Interview with the Journalists & Writers Foundation Chairman Mustafa Yeşil: Research Turkey – February 6, 2014 – Interview
The Fethullah Gülen Movement, gemeinschaft (cemaat) as it’s referred to commonly or Hizmet (The Service) as they call themselves, is currently one of the most debated movements in Turkey and throughout the world. For many, this Movement is one of the most dangerous and sinister movements because it seeks to penetrate specific occupations in the bureaucracy and has an enormous resources and network at its disposal.
There are many people who wish to and protect it, while there are many who seek to criticise or destroy the Hizmet. In Turkey, after AK Party formed its first government in 2002, Hizmet grew more and their names started to be mentioned as the main actor besides the government behind every good or bad work. They supported AK Party in many fields with their human capital and corporate potentials and AK party supported Hizmet in kind. In Turkey, they have always been mentioned as the coalition partner of the single-party government that AK Party formed. However, after 2011 General Elections, tension started to arise between the AK Party and its Prime Minister Erdoğan and Gülen Movement. This tension finally exploded because of the corruption operations that started in 17th December of 2013. The corruption operations, during which the sons of three ministers were arrested, were going to be followed by expanded investigations including other ministers, businessmen, and bureaucrats. However, a “state crisis” broke out because the police didn’t follow the warrant of arrest from the prosecutor, and Prime Minister Erdoğan stopped the operations by first reassigning ten ministers in his cabinet, followed by placing the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) under the authority of Minister of Justice and by removing or replacing many prosecutors and judges. He accused the Gülen Movement which he always praised for 11 years, of establishing a “parallel state” and being a very dangerous ‘gang’ for Turkey and even the world. Some government officials claimed that Gülen Movement was the ‘power behind the Ergenekon and Balyoz operations’ and ‘they conspired against Turkish Army’ and although the cases were closed with prison sentences, they brought the possibility of retrial up to public attention. Opposing statements and accusations coming from some people who are considered as the Movement’s spokesmen continued although these were declared to be defensive by the Movement supporters in media; and 11 years of grand coalition between the AK Party and Gülen Movement was over as a dirty war manifested itself. Top government officials of AK Party government joined the discourse against the Gülen movement and its institutions, and even made further accusations than that of Prime Minister Erdoğan; the Gülen Movement became the only agenda topic of Turkey overnight. although some suggested that AK party tried to cover up the corruption operations and change the agenda, it is obvious that power relations are damaged and consumed irreversibly because of the claims made. There are also people who claim that Gülen Movement wasn’t that strong and that Erdoğan used it to establish the ‘one-man’ authority in the country.
To further delve into this ongoing public debate, the Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey) conducted an interview with Mustafa Yeşil, who is the Chairman of Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV), who is one of the most important spokesmen of the Fethullah Gülen Movement, and talked about Gülen Movement, analysed its content, aims and codes, and evaluated Turkey’s agenda. GYV is a very important institution and the statements of foundation’s chairman are significant because within thousands of Movement institutions, this is the only institution where Fethullah Gülen has an organic and official link to. Fethullah Gülen is the honorary president of GYV, and the GYV is also an institution that gives the most explicit and direct answers to the accusations about Gülen Movement that takes place in the media. We talked about the origin of Movement, its principles and primary features, Fethullah Gülen’s place in the Movement and some of the most-debated statements and the definition of a “Gülen Institution” with GYV chairman Mustafa Yeşil. We evaluated the Movement’s: monetary resources, ‘parallel state and gang’ accusations, relations with AK Party and other parties, corruption operations, the recent legal and governmental modifications, and the reassignment of police officers and prosecutors, that is current hotly discussed. We many important questions regarding the Gülen Movement without any reservations and we are presenting the full and uncensored interview to our readers as a mark on history.
Summary of the Interview
“Hizmet is a faith-based movement, gets its strength and motivation from belief and it’s a civil organisation that sees diversity as richness and welcomes it”
“Hizmet is a community that is formed by volunteers, who have no certain expectations and don’t do anything under compulsion and constraint, who participates voluntarily and can leave whenever they want”
“Hizmet is an apolitical movement. However, it affects politics; as how every civil organization wants to affect politics positively or according to their own projects”
“Fethullah Gülen’s calling people to vote ‘Yes’ in 2010 Constitution Referendum is a statement for a social cause that concerns everybody, more than supporting a political party”
“Hizmet doesn’t have an aim to design political grounds; it does not do political engineering. However, a civil organisation, supports positive actions and opposes negative actions in its relations with the government”
“Gülen Movement does not follow any political party; it has never established a political party and will never form a party. This movement never aimed to seize the state”
“Hizmet carries out all the works with consensus and common sense. Therefore, there is no ‘one-man’ policy in Hizmet”
“Hizmet is pluralist on the basis of principles. For example, in Journalists and Writers Foundation Platforms there are Agnostics, Jewish and Armenian people”
“In 50 years of Hizmet activity, there have been people who accused it about blackmailing but they could never present a proof or example. Nobody was exposed to violence or threat”
“‘Whoever touches [them] burns’ claims or blaming Gülen Movement for some arrests are slanders to break people’s sympathy for Hizmet. Some have become instruments to this purposely or unintentionally, and sometimes by being misled”
“Fethullah Gülen said ‘don’t build mosques, build schools’. One of the most important principles of Hizmet is education. Because the main problems between people arise from ignorance. Hizmet never tries to standardise people within its educational activities.”
“Democracy is a sine qua non condition for Hizmet. It doesn’t mean that it meddles with domestic affairs but it pays attention to democratisation of the countries”
“It’s not true that people can’t leave the Gülen Movement or if they leave they are left for solitude, our structure is based on voluntariness”
“ ‘Seizing the state’ and ‘funds from unknown sources ’ accusations are not true”
“Gülen Movement is based on love, compassion, sincerity, honesty, living healthy and devotion”
“In Gülen Movement nobody is questioned, threatened or interrogated by someone else. Everybody is accountable to their conscience, if they’re to be punished, they punish themselves. The punishment is ‘working even more’”
“In Gülen Movement, the commitment is to the principles and the case, not to a person”
“Migration is an important value in Hizmet. Therefore, people move from country to country, city to city with their families. For example, even though I am married, I have changed 20 houses in 20 years”
“Gülen identified three problems in here and developed all his projects on these problems. First one is ignorance, second is separation and secession, and the third one is poverty. He said education against ignorance, dialogue and reconciliation against secession and social aid against poverty”
“Gülen Movement’s development wasn’t easy. After Gülen’s call, first school could only be opened 17-18 years later, in 1982-83”
“1980 coup d’état had no support for the Gülen Movement”
“There is no Gülen Institution or Gülen Schools. The only institution Gülen has an official link is Journalists and Writers Foundation (YGV), he is our honorary president”
“Gülen Movement is not organized in some occupations such as in juridical areas, military or the police. It is wrong to compare it with Illuminati. We can’t tell people what they can or can’t become. People choose their occupations as they want”
“Gülen Movement has no problems with Atatürk or Republican regime. Atatürk embodies our values as well. As with Atatürk so does Pir Sultan Abdal, Yunus and Mevlana too; each is a flower of this land with a different taste, smell, and colour.”
“Fethullah Gülen never said ‘apostasy is punishable by death’. However, a “fiqh” exists regarding this. What is meant there is ‘treason to the state’”.
