Journalists and Writers Foundation Responds Accusations on Gulen Movement

I think the response below is something very significant in terms of answering the allegations about the Hizmet Movement. 

The Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) has responded to a series of controversial claims and slanderous accusations made about the Hizmet movement which the foundation said are designed to pit the government against the movement and create tension between the two.

Currently there is a lot of talk on social media and among some media circles about an alleged and growing tension between the Hizmet movement, inspired by Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

Releasing a statement on Tuesday, the GYV said that although those who bring up controversial allegations about the Hizmet movement need to show evidence to prove their claims, the foundation felt an obligation to respond to the allegations as a sign of respect for the public's right to be informed.

GYV statement on allegations against Hizmet movement
Aug. 13, 2013

The response of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) to allegations against the Hizmet movement.

There has been a growing campaign of defamation and misinformation directed at the Hizmet movement in recent days, particularly through social media. Despite the maxim that “he who makes an allegation bears the onus of proof,” those who put forth these completely untrue and slanderous allegations look like they will continue to do so simply by claiming that “such things cannot be proven.” Our foundation considers it essential to respond to such slander which may mislead the public. What is more, although such allegations have been addressed through various means before many times, we feel obliged to issue this statement as a show of our respect for the public's right to be properly informed.

Allegation 1: ‘The Hizmet movement was behind the Gezi Park protests'

If Fethullah Gülen's various statements on the issue or the Hizmet movement's overall attitude towards these incidents are taken into account, it becomes clear that this allegation holds no water.
The Hizmet movement is not opposed to the right to peaceful protest by virtue of its respect for democracy and democratic engagement. However, since such protests run the risk of spilling over into violence and/or being exploited for other means, the movement does not encourage its participants to take part in protests.

When the protests first began, they were completely peaceful and out of concern for the environment. At this stage, many people from all walks of life supported the protests, including some close to the ruling Turkish government. At this early stage, some people sympathetic to the Hizmet movement may have looked supportively at the protests out of personal choice and environmental concern. This, however, in no way proves or supports the allegation that the Hizmet movement was behind or in some way involved in a conspiracy supporting the protests.

Accordingly, in his speech in which our Honorary Chairman Fethullah Gülen states that the protesters should not be referred to in derogatory terms such as “çapulcu” (“looter,” “plunderer”), Gülen states that the protests which began out of innocent and genuine demands were later exploited and manipulated by certain marginal groups with ulterior motives and that some international media outlets broadcast the news in a way and manner that could be interpreted as hostile or negative.

Many people from diverse backgrounds who agreed with the environmental concern of the protesters were critical of the excessive force used against the protesters in the early stages. President Abdullah Gül's “the ballot box is not everything,” Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç's apology, Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik's “the message has been received,” Education Minister Nabi Avcı's “we united the entire opposition,” EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış's op-ed published in The New York Times, where he describes the Gezi Park protests as a reflection of “plurality and democracy,” and finally AK Party deputy and member of Parliament Professor İdris Bal's report on the Gezi park protests in which he states that “the government made a strategic mistake” in its response to the incidents are not significantly different from the Hizmet movement's views on this matter.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, right after the Kazlıçeşme rally held in response to the then ongoing Gezi Park protests, attended the closing ceremony of the Turkish Olympiads, where he commended the Hizmet movement. The prime minister, who has access to all forms of intelligence there is in Turkey, would not have made such a speech if he suspected that the Hizmet movement was behind the “Gezi conspiracy.”

Allegation 2: ‘Gezi protesters were released by judges and prosecutors close to the Hizmet movement'

All prosecutors and judges are public officers subject to the authority and oversight of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). If there are any irregularities or mistakes in relation to the performance of their duties, the responsibility for this lies solely with the Ministry of Justice and the HSYK.

Furthermore, due to repeated news stories and articles appearing most frequently in recent times in the media, it is public knowledge that those members of the judiciary who are allegedly close or sympathetic to the Hizmet movement have now been dismissed from their posts.

In addition, those who have been complaining for some time of the lengthy detention periods during trials are now contradicting themselves by criticizing the courts for not detaining the Gezi park protesters.

Not too long ago the guardians of Old Turkey sought to undermine the legitimacy of the Ergenekon trials by claiming that there was a “pro-Gülen judiciary” behind the scenes. It is ironic to now hear the same allegations being aired by other circles and for it not to be met by any reaction or rejection.

