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Battle within Islamist sector is the biggest in the history of the Republic 26 février 2012

Posted by Acturca in Turkey / Turquie.
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BBC Monitoring European (UK) February 26, 2012                          Türkçe

Source: Turkish newspaper Vatan, Istanbul, 23 February 12

First part of a two-part interview with Yeni Safak columnist Ali Bayramoglu by Rusen Cakir.

We discussed the MIT [National Intelligence Organization] crisis and the past and the future of the relationship between the AKP [Justice and Development Party] and the Gulen community with Yeni Safak columnist Ali Bayramoglu.

Bayramoglu has offered very original and comprehensive analyses about the MIT crisis in his articles and appearances in the media. We discussed with him the past, the present, and the future of this crisis and, associated with that, the relationship between the AKP and the Gulen community.

Cakir: Do you think that there is a conflict between the AKP and the Gulen community?

Bayramoglu: Yes, I think so. We must begin with the question: Why is there a conflict? To do that, we have to go back a little in time. When the AKP was trying to institute reforms between 2002 and 2007, it had to engage in virtual hand-to-hand combat with the institutions of the old order, namely the military, the judiciary, and the universities. In 2002 and 2003, police officials with close ties to Fethullah Gulen – who was himself forced to go abroad in 1999 – uncovered military coup initiatives that could threaten their own existence. These included the « Flaxen Girl » and « Moonlight » plans. Associated with that, this group stepped outside the sociological and semi-political boundaries of the Community and started to organize more pro-actively – in other words, it started to defend itself more aggressively. This trend within the Community and the confrontation between the AKP and the military led to an already natural cooperation, which was even more reinforced in those circumstances.

I think that the 27 April [ 2007] memorandum brought the two groups together.

The 27 April memorandum did play an important role but there was a prior history to that. As I said, information that some coup plans were formulated within the gendarmerie during SenerEruygur’s tenure was circulated in Internet sites with police ties in 2003 and 2004. In other words, both groups were waging parallel wars against the institutions of the old order, namely the military, the judiciary, and universities. In addition, the only institution to which the political authority could turn for help at that time was the police because it could not trust either the military or MIT. Ultimately, the goals of the structure within the police and the AKP converged. The 27 April memorandum reinforced this convergence substantially. Indeed, the confrontation [with the old order] spilled out into the open with the 27 April memorandum. That was followed by the lawsuit to shut down the AKP. The battle continued with reciprocal salvoes, such as the Ergenekon trial.

Although this alliance grew out of necessity, it was quite successful. Ultimately, military tutelage was largely forced into retreat. Some believe that it has been eradicated.

This success certainly lies at the root of their legitimacy. The proactive nature of the today’s much-criticized prosecutors and courts with special powers enabled the AKP to make headway. This alliance between the two groups played very important and historic roles in the process of civilianizing Turkey and forcing the country to face up to its past. They were also supported by the democrat community. That said, let me note that it would not be correct to define this proactive structure solely in terms of the Community. The police-judiciary structure has many layers. For example, there is a sociological fabric. There is a high-voltage relationship between the power acquired by pious judges and prosecutors with Central Anatolian and lower middle-class origins and the social and political disdain they faced in the past. Nevertheless, the Community served as a driving force in this process by virtue of its organization, power of attraction, its status as a major movement, and the strategies it had developed.

This is why I used the phrase « autonomous structure » instead of « community » in my articles. There is also the following truth: It is not correct to v iew the Gulen community as a police group. This community has millions of members. Many people who are completely removed from these events donate their money and property purely out of motivations of philanthropy. These individuals give higher precedence to this cause than their children. It is not right to disdain such individuals. Indeed, in my view, the Community always served as a vehicle for the modernization of the Islamist movement in Turkey, a type of synthesis between Islam and the West and between Islam and technology, and the establishment of the roots of a new form of Turkish conservatism. This is still true today. The problem today is that this structure has overstepped the bounds of a « community » and is becoming more active politically. After a certain point, the sociological framework or fabric was overshadowed and pushed to the background by the political aspect.

Is this not a very dangerous situation for a group like the Gulen community?