“We are not a part of moderate Islam project. That may be an imputation. I think, Islam does not come in moderate, warm, cold ways. Islam is a religion with very open and clear measures, principles, and teachings.”
“Hizmet Movement will continue to exist the same way even after Hocaefendi (“the teacher,” the respectful term his followers use to refer to Fethullah Gülen)Service works through principles and values, and not through people”
“Hizmet Movement was tried to be infiltrated by various intelligence organisations; however, those with different intentions are always detected. There are several examples of infiltrators who said: ‘I came with this intention of infiltration, could not see any opportunities and I am leaving’. Hizmet is open and transparent”
“When the issue about closing private schools, Hocaefendi, secretly, sent people to Prime Minister, to President suggesting to return from this mistake, and offered compromise. Hizmet, in the beginning, never wanted to bring these events into a matter of public debate”
“We try to understand our being accused regarding the issues about ending the Army, Ergenekon Trial or government related topics. We never wanted to be included in these matters or be pointed at regarding them”
“We actually never made statements that will damage Ak Party; we only responded to tell the truth when we were exposed to the slanders and lies of the media supporting the government. But Ak Party lost their temper”
“We kept our silence not because we feared or wanted to retreat or engage in secret bargaining, but to prevent the peace and order of the country to be broken further”
“Fethullah Gülen addresses primarily to his followers in his so-called curses saying that if our people did something wrong I am referring to them but actually he was also addressing to those others who were out of Hizmet and really did wrong and blamed us”
“However, we saw a reaction that is unprecedented in the history of Republic from Ak Party; suddenly the locations of police officers who questioned laws passed regarding secrecy of the investigation; prosecutors were made involve; approximately 2,000 people were replaced and executions of the prosecutor were not activated. This means legal sanctions were disabled, and this put the law on hold. Furthermore, the judiciary fell under the rule of execution by a disastrous effect of tying the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors to the Ministry of Justice. After all these things happened there is only question: ‘what is going on?’”
“If the Prime Minister or the political power were targeted as claimed, the way to expose it is to make legal system function. But they destroyed it”
“’Parallel state’, ‘gangs’ do not exist just because Prime Minister claims they do. This should be proven, and the proof is done through laws. When you suspend the law, how are you going to prove it?”
“A narrow oligarchic cadre surrounding the Prime Minister restrained him. Unfortunately, they convinced the Prime Minister to reach a false belief and conclusion on how the community is dangerous and it is impossible to be active in politics in this country unless the community is defeated”.
“The claims regarding the cemaat such as ‘gang, organization, parallel structuring, and infiltration into police department’ were made also in 28 February period. Even in that (military) tutelage period, no documents could be found. The Movement, in that process, was acquitted of the claims regarding parallel state, organization, gang, infiltration, forming religious structures”
“Ak Party, for 11 years, praised the services saying how important they are. Until yesterday, for 11 years in power, there was not one complaint but cemaat became demonised right after the corruption cases? This structure turned into venom suddenly? If it did, shouldn’t this be exposed?”
“If Hizmet is venom, let us destroy it cooperatively together. But, whether Hizmet became poisonous or your mind is poisoned, should be differentiated”
“Present political power takes its power, authority from existing constitutional rights and Law. Today, if I am listening to you as the Prime Minister, I do so because you exist based on Law. But today you suspended the Law from which you take your power. This, actually, is destruction of a political power’s own field of legitimacy”
“I think this is a ’state crisis’, this has nothing to do with civil structure. Today in this country, unfortunately, the structure that takes its power, equity from democratic ground, in the face of corruptions suspended the Law, not letting it function. Prosecutors give instructions; police does not fulfill its armband duty”
“Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are disturbed by the Hizmet, because people who have been educated cannot be directed or used by the PKK. The PKK fears and worries about not being able to take educated people to the mountains, hills, caves”
“In Northern Iraq, where the Kurdish people claim a Kurdistan, there are 30 schools, universities of Hizmet, and the Kurdish people there support those schools so much that I have not seen such support in other countries”
“There is no convergence between Gülen Movement and Republican People’s Party (CHP). Hizmet does not want to engage with political parties. There is no support for Sarıgül in İstanbul, Hizmet prefers to maintain its supra-party position, and it does not instruct their people or the sympathizers to vote for a party or a person”
“The consulters influencing the Prime Minister, the oligarchic cadre surrounding him, managed to create new enemies by playing his fear of losing political power. The elders have a saying as ’Mabeyn has his brother strangled’. This is the scene today”
“A period when Erdoğan is conflicting with Erdoğan begins. Next Erdoğan is consuming the previous Erdoğan.”
“Islamic communities got politicised, the bureaucracy gets politicised, people got politicised exceptionally; everyone started to converge through political values as if politics is the highest value”
“The Prime Minister’s use of language of alienating half the country to ensure the support of the other half the country is a polarising approach. Statements such as ‘We are hardly keeping fifty percent of this country at their homes’, really created a hostility and hatred through politics among people who were able to sit together or bond”
“Ten years later, I dream of a Turkey that is more democratic, more advanced, more integrated with the world, and more emancipatory. I think, it would be great if this horse can find a good rider, it could go further for a perfect structure”
Full Text of the Interview
“Hizmet gets its strength and motivation from faith but it is a movement that sees diversity as richness and welcomes it. This movement does not have a centre”
The Fethullah Gülen Movement is one of the most debated movements today in Turkey and throughout the world. Especially after the corruption operations in Turkey, it became a movement that AK Party government started to directly criticise and accuse of being the main factor behind the scenes of many incidents that are revealed to be misdoings; conspiracies and dirty games organized in Turkey from past to present. Accusations and implications are made directly by the Prime Minister, advisers to the Prime Minister and some important government officials. Therefore, thank you for this interview; you made it possible to question the content and objectives of the Fethullah Gülen Movement from a first person point of view. Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) that you are in the chair is an institution in which Fethullah Gülen is the honorary president and it gives the most explicit answers to the accusations about Fethullah Gülen Movement. First of all, the most frequently asked question; is Gülen movement or with their own words Hizmet movement a denomination or a non-governmental organization (NGO), commercial or political organization, deep state, non-partisan or is it related to political parties?
Of course, thank you. Hizmet is a civil movement, first of all, it was born in Anatolian region and since then grown as a faith-inspired movement. It is a civil organisation that is faith-based as a movement, that gets its strength and motivation from faith, but sees diversity as richness and welcomes it.
In this case, should we call it as a faith-based NGO? What does welcoming diversity mean, what do you aim for? Is being organized both in national and international scale based on this?
Yes, we fundamentally aim for people who have different beliefs, different cultural structures, and different standards of living, different social backgrounds in our country to have the culture of living together, and in this culture for them to live in reconciliation. We are a civil structure that carries out projects and work to this aim, takes ‘human’ as the central figure and turns its work into national and international projects through an institutionalised structure.
Does this movement have a centre?
No, actually maybe having a wide area of activity is related to having no centre. This way, it could globalise through its volunteers.
Maybe, we need to ask the question in a different way. Standardised conceptualisation or naming it directly makes it hard to be understood. Let’s use abstract conceptualisation and try to determine the name and direction of the movement according to your descriptions or leave this to the reader, because there are people who say ‘who fights it, fights with a shadow’ For example, does the Gülen Movement have principles and norms that each member or volunteer has to obey?
