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Fethullah Gülen interview with POLITICO

 

Fethullah Gülen: ‘I don’t have any regrets’

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Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric that the Turkish government blames for the recent attempted coup, has long been reclusive, rarely granting interviews. But in the wake of the accusations against him, he’s sought to clear his name.

Gülen recently agreed to answer a handful of written questions from POLITICO. The exchange is here in full:

You insist your movement is peaceful, not political. But multiple sources tell me that Hizmet has a dark side — where individuals are carefully groomed to enter government and related professions with the intent of an ultimate takeover. Is this true? If not, is it possible that these sorts of activities are happening without your knowledge?

I have served as a preacher for nearly 30 years before coming to the U.S. and my friends continued to publish my talks after I settled here. There are over 70 books based on my articles and talks. It is natural that in Turkish government there are people who share some of my views just as there are those who don’t share them.

My teaching has always been to act within [the] law and in an ethical way. If anybody who follows my works acts illegally or unethically, or if they disobey the lawful orders of their superiors, that is a betrayal of my teachings and I fully support their being investigated and facing the consequences.

If there is no discrimination, government institutions reflect the colors and patterns of its society. We know that in Turkish government institutions there are people of various political and religious orientations, such as nationalists, neonationalists, Maoists, Kemalists, Alevis, leftists, sympathizers of Sufi orders and others. For decades, none of these groups could be transparent about their identities except the Kemalists because of political profiling and discrimination. And now, loyalty to Erdoğan is replacing loyalty to Ataturk as the criteria for acceptable identity.

It is the constitutional right of every Turkish citizen to serve in their government institutions if they are qualified to do so. To accuse anybody of having a nefarious goal without evidence is slander. If people are afraid to reveal their identity for fear of reprisals, it is the regime’s problem, not theirs.

As far as my discourse is concerned, I have never advocated for regime change in Turkey. To the contrary, 22 years ago, in 1994, I told publicly that there will be no return from democracy in Turkey or elsewhere in the world. This was both a prediction and a commitment to democracy. Publications who are allied with President Erdoğan now, criticized me severely then, nearly calling me an infidel. When the military was dominating the domestic politics during the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was charged in Turkish courts … but not a single piece of evidence could be brought to show that I supported any other regime but democracy.

What do you think the future holds for your movement in the wake of the attempted coup in Turkey and Turkish leaders’ demonization of your organization?

President Erdoğan appears determined to wipe all the institutions set up by Hizmetparticipants and prevent any future attempts to establish any new institutions. This is contrary to [the] Turkish constitution and all the international agreements Turkey is a party to. But unless world leaders take a stance with effective measures against this witch hunt, there is no internal dynamic in Turkey to stop the president.

Our friends have so far defended their rights through peaceful protests and in Turkish courts. Now even law offices are being raided and lawyers are being detained. People’s right to defend themselves in the court of law is taken away from them. [The] Erdoğan government is doing everything to push these people to violence. But so far they resisted and remained peaceful and I am confident that they will remain so. Some Hizmet participants have left the country to seek opportunities for investment or for professional work abroad.

This is a sad loss for Turkey but it is the only choice for some people. Private properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been confiscated. I hope and pray that this madness will not last for long.

If the U.S. government decides to extradite you to Turkey, will you agree to the decision?

The U.S. government has a long history of upholding the rule of law and respecting freedoms. Because of this, they have a respectable reputation around the world. I don’t consider it likely that they will abandon this tradition and undermine their reputation simply because President Erdoğan is so adamant about this issue. In the unlikely event that the extradition matter is decided on political grounds, I have already stated that they don’t need to force me out of the country, I will buy my own ticket and go on my own will without blinking an eye.

I am not worried about myself but I am worried about President Erdoğan’s insistence jeopardizing Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. and NATO. Both the U.S. and NATO played crucial roles in transforming Turkey from a single party regime to an imperfect democracy. If Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. and NATO are harmed, I don’t think it will benefit Turkish democracy in any way.

