BBC HARDtalk – Ismail Sezgin Director, Centre for Hizmet Studies

BBC HARDtalk – Ismail Sezgin Director, Centre for Hizmet Studies

welcome to heart talk with me Zainab Badawi the Turkish government is using a state of emergency to continue
hunting down people who make claims the followers of the reclusive us-based
Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen : the government blames him for the
failed to and once the u.s. to extradite into Turkey to stand trial he denies involvement my guest ismail sezgin director of the Center for hizmet
studies in the UK a think tank founded by Gulenists “is the Gulenist movement a
threat to the Turkish state?” Ismail Sezgin welcome to
heard talk thank you very muchFEthullah gülen has
followers in about a hundred and sixty countries from Kenya to Kazakhstan the
movement runs schools media outlets businesses what are the fundamental teachings of
Fethullah Gulen well we can simply define it as hizmet movement is a
religiously inspired social movement which works around education Dialogue
and charity activities the the the core principle is that as a
Muslim we are responsible towards God and the way to fulfill those
responsibilities we have to do certain things and what we
should do and there is a historical line that Gulen and picks up but the we should
actually contribute to our society because the best of you this is a hadith
“the best of you is the most helpful to his society” so how can I help to my society?
“by solving it’s problems” “what problems?” so we can debate
around they don’t yeah but “it’s the ignorance poverty and discrimination” and
actually Gulen adds tyranny and oppression as well well in his books but this is mainly
defined by Said Nursi as ignorance poverty and discrimination so then to sort that problems out as
their social responsibility you establish schools education
facilities Dialogue centers and Charity dialogue between whom? because I mean I know that he espouses
capitalist beliefs and dialogue with Western nations and urges his followers
to adopt western style and yet also is inspired by the religion of Islam well the first of all dialog with whom
is just itself says that dialogue with the other you know like
not imposing yourself but engaging with other and that other can
be different people in Turkish context your own majority Muslim country it might be minority religions but in
different places it becomes the other people whoever you
are sharing the the environment with your neighbors so in that case there is a way Islam actually is not against the
dialogue it it inspires dialogue It encourages the dialogue to engage with
other in a good a good neighborhood, so in that
sense dialogue with other is a concept as far as you can remain
faithful to your faith and can present yourself in the society ok but his beleifs derived from religion
have put him on a collision course in the past when he was living in
Turkey’s and Fethullah Gulen’s influence really preceeds that of the AK party so for example he has been not been on
the run when after the 1980 coup in Turkey some of the generals thought that you
know he might have been involved in that he’s had a spell in detention so this is somebody who has got a bit of
controversy attached to his past somebody who has made a stand against
the secularists in Turkey well in one way a I wouldn’t say it’s a
stand but somebody who definitely come up with a different idea than what we
have you know like in in majority Muslim groups for instance when the Ataturk abolished the Arabic alphabet and change education system..
you are going back to the 1930s
there Keaml Atatuk.. there were different responses and Gulen’s response was to reclaim that education area go back to it actually transpires in my own life;
my grandfather didn’t want to buy a TV in the house because it was “a
product of modernity” and was “un-Islamic” My father and my uncle’s generation had built an adjacent room to watch TV in there because they had to engage..
and Gulen has called people to to take part in that media business let’s
say as a Muslim who gives the News who takes part ok so as I said he was arrested and then
he was freed and he went to the United States for medical treatment and then he
decided to stay in the United States in about nineteen ninety nine to two
thousand he was an ally of ratchet 02 on until about three years ago because they
both obviously have parties or or movements that are derived from religion
and but fell out with Revep tayip erdogan over a video that purportedly showed Erdogan
involved in some kind of financial transactions and that was blamed on
Fethullah gülen and mr. Erdogan says it was manufactured ok you know that that debate never gone
to court so i won’t be able to say what was the real case but i would say this
is Fethullah Gulen’s understanding doesn’t put politics at the heart of
Islamic understanding it says ninety-five percent of the religion is
about individual life and five percent maybe about the the restructuring
society and political islam is quiteotherwise but after 1997 Erdogan
actually changed with a group of people within the political Islamist you know
they left Erbakan and then they establish justice and development party
which prioritize to to fight with you know like democratization against the
corruption and against the you know like some was yasaklar, yolsulzuk yoksulluk… poverty so that is pretty much the line that
Glen has always always defended so he found it at number of allies like
Alavites, Kurds liberals and Gulen as well and along the way they did they start
dropping we don’t realize Alavites drop much earlier and that was an
opportunity to share it’s not really my question is my was
askin is that here you had two allies if and that now they are obviously a highly
critical to put it mildly of each other and I put it to you that some observers
have noted for example Ezgi basar who is now at Oxford University that the
gülen movement thinks it should govern as it did a lot of the hard work toppling the secularist movement and is
that really what is at the base of the tensions between the two I think that’s not the the tension
between the two I think there’s a lot to do with gülen movement becoming a
global phenomena for instance if there is a corruption
scandal came about will you be able to still support the
government in Turkey altough it is corrupted “allegedly” and still maintain
their at pro démocratique, a you know like a “clean Islam” that you you you
advocate for in the rest of the country so you can actually we have two phases you you have to say
okay let’s you know like “maybe it should be cleared” out and and then Erdogan
didn’t like that so that become a… so you’re presenting the teachings of good
and it’s very non violence and conciliatory and seeking dialogue on
some but I have to put it to you that when in about 2007 2008 there were
investigations into the military in Turkey to see you know who were the
secularists and so on there that Peter Westmacott to the former British
ambassador to Turkey said that there was a lot of fabricated evidence against
military officers and he says it was the followers of gulen– in the police and
prosecution who fabricated that evidence well that shows that you have at
university and monetize you wanted a i understand that is a very nasty
thing if that is true that the thing is that why would he say? Peter Westmacott the British ambassador
former British ambassador to Turkey but well I do understand that you know like
there is that that image of gulen– and you know like everything that goes
wrong since a certain time (2013) and sometimes
