FILE ON ISLAMIST RISE
The Extreme-Right block confirmed its climb in
Turkey by increasing its votes from 13.90% to 28.66% in five years.
However all the right-wing political leaders and the Army chiefs have
been accomplices in the Islamist rise since 1946. This file is a
compilation of the information published until now by Info-Türk that
has persistently drawn attention to the rise of Islam Fundamentalism in
Turkey since the 1980 military coup.
After the shocking results of the March 27, 1994,
confirming the never ending rise of the Extreme Right, particularly
Islam Fundamentalism, many observers ask if Turkey may be a second
Algeria in near future. The fact that the Extreme Right, after having
raised its total vote from 13.90% in 1989 to 28.66% in 1994, is
currently ruling 34 out of the country's 76 provincial centres, the
Welfare Party (RP) in 28 provinces including Ankara and Istanbul and
the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) in three provinces, may give reason
to such a question.
It is too early to attribute a FIS image to the RP,
because the latter has already been an integrated part of Turkish
political system for over twenty years and took part few times in
coalition governments, even once with Ecevit’s social democrat CHP.
Nevertheless, RP leader Necmeddin Erbakan always
speaks of replacing the secular order by an Islamic order and attacks
very often the European Community, qualifying it as the fifth column of
the Zionism. Furthermore, despite its anti-imperialist and
anti-American rhetoric, it is also well known that the RP has always
had close religious, political, economic and financial relations with
Saudi Arabia, the champion of Islamic fundamentalism and the closest
ally of the USA in the Islamic world.
So, encouraged by the growing popular support, RP
may adopt in future a more radical fundamentalist stand and lead the
country to the Saudi model. What is more, with its political power in
Turkey, it may play a bigger role in imposing Islamic fundamentalism to
the Turkic republics and the Turkish communities of the Balkans.
Already, after their electoral success, the RP and
MHP militants did not delay to stage violent demonstrations in
Istanbul and Ankara on pretext of protesting against the Serbs' attack
on the Bosnian town of Gorazde.
Everything started on April 10, 1994, with the
Fundamentalist TV channel, TGRT, broadcasting unconfirmed reports
concerning alleged "genocide" against Bosnian Muslims. Rumour was
spread that the Serbs were using chemical weapons, claiming some 6,000
of Bosnian Muslims had been killed.
What is more incredible, Prime Minister Tansu
Ciller, without feeling the need to consult the Foreign Ministry on the
reliability of the early reports did not hesitate to give statements
suggesting this information was true. "I learned with deepest regret
and horror that Serbs, surrounding the Bosnian Muslim town of Gorazde,
used chemical weapons in an attack during which a great number of
civilians, children and elderly were killed," she said.
Thereupon, thousands of Islamists and
Ultra-nationalists rushed to the main squares of Istanbul and Ankara by
shouting blood-thirsty slogans and resorting to violent acts. In Ankara
the main targets were the United National building —which was pelted
with rocks and forced to take down its flag to appease the crowds—, the
US Embassy —whose grounds were entered and windows smashed— and the
Russian trade mission which was also showered with rocks.
They also attacked the Turkish Radio and
Television's (TRT) building and the DYP headquarters with both also
having their windows smashed, reporters and cameramen jostled and
After the events, RP leader Erbakan, criticising the
government for being a "lackey of the West," said: "If you continue to
be a lackey, people will rise and demonstrate in Istanbul and Ankara."
Arguing that there will be no calm or stability in
the country until Turkey accepts the RP's "just order", Erbakan added:
"Turkey will definitely pass to a just order. Sixty million people will
decide if this transition will be easy, difficult, sweet or bloody."
COMPLICITY OF ALL POLITICIANS
Although the RP has now the privilege of
representing Islam in the political field, the rise of Islam
Fundamentalism in Turkey cannot be attributed to the RP alone.
After a 20-year period of Kemalist and pro-Western
reforms, Islam spontaneously regained ground in Turkey during the
passage to a multi-party system as a means of opposition of the
impoverished peasant masses. Islam reinforced its influence due to the
fact that almost all political parties counted on the card of Islam for
gaining over believers.
It was already in 40s that President Ismet Inönü,
closest comrade of Atatürk, gave first important concessions to
the Islamist movement by opening religious schools and closing secular
oriented peasant institutes.
One of the first things the DP Government of
Menderes did when it came to power in 1950 was to authorise to call to
prayer in Arab instead of Turkish and to encourage the construction of
mosques and the organization of underground tarikats (religious orders).
In Sixties, the AP Government of Demirel did its
best to involve these tarikats in daily politics and to use them to
counter the rising progressive and socialist movements in Turkey.
Even today, by the side of the RP and the MHP, all
other Right-wing leaders, including Turkey's first woman Prime Minister
Ciller, are using each occasion to give an Islamist and
Prior to the 1980 Coup, the Turkish Extreme-Right
developed in two different currents: Pan-Turkism organized within
the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), on the one hand, on the other
Islamic Fundamentalism organized within the National Salvation
Party (MSP) and supported by Saudi Arabia.
