30 Ekim 2012 Salı

 Scandal Conference
We, a group of social scientists would like to highlight our concern regarding the International Conference on "Turkish Migration in Europe: Projecting the next 50 years", supported by the London Centre for Social Studies, Regent’s Centre for Transnational Studies, Turkish Migration Studies Group at Oxford. While we find the topic of this conference very relevant, we have serious concerns and objections to London Centre for Social Studies (LCSS) which is associated with a repressive religious group called Fettullah Gülen movement also known as “Cemaat” (religious group) in Turkey. This is Turkey's most powerful religious group and has become a real danger for the freedom of opinion and academic freedom in Turkey through organizing smear campaigns, malicious plots, disseminating “invented news stories, transcripts from illegal police wiretaps”[1]  with the help of its followers in the Turkish security forces and justice system and media giants against academics, journalists and oppositional groups in Turkey. For further details, see advisable article of Jenkins (2008),Senior Associate Fellow with the CACI & SRSP Joint Center, is an Istanbul-based writer and specialist of Turkish Affairs.
We believe that many academics are unaware of LCSS’s connection with Fettullah Gülen movement. LCSS is a public relation network group of Fettullah Gülen movement   in the UK and its primary aim is to market one of the aggressive and repressive religious groups as a “civic initiative rooted in the spiritual and humanistic tradition of Islam”[2]. We believe that it is important to inform academics in particular Turkish academics  who might have sent their abstracts to the conference in order to protect them from a practice called ‘fişleme’(blacklisted) and and have a lot of pressure from Gülen Movement dominated university managements. “Fişleme” is used at universities to classify those who are critical against the Cemaat.
We would like to provide more information about Fettullah Gülen movement and its repressive attitude against academics and journalists and democratic process in Turkey.  The movement has caused several problems amongst religiously, ethnically and politically diverse people in Turkey. With its hierarchical structure and ideological agenda based on a mix of Turkish ultra nationalism and extreme interpretation of “Muslim” identity, it becomes a real danger against freedom of expression at universities, media and state institutions. "Anyone who touches Gülen gets burnt,” said investigative journalist Ahmet Şık who is one of the critical journalists to Cemaat’s repressive power in Turkey and was arrested due to his unpublished book on the Fettullah Gülen movement.
The Fettullah Gülen movement was established at the end of the 60s and claims that  Cemaat  is  a“civic initiative”… not a governmental or state sponsored organization”[3]. However the movement became a decisive political power in particular during Erdogan’s AKP government and has become very influential within the security forces, justice system, universities and local and central government. It has become a movement of a religious group which does not tolerate people with different opinions. Scholars in the field of Turkish studies and Near Middle East see him as Turkish Ayatollah Khomeini who tries to form the structures of a the political Islamic state in Turkey (Sharon-Krespin, 2009, Rubin, Michael 2009) and German Islamic scholar Prof Ursula Spuler –Stegemann states that it is “the most dangerous” movement and Dani Rodrik, a professor of international political economy at Harvard University, describes the group as “mafia” which disseminate smear campaigns, manipulate information and disseminate lies through its Zaman newspaper. [4]
Others have criticized the Gülen movement’s hierarchical structure where members are told how to behave, which occupation to choose and how much of their income to pay to support the Cemaat. People who once were in the Cemaat are not allowed to leave freely. They have been isolated and attacked[5]
Since the religious and conservative AKP party came into government in 2000, the Fettullah Gülen movement has extended its power over society in Turkey, media, state and public institutions including universities. The Gülen Cemaat also owns several newspapers, magazins and TV stations and is heavily involved in other businesses.  The Cemaat operates similarly to media tycoons Berlusconi or Rupert Mordock however it is more dangerous than them because it uses the media in religious and nationalistic ways in which it constantly targets people who are critical of the growing influence of  “Cemaat” in all sectors of society, and fear the movement will take over the state and restrict their freedom.   Academics who are critical of Fettullah Gülen movement or do not want to be a part of their religious group, have been sacked and replaced with Cemaat followers at Firat and Tunceli universities where the rectors are known as “Cemaatci”. Academics at other universities are in silence about the real and threatened pressure of  “Cemaat” due to fear of “fisleme”, i.e. being blacklisted and targeted by Gülen movement and have problem at work but also outside of the work.  Moreover  journalists who criticize the Fettullah Gülen movement’s  oppressive policies,  have been constantly intimidated by being “invited” to Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfi” (Journalists and Writers Associations) where they are “warned”. Fethullah Gülen is “honorary president” of Journalists and Writers Foundation.
Those who are  critical to Fettullah Gülen movement, do not comprise with them and ignore their “warning”, have been subjected to politically motivated arrests, imprisonment and  even worse.  In 2011, nine critical journalists were detained in police raids including Ahmet Şık, a reporter for the daily Radikal and lecturer at Bilgi University. Ahmet Şık, a journalist and academic,  had investigated the Fettullah Gülen movement’s infiltration of security forces in Turkey and collected all evidence into a book draft entitled İmamın Ordusu (“The Imam’s Army”). He was arrested along with 8 other journalists including Nedim Şener, a reporter for the daily Milliyet. Şener is one of the progressive journalists who had won international press awards for his work on the alleged involvement of the security forces in political assassinations. They have been accused of being members of a supposed state paramilitary group called Ergenekon which is responsible for killing of many intellectuals, trade unionists and Kurdish politicians[6]. Ahmet Şık has been one of the progressive journalists who reported the human rights abuses and political disappearances of Turkish and Kurdish political activists in the 90s. He became a voice for people who were subjected to torture and mistreatment as well as human rights activists. He was particularly targeted by Fettullah Gülen movement in order to reduce his reputation in public. His unpublished book on Fettullah Gülen movement’s activities in police and how police system used to arrest critical voices was deleted from his computer at his home and at his workplace. The followers of Fettullah Gülen movement in the justice system deleted every digital copy and displayed a court order warning those who have Şık’s manuscript or a digital copy of Şık’s unpublished book in their possession would face prosecution as a member of Ergenekon.  