— The Erimtan Angle —

Some time ago, in the summer of 2010 actually, a well-known Turkish journalist and columnist wrote down that one has to wait for news from Pennsylvania before being able to do anything in Turkey . . . this was an underhand reference to Fethullah Gülen who has been living in the U.S. since 1999 and whose influence upon Turkish government policy was a universally acknowledged fact at the time. Time flies and things change, and now the erstwhile pro-governments and Gülen-funded newspaper Zaman and its English-language appendage Today’s Zaman have recently become known as the new opposition press in Turkey’s media landscape, and as if to prove the point, the paper recently published the following piece: a “secret national security document recently discovered by a Turkish daily has revealed that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government signed on to a planned crackdown on the Hizmet (Gülen) movement. The Taraf daily published a document on Thursday [, 28 November] prepared by the National Security Council (MGK) on Aug. 25, 2004, persuading the government to implement a series of measures to curb the activities of the Gülen movement. It advises the government to adopt legal measures that would impose harsh penalties on Gülen-affiliated institutions. The two-page document was signed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then-Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, then-President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Cabinet members, Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök, Land Forces Commander Aytaç Yalman, Naval Forces Commander Adm. Özden Örnek, Air Forces Commander Gen. İbrahim Fırtına and Gen. Şener Eruygur. The document, identified as MGK decision No. 481, asked the government to develop an action plan to pursue the MGK’s recommendations and instructed the Prime Ministry Monitoring Council (BTK) to coordinate the ministries and monitor whether the steps were being implemented. The MGK decision urges the Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to closely monitor and report on the activities of the Gülen movement at home and abroad. It advises the government to instruct the Interior Ministry and Ministry of Education to investigate and monitor schools affiliated with the Gülen movement and report their activities to the BTK. The document states that the government must ensure that the financial activity of Gülen-affiliated businesspeople be monitored thorough the Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK). The MGK wanted the Ministry of Education to investigate Gülen schools as well. It also asks then-Foreign Minister Gül to cancel his earlier instructions to Turkish missions abroad to help the network of National View (Millî Görüş) and Gülen schools. The document also comments on the psychological aspects of an operation against the Gülen movement, describing the use of defamation tactics”.[1]

These developments led the other English-language Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News to write that the “row between followers of the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s movement of and the Turkish government took another dimension after a daily revealed Nov. 28 that a decision from the National Security Council (MGK)”.[2]  In Today’s Zaman, the piece continues that the “MGK is the top state body created by the 1960 military coup. It was seen as a shadow government while the military was in power. Furthermore, it ruled the country directly from 1980 to 1983 before transferring power to the civilian government. Yet the military became part of the executive branch through the MGK, joining the president and a committee of ministers. It became the final authority in decisions on a wide range of issues, including law, the economy, education, rights and freedoms. Though its decisions were expressed as advice on paper, they behaved as direct orders to the government. The document has sparked outrage in Turkey, with opposition parties criticizing the government for lying to the Turkish people while intellectuals have slammed the government for endorsing an MGK decision that is seen as a plot against the country’s citizens”.[3]

The daily Hürriyet Daily News states that “[t]ension between the government and the Gülen Movement, known in Turkish as “Cemaat” (community) or “Hizmet” (service), escalated recently after Erdoğan announced plans to abolish private examination prep schools (dershane), many of which are financed and run by Gülen’s followers. Erdoğan describes the group’s loud objections to his government’s plans as “a smear campaign.” Although the Gülen Movement is thought to have had close relations with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) until recently, the daily Taraf claimed the MGK document proved that a decision to “finish” the movement had already been made in 2004”.[4]  As such, the daily Taraf has made many important revelations that have had far-reaching consequences in Turkish society, particularly the so-called Balyoz or Sledgehammer plot springs to mind readily. On 20 January 2010, the Taraf writers Mehmet Baransu, Yıldıray Oğur and Yasemin Çongar revealed the existence of a secret plot, allegedly hatched by the top brass of the Turkish Armed Forces (Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri or TSK), to overthrow the government, known as Sledgehammer or Balyoz.[5]

Curiouser and curiouser indeed, does this mean that the so-called 28 Şubat süreçi or Feb. 28 process, that had its beginnings in 1997 did not really come to an end with the ascension of the AKP in 2002???  The Gülenist Today’s Zaman explains that the “Feb. 28 military intervention, called a “postmodern coup” because it was carried out without the use of arms, occurred when military generals confronted a civilian coalition government at an MGK meeting on Feb. 28, 1997, which resulted in the forced resignation of the government led by a now-defunct religious-minded party [, the Refah Partisi led by Necmettin Erbakan].[6]  The period following Feb. 28 was characterized by mass human rights violations in Turkey, and conservative [or Islamist] groups were put under immense pressure”.[7]

For his part, the “Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı ruled out the possibility that the government was working to finish off the Gülen movement, saying that the government had shown resistance to such plans during difficult times”.[8]


[1] “Gov’t-endorsed MGK plot against Gülen exposed by daily” Today’s Zaman (29 November 2013). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-332584-govt-endorsed-mgk-plot-against-gulen-exposed-by-daily.html.

[2] “Row between Turkish government and Gülen heats up with new document” Hürriyet Daily News (28 November 2011). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/Default.aspx?pageID=238&nID=58670&NewsCatID=338.

[3] “Gov’t-endorsed MGK plot against Gülen exposed by daily”.

[4] “Row between Turkish government and Gülen heats up with new document”.

[5] “Operation Sledgehammer on Trial” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (18 December 2010). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/operation-sledgehammer-on-trial/.

[6] “Turkey Loses its Islamist Figurehead: Erbakan has Died” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (28 February 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/turkey-loses-its-islamist-figurehead-erbakan-has-died/.

[7] “Gov’t-endorsed MGK plot against Gülen exposed by daily”.

[8] “Gov’t-endorsed MGK plot against Gülen exposed by daily”.

Comments on: "Turkey, the Gülen Movement, and Taraf" (1)

  1. Rena Aguirre said:

    Marvelous, what a website it is! This web site presents helpful information to us, keep it up.

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