It’s true, thank you. Of course we have principles, it can’t be said that all members have to obey,but it’s fundamental to work according to these norms. Even though the movement doesn’t have a centre, the reason that it does not dissolve and produce the same results is that it has determined principles. Accordingly, these norms and principles are valid worldwide and as a result as long as the people who adopted these principles do what is required, it is possible to see them obtaining the same results.
Do these principles describe an adequate person for becoming a Hizmet volunteer or are these about institutional organisation?
Now, these principles have an aspect that concentrates on individuals, the specialties that a person who will do service must have and another aspect and structure that focuses on the works and activities. First of all Hizmet is a community formed by volunteers who don’t have certain expectations and participate voluntarily and who can leave anytime. In this regard, Hizmet’s greatest capital is its trust and the most important characteristic of a person devoted to Hizmet is his commitment to these norms. Because if gaps appear in this commitment, a serious distrust and consequently loss of support takes place inevitably.
What are the principles that form the codes of Hizmet movement? Are there principles to transform an institution into a Hizmet Institution?
Hizmet expresses its presence with principles. It guides its institutional structure along its principles and as long as an institution abides by these principles, it means that it is beneficial to our primary objectives. What are these? First of all, it is very important that movement is certainly away from politics, I mean it is an apolitical movement. It doesn’t mean that, it doesn’t affect the politics, as every civil structure, the Movement also affects the politics because politics affects us all,. Each one of the civil organizations wants to affect politics positively or according to their projects, and there is nothing more natural than this.
“Gülen Movement will never follow a political party”
We will continue but didn’t Gülen Movement give open support to AK Party? During 2010 Referendum, Mr. Gülen played an active role, made statements that influenced the society directly, directing some vote?
Yes, but this is different than supporting a party, this is a statement made for a social cause that concerns everybody, according to its own principles. However, a civil organisation supports a government’s constructive actions and opposes its negative actions in its relations with the government. In advanced democracies or participatory democracies, the media or opposition parties or civil organisations suggest a course of action, give advice, and make criticisms related to the ruling party. In this regard Hizmet also positions itself but has never followed a political party.
‘Hizmet’ has supported AK Party openly for a long time, hasn’t it? It’s even described as a partner in power. In this regard, we will talk about Prime Minister’s ‘parallel structure’ claims or ‘form a party’ challenges but what comes into question is if these supports or criticisms are made for coming into power?
Hizmet never had such an aim. It supported the AK Party in areas according to their own values. Hizmet doesn’t have an aim to form a party and come into power. Actually, a civil structure is able to get politicised by forming a party and governing the society, but the Movement declared to the public that: “it does not and never will form a political party or it will never be affiliated with a political party”.
“Gülen Movement is pluralist, every group in the society has a representative in the Gülen Movement”
Then, it’s not completely apolitical; it has a clear political view but it doesn’t include a party line, it wants to have an impact on politics as many other civil structures. We can continue with the principles if you want.
Yes, the second of its principles is that Hizmet carries out its works with consensus and common sense. Therefore, Hizmet doesn’t have a one-man rule. There are various administrative boards in our private teaching institutions, foundations, hospitals etc. People in these boards know the principles and even though they are general managers, chief physicians, and executive editors, the administration’s common sense determines the institution’s implementations; common sense is fundamental. Furthermore, Hizmet is pluralist on the basis of principles. Maybe it’s hard to observe this in a homogeneous environment in Turkey, but in Turkey’s colourfulness, for example, the YGV platforms have people who are Alevis, Agnostic, theologian, Jewish, and Armenian.
Every group from different social segments are represented here, is that right?
Yes, every group is represented here and each group can share their ideas and projects through this representation or they can take part in our projects. This is also visible in the international arena, it’s possible to read Hizmet’s pluralism through its projects of taking place in every country, and to live together and communicate with citizens of all the countries. Another point is that the essential principle is never becoming destructive or corruptive. It is a positive movement. This means remaining as democratic even when opposing. It never chose to express itself by destroying, threatening or marginalising. It only expressed itself with positive discourse, positive criticism, and positive approaches and in this regard while expressing itself. Hizmet is never involved in threats, blackmailing, or violence as a style of responding to negativities.
There are many counter accusations about this point?
In the 50 years of Hizmet activity there have been people who tried to slander Hizmet with blackmailing, but I assure you that they had no evidence or examples. There was nobody who was threatened or exposed to violence.
There were many people who said ‘Whoever touches [them] burns’. Most people, who were arrested, jailed made statements that point the finger at Gülen Movement.
These are all made up by people who want to slander us and break people’s sympathy for Hizmet. Some have become instruments to this purposely or unintentionally, and sometimes by being misled.
We can continue with the principles. Dialogue is the most outstanding term, what is its content?
Yes, another point is dialogue concept. Hizmet believes that it can transform social incidents, cultural differences, and religious pluralism into a virtue. Therefore, for establishing a dialogue, we have no bias towards other cultures and human. It’s enough to be a human to have relation with Hizmet. That person can be agnostic, Mormon, a member of another religion, and even non-believers.
Do you mean that Hizmet never investigates the people it will make contact with?
Yes, it’s enough for that person to be an addressee, a human. Being human is the basic and only condition, and it’s enough.
“Build schools instead of mosques. The main problems between people arise from ignorance”
What about education? Why is it the primary subject for Hizmet? Fethullah Gülen said ‘don’t build mosques, build schools’ in his first debut to people. If this call came from a left winger-right winger politician or person Turkey would get in a state of confusion, that person would be declared as misbeliever and be alienated. How could his call get a reaction this strong in the society?
It is true. One of the basic principles of Hizmet is to predicate itself on education. Because many problems between people arise from ignorance. Ignorance is about more than only not knowing some scientific data. Defeating ignorance starts with people getting to know each other, it proceeds with love, and then by having very important parameters about how this triple structure can be understood and evaluated in establishing a relation between humans, objects, and the universe. From this perspective, Hizmet believes that it is possible to create peace and reconciliation in the world with universal values by focusing its efforts on education and welcoming everybody from different cultural and religious backgrounds. Therefore, it knows that the way to actualise the universal values is through education. Consequently, Hizmet always emphasized and concentrated on education. That’s why most of our institutions are educational institutions.
Education has always been the subject of debate in Turkey. For example, some circles criticise Turkish education system by claiming that it is envisioned to ‘create a uniform human type. You are also in the education industry, is there an aim as such or are you also criticised in a similar way?
This is a subject that Hizmet is also sensitive about. Hizmet never tries to standardise people in its educational activities. Its basis is preserving local cultures; it aims enabling people to live as how they are, in their own culture, colours, specialties, including their local clothing/customs. We only offered and advised to meet in universal values, and envision education as a tool for this understanding.
Do you have other principles?
Another one is democracy. Democracy is a sine qua non condition for Hizmet. It doesn’t mean that we meddle in domestic affairs; rather we pay attention to democratisation of different countries. This is because we believe that we can only develop and grow in a democratic environment.
Is it similar to the way that USA bringing democracy to countries after 1990?
No, it is not with an interventionist mentality or for political power. We support democracy because we believe in its power. Moreover, Hizmet supports democracy without a pragmatist approach, because we believe that democracy is the foundation of reconciliation, dialogue and peace. Accordingly, Hizmet supports democracy in the countries where it is active and carries out its activities with a democratic approach. Participation based on voluntariness demonstrates this democratic sense.
