Or have thousands of Kurdish people been displaced or kidnapped, their houses burned, and their villages razed? The big question is: What have you done for Kurds? Well, you might answer, “We opened schools in the Kurdish region, we educated Kurds.” Yes, but you steal the minds of the Kurds but leave their bodies, so you do not open the schools without strings. In the process you gain humanoids. So Mr.Gulerce, like his leader Gülen, does not really believe in tolerance, love, or dialogue but their ilk is advocating that the military is the solution, assimilation is the solution, and economic prosperity is the solution. The Kurds are hungry. If you give them food, they will give up the dream of leaving an indignant life and of recognizing their situation.
I am asking those who believe that the Kurdish problem is solely economical this logic: If that is true, would someone give millions of compatriots opportunity or would they give up their freedom and live in indignity? Gülen himself believes those who support the PKK and the BDP remain not more than a few that may be counted on fingers.
Early in the 1990s, the military and the secular government were denying ‘the Kurdish problem’. If someone said that there is a problem, he/ she would be mocked and automatically deemed an enemy of the great Turkish nation or even considered a terrorist. They claimed the Kurdish problem resulted from terrorism, correlated it with the PKK, and then resorted to violence and extortion supposedly to curtail it, a response which no civilized society should abide. It is true that all forms of violence should be condemned, but which civilized society in the twenty-first century accepts making its citizens live with oppression and without freedom? Some Turkish liberals are slowly rejecting this kind of outdated idea because the Turkish government used the same tactic for years on those who argued for Kurdish rights or who just mentioned the Kurds. The government imprisoned them for supposedly supporting terrorism. The Kurdish political parties were shut down, political activists were tortured, other individuals kidnapped, their houses destroyed, villages burnt, and thousands of Kurds displaced. It defies logic. How can someone who really works hard day and night to bring love, peace, and dialogue at the same times deny the reality of Kurds in his backyard and deny that anything happened?
As a result of this, not only are Kurds paying the price, but Turkey as well. Since Turkey is trying to play a leadership role in its region, particularly in the Greater Middle East projects, Turkish democracy seems hypocritical. Professor Büşra Ersanlı, a constitutional law expert and member of a BDP constitutional commission, voted for and supported the BDP for being more democratic and for giving women a chance to play a greater role in the party among other things. One of the prosecutors questioned her, “You are a Turk, but why you are supporting them?” The real fear for Gulenists now is a democratic movement that marches to free the millions of oppressed minorities, allowing them to have rights in the society in which they live, because the Kurds are also uniting with this liberating movement. Today the Kurdish people are in need of true, honest friends who are ready to fight. But without freedom of expression, there is no possibility of a true democracy in Turkey.
“The Turkish Parliament will do what needs to be done”, Prime Minister Erdogan said, referring to the recent debates over Parliamentary immunity that started after the release of footage showing the BDP deputies and the PKK rebels chatting and embracing. The Prime Minister further said, “We witnessed the deep affection between the deputies and terrorists.” Why then does the Prime Minister embrace leaders of Hamas, listed as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US and the EU and one committed to the destruction of Israel, but does not want even to talk to the BDP and the PKK leaders who are Turkish citizens and have no interest in destroying Turkey and the Turkish state?
The Kurds are only asking for equal treatment, basic rights, and true democracy, not Gulenists’ theocracy. It will be a great loss for Turkey that a political party that is securing the fourth largest share of the parliamentary seats and stripping off their immunities is silenced. It will be a great loss for the Turkish people to believe the slanders and lies that have been promoted by the Gulenists’ media and power. Granted, Palestine should have its own state, enjoy freedom, and not live under any other power but, even under Israeli occupation, the Palestinians enjoy greater freedom of speech, religion, press, academia and other rights than the Kurds in Turkey.
The very real problem for Turkey is that the Kurds are not turning back, and their issues have indeed become a global problem. After the Palestinian issue, the Kurdish one is going to be the most important problem of a minority in international politics. People’s true characters and goals are revealed during extraordinary times. We can ascertain the true quality of a person’s justice, love, tolerance, and democratic identity during the bad times because these times are a litmus test. The character revealed in actions will indicate if Gulenists truly believe in tolerance, peace, and real democracy.
It is time for Turkey and Gulenists to realize that the Arab Spring at the core is a movement for democratic self-determination. The Kurds’ emergence of a self-determinate greater Kurdistan is the dream of millions of Kurds. As long as Kurds are united, as long as Kurds are not fighting against each other, as long as Kurds learn the lessons of the past, the only hope for Turkey is to make peace with the PKK and by coming to the peace table and accepting the necessity of a framework of federalism and autonomy. Gulenists are not genuine when they talk about multiculturalism, tolerance and peace, but rather they are the Great Bifurcator, and as such they are the biggest obstacle to the Kurdish peace process.
Dr. Aland Mizell is with the University of Mindanao School of Social Science, President of the MCI and a regular contributor to The Kurdistan Tribune, Kurdishaspect.com, Mindanao Times and Kurdish Media.You may email the author at:firstname.lastname@example.org