traceback can be blamed him some might even have some credibility to it but you
know like it’s highly unlikely unlikely for me to believe in something
before I see you know like that has been taken to a court and said well “yeah this
this is done because of gulen and gulenists in its alright so i have to make
it clear you are not a spokesperson for Fethullah Gulen and you’ve carried out
extensive research a PhD on the teachings of Fethullah gülen and
obviously as I said you run a think tank which is inspired as your website says
and funded and founded by followers of Fethullah Gulen, Turkish government
blames Gulen for the coup turkish columnist Msutafa Akyol
not a supporter of the Act party says the claim that gooeyness must be the
driving force of the coup is no crazy conspiracy theory it’s the most plausible theory what you
say to that i would say it is not different than all the theories that we
heard so far and you know like and it is just shows that the gülen movement is a
very “convenient scapegoat” in here because nobody really has been evidence
that has been 12 days we don’t know general staff and his involvement we
don’t know his aides are involved we don’t know who who actually did the coup?
who is the commander in chief of the coup and then we we we should
investigate what is behind that with the CIA or this and that i’m not claiming
that is but there are a lot of a arguments like that.. so I think jumping
but before you know who did the coup jumping that “ohh this should be behind
this coup” should be “this guy” is just like repeating the same arguments last
3-4 years of who you think it might you saying it might be the CIA is that what
you don’t know i don’t see it might be to say i might be Erdogan
himself because some people have put that thought out is that what you’re
suggesting it might be the no no not at all i think this is a coup and it’s not
a new thing and the Turkish military has a military tutelage over the government it’s like Ataturk set the republic
and handed over to the Army’s supervision always been the custom Jesus
nationalism network just put you on that CIA rose rose Wilson former US ambassador to turkey
says that the idea that the CIA or the Americans might have been behind this
coup is preposterous not just to be able to do that food is
what I’m telling you that clean doesn’t like you said I really credit you said okay nobody has managed to get
into court yet it’s still early days as you said from the mid july coup but there are observers who really know
the Turkish seem very well give you one example Harvard professor Dani Rodrik i mentioned the fact that he
is from a Turkish sephardic jewish family just to make it clear you know
not an act party supporter he says the googliness had both the
motive and the timing reasons to carry out this coup he says that they learned of an
impending sweep against them by the Turkish government so they decided to
move and i quote early and quickly and he says this explains why the coup
attempt seemed rushed and poorly planned and so the motives were there with the
gülen is that’s one very considered opinion there well there’s a lot of motives for a lot
of people but for Dani Rodrik he is an economist and he has actually involved
emotionally with the previous case I know he has something against the moment
but what I know of the movement, for me but he’s a hard to not believe that he
said the ford foundation this is unfortunately with good intellectual
credentials i’m not i’m not rubishing them what I’m saying is he has
he has this this this past as well we have to remember there is yeah you know like they’re an emotional
scar in my case the way I see it the way what i have read from the gülen and if
I if I look into their existence in hundred and sixty countries in opposed
to their diminished existence in Turkey at the moment it’s not quite timely at
all if they do such a coup that would finish the gülen movement as we know it that is a suicide for the gülen
movement to do it even to a attempt a coup they win it they lose everything they they failed
they used to it necessarily so it’s estimated that he has about 15 to 20
million followers worldwide and the Turkish government has said that about
8,000 Turkish officers were involved in the queue which is about 1.5 percentage
of the Turkish army and that’s what some people say that’s roughly the figure of
the representation of the goons the googliness in the civil service in the
judiciary and the police and end in the army so you know why why I can that not be
the case when we know that there have been senior military officers who have
made confessions to being closeted Gulenist i’ll give you one example left
and Colonel Levent turkan toward can and a to the chief of the general staff in Turkey and
again professor dani rodrik says his testimony is quite detailed he names names and it rings true so it’s
not just as a result of being electrically because i don’t understand
that but then again we know that let’s say the the chemist and secular
branch within the army never liked : so in a failed coup you can easily
blame it on Gulen nailing you wouldn’t claim it for yourself whoever did it it’s it’s very convenient at the moment
to say something like some of the city’s didn’t like gülen but you know recep tayip erdgan and the Ak party has its roots in Islam so you could say the same about a
balancing of interests and and the at part of what i’m saying is at the moment
there is a convenience thing we have to see that as well done in order to
himself says that as well you know like and some other scholars
for instance Eric Jan Zuchrer he claims otherwise you know the feeling
all right we don’t go by several decks don’t know yet yeah what I’m saying is people who are
expert there isn’t you know like there’s any more integration what if it look cool and himself say in
1999 in a sermon to his followers move within the arteries of the system reach all the power centers ok so that
is to sentence from it from a talk which was the backbone of the 1999 girl and
trial which we know drag the until two thousand seven and then they had to
actually let him go they claim that he wasn’t guilty but
they wanted to put a close you know they weren’t actually I’m just
saying he said that didn’t he he said move within the arteries of the system well just like Churchill said “fight them
on the beaches and fight them on here” and where it’s not quite the same
because the idea here and although the court decided that it was taken out of
context put together and doctored you would never see the the full video itself
because maybe it explains the context of what he say so the point it’s making
though the point I’m making ismail sezgin says gain is that there are a lot of
followers of gullen– in-state sectors the civil service the judiciary the
police and the military and that statement whatever the court case it would seem to
support that and it’s not the only evidence i’m giving you for example Brigadier General dr. he’s got a PhD how
to install master key from Chatham House a british-based think tank and also from
Boston University said in the mid-nineteen eighties he was one of the
key officers who investigated what was going on goodness movement in frustration in the
military academy and high schools and he says all the cadets around the table
made it crystal clear to him that they were all loyal to Gulen and he says and i quote i have no doubt
their loyalty was not to the Turkish state or to the chain of command of the
Turkish military but to Gulen I mean this is what the government means
by a parallel state it since it’s not this is not tolerable that’s good so here is the thing are we talking
