The exposure of alleged corruption in the AKP government by a leading Turkish newspaper, Today’s Zaman, created a tectonic shift in Turkish politics. It led to the resignation of four ministers in the government of the then prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on 17 December 2014. The exposure was seen by AKP as part of a larger game plan by its erstwhile allies the Hizmet Movement to discredit it and its government. Stacks of shoe boxes containing millions of dollars were found in the house of the prime minister’s son, Bilal Erdoğan and shown on television and across other media. There was also alleged incriminating evidence of some ministers’ personal finance compromised by kick-back harvesting. The Hizmet Movement is a powerful, unstructured organisation that is an important part of Turkish civil society. It is led by the charismatic religious leader, Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in exile for almost two decades. Partly to protect himself from the reach of his internal enemies, mostly an alliance of suspicious secularists, high ranking bureaucrats in the civil service, and the upper echelons of the military, he chose to go elsewhere. As a religious leader at the head of a civic movement, they saw him as a potential threat to the Turkish secular state. At the time of the media exposure, Erdoğan was an embattled prime minister who was trying to stem the tide of a burgeoning civil unrest through street protests and demonstrations that attracted ever larger numbers. The government mishandled the demonstration. The police tear-gassed, beat up, shot at and bundled protesters into police vans, at what started as a peaceful protest by a small group of middle class environmental activists,  protesting the increasing gentrification of the less salubrious neighbourhoods bordering the prime areas of the central business district, home to hotels, and shopping areas frequented by endless streams of tourists, mostly affluent Middle Easterners. Erdoğan’s cronies had apparently earmarked part of a public park (a gezi) – a place where people simply promenaded – for the construction of yet another shopping mall. This naturally angered environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, architects and other social activists. Disgruntled elements and malcontents also joined the fray.

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.

Access our entire archive of 350+ articles from the world's leading writers on Islam.
Only £3.30/month, cancel anytime.


Already subscribed? Log in here.

Not convinced? Read this: why should I subscribe to Critical Muslim?

Elsewhere on Critical Muslim: