A Useful Guide to Understanding the Hizmet-AK Party Tension

Mustafa Yeşil, head of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV), whose honorary president is Fethullah Gulen, talks about the reasons for the increasing tension between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and the Hizmet movement, which conducts praiseworthy activities in Turkey and around the globe with inspiration from well-respected Turkish-Islamic scholar Gülen.

Yeşil responded to some criticisms of the Hizmet movement as follows.

The Hizmet movement is part of civil society

What is the overall perspective of the Hizmet movement on politics and political parties?

The Hizmet movement is a civil society organization (CSO) and aims to serve all human beings in the pursuit of God’s good pleasure. It does not treat cultural or religious differences as areas for conflict. Its activities are performed by volunteers.

This movement has never nurtured political aims, stances or programs. The Hizmet movement has always kept its distance from all political parties.

The Hizmet movement has never lent, or urged its base to lend, collective support to any political party. This is so that the adherents of the Hizmet movement can express diverse political tendencies. In other words, the Hizmet movement does not meddle with the political choices its adherents might make in elections.

The AK Party changed after taking control of the state apparatus

How were relations between the Hizmet movement and the AK Party in the past? Why is there a rift now?

When the AK Party came to power in 2002, Turkey was under intense pressure from the military tutelage regime.

The AK Party had promised that it would promote democratic values, greater conciliation, a pluralistic approach, rights and freedoms, serious change and also amend the Constitution created by the coup perpetrators.

Actually, these were Turkey’s basic needs. In the final analysis, the AK Party took significant steps from 2002 to 2010 and achieved significant success in the fight against the tutelage regime by amending 26 articles of the Constitution through the referendum held in 2010, throwing its support behind the Ergenekon and Balyoz trials and introducing comprehensive reforms.

However, after getting rid of the tutelage regime completely in 2010 and gaining total control of the state apparatus, the AK Party started to falter and slow down in the democratization process. We see that problems have emerged in terms of human rights and freedoms. In parallel with this, the Hizmet movement’s support for the government has started to fall.

People are seriously concerned

What developments might we see in politics in upcoming months?

Surveys suggested that the AK Party had largely maintained its electoral voters, but given the fact that the AK Party has recently distanced itself from a pluralistic approach and abandoned its rhetoric of embracing everyone, its appeal to the broad and diverse masses will certainly decline.

In particular, the AK Party’s approach to exam preparatory schools has shocked its voter base, triggering concerns about antidemocratic practices, as the party has offered no reasonable explanation for its plan to shut down these prep schools. If this is not redressed, it may spell a serious problem for the AK Party in the upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, the AK Party seems to be in panic about the recently exposed corruption claims. As you know, it quickly sacked around 135 police chiefs in the wake of the corruption probe and also meddled in the functioning of the judicial process. This raises serious questions and concerns among the public.

It is true that three ministers who were charged in the probe have resigned. But the one-week delay in their resignations has certainly created suspicions in the minds of many people. We will have to wait and see how this will affect the elections.

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