ANKARA (Hurriyet Daily News)—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has challenged Fethullah Gulen, the self-exiled leader of the influential Hizmet (or Gulen) Movement, to establish a political party to compete with his government in the political sphere, vowing to fight against what he calls a “parallel state” led by the Islamic scholar.
“Turkey is no longer a country whose rule can be imposed from abroad. That is history. They ought to come to Turkey and deal with this issue through politics,” Erdogan said during his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) weekly parliamentary group meeting on Feb 11.
Gulen has been residing in the United States since the late 1990s after he was prosecuted for his alleged attempts to break the constitutional order in Turkey but refused to return even though he was acquitted of all charges under the AKP’s rule. Gulen leads the massive Hizmet Movement which has a global and local reach, running hundreds of schools and other educational institutions. The alliance between Erdogan and Gulen was recently ruptured after a massive corruption and graft probe was launched by what Erdogan believes to be “the parallel state” under Gulen’s direction.
Erdogan reiterated his government’s determination to destroy this “parallel state,” describing Gulen as its leader, alleging that he had been trying to infiltrate the state for the past 40 years and announcing that the government would take all necessary steps in this “independence war” against traitors and the enemies of the “New Turkey.”
“The Dec. 17  offensive is merely a project of destruction. They just want to destroy; they have no objective to build. They say the ‘AK Party must go, the government must go.’ What they suggest instead of the AK Party government is [an order of] chaos, instability, uncertainty, poverty and corruption. Bring it on. Let them do their best; let them use any sort of dirty means,” Erdogan told his lawmakers.
“It’s enough! Since they are the ones who are eavesdropping, talking and trying to rule the country through CDs, we will also speak about it and take our steps. We are courageously advancing on this issue,” he said.
Erdogan said the judiciary was preparing for legal action against what he called an “illegal gang within the state” while reiterating that his government was determined to clear the state of members of this so-called parallel structure. Describing the posting of phone conversations between government officials and business leaders or other media personalities that proved alleged corruption and graft business or direct intervention on the media as “cyber mobbing,” Erdogan said they would not allow what he calls “tape politics” to shape the country’s politics.
“If we surrender to this, then it would mean a betrayal of the people’s will. If we surrender to this, then we would blacken Turkey’s future,” he said.
Defending the much-criticized Internet bill that will increase the government’s control over the web, Erdogan said the move aimed to protect individuals’ private lives and society from menaces. The prime minister said the move would prevent future attempts of “dignity assassinations,” stating that all developed countries had similar regulations on the use of the Internet. Critics say the bill could be used by the government to stifle reporting on massive alleged corruption in government circles. Pro-AKP media groups, meanwhile, have castigated the bill’s opponents as the “Porno Lobby.”
Criticizing the opposition parties for not backing this bill even though they had suffered from illegal eavesdropping and other violations of privacy, Erdogan accused the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of “surrendering” to the Hizmet Movement after they had been threatened by the “illegal gang.”
“They wiretapped everybody; not just me and the president, businessmen or journalists. I’m saying it from here: they have listened to everybody, all parties and journalists in Mersin to blackmail them,” Erdogan said.
“This is the struggle of 77 million [people in Turkey]. March 30 will be date of the victory of Turkey and the failure of the enemies of Turkey and their local contractors,” he said in reference to the date of local elections.