Zaman Newspaper which is the mouthpiece of Fettullah Gülen movement has published a leaked 49-page police report on the book and the accusations against Şık even before Şık’s court hearing.  However friends of Şık who defend academic freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey have published a copy of Şık’s manuscript anonymously on the internet. This digital copy of his book on the internet was downloaded over 100,000 in the first 48 hours. Büsra Ersanlı,  a professor at Marmara University and adviser of pro Kurdish BDP was also targeted by the followers of Fettullah Gülen in judiciary system in Turkey and she was arrested and imprisoned for 9 months .
While some critical voices against Gülen have been imprisoned, others suffered worse consequences such as Hablemitoglu, a professor of history who wrote a book entitled “Kostebek” (“The Mole”) criticising the Gülen movement’s power within the state. He was assassinated in 2002. The perpetrators were never found and the case is still unsolved[7].
Furthermore, recently Ali Bayramoglu, a critical columnist in pro-government Yeni Safak Newspaper and also in one of the Gülen movement’s magazine, Aksiyon.  has been targeted by Cemaat and he lost his job as a columnist at Aksiyon magazine because he criticized one of  Fettullah Gülen’s journalists  for slander and being “triggerman” of Cemaat
"In its fight to be the hegemonic power, the movement stops at nothing. It is terrorizing people." (University of Utah Professor Hakan Yavuz, a political scientist)[8] in Turkey, it has started to be active in many western countries under different name for different purposes and presents its aims as promoting “world peace and interfaith dialogue” ref*.   The hypocrisy of the group is that outside of Turkey it tries to depict itself as a group for cultural understanding between Islam and west and tolerance between cultures; however in Turkey, Gülen and his movement are the symbol of intolerance, repressive and aggressive and powerful political group using Islam to have “hegemonic power”. Many political analysts state privately that Gülen is interested in power and influence but not tolerance.  Since the 90s, Gülen movement tries to have “hegemonic power” over Turkish citizens abroad in order to have access to find new followers and create lobby groups against political dissidents in Europe. 
The Gülen movement establishes different organizations and networks for different purposes. Some of them make “taqiyya”.  One of the organizations of Cemaat is London Centre for Social Studies which is Gülen movement’s public relation organisation and has multi-functional role including marketing Gülen’s religious movement in the UK, consulting academics to legitimize Gülen movement amongst scholars and in the Turkish migrant community.  London Centre for Social Studies, like the Peace Islands Institute, Hizmet Movement, Fulton Science Academy, Raindrop Turkish House, Dialogue Foundation, Willow education, Cosmos Education, Accord Institute in USA and other countries aims to  build networks with politicians,  journalists and academics to establish a good reputation in Western countries. They use this legitimation to gain access to public funding for their religiously motivated politically reactionary activities, to attract and indoctrinate well-educated Turkish students in particular MA and PhD students through seminars, conferences and workshops. This also aims to promote an image of “tolerance” of the Gülen movement. One of the specific strategies of these groups is to manipulate politicians, journalists and well-know scholars who are critical of Turkey’s policies against freedom of press and speech and the aggressive and forced Islamisation of society[9] (Sharon-Krespin, 2009)[10], the denial of Armenian genocide, human rights abuses, arrests of journalists, academics, oppressive policies against women, religious minorities e.g. Alevis and ethnic groups such as Kurds[11]. This manipulation is done in different ways including asking academics to act as consultants to write “unbiased” reports to legitimize Gülen movement and Turkey’s policies. Another strategy of manipulation is to invite scholars to show the “beautiful country, Turkey” at the cost of the Cemaat (no one knows where the money comes from).  Many politicians, journalists and academics come to Turkey and spend a week’s dream holiday, during which they cannot find time to analyse how people are suffering under Cemaat ‘s discipline. Subsequently they accept to write a report to praise the Gülen movement’s tolerance and how Turkey becomes a democratic country. In the meantime the foreign scholars who give seminars or conferences are used to legitimize Gülen movement’s ambition to have intellectual dominance over different sectors of Turkish society. The Gülen movement’s brainwash “educational” institutions have been banned in many countries including Russia and central Asian countries due to its extremist interpretation of Islam and Turkish nationalism.
We would like to ask social scientists of Turkish Migration Studies Group at Oxford and Regent’s Centre for Transnational Studies not to give a platform to repressive religious group to legitimize their position in the UK.
If you insist to organize this important conference then you should inform the attendees that LCSS is an organization of Cemaat so that people can be careful during the conference not to be marked (finslenmek) and suffer from the consequences of attending a conference organized by Oxford and Regent’s universities.
One would expect from Turkish Migration Studies Group at Oxford to know that many Turkish migrants have  not only left the country because of economic situation but also because of political repression, religious hate, human rights abuses, lack of freedom of opinion and academic freedom. Cemaat as part of the system in Turkey has widely contributed to this tragic and inevitable exodus process. Therefore it is difficult to comprehend that the perpetrators are involved in organizing such a conference on experiences of Turkish migrants in Europe. It is extremely alarming and disappointing to see that some social scientists in the field of Turkish migration are not aware of this repressive extremist group.
We would like to call upon progressive social scientists to protest this conference until Turkish Migration Studies Group at Oxford and Regent’s Centre for Transnational Studies announce that LCSS is not anymore a co-organizer of this important conference.

