By Orhan Kemal Cengiz
17 April 2014
I have just recently read in a column published in the Bugün daily by Doğu Ergil, a fellow columnist with Today's Zaman.
Ergil referred to a survey that I was not aware of. The survey was carried out a few years ago by İstanbul University. The research was about “social distance.” They talked to secular elites in Turkey to grasp how they see and feel about what is going on in Turkey.
I found one statement by a unanimous person very striking. One of the interviewed person said “I feel like I am an non-Muslim now.” He was referring to his feelings in the face of losing old privileges while the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has been dominating in all commercial, political and civil-societal areas in Turkey.
He, I believe, meant two interrelated things. One is that he feels like a second-class citizen as a non-Muslim in Turkey and also that he feels he might be persecuted like non-Muslims were persecuted.
If you look at this from a historical perspective, you can see that this member of the secular elite feels that he is now like people whom his ancestors victimized when the Turkish Republic was being formed and onwards. After all, the Committee of Progress and Union (CUP), which systematically massacred Armenians, was a political party formed by secular elites in Turkey at the time.
In fact, we can say that everyone in Turkey has felt and most probably will continue to feel like non-Muslims. Kurds, socialists, Alevis and devout Muslims have all played the role of non-Muslims in Turkey. However, if you ask me, today's non-Muslims are unmistakably members of Gülen movement. They are the targets of all sorts of attacks. Their businesses are under strict tax control nowadays. Televisions and newspapers affiliated with the movement are under serious attack from so many different angles. Their TV licenses are being revoked; they are pushed to the very back in cable networks; their many programs are banned with different excuses. There is an intense witch-hunt against members of the movement in all public sectors; almost 10,000 police officers were removed from their positions, and in all ministries, similar large-scale removals are underway. The members of the movement have been stigmatized, bullied and attacked in all media outlets closed to or under the influence of the government. As I was trying to explain in my last column, it is said that a new law regarding the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has just been changed to make large-scale operations against the movement.
It would not be surprising to witness members of the movement being detained and arrested, which will probably be carried out quite arbitrarily. In short, the movement and its members are number one target of harassment, intimidation and persecution by state organs.
At one point, the movement was quite powerful, and they tended to overlook a number of serious human right violations carried out by security forces and the judiciary. But today, they are under tremendous pressure and under very serious persecution, which unfortunately seems to be lasting a long time.
Whoever turns a blind eye to the suffering and persecution of others will become the target of the same persecutor-state mentality. It is the destiny of this country.
We can only break this vicious cycle when we all become fierce defenders of human rights and democracy, regardless of who is the new target of the persecutor-state mentality.
Today's non-Muslims are members of Gülen movement and we will not be able to break down this vicious cycle of endless persecution unless we fully confront our past and empathize with all victims in this country, starting of course with non-Muslims themselves.