Is it true that you and President Erdoğan were once friends and allies? If so, what caused the tensions between you that have led to this situation today?

Many observers called our relationship an alliance but in truth, we were never very close. I met him two or three times, all before he ran for elections. When his party ran for elections I was already here, so I could not vote anyway, but Hizmetsympathizers supported his party through their votes and their voices in the media.

The reason for this support is not complicated. In going into elections in 2002 they [Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party] promised moving Turkey forward in its bid for EU membership by implementing democratic reforms; enhancing human rights and freedoms; better integrating Turkey with the world; ending public corruption, and government’s political profiling of people and their discriminatory measures. I and my friends supported them for these promises.

Leading into elections in 2011, they promised a democratic constitution that would be drafted by civilians without fear of military generals. But after winning that election they began to reverse every democratic reform they implemented before. The democratic constitution was first conditioned upon the inclusion of executive presidency and then completely forgotten.

In the past, I did support the idea of a presidential system if it is to be modeled after the U.S. or France or other countries where there are checks and balances against the president. But Mr Erdoğan’s proposal was akin to a sultan regime. I could not support such a system with a clear conscience.

Mr Erdoğan put pressure on me and Hizmet sympathizers to publicly support his idea of a presidential system. He increased the pressure by supporting government-funded alternatives to Hizmet institutions and then began threatening to close them down. If we complied with his demand and became loyalists, we would be enjoying the Turkish government’s favors now. But we declined and we have been facing their wrath for the last three years.

This might be called the price of independence. It is a heavy price indeed but I don’t have any regrets and I don’t believe any of my friends have any regrets. My only sorrow is that the country continues to suffer because nobody can stand against his uninhibited ambitions.

If you had the opportunity to speak to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama now, what would you say to them?

I don’t think President Erdoğan would consider it worthwhile to speak with me. In the past, I made efforts to reach out to them via letters on the government’s profiling and discrimination, or on the issue of how to address the plight of Kurdish citizens. But none of those attempts were taken seriously. Now, I just pray that God gives him prudence so that he doesn’t jeopardize the future of this great nation.

I witnessed President Obama’s efforts to maintain the relationship with Turkey despite the challenges of dealing with an authoritarian leader. The U.S -Turkish relationship is very important for both countries but more vital for Turkey. I would be sad to see this relationship deteriorate. At the same time, President Erdoğan’s domestic actions are undermining core democratic values of U.S. and NATO.

I am worried that while trying to maintain the relationship, the ground on which this relationship is built upon is shifting. According to the media reports that I see, violent radical groups like ISIS are getting tacit support within Turkey, the handling of security concerns regarding the PKK [the Kurdistan Workers’ Party] is causing civilian casualties and suffering among Kurdish citizens and President Erdoğan’s ambitions to become a national hero is threatening to further destabilize the region. There is growing anti-Americanism and the media under President Erdoğan’s control is playing a leading role in this.

How to keep the relationship alive while preventing Turkey from turning into another Middle Eastern authoritarian regime is a very sensitive task and I hope that the president’s capable team of experts will lead him in the right direction in managing this challenge.

Source: http://www.politico.eu/article/fethullah-gulen-full-interview-politico-turkey-coup-erdogan/

How the Turkish domestic politics divided Turks in Europe

Director of Intercultural Dialogue Platform, Ramazan Guveli, has penned an opinion piece for De Morgen newspaper highlighting the polarisation of Turkish communities in Europe. Here is the link for the article (in Dutch), or alternatively you can also read it in English as below:

Hoe de Turkse binnenlandse politiek de Belgisch-Turkse gemeenschap verdeelt

Consequences of failed Turkish coup are still deeply felt by the Turkish community in Belgium

as ZAMAN Belgium has decided to cease its publication due to increasing threats to its readers and journalists. The newspaper Zaman, used to be the largest newspaper in Turkey, is affiliated with Hizmet movement (or the Gülen movement), which is labeled by the regime of the Turkish President Erdogan as terrorists and as instigators of the failed coup.

