By Manolis Kostidis – Ankara
The Erdogan government’s clash with the Islamic battalion of Fethullah Gulen is escalating following the government’s plans to close private schools in the country.
The Gulen group opposes the decision as it owns thousands of schools throughout Turkey where pupils don’t pay tuition fees and all bear scholarships. Gulen’s main aim is to attract more young people to the Islamic battalion and see them advance within the state later on.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan had sided with the battalion for many years in the fight against generals after the Balyoz and Ergenekon plans were revealed. However, now he appears determined to be rid of the alliance as he believes Gulen has more power within the state mechanism than he should.
Troubles in their relationship began 7th February 2012. At that time Erdogan had undergone surgery to treat cancer. On that day the Istanbul prosecutor had called before him the MIT chief Hakan Fidan, former chief Emre Taner, former deputy chief Afet Gunes for the relations between the secret service and the PKK.
They were all close Erdogan associates and the prosecutor’s decision was seen as a clear conspiracy and an attempt to sabotage secret talks between the government and the Kurds. The Turkish PM had signed an amendment while he was still being treated that disallowed the MIT from appearing before the prosecutor as the administration of the Intelligence Unit belongs to the Prime Minister’s Office. There are rumors that Erdogan shouted “they want to destroy me” that day.
“They clearly tried to take the heads of Erdogan’s people. They supported the prosecutor that accused them while Erdogan was fighting a serious illness” Saba columnist Sevilay Yukselir writes.
Prosecutor Sadenin Sarikaya is considered to be supported by the Gulen guild.
It is also common belief in Turkey that the judiciary and the police are controlled by the Islamic group. After all, it was the government’s cooperation with the guild that brought about progress in the trials of the generals for the Balyoz and Ergenekon cases.
Erdogan had, however, opposed the arrest and conviction of the former leader of the Turkish Armed Forces General Ilker Basbug. The judiciary saw it differently and eventually condemned him along with hundreds of other “pashas”.
It seems like Recep Tayyip Erdogan is determined to break with the Gulen guild and by closing the private schools he is looking to destroy the pool of new recruits for the guild.
The Gulen group is also retaliating with evidence against the government had signed a law in 2004 with which it planned to shut down all of the guild’s schools, as Taraf newspaper wrote (ed. Suggesting Erdogan and the generals were allies in the past).
In case their relations are ended permanently, the AKP is expected to lose many voters as Gulen has millions of members that support him as well as great financial muscle. He owns TV networks, newspapers, banks and thousands of schools.
Gulen lives in the US and is a supporter of moderate Islam. He has always opposed radical Islam of Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the pro-Islamic parties of Turkey from the 1970’s through to 2000.
It should not be considered certain that in the local election to be held in the Spring Gulen will support the AKP as he did in the past. In the 90’s the Gulen battalion had even supported the Democratic Left Party of Bulent Ecevit ahead of the Prosperity Party of Erbakan!