Will Gülen and Gülenists testify before the Prosecutor for supporting the military coup in 1997?

By Dr. Aland Mizell:

Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen

In 1996, a coalition government was formed in Turkey between Necmettin Erbakan’s Islamic Welfare Party and another center-right group, the True Path Party, led by former Prime Minister Tansu Ciller. However, this coalition government was defeated by a psychological warfare campaign designed and pursued by the Turkish military on Feb.28, 1997. The National Security Council took measures purportedly concerning the threat posed by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. The following year the Constitutional Court closed the Welfare Party and banned Erbakan and some Refah party members from politics, including from running for office for several years.  The military forced the elected government to step down in a revolt known as a ‘postmodern coup’.

As part of the investigation into the February 28, 1997 military intervention, the police last week took several former generals into custody. This week several more military generals were apprehended. Among them was Cevik Bir, the deputy chief of General Staff at the time, who is known to have played a major role in the so-called postmodern coup of February 28th and the most important figure among the arrestees, including others military officers and generals.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the judiciary should deepen the ongoing investigation into the February 28, 1997 military intervention as much as necessary and it should extend its scope to all the actors who supported the coup.  I would love to see if the Prime Minister or the Prosecutor have the fortitude to investigate Fethullah Gülen for supporting the military coup in 1997. Is there any brave judge who would question Gülen for supporting the military and for his thanking the military and generals who successfully brought about the coup?  Gülen claims he knew about the coup prior to 1997 and that the military carried out a preparatory exercise for the coup. How did Gülen know about the military exercise?  Did he really foresee the future as his followers claim or had somebody infiltrated the military to give him information? Who gave the classified military information to Gülen? According to the Turkish penal code, is it a crime or not to declassify military information? If it is, then will a person be jailed for violating that code as well?

US Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren said, “It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive.”  Will Turkish prosecutors have a brave spirit to keep justice alive? Toleration is good for all, or it is good for none. I think that it is important and essential that justice be done, and it is equally important that justice not be confused with ideology or revenge. Will Gülen also be in jail for supporting the generals and praising these generals who are now in prison?  Or are law and justice a game where the best players get to sit on the bench?  Judicial abuse occurs when judges substitute their own political views for the law. That is what is happening in Turkey by dealing preferentially with the Gülenists.

What is happening now is a substitution of secularist or Kemalist tyranny with Gülenist’ tyranny and that does not make Turkey more democratic.  Kemalism was a phenomenon beyond party politics; it was a way of life, and even some secularists treated Kemalism as a religion and the founder Ataturk as an extraordinary person. Those who criticize him go to jail or lose their job because no one is allowed to condemn Ataturk. Even the Turkish constitutional law forbids anyone from denigrating him. Nevertheless, based on the military’s stronghold, a powerful central role for the state and the Kemalist ideology today are being replaced by another ideology or ‘ism’ called ‘Gülenism’. Gülenists think of and see Gülen as an extraordinary person and his ideology as a way of life; some of his followers even see him and think of him as the Mehdi – the savior of Islam and humanity – believing that they are the chosen ones, that they are the ones who know best, and that they can never speak against him. They want to have one man, one party, and one hegemony with no room for competition.

In a strong central hierarchy, as most of human history has been telling us, men are driven by a craving for power. Tyrants who conspire and legitimize any possible way to power, and then become drunk with power, leave behind trails of injustice and destruction. Also, history tells us that even those who rise to power with good intentions soon become corrupt. They take advantage of their position to protect and enrich themselves or their family and friends. In order to protect their wealth and power, they silence, deny, or slander those who threaten their authority and power. They are always paranoid, closed to criticism, and oppressive. They desperately cling to power in fear that if they lose control, then they might also lose their power.  An opportunity leads to temptation, and unrestrained power sets its own agenda.

That is what is happening in Turkey. Democratic politics is sometimes driven by self-interest and greed. Gülenists are using democracy in each election to grab power; they do whatever they can within the law and sometimes outside of the law to influence public opinion with the weapon of misinformation. For example, the Refah Party might favor its followers by dispensing to them state subsidies, contracts, and loans. For sure, they place people who believe their ideology at the top of the government bureaucracy.