Education centers and buildings affiliated to Hizmet (means Turkish “serving to others”) have been attacked in Belgium by the governing A.K. Party supporters after the coup attempt. As the new school year just started some Turkish parents have withdrew their children from the Hizmet affiliated schools in response to boycott calls against the movement.

People who has been inspired by Fethullah Gulen have established schools and educational centers to provide better opportunities for the children, dialogue and cultural centers to contribute social cohesion and peaceful co-existence, and other civic society organization such as youth and women associations to empower individuals and better integrate them to the Belgian society. Mr. Gulen always encourages his followers not only to integrate but also take responsibility and contribute to the societies wherever they live in.

Although Hizmet activities seen as “value added” work of Turkish civil society not only in Belgium but also across the globe how come that some part of Turkish community in Belgium turned their back or even be part of harassment and attacks? At this point we need to look at it in a wider angle and understand the role Turkish politics and “Erdogan effect”.

Right from the first minute of Turkish coup attempt in July, the President Erdogan accused the convenient “scapegoat” Gulen Movement being responsible for the coup attempt. Although Fethullah Gulen and all of the Hizmet affiliated institutions in the world condemned the military intervention and stood by the elected government, president Erdogan was not interested to wait for the result of judicial procedure to find out who was really behind the coup.

Since then, the media in Turkey became totally one sided as 113 media outlets have been closed down and more than a hundred journalist arrested and any critical voices are being added to the numbers.

The main reason of the polarisation exported from Turkey is that Turks still live in “little Turkey” in their Belgian towns and very connected with their home country. According to statistics over 70% of Turkish migrants have satellite dishes which means they watch Turkish TV rather than local ones. Turkish mosques became kind of propaganda houses for Turkey’s Islamist party, and the narrations of Erdogan and his hatred campaign against the Hizmet Movement during last three years was well received by the ordinary Turkish public.

As the coup was invoiced to the movement it became like a jihad for the AKP supporters against the “traitors”, confiscating their properties painted as “war trophy”, espionage of Gulen sympathisers presented as “citizenship duty” by Turkish leaders thus blackmailing, harassments and boycott became widespread within the Turkish community of Belgium.

It is appreciated that Belgian authorities showed the solidarity to the victims which is what exactly needed during the atmosphere of fear but how come the Turkish diplomats and pro-AKP groups can so recklessly campaign hatred and discrimination in a democratic European country.

Some other hizmet affiliated organisations may follow footsteps of Zaman Belgium if they don’t feel safe and secure but we would not have all these unrest, if Turkey did not export its political persecutions to Belgium and Europe.

Strong Voice Against Violent Extremism in Brussels

Over 250 Islamic scholars, academics and opinion leaders from all over the world convened in Brussels on 15 and 16 March to discuss the causes and counter-measures of radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism committed in the name of religion. Organised by Dialogue Platform and KU Leuven Fethullah Gülen Chair for Intercultural Studies, the symposium sent a strong and resounding message made all the more meaningful in the absence of a unified voice from the Muslim world.

CVE allFor more information about the symposium and the participating influencers, please visit counteringviolentextremism.eu

The symposium explored the complex links and interactions relating to religious texts, social circumstances and cultural contexts which lead to extremism and violence and provide opportunities to deepen understanding of the patterns of religious violence, its so-called justification as well as  the nature and scope of the moral responses to them. Furthermore, it aimed to stimulate and pool ideas on policy recommendations and community projects that would directly or indirectly undermine violent extremist ideology and recruitment especially within the context of Europe.

The specific questions posed by the symposium organisers to the speakers were:

* Is Islam inherently prone to violence?

* Do Muslims have a particular responsibility to counter violent extremism?

* What tangible steps should Islamic scholars take in countering violent extremism?

* How should we understand jihad today?

* How can we counter hate propaganda spread through social media?

* Does interfaith dialogue have a supporting role in countering violent extremist ideology?