Allegation 3: ‘Police officers affiliated with the Hizmet movement caused the protests to grow by burning protesters' tents and using excessive force'

Law enforcement personnel are public officers who are attached to the Interior Ministry. It is illogical to hold a civil society movement responsible for the actions of law enforcement officers who are under the authority of and answerable to the government in power.

Furthermore, it later became known that all decisions on how to respond to the protests were taken by the government from the very beginning and that the tents were set on fire by local municipal officers.
Prime Minister Erdoğan publicly stated that he personally instructed the law enforcement officers in relation to their response to the incidents. He also stated that he supported the reaction of the officers and finally rewarded them on the performance of their duties.

Allegation 4: ‘The Hizmet movement does not oppose the coup in Egypt'
It is impossible for a movement victimized by every coup in Turkey not to oppose coups. It is clear that such claims aim to discredit the movement's public standing and reputation. A movement that is criticized for keeping coup threats in the public debate for far too long cannot be in favor of coups, whatever the context.

Herewith, let us reiterate that the intervention in Egypt against the legitimately elected president, Mohammed Morsi, was and is a coup and cannot, under any circumstances whatsoever, be approved of.

Gülen made a speech following the events in Egypt in which he plainly said “democracy has been dealt another blow.” [The word Gülen used in Turkish for “blow” was “darbe,” which also means “coup.”] ( Gülen clearly stated that the removal of Egyptian President Morsi from power in his first year in office on the pretext that “he had made mistakes” like the Turkish coups d'état of May 27, 1960, March 12, 1971 and Sept. 12, 1980 will go down in history as a black stain.

None of the media outlets close to the Hizmet movement worldview maintained an editorial stance that was sympathetic to the Egyptian coup; in fact, all of the reports coming out of these media organs were opposed and critical of the coup. These media outlets were also very critical of the unprincipled position of some Western political circles in relation to the coup in Egypt.

Allegation 5: ‘The road to an alternative government passes through Pennsylvania. Those seeking an alternative administration to the government visit Gülen'

It is both wrong and misleading to present visits to a civilian opinion leader, respected by various segments of society, as a search for alternative government and power. It would be contradictory to his aims and values for Gülen, who has always kept his door open and been in dialogue with people from all backgrounds his entire life, to now decline those wishing to visit him, so long as his health permits it. Just as many respected people from different backgrounds visit Gülen, so have members of the ruling party visited Gülen on many occasions.

What is more, it is extremely wrong to simply evaluate Gülen's relations with people from a political perspective and attempt to restrict their dynamic and depth accordingly.

Until recently, there were people who were disturbed by Gülen's presence in his own country. Apparently, there are now those who are disturbed by Gülen's visitors abroad as well. It should be noted that this disrespectful attitude that contradicts the democratic rights of a free person is perceived as a further effort of seeking to isolate Gülen from others [by creating the false impression that those visiting him are doing so for political reasons and/or seeking to make a political statement].

Allegation 6: ‘By infiltrating and controlling the bureaucracy, the Hizmet movement wants to establish tutelage and share the government's power'

It is an obsolete attempt to accuse the Hizmet movement, a democratic civil society movement, of seeking to share the government's power and become its partner by establishing guardianship over it.
In democracies, governments come to power through elections and leave power through elections. Nonetheless, citizens and civil society actors have the right to criticize and make suggestions on any subject between the two elections and this cannot be seen as interference in state governance or administration.

Ongoing supervision of legitimately elected governments is a basic tenet of participatory democracy within the framework of the norms of the European Union, which Turkey aspires to join. Society fulfills this right and responsibility through civil society organizations, opposition parties and a free and critical media.

Presenting civil society groups that offer suggestions or criticism as if they are seeking to replace the government or share political power or telling them that they should “not meddle in politics,” that they should “establish a political party” or that they should “wait for the next election” is against the spirit, norms and values of democratic systems and is completely unacceptable.

On the other hand, it is only natural that there are many people from different social backgrounds that internalize the principles and ideals of the Hizmet movement. Likewise, it is also natural that there are those who sympathize with Hizmet and who have exercised their basic rights as citizens in a democratic country to arrive at certain positions within the civil service and through merit and achievement.

