COMMENT: In FTR #‘s 737, 738, 739, we examined the prevailing political/journalistic fantasy about the Erdogan government in Turkey. Wrapped in a cloak of fantasy and wishful thinking by elements who would see Turkey as a bastion of Islamic enlightenment and a role model for “emerging democracies” in the Arab and Muslim world.
The sugary confection derived from such fantasizing may taste sweet at first, but that is misleading.
Neither “moderate” nor, in essence, “democratic,” the Erdogan government is inextricably linked with: the milieu of the Bank al-Taqwa, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Pan-Turkist movement, the Fetullah Gulen cult and international fascism.
In this post, we examine:
- The [belated] realization by European diplomats that the Erdogan government has a neo-Ottoman, Islamist agenda, as well as an undemocratic one.
- The recent call by Erdogan for his ally Gulen to return to Turkey. Gulen’s cadre is widely seen as the apparatus through which Erdogan has cemented his political control. (Note: critics of the organization claim it is supported by the CIA. The gentle handling of the organization by Western news outlets is suggestive of such a connection.)
- Allegations that the head of the Turkish IHH Islamic charity has helped fund Al-Qaeda. In the past, we have examined the IHH’s links to international terrorism. Most recently, the IHH shepherded the flotilla that attempted to land in Gaza, precipitating an Israeli reponse that turned violent.
EXCERPT: European Union diplomats are expressing growing concern at what they see as the increasingly militant stance taken by Turkey’s ruling Islamists.
They accuse Ankara of using probes into alleged plots against the government as a tool to jail and silence opponents and compromise the country’s secular credentials by introducing Koran studies in public schools.
Other measures include lowering the age at which parents can send their children to Islamic religious schools, increasing pressure on those criticising Islam and restricting abortion.
Turkish authorities accuse the so-called Ergenekon network of being behind several plots to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Dozens of retired or serving senior military figures, intellectuals, lawyers and journalists been put behind bars.
On Thursday Stefan Fuele, European commissioner for enlargement, cited this and other obstacles in the way of Turkey’s membership bid while in Istanbul for talks.
“I have used this meeting to convey our concerns about the increasing detention of lawmakers, academics and students and the freedom of press and journalists,” he said.
Changes due to take effect when the new academic year starts this autumn also have also ruffled feathers. The Islamist-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is introducing Koran lessons.
And from the end of primary school, more parents will be able to opt out of the secular education system and send their children to Islamic religious schools. Previously these schools could not recruit children under the age of 15: now children as young as 11 will be allowed to attend.
There is concern too over plans by state broadcaster TRT to launch a religious channel and proposals for prayer rooms in newly built public buildings such as creches, theatres and even opera houses.
“A series of recent moves show that the conservative tendency has the upper hand and faces no opposition,” said Marc Pierini, a former head of the EU diplomatic team in Turkey.
“Civil society exists, but it is hardly audible,” said one Ankara-based diplomat.
“The media are for the most part directly or indirectly controlled by the AKP and the opposition is powerless,” the diplomat added. . . .
EXCERPT: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has openly invited Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen to Turkey in a speech he delivered during the closing ceremony for the 10th Turkish Olympiads amid a standing ovation from a crowd of over 50,000.
Erdoğan, who spoke after he was granted a special award by the organizing committee of the Olympiads, implied that Gülen, without directly mentioning his name, should return to Turkey as soon as possible. The well-known scholar has been residing in the US for nearly 13 years.
“We want this yearning to end,” he said, receiving a lengthy standing ovation from the crowd, in a rare blunt invitation for Gülen to return to his homeland. Erdoğan added, “We want to see those who are abroad and longing for the homeland among us.”
Responding to the lengthy applause, Erdoğan further said he understands that the crowd also wants “this yearning to end.”
Gülen is a Turkish Islamic scholar well known for his teachings that promote mutual understanding and tolerance between different cultures and faiths. Now residing in the US, Gülen has pioneered educational activities in a number of countries, along with efforts to promote intercultural and interfaith activities around the world. The Turkish Olympiads are an initiative pioneered by schools associated with him. . . .
EXCERPT: Turkish media is reporting that the President of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH), sponsor of the June 2010 Gaza flotilla that was involved in a violent altercation with Israeli naval forces, us being investigated for allegedly financing al-Qaeda through his organization. According to the report:
. . . . Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) President Bülent Yıldırım is being investigated for allegedly financing al-Qaeda through his organization, daily Habertürk has reported. The probe, led by an Istanbul specially authorized prosecutor, accuses Yıldırım of ‘providing financial aid to al-Qaeda via his foundation’ with absolute secrecy, reportedly without official numbering and identification. A Diyarbakır specially authorized prosecutor has also been leading a similar case into Yıldırım, Habertürk reported. Yıldırım was the İHH’s head during the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident . . . .
. . . There is strong evidence for Turkish governmental involvement in the Gaza flotilla incident, with Turkish government support channeled through the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood network. Since 2006, Turkey has become a new center for the Global Muslim Brotherhood. The IHH was not acting alone but rather was an integral part of a Turkish Muslim Brotherhood network.
The Gaza flotilla incident brought into sharp focus an even more significant long– term development: the growing relationship between the Erdogan government and the Global Muslim Brotherhood, which has given rise to some of the most notorious Islamist terrorist groups – from al-Qaeda to Hamas. Since 2006, Turkey has become a new center for the Global Muslim Brotherhood, while the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip acted as the main axis for this activity. . . .