* What should an Islamic studies curriculum look like?

* How can Muslim societies reignite their zeal for freedom of thought?

In first day, there were parallel sessions to discuss and debate these issues over eight workshops in the first day and three panel discussions in the second day. On the second day of the symposium, a final declaratory reflections was read out.

There were 57 speakers including opening speeches. 387 people were registered and attended to the symposium. Some of the key influencers that attended were Asma Afsaruddin, Indiana University, USA; Prof Said Chabbar, Sultan Moulay Slimane University, Morocco; President of the Council of Muslim Scholars, Indonesia; Bishop of Oslo-Norway, and experts on national security from a number of countries. Belgian Minister of Justice, Prof. Koen Geens sent his message to the symposium.

The symposium was broadcasted live on a number of worldwide TV stations.

Find below media coverage of the symposium:

‘De islam is niet de oorzaak van extremisme, wel de oplossing’

250 islamic scholars condem isis and present solutions to countering violent extremism in Brussels

Scholars from around the world gather in Brussels to debate roots of terrorism

Moslim experts veroordelen terrorisme welke frustraties drijven jongeren naar syrie

Onderzoek IS-tijdschrift: IS verspreidt knip-en-plak-islam en verantwoordt gruweldaden zoals nazi’s

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Fethullah Gulen Condemns Brussels Terrorist Attacks and Extends Condolences to Victims

Fethullah Gulen, the Honorary President of Intercultural Dialogue Platform, has issued a statement to condemn the Brussels terrorist attacks and extended condolences to the victims.

The statement has also been published in Belgian newspapers, De Morgen and La Libre Belgique.  

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To read Mr. Gulen’s message in Dutch click here.

“I strongly condemn the brutal terrorist attacks at the Brussels International Airport and Metro station on March 22 that resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people and the injuries of hundreds.

Regardless of the perpetrators and their stated purposes, every terrorist attack is a murder and an attack on the sanctity of life itself, and deserves condemnation in the strongest terms. Neither a religion nor any human being with a conscience can condone such cruelty.

Those who carry out such attacks and who support the perpetrators are oblivious to the ethos of the religion that they proclaim, and inflict the biggest damage to the religion’s reputation in the world. Those who consciously perpetrate such acts have lost touch with their very humanity, and do not represent any religious identity.

In addition to the intelligence and security measures taken to prevent individual terrorist attacks, there is a pressing need for cooperation between states and civil society groups to eliminate swamp-like environments and conditions that facilitate recruitment by terrorist groups.

I am confident that leaders in countries with strong democratic and legal foundations, like Belgium, will act with prudence to develop lasting solutions that incorporate their Muslim citizens and avoid feeding into the hateful rhetoric of terrorist groups.

These heinous terrorist attacks have been inflicted not only on the Belgian people but also on the solidarity of humanity and universal human values. I send my deepest condolences to the relatives and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and the people of Belgium. I pray for the fast recovery of the wounded.

On this occasion I also send my condolences and prayers to the citizens of all countries, including my home land of Turkey, who lost their loved ones in recent terrorist attacks.

I pray to God, the Most Graceful, the Compassionate, to save humanity from the scourge of terrorism and spread an atmosphere around the world where people empathically embrace each other.”

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To read Mr Gulen’s message in French click here

About Fethullah Gulen
Fethullah Gulen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate, whose decades‐long commitment to interfaith tolerance and altruism has inspired millions in Turkey and around the world. Gulen is the honorary chairman of the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, Brussels, Belgium; Foundation of Journalists and Writers, Istanbul, Turkey; and Rumi Forum, Washington DC.

Europe and the Muslim World: Perceptions and Realities

Roundtable Lunch Discussion

with Prof. Mark Sedgwick, Aarhus University, Denmark

on Thursday, 25 February 2016, Dialogue Platform

At this event Prof Sedgwick has responded to the questions like to what extent perceptions are grounded in reality? What are the challenges of war, jihad and global terrorism?