Whatever their personal views or lifestyle choices, it is not possible to present those who have taken public office in their own country in accordance with the law as “taking over the state,” “infiltrating the state,” “establishing tutelage” or “creating a parallel government.” This cannot be argued in good faith, and what is more, such accusations are reminiscent of the Old Turkey's way of thinking and discrediting others.

Of course, bureaucrats are required to assist and follow the instructions of their elected superiors alone (so long as these instructions are within the law). For this reason, if there are bureaucrats who allegedly violate the laws or fail to comply with the instruction of their superiors, these should be investigated and, where necessary, prosecuted.

However, if there is an attempt at ridding the various levels of bureaucracy and civil service of a certain “type” of people or “segments” of society on the unfounded claims that they are “establishing tutelage” or “seeking to gain political power,” as has been done in the past, then this is against the most fundamental principles of law and democracy. Of course, the governmental and administrative decisions of the government elected by popular vote should be respected; however, as per the widespread rumors of late, the labeling of people (which contravenes the Turkish Constitution) on the grounds of being sympathetic towards the Hizmet movement and then being dismissed from their post is utterly undemocratic.

Allegation 7: ‘The Hizmet movement opposes the peace process concerning the Kurdish issue'

The Hizmet movement has supported the peace process from the very beginning. Fethullah Gülen, our honorary chairman, stated very early that “peace is good, and good is in peace.”(

Gülen's statements both long before and after the peace process started are very clear, unequivocal and far beyond the government's current position on the issue. Gülen has clearly stated his position in his various talks, and most recently in an interview with the Rudaw paper published in Arbil. ( For example, in the said interview, Gülen clearly states that the right to education in one's mother tongue is a basic human right and cannot be the subject matter of a negotiation.

On the other hand, sincere views, suggestions or warnings on the peace process and its course cannot be seen or shown as opposition to the process itself. On the contrary, these should be seen as positive contributions intended to help the peace process become successful.

Our foundation has held many meetings in relation to the Kurdish issue in many cities, including Diyarbakır and Arbil. Schools opened by Hizmet participants have been active in Iraqi Kurdistan for the last two decades, offering education in Kurdish. The first legal private TV station broadcasting in Kurdish was also launched by entrepreneurs inspired by the Hizmet movement.

While this is the clear position of the Hizmet movement in relation to the Kurdish issue, seeking to mislead the public through misinformation by suggesting that, for example, the Hizmet movement is behind the KCK investigations, which are clearly supported the AK Party government, is a gross injustice.

Allegation 8: ‘The Hizmet movement was going to have the prime minister arrested during the Feb. 7 incident'

This is a blatant lie and slander that no reasonable person could ever accept.

Despite this, this absurd scenario, which has no legal basis, is completely illogical and inconsistent and has no chance of being executed based on our laws, is being repeated insistently as mud-slinging by some circles for the purposes of slandering the Hizmet movement.

Those who make this claim are unable to offer any plausible, rational and convincing explanation as to what the Hizmet movement could possibly seek to gain by having the prime minister arrested and why, having worked so hard for constitutional reform in the referendum just nine months ago, the movement would suddenly decide to conspire in such a way.

The Hizmet movement and media outlets deemed “close” to it supported all of Turkey's democratization efforts as well as Turkey's efforts to expose its deep state structures and relations. That is why the movement and various media outlets supported the Ergenekon trial. That is also why some media outlets “close” to the movement reacted positively to the KCK-related MİT investigation -- they considered these processes as inter-connected with Turkey's larger efforts at democratization. This, however, does not prove that there was a conspiracy against the prime minister.

It is a well-known fact that even the chief public prosecutor at the Supreme Court of Appeals, let alone a public prosecutor, has no authority to file a case against the prime minister or other ministers. Taking this into consideration, the claim that “the prime minister would be arrested” has no validity other than being slanderous nonsense.

Hizmet participants cannot understand why AK Party members of Parliament and administrators who are lawyers by training allow this slander to go unchallenged. As a result, those inspired by Hizmet feel offended that these rumors and baseless allegations are not rejected by AK Party officials who must know due to their legal training that these claims cannot be true.

Allegation 9: ‘The Hizmet movement will establish an electoral alliance with certain political parties and people'

The fact is that the Hizmet movement has never to date entered into an alliance with a political party or person and will not do so in the future.