about some people cannot take part in army military as you know like “white
turks and black turks discussion” so they have their, as a citizens, to be being part
of Army or bureaucracy is infiltration!? you know can we can be
imagined this for England like three million off the population let’s say
Hindus can take part in army they have to shave their beards and look
like white british no but if yeah but if they serve in the British Army they have
to pledge allegiance to the Queen the head of state will not be tolerated is
if they said we actually have a legion i agree with four we have any value
between we actually have this loyalty to this this other person that no country
would tolerate and nobody expected toleration we were just way we just want you know
it is an investigation who you know like it is it really those
people who did this? and in that in that in that case you know like as
Gulen says they need to be punished but i have to say that 2,000 schools are
closed down these are like eighty percent of the top schools in Turkey
there is a statistical inevitability that some of the graduates
will be in in in higher circles like you know oxford and cambridge graduates almost
how many percent of the government’s it’s not the existing office certain
person who believes in certain ideology is not a problem but “them committing a
crime” is a problem because you don’t have a loyalty if they have loyalty to somebody up
other than the turkish state and they are serving serving in state
institutions that’s the accusation no I I don’t think loyalty can be the
you know that did you how can we starting a coup not again see if your results including
you if if Gulenists did this coup nobody would you know like who are defending
them but what I’m going against it i have a lot of accusations and I don’t
think that we should jump into conclusion that it was gulenist is we should just wait
showing the Deputy Prime one of the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey mohammed
sheikh said on hard talk that even before the coup that government was
making carrying out its investigations to see who had infiltrated what state
sector and he says now after the coup that the vast majority of those arrested
in the government crackdown have either been caught red-handed or because they were arrested while the
coup attempt was going on or because their names appeared on a list of jobs
for key positions that they would occupy after the coup so he’s basing your explanations on why
do you understand that i know some of the army generals who actually resisted the
coup and and help to stop also detained as well they might be a reason for that
as well but my understanding in here is yes actually in the the classifying of
Gulenists didn’t start even the 2013 we know the the that national security
committee were actually decided in 2004 to to keep an eye on on citizens
and who are practicing and who are not so that there is a a an undemocratic
thing going on already so now if you want to nail it to your political
opponents and claimed everybody that 60,000 people are Gulenists and get
rid of all the oppositions like Kurdish teaching institutions and this and that.. that is a bit like you know it is a
smoke screen what you are tryin to do so you are saying using as a scapegoat
although i have to remind you that when the coup was carried out even the
pro-kurdish political aligns the HDP through its weight behind Erdogan
says we don’t support this the CHP the country’s largest opposition party this wasn’t about making a stand to
support president Erdogan when this they saw it as a stand in support of
democracy the a quality one legitimately the elections in the country anybody who
understand Gulen’s teachings has has opposed coup as well you know like there is there isn’t like
we are, gulenists are not on the other side of the fence at this matter and
they said no matter how corrupt the government is this is not the way… and i
have to say it really has made a personal statements only condemning the crew and denying
involvement but it’s what i would have to say the one more thing like the the
problem some of the media is you know what we think everybody every official
is like a British official hold accountable for day words for three
years as an expert on the field I watched everyone saying that I demanded
from Obama from America Gulen to be extradited until CNN actually question
have you actually formally put and what they had now they have extracted it
would be nice to yield to him says that he’s heartbroken he told the Wall Street
Journal that he’d be heartbroken if the US dont extradite… but the perception is
that if you keep telling Turkish public in the time of the elections and say “we
are asking and they’re not giving” that is factually incorrect and but that
create the perception of like “there is America behind this” buddy and you want a
nice section that and and that is that is like you know not a legal thing
anymore that’s it you know like politicsizing a leagl..
have to thank you that I said for to the good and said he wasn’t involved and
condemned the coup but he also said in a statement talked about the government’s
in Turkey’s shift towards a dictatorship which is polarizing the population are
the words of somebody who wants to calm a tense situation in Turkey after the
coup wrote to say that if you’re not if if you’re not really concentrate on on
Erdogan’s political carrier but look at where Turkey was let’s say a month ago
and where it’s going to be a month later and you would be really worried about
democracy at the moment what matters is we need to save the
democracy and democracy is not only about you know like rejecting the coup it’s also about protecting minority
rights and giving it serious error analysis finding who was responsible for
killing a hundred and seventy three civilians including 1 16 year old boy
you shot all those families in Turkey tragedy that have no father because it
was mostly men who were killed so the government has got to find out as
Ian morale for an analyst said that the purges that is legitimate there does
have to be an aggressive response to find out who was involved in this you I do agree we have to find who’s in involved it is very tragic and we have
to we have to really put all our weight at the at the back.. but if we’re talking a government
getting rid of like Theresa may getting rid of 2,700 judges who will make the
investigations and from the first minute before even the coup ends starts claiming
that this person is responsible how will they list a time to how the replaced
judges will be objective the great object the government says the
due process of law will be looked at and and still I want to also just very
briefly and quickly at the end the Turkish an obvious Alicia facts as
people are very background commanders Kurds liberals Nationals conservatives
should shoulder to shoulder and resistant to the plotters for the first
time in years Turkish society felt United this could
actually lead to greater national unity in Turkey briefly that is my first point. when I
realized the coup is going down i said this might be end of military tutelage
as we know it in Turkey so that is the one of the greatest sign
that people of Turkey has actually embrace the democracy it wasn’t a case
10 years ago but it will have to wait long solitary isn’t necessarily that is there
is I hope not but at the moment there is a state of emergency and will hope that
to do the people who are responsible are being both through just this and
punished accordingly ismail sezgin thank you very much indeed for coming on
hard talk thank you thank you