Most of the individual Muslims who are best known in today’s Europe are not Western European Muslims but Middle Eastern Muslims such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The public visibility of Muslims in Western Europe is in part a function of the public visibility of the Muslim world, and especially of the Middle East. And what is most visible is conflict.

This roundtable discussion asked why and looked into the political and cultural relations between Western Europe and the Muslim world.

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Inauguration Ceremony of Gülen Chair

We have celebrated the formal signing of the agreement between the University of Leuven and the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, prolongating the chair of “Fethullah Gülen Chair for Intercultural Studies”.

The inauguration has taken place on Tuesday January 19, 2016 in the “rectorale salons” of the university hall in Leuven.

Professor Rik Torfs, rector of the KU Leuven, Professor Emmanuel Gerard, chairholder, and Mr Ramazan Guveli, director of Intercultural Dialogue Platform have signed the formal agreement at the ceremony which was followed by a reception.

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Reports Launch on “Rooting out Violent Extremism”

Reports Launch on “Rooting out Violent Extremism”

 Prof. Paul Weller, University of Derby

Ozcan Keles, Dialogue Society

Prof. Gino Schallenbergh, KU Leuven

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Dialogue Platform, Rue Montoyer 31, Brussels

Dialogue Platform has organise a roundtable discussion in light of two recent publications. The meeting has presented an interactive discussion on the publications and the issues that they raise in relation to understanding, communicating and strategising on how to counter violent extremism that claims an Islamic motivation.

Violent Extremism: Naming, Framing and Challenging (Dialogue Society, 2015) by Emma Jane Harris, Paul Weller and Victoria Bisset. In understanding the causes of violent extremism, with a view ultimately to tackling them, it is important to first consider the ways that stakeholders communicate about and around the subject. Drawing on a number of relevant fields such as cognitive linguistics, this report broaches the difficulties in naming ‘violent extremism’, offering examples of problematic language. The report commends some alternative narratives and approaches that can contribute to bringing about positive change in relation to this phenomenon. This report can be downloaded in full here.

A Hizmet Approach to Rooting out Violent Extremism (Centre for Hizmet Studies, 2015) by Ozcan Keles and Ismail Mesut Sezgin. This report offers a summary of Hizmet’s theological refutation of violent extremism. It shows how Hizmet’s core teachings act as a positive counter narrative to such extremism, and describes the channels through which Hizmet popularises that counter-narrative among the wider Muslim public. Drawing attention to the challenges associated with linear, traditional, reactive policy-making directly aimed at defeating violent extremist ideology head-on, the conclusion draws these three parts together explaining the nature and features of Hizmet’s deradicalisation by default approach which attempts to proactively address some of the underlying causes as they relate to ideology, mindset and inculcation. This report can be downloaded in full here

Speakers

Paul Weller is Professor of Inter-Religious Relations and Senior Research Fellow and Head of Research and Commercial Development at the University of Derby.

Ozcan Keles is a non-practising Barrister, a full-time doctoral candidate at the University of Sussex and the Chairperson of the Dialogue Society.

Discussant
Gino Schallenbergh is Professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at KU Leuven and Gent University.

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Gulen’s Op-Ed in Le Monde: “Muslims, we have to critically review our understanding of Islam”

Words fall short to truly express my deep sadness and revolt in the face of the carnage perpetrated by terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

I share profound frustration with a billion-and-a-half Muslims around the world at the fact that such groups commit terrorism while dressing up their perverted ideologies as religion. We Muslims have a special responsibility to not only join hands with fellow human beings to save our world from the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, but also to help repair the tarnished image of our faith.

It is easy to proclaim a certain identity in the abstract with words and symbols. The sincerity of such claims, however, can only be measured by comparing our actions with the core values of our self-proclaimed identities. The true test of belief is not slogans or dressing up in a certain way; the true test of our beliefs is in living up to core principles shared by all major world faiths such as upholding the sanctity of life and respecting the dignity of all humans.