While the Grey Wolves, propagating the
superiority of Turkish race, advocated to unite all peoples of
Turkish origin, including Moslem peoples of the Soviet Union and the
Bazlkans, and Turkish migrants in the West, within an empire
called Turan, the Islam Fundamentalists, rejecting a unity on
race basis, raised the idea of the unification of Moslem peoples,
including before mentioned Turks, within a religious community to be
headed by Saudi Arabia.
The radicalisation of the Islam in Turkey gained
impetus after Saudi Arabia, with the open support by the United States
aiming to counter progressive and nationalist movement in the Islamic
world, began to take under its influence other Islamic countries by the
means of the Rabitat-ul-Alem-ul-Islam (World Islam League) in 60s
and 70s. (The World Islam League has its European centre in Brussels,
at the Cinquantenaire Park and has benefited from many facilities and
privileges offered by Belgian authorities.)
It is in Seventies that the Islam radicalism created
its political organization, the National Salvation Party (MSP) and
entered Parliament and even governments.
The Iranian Revolution gave the second impetus to
the Islamic fundamentalism in 80s. Benefiting at the same time from the
military junta’s concessions aiming to use Muslim masses against
progressive forces, it could easily infiltrate into all public services
Both currents, despite their differences, have
always been supported by the United States and the Turkish big business
in a view to counter the rise of progressive and anti-imperialist
movements in Turkey.
After the 1980 coup, to put an end to conflict
between the two flanks of Extreme-Right and to enlarge its mass basis,
the military reshaped the legislation and structures of the Turkish
State in conformity with the thesis of Turco-Islamic Synthesis. This
thesis stipulates to promote the traditional values of Turkish race and
the principles of Islam.
The 1982 Constitution and other laws enacted by the
military junta, disrespecting the secularity of the State, increased
the influence of Islam in social and cultural plans. It is the first
time in the history of the Republic that the Islamic courses in the
secondary education were made obligatory even for the children of
non-Moslem families. Consequently, the finance holdings and foundations
set up by Islamist circles in collaboration with Saudi capital have
become dominant in the Turkish economy. During the military operations
against the Kurdish Guerrilla, the Army declaring its adversary
the enemy of Islam, called the Muslim Kurds to join the Jihad (Holy
War) that it led. (For the rebirth and rise of Islamic Fundamentalism,
see: Intégrisme islamique en Turquie et immigration, Info-Türk, 1987;
The Extreme Right in Turkey, Info-Türk, 1988, and Turcs de Belgique,
FUNDAMENTALISTS IN ANAP AND DYP
The number of the concessions given to
fundamentalists and ultra-nationalists extremely increased
especially after Özal's Government came to power.
On September 11, 1984, The Times reported:
"In particular they have taken effective control of
the State Radio and TV Corporation (TRT), whose new director was
formerly a senior figure in the MHP. Another former MHP member is
secretary of the Ministry of Employment. The last development, even
more sinister, is the appointment of two deputy directors of the
National Police Force, one of whom was in charge of the torture centre
in Ankara during the previous military regime in 1971 and has since
then been kept out of sight, while the other's name was found among the
secret documents of the MHP as the future director of the National
Police Force had the MHP captured power. Such appointments raise the
question whether the 1980 intervention was really a comprehensive
defeat for terrorism as its authors claimed."
When Ozal founded his Motherland Party (ANAP) in
1983, a former MHP sympathiser, Mustafa Tasar was entrusted with the
function of Secretary-General.
Within the first Ozal government, well-known
sympathisers of the defunct MHP were numerous: State Minister Halil
Sivgin, State Minister Kazim Oksay, State Minister Mesut Yilmaz,
Minister of Communication Veysel Atasoy and Under-Secretary Hasan Celal
Besides, former neo-fascist activists were elected
mayors in many important cities, such as Ankara, Erzincan, Erzurum,
Adapazari, Bingöl, Elazig, Yozgat, Gaziantep, Antakya and Kastamonu.
(Info-Türk, N°146, December 1988)
The Motherland Party (ANAP) Congress, held on
June 20-25, 1988, in Ankara, reaffirmed the pre-eminence of the
Turco-Islamic Synthesis within this party.
Although Prime Minister Ozal presented his party to
the West as a liberal, pro-Western party, this profile could not hide
the fact that the ANAP's hard-core derived from former
Neo-fascist or Islamist politicians who were later united within a
Speeches by the majority of the delegates with their
strong religious tones, left no room for the expression of liberal
trends. Prayers were recited from the rostrum with the participation of
nearly 1,000 delegates. There were also calls for opening the Ayasofya
(Haghia Sophia) in Istanbul used as a museum, to Islamic worship.
The Ayasofya was built as a church by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian
in 537 A.D. It was converted to a mosque after Mehmet the Conqueror
captured Istanbul in 1453. A decree introduced in 1934 during Atatürk's
regime converted the Ayasofya into a museum.
Ozal himself did not delay to make a religious
demonstration on the occasion of hajj (holy pilgrimage) in July 1988.
