by Begüm Burak
Turkey has been undergoing a serious transformation process identified with democratization policies under the rule of Justice and Development Party (JDP). However, certain turbulent affairs like that of Gezi protests have also been witnessed to have undermined democratization to an important degree. The hegemony of the JDP rule has been challenged in Gezi protests among different circles in the Turkish society. During the Gezi affair, liberals, environmentalists, hard-core Kemalists, and ultra-nationalists –a hybrid coalition—acted together to oppose the JDP rule.
After a few months, another issue has come to the fore. This time the JDP government has begun to lose hegemony among some other segments of society. The plan to shut down prep schools without fixing the problems of state schooling caused a large number of people’s worries and the attempt to shut down prep schools was treated as a blow to free enterprise and a blow to equality of opportunities in terms of education. Because in Turkey, centralized exams are taken in order to get university education, and despite the fact that state schools present quite different education levels, all students have to take the same exam to study in universities.
Education has been one of the critical areas through which the Gülen movement (Hizmet-Service movement) has been engaged in its dialogue-based activities. In Turkey, prep schools are important sites wherein the followers of the Hizmet Movement work as teachers. Thus, the government’s plan to shut down prep schools was naturally disliked by the Hizmet movement. That is why the newspapers close to the Hizmet Movement have continued to report and make news regarding education problems and prep school issue in Turkey. Also, on twitter, this issue has been made TT for several days.
Indeed, the Hizmet Movement is a non-state and non-governmental movement which has tried to keep away from daily political debates. However, the recent developments and corruption crisis occurred in Turkey has shadowed its apolitical character. Additionally, the political elites after the outbreak of the corruption scandal has stigmatized it as a “parallel state” structure hand in hand with the external forces to undermine the stability of the country. It should be stated that, the accusations made against Hizmet have also been produced during the February 28 Process (1997) when a post-modern military intervention took place in Turkey. However, this time the same scenario is drawn by different actors again labeling Hizmet as a crime unit.
Today, many think that the government is trying to cover up the corruption scandal by putting the blame on imagined enemies like interest lobby or crime units. Apparently, the executive branch is putting pressure upon the judiciary in addition to exercising a power over police force by removing hundreds of them. Unfortunately, the Hizmet Movement as one of the leading civilian movements contributing to intercultural dialogue and peace in the world has been labeled as one of the players to destabilize Turkey by the pro-government press too. This thesis was totally rejected by the Association of Journalists and Writers, an NGO affiliated with the Hizmet Movement. Here is what they declared the day before.
In short, Turkey has been going through hard days. I hope the New Year will bring justice for all and a strong democracy.