We must categorically condemn the ideology propagated by terrorists and instead promote a pluralistic mindset with clarity and confidence. After all, before our ethnic, national or religious identity comes our common humanity, which suffers a setback each time a barbaric act is committed. French citizens who lost their lives in Paris, Shiite Muslim Lebanese citizens who lost their lives in Beirut a day earlier and scores of Sunni Muslims in Iraq who lost their lives at the hands of the same terrorists are first and foremost human beings. Our civilization will not progress until we treat the suffering of humans regardless of their religious or ethnic identity as equally tragic in our empathy and respond with the same determination.

Muslims must also reject and avoid conspiracy theories, which have so far only helped us avoid facing our social problems. Instead, we must tackle the real questions: Do our communities provide recruitment grounds for groups with totalitarian mindsets due to unrecognized authoritarianism within ourselves, domestic physical abuse, neglect of youth and lack of balanced education? Did our failure to establish basic human rights and freedoms, supremacy of the rule of law and pluralist mindsets in our communities lead those who are struggling to seek alternative paths?

The recent tragedy in Paris is yet another reminder for both theologians and ordinary Muslims to strongly reject and condemn barbaric acts perpetrated in the name of our religion. However, at this juncture, rejection and condemnation are not enough; terrorist recruitment within Muslim communities must be fought and countered by an effective collaboration of state authorities, religious leaders and civil society actors. We must organize community-wide efforts to address all factors that aid terrorist recruitment.

Ways of expressing support and dissent within democratic means

We need to work with our community to set up the necessary framework for identifying at-risk youth, preventing them from seeking self-destructive paths, assisting families with counseling and other support services. We must promote a proactive, positive government engagement so that engaged Muslim citizens can sit at the table where counterterrorism measures are planned and share their ideas. Our youth should be taught ways of expressing support and dissent within democratic means. Incorporating democratic values into school curricula early on is crucial for inculcating a culture of democracy in young minds.

In the aftermath of such tragedies, historically strong reactions have surfaced. Anti-Muslim and anti-religious sentiment as well as security-driven treatment of Muslim citizens by governments would be counter-productive. The Muslim citizens ofEurope want to live in peace and tranquility. Despite the negative climate, they should strive to engage more with their local and national governments to help work toward more inclusive policies that better integrate their community into the larger society.

It is also important for us Muslims to critically review our understanding and practice of Islam in light of the conditions and requirements of our age and the clarifications provided by our collective historic experiences. This does not mean a rupture from the cumulative Islamic tradition but rather, an intelligent questioning so we can confirm the true teachings of the Quran and the Prophetic tradition that our Muslim predecessors attempted to reveal.

We must proactively marginalize decontextualized reading of our religious sources that have been employed in the service of perverted ideologies. Muslim thinkers and intellectuals should encourage a holistic approach and reconsider jurisprudential verdicts of the Middle Ages that were issued under perpetual conflict where religious affiliation often coincided with political affiliation. Having core beliefs should be distinguished from dogmatism. It is possible, indeed absolutely necessary, to revive the spirit of freedom of thought that gave birth to a renaissance of Islam while staying true to the ethos of the religion. Only in such an atmosphere can Muslims effectively combat incivility and violent extremism.

In the aftermath of the recent events I am witnessing, with chagrin, the revival of the thesis of the clash of civilizations. I do not know whether those who first put out such a hypothesis did so out of vision or desire. What is certain is that today, the revival of this rhetoric simply serves the recruitment efforts of the terrorist networks. I want to state clearly that what we are witnessing is not a clash of civilizations but rather the clash of humanity with barbarity in our common civilization.

Our responsibility as Muslim citizens is to be part of the solution despite our grievances. If we want to defend the life and civil liberties of Muslims around the world and the peace and tranquility of every human regardless of their faith, we must act now to tackle the violent extremism problem in all its dimensions: political, economic, social and religious. By setting virtuous examples through our lives, by discrediting and marginalizing the extremist interpretations of religious sources, by staying vigilant toward their impact on our youth, and by incorporating democratic values early in education, we can counter violence and terrorism as well as totalitarian ideologies that lead to them.