There is another issue about voluntary participation. It is claimed that people can’t leave the Gülen Movement or if they leave they are left with total solitude.
It’s absolutely wrong; all our activities are on a voluntary basis. Anybody can come and join the projects if they want and they can leave easily without experiencing anything bad. We would only say: “Do not forget that your seat will be here, waiting for you until the time you’ll come back. When you return, your seat will be ready”, to a person who wants to leave. This is the approach towards the people who want to leave. Another point is that one of the most important features is independence. Hizmet doesn’t have any relation or connection with a government entity, another mind-set and mentality or a country’s intelligentsia and independence is this movement’s most important feature.
“’Seizing the state’ or ‘funds from unknown sources’ claims are not true”
Actually the independence assertion is very interesting and important. The Gülen Movement has been banned in some countries and its institutions are being closed. Seizing the state claims influence this prohibition. The fears and criticisms arise from these claims. Gülen movement is known as a giant economic power and ‘Where does the money come from’ question follows this. What can you say about this?
For years there have been people who accused us with infiltration in Turkey and they tried to impute this to Hizmet but they were unable to go beyond slandering. This is why the ones who accuse us with infiltration into the state or having unknown sources of funding could not present a documentation, and information. Hizmet funds all its projects with the donations by its supporters. Accordingly, they donate their time, experience, and their resources. Giving service is not only based on a financial contributions, but it is also based on experience, savings, making time for it and it is shaped and improved by the efforts of devoted people.
While we are talking about the principles you are also answering the current issues. Does Hizmet have other specialties that are generally accepted?
Another specialty is innovation. Hizmet renews itself continuously and it never had a static structure, it has always been very dynamic. Therefore, it works with the belief of the only thing that does not change, is changes itself and follows the change on the basis of democracy and legality in compliance with the changing conditions, needs, and problems of humanity. Innovation is fundamental in Hizmet. Another point is that Hizmet carries out its activities with compassion and affection. That’s why in institutions that give service, there are no formidable approaches or implementations that don’t fit to the nature and disposition like compelling circumstances, threats or disciplinary punishments. The essence is love and compassion. Maybe because of this we believe that it is important to continue your relationship with a person and your efforts relentlessly and with sincerity until the moment you’ll be loved or make that person believe that he/she’s loved.
Gülen Movement is known for its ‘sohbet’s (Halaqa-like special gatherings of members during which religious, social and daily matters are discussed). Are these principles shared with the new participants in these ’sohbet’s? What are being told to the new volunteers?
Yes, sohbets are important for both dialogue and education. These are not given as a list but as a general framework explained by our friends. So, what does Hizmet advice and tell to the new participants? First of all they’re told to be honest. It advises not to be inconstant; therefore, the most important value is truthfulness. The most important thing about the people in Hizmet is that they are genuine. Another issue is that Hizmet infuses and advises passion for science and truth to its participants. Because the soul of innovation, development and even independence is love for science and truth. Another specialty of our volunteers is that they take consultancy as the basis. Therefore, Hizmet thinks that even the distinguished person always needs consultation, so the shortest and exact way to success is when the mind is created by the alliance of other minds- this is the way to excellence. Hizmet instills a sense of responsibility to its members. Because of this, even though a person goes to a place such as Africa, where there’s no one to control or follow him, he is accountable to his own conscience, because these principles and values are interiorised by him. Nobody else questions or threatens him. He does the questioning himself; if he needs to be punished, he does the punishment himself, by working even more, perhaps without sleep. Therefore, this sense of responsibility in people who are devoted to Hizmet is an important value that assures achieving goals.
“In Gülen Movement, commitment is to principles and the cause, not to a person”
But still isn’t there a commitment to a specific person? Can everybody be accountable to themselves?
Hizmet is based on faith, of course the people in Hizmet are devoted people who are committed to our cause, and who take part in it and follow it have commitment as a feature. Yet, this commitment is to the principles and not to a person. They never have personal expectations or calculations. Neither of them use Hizmet for their own plans about their lives, they sacrifice the values they have for humanity on behalf of Hizmet. If they are believers they wish God’s mercy, if they are humanists they aim for happiness, if they believe in some other religion they handle it according to their beliefs. Another value of people who are devoted to Hizmet is generosity. They are programmed to give instead of receiving. So people who sacrifice things never think about receiving things back or filling their pockets.
There must be people like that in Hizmet. Not for criticism but everybody is struggling with nafs. Don’t you control it?
Of course there can be people who have a weakness about nafs, this is a general human weakness, but these outliers are numbered less than the fingers of a hand among millions of people who are devoted to Hizmet. The incidents related to them become obvious, right in the moment. For example, people who are eager to take can be noticed as easily like a car coming from the wrong direction. There’s no need for control mechanisms for this because it’s an environment that everybody gives. Another specialty of people who are devoted to Hizmet is migrating. They see moving from country to country for their service as a value that their service brings them and this transforms into a virtue and they are aware that immigrating has a very important place in sacrifice. Therefore, the distances on earth are not important to people who are committed to Hizmet.
Is this the reason why people in Hizmet travel from country to country, city to city and change their locations?
Yes, we constantly move to any place requested easily, for a single person to change the place he lives is easy, but it is harder for people who are moving with their childern, and family. For example, since the time I was married in 1993, I changed 20 houses in 20 years. I’ve been in 20 different places. This is not a trouble, a hardship for a person who is devoted to Hizmet, it is very easy and as an earned value,it is very important. Hizmet advises living a healthy and hygienic life and cares about having a healthy diet and sees health as a prerequisite for service. Because volunteers have this value within: “If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t serve, if I don’t do a service, I can’t perform my duty” we understand and are aware of our commitment. Another point is that sincerity is one of the most important values for Hizmet volunteers, if you interact with them you can observe this. They talk the truth, talk with the virtue that is brought by loving unconditionally and therefore anybody who has a heart can notice this sincerity and feel the warmth of this sincerity in their hearts.
“Fethullah Gülen fought against three problems: İgnorance, separation and secession, poverty”
Thank you, at the conceptual level, you answered many questions. You describe and explain everything so well that these answers could be used as poster guidelines. Besides the Hizmet movement, I want to focus on Fethullah Gülen who is called as ‘inviolable’ by some. You denied the parallel state accusations. Mr. Gülen said ‘if some people in the community have a sympathy for me, my doctrine, I can’t tell them not to have a sympathy, this doesn’t mean that I order or give directions to them’ about these accusations. On the one hand, his conversations in some tapes that were revealed in 1990s included indoctrinations such as ‘don’t reveal yourself in the state before it’s due, don’t come out’, this was claimed to be the exposition of the organisation within the state. On the other hand, it is told that how could someone whose occupation is imamate-I am not saying this for underestimating, imamate is a respected occupation, this is the assertion-create an enormous movement and economic power, it’s thought that there are other reasons. From this point of view, I want to start with the initiation point of Hizmet. What are the things that characterise, distinguish Hocaefendi?
