Turkey

The Turkish Deep State: “Does a shadowy mullah in Pennsylvania really hold the reins of power in Turkey? If not, then why are the country’s leaders so intent on silencing a single investigative journalist?” (JUSTIN VELA, 1/11/2012)

On Jan. 5, one of the country’s most high-profile detainees, investigative journalist Ahmet Sik, testified in court for the first time to defend himself against charges of propagandizing for a shadowy pro-military conspiracy called Ergenekon, which allegedly plotted to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In his testimony, Sik mocked the evidence presented against him, which included … the draft of his unfinished book, The Imam’s Army, which aimed to expose the Islamist Fethullah Gulen movement’s pervasive influence within the Turkish state. …

The charges against Sik appeared absurd from the start. He had dedicated much of his professional life to investigating the very structures Ergenekon represented, along with their various human rights abuses. According to those that support the government line, Ergenekon represents the military “deep state,” which has served as the self-appointed guardian of Turkey’s secular identity since the republic’s founding. …

But it’s not the military that has moved against Sik — it’s another, different deep state. The Imam’s Army chronicles the rise of Fethullah Gulen, an aging cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania who has built up a powerful network … known as the Cemaat (or “community”) … that claims to operate thousands of schools in 140 countries. He calls for inter-faith dialogue and promotes the study of both science and religion in his classrooms. …

His followers provide a key voter base for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and have established themselves in top positions …

And as the Sik case shows, their influence appears to be one of the forces pushing Turkey in a less free direction. … “The Ergenekon investigations are the most important part of allowing the Cemaat to take power in the country,” (Sik) wrote. “I must say that the deep state is still intact. Just the owner has changed. What I mean by this ownership (is) the coalition of AKP and the Cemaat.” …

While Sik’s book was initially banned, it was posted online … under the title 000 Book … It currently has prominent placement in several bookstores along Istanbul’s central Istiklal shopping street and at the city’s airport.

The Gulenists were likely angered by Sik’s reporting …

The criticisms of Gulen, who preaches a moderate version of Islam, are not focused on his religiosity but rather on the movement’s lack of transparency. The group has accrued a large degree of influence over Turkey’s nominally secular government and society, and the AKP’s own parliamentary deputies have confirmed that the party has links to the Gulenists. …

“You can only make allegations and guesses … ,” Sik said. “Everybody should ask themselves, ‘Why such secrecy?’ If their only aim is to provide charity works as they claim, why do they have to organize within the state? As you can see I am just asking.” …

“If Turkey wants to have international credibility and promote democracy in the region, it can’t neglect the state of human rights at home,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, … at Human Rights Watch.

But the recent turmoil may be little more than a precursor to a larger political earthquake: a divorce between the Gulenists and the AKP.

“There was a marriage of convenience between the Gulenists and Erdogan because they shared the common goal of trying to demolish the old Kemalist regime,” explained Gareth Jenkins, a Turkey expert and non-resident senior fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Now, with that job nearing completion, the relationship appears to be fraying.

The Gulenists and Erdogan differed recently over the response to military air strikes that killed 35 Kurdish civilians. Erdogan supported the military, while Gulen-affiliated media alleged that still untamed members of the deep state were trying to destabilize the country.

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