  1. Lady doesnt allow finish, Mr Ismail kinda disrespectful, trying to apply pressure , but he handled it well. Nice interview!

  2. What is this "infiltration" stuff? Does it mean, even though someone is merited enough for some job, should avoid going for it just because she/he has ideological or emotional influence of some group or teaching? There are thousands of Gulen inspired schools out there well there were giving high level education, and graduates of course excell to really good positions not because they were Gulenists (rather it was not likely if they are known as Gulenist because secularists and political Islamists have never been fond of Gulens ideas actually) but because they were good… In Turkey the same discrimination have been shown towards all "others" i.e head-scarfed women, Kurdish, Alevites, Armenians, etc unless you become one of the white Turks… Mr. Sezgin's point is clear: if there is crime, let it be investigated and punished regardless of who has commited it. Can you oppose this just idea, Hard Talk? If the government is not doing this but instead shutting down schools, hospitals, charity organisations, universities, media groups, detaining people without proper claims and keeping them in jail without prosecution procedures what kind of allegation is that? PERIOD

  3. Zeinab could have done a better work at listening to his answers instead of trying to squeze out the answer she wants to hear.

  4. Zeinab should repeat the interview just now almost 3.5 years after the so called coup attempt in Turkey. Mr Sezgin says that he is worry about the Turkish democracy. I do understand what he says, because almost 180 journalists have been jailed since 2016 and nobody is able to opposite against Erdogans undemocratic treatments.

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