First of all I must say that his words were tried to be distorted, but Hocaefendi was acquitted of these acquisitions. If we directly focus on Hocaefendi’s role, his character and moral standing are very important. He is not a person who only produces discourse, he also tells what he believes in and realises what he tells. This is his most important characteristics and difference. Now, three problems have always existed in Turkey. First is ignorance, second is separation and secession, and the third is poverty. Hocaefendi developed his projects to solve these three problems. He said, “education against ignorance, dialogue and reconciliation against secession and social aid against poverty.” The struggle and power in each area are generated by volunteers who followed his call. We talked about education, for example you talk about economic power, on the one hand there is an institution called “Kimse Yok mu? (Isn’t There Anybody?)” that helps people who are in poverty, on the other hand there is a project like TUSKON, which gathers businessmen and creates opportunities for them to do business in national and international areas. As you know, perfect societies are formed by perfect individuals. If you want a peaceful society there must be individuals who know about peace. For a person to have peace he must be well educated, because people who are cherished by others always become puppets and they can’t improve themselves or live as themselves. However, educated people can be themselves without being cherished by someone else; they direct their lives with their own mind, skills, and experiences. Hocaefendi wanted Turkey to be themselves and not a nation controlled by others or dependent to others. A nation that can have a message for the world, that stands with its own principles, values and cultural background. The solution was education, he said this. Of course this wasn’t easy, he came to Izmir in 1968 and his preaching continued until 1980- at least 17-18 years. The first school was opened around 1982-83,. There was some hardship but after setting an example in our country, in 1983, the first school opened in Turkey and in 1990 schools were being opened internationally.
In fact, there is a very fast development process after 1980, in both Turkey and abroad. Was there a support after 1980 coup d’état?
No, we didn’t get involved in politics; everything is for the nation and by the nation. The world was changingSuch a quick acceptance by the socirty and expansion happened that in 1990s this resulted in schools opening in Central Asia. After 1990 adapting these models abroad started. Therefore, after its first model we see that there is fast expansion. Today, Hizmet has approximately 25 national and international universities.
“There is no Gülen Institution or Gülen School”
I want to open up the subjects of having sympathy for Hocaefendi, volunteering and Gülen schools and, Gülen institutions. These are very confusing and a cause for suspicion about if there is an equivocation. For example, some written and visual materials that criticise Gülen, mentioned that when you go to these schools and ask ‘Is this Gülen’s school?’, you get ‘no’ as an answer from the institution or when you ask someone ‘Are you supporting Gülen?’ they say ‘No, but we have a sympathy for him’. These can be perceived as camouflage. I mean this is not asked only for criticism, if you are in the movement why are you hiding it, you are acting like you are not a supporter but you have a personal sympathy for it? For example, you say ‘We are not Gülen School’ but if it wasn’t for Fethullah Gülen, that school also wouldn’t exist. What is the difference?
The inspirer of these principles and values is Hocaefendi but their physical structure, company structures, management systems, curriculums, teacher assignments, effort and work on their success rate totally belong to the administrative body, the principle, and board of teachers. Hocaefendi is not a person who has an organic link to any school. Therefore, he shares his principles and thoughts with people who care about him and who sees his suggestions as valuable. That’s why that school is not a Gülen Institution. For example, he is our honorary president. GYV is a place which designs projects on his ideas about dialogue and reconciliation, but he himself preferred to be in charge of it. However, even though there are thousands of Hizmet institutions, Hocaefendi has only one official link with our institution as the honorary president. Except this he has no other organic links with other institutions. Because of that he donates the earnings of his books, he sells around 400-500 thousand copies of each book, we publish his books and with these earnings he continues funding our projects. It is very natural that it is mostly expressed that they have a sympathy for him in institutions where people are connected voluntarily, working independently by adopting the common principles.
From the view of an academician, we can put it together as that people who work in an institution, which you described as democratic, voluntarily and with the principles you mentioned: by saying that ‘We are not a Gülen school or Gülen institution’ they really mean ‘we don’t take direct orders,” “Gülen doesn’t lead us directly,” “we have norms and working principles” etc.. You mentioned that innovation and independency drive Hizmet‘s working environment. Therefore every institution is led by people who work in it.’ Hizmet says to people who realise a project to manage the institution autonomously is that right?
Exactly like that, you expressed it very well. I have known Hocaefendi for 30 years and he never talks with imperatives. All his words, expressions are in the form of suggestions and recommendations, he always says ‘as you desire’, ‘if you want’ etc.
“We do not get organised in certain occupations. We are not Illuminati”
Why is the so-called Gülen Movement, labeled by critics as “movement of goodness” but is thought as an organisation inside professional groups that has different intentions? There is a claim that Turkey’s prosecutors, judiciary, police force, and military have been co-opted are the key professions where the Gülen Movement is deeply organised. Because of this, there are those who compare the Movement to the Illuminati or to other similar organisations?
Ok then, I will specifically ask this: “Can you instruct those people coming from all strata of life, people who are at the institutions of Hizmet, you are not to be police, you are not to be a judge, you are not to be military personnel?” It is not possible for you to say that, how many people do you think would want to be a part of Hizmet when you say you are to become police only etc.? You say that “Hizmet” is voluntary, and at the same time, you direct people to a certain position by constraint and force. This would blow up at some point. People would say “that is enough, I do not have to, I do not want such a job, I do not want to do this kind of a job”. That is why, these accusations are completely slander. This happens in the natural course of things. You can encounter a businessman, you can encounter a teacher. If Hizmet will ever support an occupation, it would be teaching because hundreds of schools are opened and thousands of teachers are needed. The most basic need of the Hizmet is teachers. If Hizmet is to promote an occupation, at this point, what it needs are more teachers.
You say there is so such thing as directing to a certain profession. It is told in such a way, examples are given in such a way that it seems like you say ‘This is the job you will have, whichever position you will ever hold will be thanks to us and then you will only serve us‘ when you are recruiting a small child? For example, a prosecutor from Hizmet writes such an accusation with an order it seems like he gets his career enhanced thanks to his loyalty?
We should interpret the matter here correctly. A person who came from a school of Hizmet can enter all spheres of life; no one can prevent him or her from doing what he pleases. I mean, if a person wishes to become a soldier, a judge tourism agent, a forest engineer, it is a matter left to them to decide. Hizmet needs not to endeavor or struggle regarding on what career a person wants for himself.
“Gülen Movement has no problems with Atatürk or Republican regime”
Does Gülen Movement have a problem with Atatürk or Republican regime?
Never, why would it?Atatürk embodies our values too, the value of this country, there is nothing we can gain from approaching the values of this land with hostility. And you do not approach the religions and cultures of other countries hostilely as well. wWat would you gain from hostility against the values grown in your own land? What would you gain? Thus; the stance of the Hizmet Movement at this point is that: Everything is ours too: Atatürk too is with us, so is Pir Sultan Abdal, Yunus, Mevlana as well; each is a flower of this land with a different taste, smell, color. We have to see it like this, and protect and preserve them with those values.
Does Fethullah Gülen have a saying like ‘apostasy is punishable by death’? Especially in the foreign countries, the existence of such saying is commonly debated.