*This article by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen was first published in Le Monde on Dec. 17, 2015.

Legal Report Reveals Systematic Human Rights Violations by AKP Government Against Hizmet Movement

PRESS RELEASE 

Legal Report Reveals Systematic Human Rights Violations by Turkish Government

* Abuses taken against the media curtailing freedom of speech

* Call for legal action at international level from European Court of Human Rights

Brussels, 28 September, 2015: Since December 2013, the Turkish government has perpetrated systematic human rights violations that justify legal action at international level, most likely before the European Court of Human Rights, a report published today has found.

Written by former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales the Rt Hon The Lord Woolf CH, University College London Emeritus Professor of Public Law and the Director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law Sir Jeffrey Jowell KCMG QC, former Solicitor-General for England and Wales the Rt Hon Sir Edward Garnier QC MP, and human rights and media law barrister Sarah Palin, the report identifies supporters of the Gülen movement and the media, as the principal targets of the AKP government’s abuses.

The report’s findings come as the Erdoğan administration faces heightened international scrutiny over its crackdown on freedom of the press in Turkey. The recent arrest of two Vice News journalists and dawn raid on the Koza Izek group, which together in the past month have elicited renewed public outcry against the AKP-led government’s treatment of the media, are reminiscent of a number of events detailed in the report. The clearest parallel can be drawn with the December 2014 arrests of 15 purportedly Gülen-affiliated journalists, including Samanyolu Media Group chief executive Hidayet Karaça, whose court-ordered release the Istanbul chief public prosecutor’s office still refuses to carry out.

Commenting on the findings of the report, the authors said: “We have analysed the actions taken by the Turkish government and its agents since December 2013 and have unanimously concluded that there has been a distinct reversal in the reform process that had been taking place since Turkey began accession talks with the European Union in 2005.  We regard this as a serious setback for Turkish democracy and its respect for human rights, in particular for the freedom of speech and the rule of law.”

The report identifies three main ways in which the government’s subsequent actions against supporters of the Gülen movement have violated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as well as other human rights treaties to which the Turkish Republic is party:

– By taking unprecedented steps to exert executive authority over Turkey’s judiciary, police and prosecuting authorities are subsequently detaining outspoken media figures and police officers involved in the anticorruption operation in contravention of their rights to liberty, security, and a fair trial

– By suppressing freedom of expression, particularly in the media through the filing of criminal prosecutions against and exertion of economic and political pressure on journalists and publications, but also through interference with social media

 – By purging from public office, directing hate speech against, and interfering with the property rights of individuals and companies claimed to be associated with the Gülen movement

The authors added: “From the perspective of international human rights law, we consider that the Turkish government has perpetrated significant human rights violations against supporters of the Gülen movement that would justify legal action before the European Court of Human Rights, in the absence of suitable remedies in Turkey.”

For the full report or its executive summary, visit One Brick Court Chambers website.

ENDS

Enquiries

For all enquiries, please contact Mr. Guveli at Dialogue Platform, Brussels by email rguveli@dialogueplatform.eu  or by phone +32 (0)2 513 8116.

Notes to Editors

About the Gülen-inspired Hizmet movement:

The Hizmet movement is a civil society network of individuals and religious, humanitarian, and educational institutions that subscribe to Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s advocacy of interfaith dialogue, community service, and universal education.


About the report:

The report, titled “A Report on the Rule of Law and Respect for Human Rights in Turkey since December 2013”, was written by an independent, self-governing group of authors following a request by solicitors to the Journalists and Writers’ Foundation to conduct an independent inquiry into the actions of the Turkish government, its institutions and officials, against supporters of the Gülen movement. The subject material of this review included written statements provided by witnesses and victims, as well as Turkish legislation, court judgements, and summaries of witness testimonies.