[1] Jenkins, Gareth (2008) Pro-AKP media steps up disinformation campaign over Ergenekon, Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 128
[2] Who is Fethullah Gulen and what is the Gulen Movement?
Short Description of the Movement, http://www.gulenmovement.us/gulen-movement/short-description-of-gulen-movement

[3] We should note that one of the sponsors and/or event co-organisers of LCSS activities is Turkish embassy in the UK.
[4] Popp, Maximilian(2012) The Shadowy World of the Islamic Gülen Movement.. Der Spiegel, http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/guelen-movement-accused-of-being-a-sect-a-848763.html
[5] Popp, Maximilian(2012) The Shadowy World of the Islamic Gülen Movement.. Der Spiegel, http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/guelen-movement-accused-of-being-a-sect-a-848763-2.html

[6] Soleimani, Kamal (2011)About Fethullah Gülen Controversial speech, http://www.kurdmedia.com/article.aspx?id=16835

[7]Repression in the Name of Tolerance:What happens to Gulen's critics in Turkey?, http://turkishinvitations.weebly.com/repression-in-the-name-of-tolerance.html
[8]  Birch, Nicholas (2010), Turkey: Gulen Movement Taking PR Beating in Arrest Row, http://www.eurasianet.org/node/62090
[10] Sharon-Krespin, Rachel (2009)Turkey's Islamist Danger Middle East Quarterly Winter 2009, pp. 55-66
[11] Soleimani, Kamal (2011)About Fethullah Gülen Controversial speech, http://www.kurdmedia.com/article.aspx?id=16835