Of course it is. An out-of-control structure is taking shape. The politics formulated by persons in places where they are strong, such as the police, the judiciary, and the civil service, may often create vehicles that go beyond what the Community wants or says. A policeman is not just a member of the Community; he is also a policeman in terms of how he views the world. The Community must realize the following: If tries to grow stronger, expand, and infiltrate the civil service through security agencies and strategies, a structure that controls it will start to form and will define it in terms of its actions. Furthermore, the general political views of the Community will be linked to the logic of security. In other words, it will surrender to police thinking. As a result, the Community will begin to become a source of authoritarianism in the country, as has happened recently. This is something that perturbs many people who like Gulen. In sum, one may argue that the Community is creating essentially out-of-control mechanisms within itself. When we look at the latest crisis, we cannot keep asking: Why this madness? After all, this is suicide. This question may have three possible answers. One possibility is that there is a highly centralized authority that is taking these steps deliberately in a highly organized manner. However, as you wrote yourself, I think that, although Fethullah Gulen is certainly at the core of the organization, the Community is a very big and broad network and that this network gives individuals wide discretion over initiatives. That brings up the second possible answer, namely that every step taken by the structure within the police forces other pieces of the Community to stand behind it. The third possibility is the inclusion in the process of third-party actors such as the Mossad and Ergenekon – something that I do not find at all convincing. The fact that writers, media groups, and figures we know are aligned with the Community have exhibited a single code of conduct that appears to have come out of a single machine makes the first two possibilities more likely.

Community Tried to Enter Assembly

So why did this alliance break up or is at least cracking?

Yes, they waged a joint battle against the military and the old order for some time. Although many mistakes were made in this campaign, although there were legal deficiencies and anti-democratic situations, the persons and the crimes that were prosecuted gave them a status of legitimacy in terms of expectations for today and the future. At that time, some colleagues, including yourself, were expressing concerns. Others, like me, acknowledged that there were deficiencies but that the mechanism was working in the right direction. When you ask « what happened to bring us from there to here, » my personal answer would be: The boundaries of legitimacy were crossed. After a certain point, a force that was waging its campaign within the state stopped doing that on the basis of democratic principles or a common project an d began to use this campaign to enhance its own power and to serve personal interests. This led to a serious legitimacy problem.

What legitimacy problem? Can you elaborate on that?

The bloc waging this campaign, namely the police, the judiciary, and the political authority, began to use the campaign to reinforce its position even as itdefined positions in its internal relationships. This strategy had three directions. The first direction was to bring the army to its knees and, while keeping it in that state, to create a power that grew stronger and that became more permanent in a security sense with operations like the ones conducted against the KCK [Assembly of Communities of Kurdistan].

Second, it started to punish criticisms against it and to use its authority in this direction. Some of the targets of this campaign were journalists and some were civil servants. One example was [former head of the Intelligence Department of the Directorate General of Security] HanefiAvci. I do not wish to speak for anyone but I know and sense from this incident that what happened to Avci and people like him is a consequence of the fact that they noticed this expansion of power and they drew attention to it vociferously. The same fate befell [journalists] AhmetSik and Nedim Sener. That is when the cup filled and, indeed, from our perspective, overflowed. However, the government did not think it overflowed. The government was firmly convinced that if there was any flexibility in the Ergenekon process the reel could rewind. Consequently, it is unlikely that this important alliance would break up because of such factors, which are secondary for them.

Third, as in the most recent MIT crisis, they tried to spread their power to critical areas of the state. The policy with regard to Kurds played a critical role here – more correctly it led to serious internal contention. The power of the existing structure was used to define Kurdish policy in practice via operations against people like [Professor] Busra Ersanli, [publisher] Ragip Zarakolu, and the KCK. That is where the problem began. The group around the prime minister is more inclined towards legitimacy in Kurdish policy and democratization in general. A rift began to open up between this group and the Community-centred group, which was running these KCK operations and which was gaining greater strength and defining its political position more distinctly with each wave of the operations. More generally, through the KCK operations, the ideology dominated by the Community began to manifest itself as one of the sources of greater authoritarianism in Turkey. People like [Deputy Prime Minister] Besir Atalay, [Minister of Justice] Sadullah Ergin, and [MIT Undersecretary] Hakan Fidan – who were already perturbed by the infiltration of the civil service – clearly saw this situation. Although there was not that much difference between the two groups with regard to the handling of the Kurdish problem, a rift began to open up between them because of the way policies were decided and implemented and because of the damage caused to the government by some of the arrests. This took the form of a competition for seizing positions rather than an ideological rift. The aspiration for more positions or a greater share of power is important. For example, as far as I know, the Community tried to enter the Assembly but the AKP did not allow that. So [the Community] started to target the prime minister’s immediate security advisers, who were blocking its own aspirations. When we read the writings of pens with very close ties to the Community, we see that they have been targeting BesirAtalay. This is because Atalay was most disturbed by the excessive use of force when he was interior minister. He made moves towards a purge and was even able to purge a few officials. They have targeted Hakan Fidan because MIT’s new policies and position, its influence over the prime minister, and its cold disposition towards the Community made him questionable. There was also some dissatisfac tion with Public Safety Undersecretary Murat Ozcelik.

As I have noted in the past, there is a very important point here. Security policies and the power and language of security began to become vehicles for perpetuating the existence of the Community. For example, whenever the government declared an intent for greater democratization, an impression was created that such steps would help the Ergenekon members rather that serve the advancement of democracy. In sum, after the elections [of June 2011], a battle got under way about who occupies what position within the security bureaucracy.

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