The democratically-elected Welfare Party was justified in opposing the authoritarian secularism of the Kemalist state. With this intent Gülen openly favored the resignation of the government led by Erbakan: He was most likely aware that Erbakan’s provocations could result in the adoption of further repression and measures against him and his movement.

It is true, though, that the military was targeting Gülen and his movement and listed all his schools, dormitories, preperatory courses, and the names of those who financially supported the movement, for example, the Ulker Company. However, the former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who has nothing to do with Islam, saved and praised Gülen for disseminating the Turkish name and Turkishness against Iran’s influence in Central Asia. Ecevit said to a secular audience and the military that the Gülenists do not teach any Islamic doctrine at their schools, they are very respectful of Ataturk, and they only teach the Turkish language and disseminate Turkey’s name. For public relations Gülenists repeatedly scheduled some groups of Russian and Kazakh students who at that time studied at Gülenist’ schools to sing the Turkish anthem to showcase the students and show that Gülenists are not dangerous but that they only disseminate the name of Turkey and their love for Ataturk. That is why Gülen has a special love for the former Prime Minister. As long as an individual supports his ideology and does not criticize Gülen, it does not matter for his followers if that person is religious or not; nevertheless, whatever his ideological bent, he cannot criticize Gülen, a requirement dictim that makes Gülen very dangerous.

Gülen personally expressed that after the 28th of February he had wanted the military to come out against Erbakan, and he praised the military for the coup that removed the democratically elected party from power and banned most of the members from running for office again. So Gülen had played an important part in the military-led coup, and in general Gülen searched for ways to exploit the strategic advantage. Because Gülen is opportunistic, he always likes to be on the side of the powerful, since he likes to be praised and seen as superior.  During this period of unrest, Gülen saw that the military was targeting him because most of his schools, preparatory courses, and dormitories – and those who were financing his dormitories were also being placed on the list. Gülen looked for alternatives to stop this and so he supported the military in its removal of the Islamic Party from power. Some writers have even claimed that Israel also supported the military coup. Soldiers used the constitutional authority to remove Erbakan, wanting to solve the problems by democratic means. Gülen criticized Erbakan and claimed that Erbakan and his government were bringing the most damage to Islam and Muslims. Gülen continued, “Some people are saying they do damage Islam in a way because our soldiers would perhaps be counted as performing an anti democratic act. But the Turkish Constitution gave them what they need to fulfill the position, and they are more democratic than some of the civilian sectors.” But Gülen failed to understand that the Constitution was a military-made constitution and not one defending the rights of the people but rather one defending secularism and the pillars of Kemalism. Later, during the referendum on whether to rewrite the Constitution, Gülen gave a decree and confessed, “If I had power to bring the dead people from the grave to go and vote, I would.”

The Turkish state was founded on Kemalism. The military has legitimized its political role by its loyalty to Ataturk and by its guardianship of the regime to the state, since the state is above everything, a pillar called ‘statism’. The reason the military removed the Islamic party is because Islam is a threat to the state. Had the military not enjoyed the ideological support from a powerful part of civil society such as the Gulenists and others, it might not have been able to accomplish its goal. Rival Islamic movements like the Gülenists, not quite committed to democracy, supported the military in the expectation of gaining power – as they eventually did – and of not being harmed by the military.

Gülen supported the military because he worried that his ideology and power would be compromised if Erbakan stayed in his position, and Erbakan would become a leader in the Islamic world.  Gülen and his followers believe that God assigned the hizemt to them, and that they are the best representative of Islam, they are superior to everyone, and they are as holy as Mohammed’s followers were. Gülenists never liked Kemal Ataturk’s ideology and thus were opposed to Kemalism.  One time I asked a Gulenist, “Why do you keep an Ataturk bust at your school? The Gülenist’s answer was that: “Since Ataturk is already dead and our religion is not, it does not allow us to say bad things about a dead person. The second reason is that if we don’t put Ataturk’s bust there, then the authorities may close the school”. Thus, they pretended to have a love for Ataturk, but in reality never really liked him, yet they always strongly defended and upheld the power of the state.