Never, this opposes the position of the Hizmet so much, how can we talk about killing people who apostatise when you sit together, talk, and share certain projects even with atheists? I must make it clear that a ‘fiqh’ exists expressing that. However, that fiqh does not correspond to apostasy. Religion is used to be a unified identity, I mean, the most important characteristics defining the state was peculiarity. Apostasy meant the same thing as treason against the state. Because of this reason, there were some people killed because they were considered to plot treason against the state; e.g. like a spy from another country. There is a vesicle in the Holy Quran saying: ‘They believed, then fell into denial, then believed, then fell into denial’, but there is no mention of killing whatsoever. This is completely a political definition. This is completely a political term. Hocaefendi does not have such a saying because all in all we are a civil structure. How to judge people, who betrayed the country, plotted treason against it, is defined in international law, they are treated according to it. But people who apostatise are never killed.“We are not a part of ‘Moderate Islam’ project”
What do you think about ‘Moderate Islam’ project? Do you think that such a project exists? There are criticisms saying that Mr. Gülen is actually a part and executer of the project. It is claimed that this is a project from the U.S. initiated on purpose after the growth of radical Islamic organisations and that Mr. Gülen is held there as an important executor of it?
So today, naturally, if you are visible and known in the global scale the global actors would be in contact with you in a way. I think expressions like the moderate, warm, cold Islam may be an incorrect accusation, as Islam is a religion with very open and clear measures, principles, and teachings. There certainly are different interpretations and sects within Islam. As to the approach of Hizmet regarding this point, the Hizmet believes that Islam is a religion with universal values; thus, it is a religion with human placed at the center. Therefore, when we look at Hocaefendi’s interpretations; it is a suggestion even an order of our religion that establishing connection with different cultural structures and members of different religions. When you extract such approach from Quran and the Sunna, it is not bringing moderation to Islam, but it is interpreting the essence of Islam according to Quran for this age, which is alsodoing what is necessary. Today the people who present Islam as turbulent, aggressive, terrorist are those who are biggest nuisance and trouble to Islam. They are those who polluted pure advices and charms of Islam. However, when you consider the word Islam, it is sound, secure, greeting, and safe, Islam describes people who never hurt anyone with words or with their hands. Today, a true Muslim is who complies with the compromising, peaceful, constructive, all embracing framework set by Islam, and when he does so it is according with Islamic framework, and this is not a compromise of Islam; on the contrary, it represents Islam with its characteristics that needed to be known and acknowledged.
We talked about the emergence and current status of Hizmet Movement, let us also talk about its future. You said that it is not centered around one individual, but do you think Hizmet movement will diffuse after Fethullah Gülen? There are such claims. Is there a institutional structure to keep it functioning or does Mr. Gülen have a declared will or succesors regarding this matter?
I must say that Hizmet functions through principles, guidelines. This is a typical example, these claims could be alarming if Mr. Gülen was taking an active part, like a manager would. However, can you tell me that if a manager of a company does not drop by at the office for 10 years but the company keeps growing and advancing, what does this demonstrate? It shows that the manager institutionalised the company and established principles and guidelines. The company, as long as it functions through those guidelines and principles will keep existing and thriving. Hocaefendi has been away for 10 years, and not only away from Turkey, he is also away from Africa, away from Middle East, away from Middle Asia, but he expresses his thoughts and feelings. Hizmet functions through principles and values. May Allah give him a long life, but when he passes someday, the Hizmet Movement will definetely keep on going as long as it preserves these guidelines and principles.
“There is nothing in Gülen Movement that intelligence agencies can find that is not open and transparent”
The Gülen Movement is a developed, enlarged movement all around the world. We know well from the Cold War period that a movement that spread throughout the world this much cannot remain undetected by intelligence agencies. Even, because of their pursuits, it is highly likely that they have organizations inside the Gülen Movement. Do you think that they tried to build up inside organisations or carried out or tried to carry out some operations under your name? For example, today it is overly claimed that there are some structures that are for the Hizmet despite not being a part of the Hizmet. For instance, it is said that the: ‘Hizmet has a “security” wing, which does not take other structures into account’. Did you take precautions against inside organisations? If so, what kind of precautions did you take?
Let me tell you openly that if Hizmet was engaged in closed circuit pursuits, closed secret organizations and structures, it would always be possible for secret structures to infiltrate. But Hizmet is exceptionally open and transparent, because we do everything by planning, talking openly about everything in front of public and decide by a common mind which we call a ‘consultancy’, in such a ground the one or ones who have different, bad intentions and plans will be exposed and give themselves away. Also, these people, in terms of values of Hizmet… For how long can a firefly show itself as the moon, it will eventually be exposed. I mean if a man infiltrated the Hizmet by lying for years, (there have been and will be attempts, endeavours too) but when they realise people’s intimacy and that they do not have other secret agendas and intentions, there are examples of those infiltrators coming and saying: ‘I came for infiltration, could not find anything wrong and I am leaving’.
“We did not start the war against Ak Party”
I talked and asked about some political and contemporary topics when I was asking about Gülen Movement, Hizmet, and Mr. Fethullah Gülen himself. Let us move on focusing more on political and contemporary topics. You said ‘Hizmet is never destructive’ for example. But today grudge and revenge are vocalised often. It is said that ‘Gülen Movement is avenging for February 28′. The same thing, from time to time, is said for Ak Party. People are confused, there are claims that it is both a product of February 28 and it is polarising the society to avenge for it. Today, the top administrators of Ak Party accusing the Hizmet for destructiveness, trying to destroy the state, trying to destroy the government etc. Will the Hizmet Movement call for a response about the things that it considers to be done against itself? For example, this is often used in statements, will Hizmet react to: ‘If a situation regarding myself puts the state and people in a difficult situation, if necessary I will retreat and I would prefer being known as the wrongdoer to harm to people or the state’ or like ‘No, I have to change the structure threatening me’ and intervene, fight, call for account if necessary?
Hizmet until recently, always sacrificed by taking into the greater good and took personal matters as secondary. For example, when the govenment tried to close private schools (dershane – private education institutions that helps tutoring pupils for university exams etc.) during February 28 era, Hocaefendi with comfort offered these despotic people the following thought: ‘these institutions are institutions of people, the institutions are built by labour of our people. Do not close them, please take them and manage yourselves. He said ‘Let them function to serve their purpose but do not close them’. In Ak Party period; when the closing of private schools was declared, in order not to put them into a difficult situation in public, Hocaefendi sent people secretly to meet with the President and Prime Minister, Hocaefendi said: ‘If you are willing to close them, do not; if it is a problem that our friends are holding management of them they will retreat, we will hand these over to you but let them keep serving to the people’. How can one approach to this issue be more constructive than this? It is not threat, it is not institutions in exchange of money, take them but let them serve their purpose.
I understand you did not start this war, did not want to bring into public spotlight; on the contrary you secretly called for compromise with the government and President. But is it a coincidence that Gülen Movement is declared to be the archenemy of state on many matters including plotting against the army, and had a hand with the Ergenekon trials?
This is what we are trying to understand too. We saw that we never were able to accuse people in Ak Party or people who are tried. We never wanted to be involved in these events or be pointed at regarding these issues.
“They completely lost their temper”
So, after you were targeted following the December 17, 2013 operations, first you made some very strong statements about Prime Minister and some administrators of Ak Party, then Prime Minister and his circle threatened you and stated: ‘we too have information, documents; we will expose’. In fact, making such mysterious, threatening declarations in public spotlight does not suit in a transparent and participatory democracy. People started to think they are being fooled and many things remain undeclared. Are there any negotiations? Or, even though maybe not the supporting media, but slight silence of spokespeople of Gülen Movement caused the suspicion of you being afraid, retreating. Were you afraid, are there things to be afraid of for you, is there a retraction really, what do you think?
