Decision Time For the Gulen Movement

If the Gulen movement wants to serve society, they should restrict themselves to nongovernmental activities rather than using their bureaucratic influence to engage in politics.

The official documents disclosed last week in order to force the government to change their decision to transform tutoring centers, took the Gulen movement affair to a whole new level. With the Gulen movement in mind, we should instead discuss social movements and politics during the era under some sort of tutelage and the way social movements need to interact with politics and the state during the formation of the new Turkey in the post-tutelage era.

In our recent history, ties between the public and politics faced two important breaking points. Firstly, following the war of independence, the Kemalist administration, with their understanding of national will based on the principles of Rousseau, took upon itself the monopoly of government in the name of the people. The second breaking point occurred with the removal of free elections and the multi-party system. The national will provided by the 1961 Constitution was given to the control of the appointed bureaucrats. Both these periods, when the nation did not have the right to influence the political process through democratic elections, can be defined through tutelage.

During these eras, which we conceptually named as tutelage, politics that should have been open to national participations was taken over by a single group. That’s why many different social movements with varying political views saw this as the usurpation of the state by the Kemalist elite. This abnormal period, when the nation became estranged from the state and politics became functionless, also produced many strategic responses which are not in line with democratic politics. Some movements turned to armed resistance, some sought allies within the armed forces and tried to assume power with coups, and some focused to organize within bureaucracy, trickle into the state, and obtain control of it. The Kemalist takeover of the state, which had alienated the public, legitimized these efforts because politics was closed to national will. Many groups and organizations with varying political intentions adopted organizational structures that looked like movements.


After more than a decade of relentless efforts, today this tutelage is at an end. Politics has become open to public opinion, the state has become owned by the people. In short, tutelage over politics and state is over. With politics opening to the nation and influencing the decision-making process, social movements that were organized with tutelage in mind are in need of change in strategy. Political history is full of examples of anachronic social movements that could not adjust to changing political times, those that opposed the flow of time and change thus harming themselves. In our recent history we have witnessed many movements with different political influences deal with the throes of change.

The Gulen movement is a front runner amongst organizations that is faced with the force to change its strategy that was defined by the era of tutelage. Since its founding, the Gulen movement has implemented two strategies. It, on the one hand, while forming an effective religion-based civil organization focused on providing services, becoming a successful example of an aid movement. On the other hand, like many movements formed at the time, it placed importance to infiltrating into vital state institutions.

The opening of the channels between the society, politics, and the state caused radical changes firstly in political activities and mediums through which service was provided to the people. At a time when democracy is valid, and the barriers between the public and the state are lifted, the legitimacy of social movements is limited to their public effectiveness and influence. The sole way to make the state to truly belong to the people is to join politics through social channels with the use of democratic mechanisms, while being vary of bureaucratic obstacles. In this context, the state-focused strategy of the Gulen movement, which was formulated nearly half a century ago

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