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.