My comment: ‘To escape punishment, punish them all’

From my TZ column; April 10:

The ongoing war to grab so much power has to do with the way Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to perceive the world, and his government does not feel that there should still be dissent — however reasonable — about the methods it uses to manage the country.

We have now entered a new period during which the resiliency of Turkey’s citizens to “one-man rule” will be tested to the limit.

The recent assault on Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has shown how vulnerable the social fabric has become here.

It follows rhetoric, designed and fiercely promoted by Erdoğan, that not only demonizes whoever gets in his way but also intends to criminalize whoever dares to disagree with him.

Violence starts when the limit of ugly words has been reached. The downwards spiral is now being opened, and it has to be fought off.

Welcome to the era of open-ended antagonism.

As if he has all the time in the world, Erdoğan is apparently keen on giving the highest priority to closing the schools that volunteers of the Hizmet movement have opened in more than 150 countries.

Also, Turkish ambassadors tell their counterparts wherever they are that these schools must be shut down.

This ridiculous U-turn is enough to spread joy among Turkey’s foes, as “These Turks have decided to shoot themselves in the foot again.”

Much has been said and written about these schools, which operate on five continents, so I do not have to go into the details. To plot for the closure of these schools, which have constantly been under the supervision of state institutions wherever they are, is, if not foolish and immoral, then vicious.

Attacking legitimate education centers, instead of targets that represent evil, horror and terror, cannot be explained otherwise.

These schools, where staff from Turkey teach the sciences and Turkish (on an optional basis) and cooperate with local staff, who teach the social sciences and the national curriculum, have become meeting points between cultures, inviting the Turkish Hizmet volunteers to learn about “the other” and vice versa. The students, often of a lower-middle-class background, graduate with satisfaction and a fine knowledge of Turkish people.

This Fethullah Gülen-inspired school project is arguably the best activity that Turkey has successfully implemented in the name of the “cultural globalization” of the benevolent Anatolian tradition of Sufism, shaped by the great thinker Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, who preached knowing the other and loving the other. It unleashed an enormous energy to show the world the most profoundly humanistic aspects of civil Islam.

It has managed to do so — as opposed to many other “schools,” which taught hatred and glorified violence against the other creeds as infidels — by excluding any teaching on Islam. In these schools all faiths meet and learn about one another. The satisfaction of parents also displays their approval of the project.

To engage in the closure of such a well-functioning and renowned school project is like pulling the trigger with the gun against your temple.

Why is Erdoğan now pushing other governments to exterminate these schools? He has done so openly with Azerbaijan and will not be stopped from doing so with other leaders.

The Turkish prime minister has decided that if he continues to be angry and vengeful, his power will be cemented. In his latest address in Parliament, he pushed his angry discourse to higher — or lower — levels, to make clear that he will not forgive and he will punish.

Since he has chosen the Hizmet movement as the enemy, all he wants to do is inflict harm, regardless of on who or what.

As an independent commentator who is not at all affiliated with the Gülen movement, I have been demanding that the government find and prosecute, in a credible manner, with a convincing set of evidence, anyone who has committed a crime within the state apparatus. Apparently the “parallel state” discourse is a fairy tale, since there have been no results.

A witch hunt is much easier, of course. It helps one escape the accountability of graft allegations, building impunity, while civilians whose only “crime” is disagreement with government policies are made to suffer.

Welcome to the medieval age.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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