Entering into an alliance with a party runs contrary to the movement's practice of remaining above and beyond party politics and against the fact that it has sympathizers from all political parties and views.
While the Hizmet movement does not enter into alliances with political parties, it supports policies and practices in line with democracy, pluralism, human rights, freedom of religion and belief and rule of law, whichever party proposes them, by virtue of not being partisan or in alliance with any of them. This is not just a democratic right but also a responsibility towards Turkey and the next generation. But if the reverse occurs, again by virtue of not being partisan, the movement will not refrain from criticizing political practices and making suggestions. This is an approach that looks out for the national interest of the country, is determined by a set of principles and is beyond party politics.

Allegation 10: Another cheap allegation that we do not believe the government is taking seriously for a moment is that “the bug that was found in the prime minister's office was planted there by people close to the Hizmet movement”

It is unacceptable that some are trying to pull the movement into a fight between various elements of the state and tarnish it by claiming that the movement “bugged the prime minister” and was eavesdropping into his private conversations.

It is thought-provoking that the issue has not been referred to the judiciary and that no action has been taken against what is clearly a criminal act. We condemn statements and articles that attempt to create misconceptions and doubts about the Hizmet movement. The fact that such lies and accusations are allowed to circulate instead of seeking those that are responsible and shedding light on the allegations brings to mind the possibility of other ulterior motives at play.

It is the responsibility of the government and of the judiciary to investigate this matter thoroughly, find those responsible and resolve the issue.

Allegation 11 ‘Why does Fethullah Gülen not return to Turkey? He is influenced by the US because he remains there'

This is slander of and an insult to Gülen. Those who make this claim now also used to make the same claim about Gülen many years ago when he was still in Turkey.

Those who make this claim also argue that the United States of America dominates all parts of the world. According to this worldview, even if Gülen returned to Turkey, how could he escape the influence of the all-powerful US? Such people also make similar allegations against others who have never stepped foot in the US in their lives. In fact, there were even those who claimed that the AK Party was a US-led project, especially in the early years of the party.

Gülen has on numerous occasions explained why he does not return to Turkey. He has stated that he fears that some circles might use his return and presence in Turkey as a pretext to stir trouble and reverse Turkey's democratic gains where possible. As a result, he has said that although he strongly desires to return to Turkey, he will not until these concerns are allayed.

What is more, based on Turkey's fast-changing agenda and the media attention he will inevitably draw, Gülen has said that “those who have persecuted me in the past, those who embezzled from the state by creating a media diversion using my name, those who made all kinds of allegations against me, those who sought to extra-judicially execute me will once again do the same things if I return. After a certain age, I think it will be difficult to return to a place where I will constantly be hearing the same things over and over again.” Even if Gülen lived in a country other than the US, he would still face similar accusations and allegations as he does today.

Those who voice and write some of the allegations given above also demonstrate their dark intentions by saying that “with one prosecutor and three police officers we can declare this movement a terrorist organization and finish them off for good.” What is more, some present the government's decision to close private schools offering university prep courses as a way of putting the movement in its place. Furthermore, some claim that those bureaucrats and civil servants who are seen to be sympathetic to the Hizmet movement are dismissed from their posts. It is truly regrettable that all of these are reminiscent of the deep state reflexes and the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup process.

The Hizmet movement has always continued its activities within the framework of the law. To claim that some of the movement's institutions, which were established through the sincere sacrifice of ordinary people and have been of great service to date, will be shut down by the government in order to teach the movement a lesson and put it in its place is a claim that no conscientious person of sound mind can accept.

In conclusion, the Hizmet movement seeks to serve the whole of humankind. It comprises self-sacrificing volunteers who have been embraced with open arms by the leaders, stakeholders and ordinary people of the 150 different countries in which the movement operates. This movement has not and can not without changing its nature beyond recognition engage in any form of activity that is contrary to democracy, human rights and the law of the land in which it is based. The Hizmet movement is made up of people, and where there are people it is only normal and natural for there to be human error and mistakes. As a result, the movement is not only open to criticism; it sincerely welcomes and encourages those who go to the trouble of offering it. That said, it is not possible for the movement to remain silent in the face of smear campaigns that seek to misrepresent it and what it does.

The purpose of this press release is not to prevent constructive criticism; rather, it is to contribute to the formation of a healthier platform upon which such matters can be discussed.