Never, the purpose here is distorted. We never made statements that will damage Ak Party, only the answers were given to the questions and demands of people affiliated with the Hizmet; such as, those who asked if we are guilty, why would not answer that?’ We don’t want our people to feel suspicious by asking themselves ‘why are we silent, are we guilty?’ Through the media we were exposed to slanders and lies of the government supporting media. But we saw that when we gave answers the other party got activated and stirred up and even lost their temper. When we saw they fell into an uncontrollable confusion, we realised that the answers given were related with our base, there was a constructive, reasonable benefit involved, but we saw that the other party became seriously provoked. From then on, we chose to remain silent in order not to damage peace, order, and the tranquillity of this country. This is not because we were not right, not because we ran out of things to say, it is because we wanted to preserve the peace, order, and tranquillity of the country from falling apart and being lost.
However, there is a letter written by Mr. Gülen to President Gül. Since there was there is no mention of corruption operations, some circles interpreted this as he was trying to negotiate, retreating for peace? It is widely claimed that some intermediaries are working for negotiations?
When the corruption events came to the foreground some said ‘we gave, they did not take it, we will still close them’ about the private schools we initiated democratic attempts for private schools not to be closed. We expressed our opinion through media and social media, the private school owners met with Parliamentarians. Only a quarter of private schools in Turkey are affiliated with Hizmet, the rest three fourths with a hundred thousand people in the industry will be unemployed. We supported their defence all together. When the corruption operations began, they said that: ‘you [the Hizmet] did this on purpose to threaten us regarding the closing of private schools’. As a matter of fact, related to Hocaefendi opening his hands said: ‘If we did this and our friends did this to cause problems in this country to create chaos, may Allah burn our hearthstones’.
“Gülen curses those against who accuse the Movement”
It was said that Mr. Gülen cursed there and there was serious criticism about this by media and people close to Ak Party. It is said that ‘it does not suit Islam‘ etc. and through this Fethullah Gülen was tried to be damaged? Prime Minister Erdoğan said something like ‘if he has the courage, he should explain who he cursed against‘?
He openly says who he addressed it. He addresses his people primarily in his so-called curses saying that if our people did something wrong I am referring to them, but actually addressing to those others who did wrong and blamed us. It is actually making a pact by saying that ‘we are challenging those who accuse and blame us’ and ‘here we are saying this, if you are certain that we did it can you state the same sentence (curse against your own)’. After this, the Hizmet Movement expected that the legal process would open and for investigations to take place unimpeded. Corruption existed prior to Ak Party, and it has existed in the past too. We know how state reacted when Süleyman Demirel’s nephews, brothers were accused of corruption. It is clear how the reaction of the state should be and how the administrators of state should act when faced corruption. It is not important who the subject is, if princes, ministers, prime ministers are corrupt or accused of corruption as everyone is equal before law. However, we encountered a reaction that is unprecedented in the history of Republic from Ak Party . Suddenly the posts of police officers who question suspects were changed the laws were passed regarding secrecy of the investigations; prosecutors were made involve, and approximately 2,000 people were replaced as directives of the prosecutor were not acted upon. This means legal sanctions were disabled, which was putting the law on hold and the judiciary fell under the rule of execution by a disastrous offer and actualisation of tying the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) to the Ministry of Justice. After all these things happened there is only one question upheld: What is going on?
Actually, impartial people also say similar things about corruption crisis. I mean, the corruption allegations, operations regarding previous political parties were plenty. The children of top level people were targets in these allegations. There never were such reactions, atmosphere of panic or chaos. Why do you think this happened the way it did now?
Yes, for example, Mesut Yılmaz even went to Supreme Court. Now the Prime Minister says: ‘I was targeted, they have tools inside, they targeted the Ak Party government‘; etc. If it is so the way to prove these claims is to make legal system function but instead they are working to destroy it. You say ‘parallel state’, ‘gangs’ exist but they do not exist just because you claim they do. This does not come to existence just because you claimed so. This should be proven, and the proof is the law. When you suspend law, how are you going to prove it?
“A narrow oligarchic cadre surrounding the Prime Minister restrained him. If the Hizmet became poisonous or is your mind poisoned should be differentiated”
Why do you think Ak Party reacted in such a way? Why did the claims ‘external forces’, ‘parallel state’, ‘deep gangs’ came to the foreground all of a sudden? I want to ask openly: this government worked with Gülen Movement in many fields, praised it all the time. They supported each other, even it is said that the Ak Party government was a coalition. During Gezi Protests the claims of “interest rate lobby” etc. arose. We were back to discourse of 1990s in which everyone talks about ‘internal and external enemies’, no one was responsible for anything, the ones to blame were always external. Society gets more and more puzzled. Why do you think that Ak Party head for these claims, what are the actual reasons?
I think that, Ak Party and especially the Prime Minister, in Naim Şahin’s words, is surrounded by a narrow oligarchic cadre that restrained him. Unfortunately, they convinced the Prime Minister to reach a false belief and conclusion on how the cemaat is dangerous and it is impossible to be active in politics in this country unless cemaat is defeated. There is not a single negative thing about Hizmet in the 50 years. The claims regarding the cemaat such as ‘a gang, an organisation, parallel structuring, infiltration into police department’ were also made in 28 February period. In a trial in 1999 under prosecution of Nuh Mete Yüksel, Hocaefendi and Hizmet Movement were questioned for 9 years, if there was single document would the judges forgive this? Was that possible? The Movement, in that process, was acquitted of the claims regarding parallel state, organization, gang, infiltration, forming religious structures. Until 2013, Ak Party praised the Hizmet, Hizmet stated how significant it is. They vocalised, brought to the agenda that the schools abroad and institutions were the vision of this country. Until recently, for 11 years in power, there was not one complaint, but the community quickly became demonised right after the corruption cases? This structure turned into venom suddenly? If it did, shouldn’t it be exposed? If the Hizmet is venom, let us destroy it together. But, whether the Hizmet became poisonous or your mind is poisoned, that should be differentiated.
“This is a ’state crisis’. Prosecutors give instructions, police does not fulfil its armband duty. Prime Minister Erdoğan destroyed the law destroying his own legitimacy as Prime Minister”
Nowadays, it is debated that this actually is a ’state crisis’, crisis of government. For example, in this country, prosecutor instructs armband forces but armband does not fulfil this order. You also said that. How do you evaluate this?
Present political power takes its power and authority from existing constitutional rights and laws. Today, if I am listening to the Prime Minister, I do so because his position and authority exists based on law. But today you suspended the law from which you take your power. This, actually, is destruction of a political power’s own field of legitimacy. If one of these days, I or someone else unrecognised your authority that you claim to have, this would be a crime just as you committed but it would not remove your crime either. Today in this country unfortunately, the government has taken power and equity from a democratic foundation, and in the face of corruption charges they have suspended the law,. I think it is a ’state crisis’ and it has nothing to do with the civil structure. Prosecutors give instructions, police does not fulfil its armband duty. The HSYK wants to function in their jurisdiction through their prosecutors, but it is intervened, disabled. It is hard to explain, the scene is hard to describe; I hope this will be over soon.
“Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are disturbed by us. In Northern Iraq, where the Kurdish people claim a Kurdistan, there are 30 schools of the Hizmet”
In Turkey the opposition parties in Grand National Assembly today try not to drop the corruption operations and claims out of the agenda, and these issues are discussed. At this point, in an unusual way, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) is not forcing as much as other opposition parties about the corruption cases, and even seems to claim that these operations target the peace process and stand by Ak Party. But they criticise cemaat, the Gülen Movement. In the case of KCK (Koma Civakên Kurdistan-Group of Communities in Kurdistan) they made declarations accusing the Hizmet. During Gezi Protests the administrators of BDP did not support, and were criticized at the beginning but three months later they announced that they regretted their suspicious and reluctant position. How do you evaluate the position of BDP? It is claimed that there is a serious competition between BDP and Gülen Movement in Eastern Turkey?
As far as I see, the BDP is aware of institutional structure of Hizmet and that there are educational programs in Eastern Turkey, and it is disturbed by this. However, the Hizmet never had the aim or intention of assimilation. As I said earlier, the main concern is protection of local culture. The most part of our schools are composed of people who were raised there such as principals, teachers. The staff is generally from there. I think their main concern is that the educated people cannot be directed or used. The PKK fears that it will not be able to take educated people to mountains, hills, caves to fight. Therefore, they think that if the institutions there are got rid off then they will have no competition. But it must be acknowledged that if Hizmet was not accepted and embraced by the people it could have not survived. Hizmet keeps existing there with hundreds of institutions for 20-30 years. In Northern Iraq, commonly referred to as Kurdistan by the Kurdish people, there are 30 schools, universities of the Hizmet, and Kurdish people living there support those schools so much that I have never seen such serious support in any other country. Because they are aware how much these schools contribute to their future. These persons could not realise the importance of education because they are in the mountains, when they get off the mountains they will realize. If they come and open schools we can support them too.
“Hizmet, as an institution, never decides to support one party or person”
Is there a convergence between Gülen Movement and main opposition party Republican People’s Party (CHP)?
No, there might be declarations and cooperation in terms of principles. But engaging with political parties is not something that Hizmet would ever want.
There are claims about you supporting CHP and its candidate Mustafa Sarıgül in Istanbul. Is that true?
Definitely not. Hizmet as an institution never decides to support one party or person. It prefers to remain above politics. It does not make suggestions to its people or sympathizers to vote for a certain person or a party. Only, in terms of policies, according to its principles, from time to time, it can express support or critique about some issues.
“Mabeyn has the brother strangled. The consulters and the oligarchic cadre influencing and surrounding Prime Minister managed create new enemies to Prime Minister”
It is hotly debated that Gülen Movement left or will be left in such a position in this turmoil: Ak Party might be taking steps that will take the legitimacy of the state down but in this process it will try to re-legitimize itself by saying ‘I did all the things you liked, supported, praised in these 11 years of government but cemaat did all the things you disliked, denigrated‘ and will have more attempts, counter operations to convince the people. Prime Minister constantly says ‘we have plenty against you’, ‘we will raid their caves’, Head Counsellor of Prime Minister says ‘they were the ones who plotted against the military’, some government officials say ‘they have imamates in judiciary’ etc. What do you think? Are you afraid to encounter such a situation, do you think the process is leading there, how do you evaluate these claims?
Yes, it is said that the caves will be raided. I must say that, I once read that the instinct to protect their power of those who hold the political power over 10 years, after a while, grows more and more. I mean the ones who held the political power for 10 years have a lot that they fear to lose. The consulters and the oligarchic cadre, influencing and surrounding Prime Minister managed constantly to create new enemies by playing his fear of losing political power. The elders have a saying as “Mabeyn has the brother strangled”. Mabeyn is the persons around the Sultan, if Mabeyn want they may even have the sultan strangle his brother. This is the scene of today. We do not understand why the people who have no other project, effort, endeavor than the wellbeing of the country are perceived as enemies. What is the reason, were there any misdeeds done to this nation? To be frank, the attacks made are so harsh that they make it hard to think if these claims are right or not. We could not find a way to explain that.
“This is a period when Erdoğan is conflicting with Erdoğan. Next Erdoğan is consuming the previous Erdoğan.”
What do you think will happen next? Where is this leading?
We were seriously surprised. I think, a period when Erdoğan is conflicting with Erdoğan is starting. Next Erdoğan is consuming the previous Erdoğan. By doing what? By making the people who are closest to him, the people who supported him and helped in from time to time his new enemies. By turning on them. There is no explanation for this at the moment, simply it is being done through fear and for the purpose of preserving his political power.
The people in Turkey have been seriously polarised in the last decade. Nobody is listening to each other. People are antagonised at the moment and they will react if you even make a small comment, criticise a party or a leader they support or have vote for. The streets are separated, life styles are pulling away from one another, as if we are losing our culture of coexistence. You like asking reverse questions, I will ask a reverse question: how did Turkey become so polarised in a decade when the Hizmet Movement, that sees dialog of the highest importance, is the strongest? How do you evaluate the situation? Why no one is listening to one another?
It is unfortunately true. I think this polarisation happened because politics became really involved in Turkish people and life by politicising it. Islamic communities became politicized, the bureaucracy became politicized, and people exceptionally have become politicised. Everyone started to converge through political values as if politics is the highest value. Especially the Prime Minister, who uses the alienating of half the country to ensure the support of the other half the country is a polarising approach. Statements such as “We are hardly keeping fifty percent of this country at their homes”, have created a hostility and hatred among people through politics who were able to sit together and bond with each other. Now there is the emergence of a real danger; a polarisation through politics among Islamic circles, and see, these kinds of polarisations can be beneficial for politicians but societies cannot get rid of the damage done by them for decades. What I see today is the Ak Party is using a language to maintain their political power in the last period and have immersed politics into daily life. They are making people listen to politicians every night, watching them fight every day, bringing it to the agenda. I do not think that there is another country where politics appeared this much in the media, where it is in our dining tables; and this structure brought about a society dispersed, polarised through politics. People did not get polarized due to differences of religion, polarisation did not even happen in ethnic differences, there were steps taken in terms of Kurdish issue. However, now, we are facing a completely different and risky polarisation through politics.
“I dream of a Turkey that is more democratic, more advanced, more integrated with the world, and more emancipatory”
Finally, what do you think in 10 years Turkey will be like, as Gülen Movement?
I dream of a Turkey that is more democratic, more advanced, more integrated with the world, and more emancipatory. Because if we could define Turkey’s position, it has and it has come to with the political power in effect, after the ones in power currently leave we could have thought of this time as a temporary spring. Turkey is a country that has invested in human power over the last 40-50 years, and has tried to raise intellectualism and defines itself on the international arena as a country that its investment in human capital will carry it further. I think, it would be great if this horse can find a good rider, it could go further to a perfect structure
Thank you for this interview and your intimate responses. Gülen Movement is now one of the main points in the agenda, there are many who like it and many who do not.. Today, we tried to ask regarding many claims about it openly. Thank you for your responses and your hospitality. We will leave the interpretation to our readers.
Thank you. May Allah help you.
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Please cite this publication as follows:
Research Turkey (February, 2014), “Interview with the Journalists and Writers Foundation Chairman Mustafa Yeşil: Questioning the Gülen Movement: Truths, Lies, and Conspiracies”, Vol. III, Issue 2, pp.6-34, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=4779)