During the cold war the biggest threat to Turkish security was communism, and that is why America supported the Turkish military against communism. But after the 1980 coup, state politics changed and the threat level changed from communism to an Islamic threat. The role of the military changed from defending the state against communism, and so Gülen tried to sell the Turkish–Islamic synthesis and show himself as a nationalist, praising the military and condemning communists and atheists.

Gülen’s goal is to raise up a golden generation, and then soon with this rich, powerful, well-educated elite generation to rule the world. Like his old classic tactics of denial, Fethullah Gülen’s lawyer and his media mogul have dismissed such claims, saying that Gülen does not have any hidden agenda. Gülenists and his lawyer issued statements saying that Gülen has engaged in scholarly and intellectual activities that have all taken place before the public eye and in all aspects in accordance with the constitutional rights on the basis of the high human values of love tolerance, service to humanity, rule of law, interfaith dialogue, and democracy. Gülen’s army of believers are hard-core Muslim hegemonists, meaning that they believe that Turkey along with the rest of the world should be governed by the Gülen version of Islam and Gülen’s interpretation of the Quran. There is no room in their doctrine for democracy or pluralism. Now that Gülenists have power, everyone is watching to see how the movement is maneuvering in order to establish a religious political system of governance. The greatest fear is that, while democracy brought them to power – using the European Union criteria among other opportunities – they are now working to create a dictatorship, having absolute hegemony in Turkey and abroad. It is an example of Gülen’s use of Taqiyya (sir tutmak, and tedbirli olmak), which means blatantly lying and denying any charge in order to promote his ideology. In his own words Gülen admits, “Move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power and center.” So Gülen wants to have hegemony.

For those who criticize him and his ideology Gülen admonishes his leaders that criticism should not be tolerated.  Likewise there was no freedom of expression under Kemalism; now there is no freedom of expression under the Gülenists as well. Incarceration of journalists, writers, and thousands of Kurdish politicians and activists is achieved through the misuse of overly-broad terrorism laws. Hate speech laws are applied in the West against those critical of Islam, but never against Gülen who mocks Catholics and accuses Catholics of being involved in all the bloodshed and devilish things around the world, especially in the Bosnian war with Serbia, and who condemns Jews and Americans.

In addition, his followers teach the superiority of the Turkish nation and nationalism. Gülenists would not hesitate to express their contempt for other religions and their adherents as well as the system of democratic rights protecting freedom of religion. Hate speech laws only apply in the West against the critics of Islam, but never against Gülen’s speech that mocks other faiths, especially Catholicism, as mentioned.

Gülen is the biggest obstacle for the Kurdish peace plan, because when some of the Kurdish intellectuals, including Leyla Zana issued joint statement asking for basic Kurdish rights from the Turkish government, Gülen criticized Leyla Zana and said he believes that Kurds who live in Turkey do not have any problems.  According to Gülen, not more than five hundred people share the same ideas as Leyla Zana, and therefore he thinks no Kurdish problems exist. In essence Gülen holds that the Turkish government does not want to solve the Kurdish problem; by contrast his solution is to make sure everybody follows him and joins his movement. Gülen encouraged his followers by urging that the Turkish government should kill all Kurdish guerillas.  He said that, even if there are fifty thousand or more, it does not matter the number because the Turkish government and the military are very powerful and have the capability of killing them all.

Double standards convey Gülen’s messages. First, his deception, denial, slander and violence work; the West has bought it in its entirety. People who do not bother to see the truth and thus ignorantly buy into it, and the message that the Gülen version of Islam is the one true religion in that Westerners even treat Gulenists with a deference not shown to other religion groups or sects such as Christians.

Gülenists are on the defense again, denying that Gülen supported the military coup but affirming that he was the victim of the coup. The Journalists and Writers Foundation and his lawyer released a statement in response to allegations that Gülenists supported the military coup of February 28, 1997. Gülenists are dismissing the claim as a major distortion of the truth. Gülen himself argues, “You have to know the truth, but you don’t have to tell the truth anywhere or every time,” but instead there are times when you should deny the truth. Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.  Inequality before the law, in this case incarcerating generals but letting others go free, denies the democratic principle of an impartial Judiciary.

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 and Kurdish Media.You may email the author at:aland_mizell2@hotmail.com 

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