"It is our right to say no." - by Andrea Hoffman, Editor
Click here and here for original article (in German) at Focus Magazine website (with photograph of Mr. Sik).
The star Turkish journalist Ahmet Sik authored a book about the mysterious Fethullah Gulen Movement - and was promptly arrested. In prison, he revealed to FOCUS Online the contents of the book, which is banned in Turkey.
FOCUS Online: Mr. Sik, what is the core thesis of your book, which was banned in Turkey?
SIK: My contention is as follows: starting from the 1970s, the Turkish police has been infiltrated by the Islamic Gulen Movement. By now, this infiltration has reached a very serious stage: all key police departments are now controlled by the Gulen religious community.
FOCUS Online: What does the Gulen Movement stand for, and what does it want to achieve?
SIK: For some it is a faith-based community, for others a religious movement that is going to establish an Islamic state in Turkey, for yet others a movement of volunteers. Originally it was only an offshoot of the Nurcu Community. Since the 1980s, they have been very active in the area of education in order to create the leadership circle of Turkey for the new millenium (2000s). They called the young people that emerged from this educational campaign the "Golden Generation". Their calculations paid off: today, in the Turkey of 2011, they have important positions.
FOCUS Online: What percentage of the police has been penetrated by Gulenists?
SIK: All major departments are under their control: the intelligence service, the department for combating smuggling and organized crime - the infiltration there reaches one hundred percent. Within the units to combat terrorism, the proportion is somewhat lower. The first bastion captured by the Movement was the personnel department, which recruits police officers. The Movement is also very powerful in the police academies.
FOCUS Online: Can you describe the ideology of the Gulen movement?
SIK: The ideological breeding ground of the movement was the so-called "Turkish-Islamic Synthesis," that was to spread across all of Turkey as a result of the coup of September 12, 1980: it comprises a link between Islam with a nationalism that is crass in every respect. Nothing and nobody can convince me that a religious structure that feeds off military coups could be democratically minded. Of course, everyone should practice their faith as they themselves think best. But if someone starts to anchor this faith in the bureaucracy, it is our right to say no.
FOCUS Online: Does the Gulen Movement have ambitions for an Islamic state?
SIK: I do not think that the Gulen Community or any other religious movement in Turkey will impose an Islamic state. The Gulen Community may perhaps have fostered such desires in the past. I think however that the Community in the current millennium (2000s) does not intend this, because it has by now created its own quasi-bourgeois class, which distances itself from that idea. The Gulen Movement aspires to a Turkey in which parties that are ideologically close to them - such as the AKP – have the say. Furthermore, they of course want a Turkey in which economic, political and religious opponents of their Community are weaker than they are. And they want a Turkey that, though not governed by Sharia, is, however, more conservative than the present.
FOCUS Online: How strong is the Gulen movement in the AKP?
SIK: It can be assumed that there is a convergence of interests between the AKP and the Gülen Movement. In other words, supporters of the Gulen Movement mainly vote for the AKP. In order to not lose favor with these constituents, the party grants the Movement the freedom to establish itself in the bureaucracy.
The Danger of the Gulen Movement
FOCUS Online: Is Prime Minister Erdogan personally connected to the Gulen Movement?
SIK: Mr. Erdogan is not a member of the Gulen movement; that is known. It is said that President Gul is closer to the community. However, this is speculation. As long as a person has not stated this themselves, we can say nothing definitive. But I can confirm the following: In the AKP every religious current has a share that is proportional to their strength.
FOCUS Online: Is Turkey covertly ruled by the Gulen movement?
SIK: It would be reaching too far to say so. One has to speak instead of a coalition between the AKP and the Movement: both maintain a pragmatic relationship based on mutual interests.
FOCUS Online: Wherein lies the danger that arises from the Gulen Movement?
SIK: A great danger exists in the confrontation of the two major armed forces of Turkey: The army and the police. The army has traditionally defended itself against attempts at Islamist infiltration. Notwithstanding that, the Gulen movement is attempting to gain a foothold there - which so far it has not succeeded in doing to the extent desired. In the police, which are the second strongest power in Turkey, the Gulen Community is arming itself against the army: through a legislative amendment of Jan 1, 2011 the police were granted the right to carry heavy weapons. The question, "What are such intensive preparations for?" remains unanswered. And as I was covering precisely this organizational effort in my book, I was automatically a target.
FOCUS Online: In Turkey, your book is banned. Even having a copy of it on one’s hard drive makes one liable to prosecution. Why has there been this overreaction?
SIK: I was not surprised by this witch hunt. The Gulen Community already forms one of the main pillars of the Turkish government and does not wish to be criticized.
FOCUS Online: How are you treated in prison?
SIK: The staff of the prison do not treat me badly. On the contrary, they are attentive and polite towards me. All the same, it is bad enough to be cut off from one’s freedom and loved ones, especially since this happened without any legal basis. I am staying in a triple room. Once a week, I can receive a closed visit of 45 minutes, and once a month an open visit of 75 minutes. Once a week I can make a telephone call for ten minutes. Twice a week I have the provision of warm water. As far as books and newspapers, I experience no significant limitation: in 40 days I read 11 books.
FOCUS Online: When do you expect to be released?
SIK: I do not expect to be released before the election. The government hopes that by then I fall into oblivion, because the general commotion surrounding my person that would ensue on releasing me would probably cost them votes.
|jailed Turkish writer Ahmed Sik, interviewed from prison|