Although he had completed the Islamic ritual twice before, in 1968 and
in 1975, this was the first time that he was making the pilgrimage as
Turkey's prime minister.
After this visit, the Saudi ambassador to Ankara,
Abdelaziz M. Khojah, said: "Özal's pilgrimage will strengthen Moslem
unity. The importance of Özal's visit comes from the fact that he is
the first prime minister since the establishment of the Republic of
Turkey to perform hajj while still in office." (Dateline, July 30,
In the meantime, in an interview with the Luxembourg
cable television network RTL, Ozal defended the following views
concerning Atatürk, founder of the Republic: "He was a good Moslem and
as such he struggled with fanatics. Atatürk opened the first session of
the National Assembly with a religious ceremony. He was a good Moslem
who also had modern thoughts. The claims that his principles are
violated in Turkey today are groundless."
According to the press reports, many members of
ANAP's inner circle and even the Prime Minister himself had links with
the powerful underground tarikat of Naksibendi.
This tarikat got the lion's share of large amounts
funnelled by Saudi Arabia. Korkut Ozal, the brother of the prime
minister, is known to be actively involved as a conduit of sorts for
Saudi money to be distributed to various religious sects.
(Info-Türk, N°146, December 1988)
After the seizure of the ruling ANAP's direction by
the Holy Alliance, the second right-wing party in the Parliament, the
Correct Way Party (DYP) of Süleyman Demirel too began to shift to
DYP deputy Ertekin Durutürk, known to be a very
close to Demirel, proposed in January 1989 a bill in the Turkish
National Assembly, asking for the Ayasofya (Haghia Sofia) to be
reopened as a mosque and for the Koran to be read around the clock in
the Holy Relics section of Topkapi Palace.
In the draft law, approved by the DYP's
parliamentary group, Durutürk said: "Those who silenced the call to
prayer from the minarets of Ayasofya in 1934 also destroyed the
417-year old tradition of reading the Koran in the Holy Relics
Department of Topkapi Palace. This decision has been a pang of
conscience for the Islamic Turkish Nation." (Info-Türk, N°147, January
Finally, the Ayasofya has prtially been reopened to
REBIRTH OF EXTREMIST PARTIES
Although both ANAP and DYP did all possible to
satisfy the Islamist and Ultra Nationalist electorate, after former
political leaders, banned by the 1980 coup, having been
authorised on September 6, 1987, to lead again their movements,
Necmettin Erbakan's Welfare Party (RP), successor of the Nationalist
Salvation Party (MSP), and Ex-colonel Türkes' neo-fascist Nationalist
Labour Party (MCP), successor of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP),
began to take-over their followers.
The March 26, 1989, local elections resulted
in a genuine rout for Prime Minister Özal's ANAP. The "occidental"
image of Özal's family, mainly Mrs. Özal's public appearance with a
glass of whisky in one hand and a cigar in the other, had been
detrimental to the ANAP's electoral chance during the rise of
fundamentalist wave in Turkey.
Three right-wing opposition parties led an electoral
campaign accusing Özal's party of taking no heed of Fundamentalist
demands and appealed many Conservative ANAP voters. Such a campaign by
Erbakan's Welfare Party (RP) and Ex-colonel Türkes' neo-fascist
Nationalist Action Party (MCP) was not at all surprising. This time
former Premier Demirel's DYP too, in a move to regain the title of the
most powerful right-wing party, resorted to demagogy such as demanding
to turn the Saint Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque.
However, this was not the only reason for
Özal's defeat in rural areas. The monetarist policies imposed by the
IMF and applied by Ozal for nine years, three years as vice-premier and
five years as prime minister, resulted in more impoverishment of
peasants and little town tradesmen and craftsmen.
Erbakan's new Welfare Party (RP) increased the
number of nation-wide votes it won from 7 per cent in 1987 to 9.8 per
cent and won five mayoral offices, including Konya, the fourth largest
city in Turkey. Beside Konya, a traditional stronghold of the Islamic
fundamentalist movement, RP also won the mayoral offices in provincial
capitals of Kahramanmaras, Sivas, Sanliurfa and Van as well as in 15
townships and 48 municipalities.
The extreme-right Nationalist Labor Party (MCP) of
Alparslan Türkes also managed to increase its share of the electorate.
Polling 4.2 per cent of the nation-wide vote, it won the mayoral
offices in three provincial capitals, Yozgat, Elazig and Erzincan, 10
townships and 11 municipal administrations. (Info-Türk, N°150, April
1989 and N°151, May 1989)
ALARMING RISE OF EXTREME-RIGHT
The results of the 1991 legislative elections
confirmed the alarming rise of the extreme-right.
The Welfare Party (RP), owing to its alliance with
two other extreme-right parties, surged to fourth place with 16.88% of
the votes and 62 seats in Parliament. The total score of these three
parties in 1987 election was 10.84% and they had no deputy in
The Nationalist Labour Party (MCP) and the Reformist
Democracy Party (IDP) of Aykut Edibali, fundamentalist, had to
give up participating in elections with their own tickets because of
the 10% national and 20 or 25% provincial barrages for being
represented in Parliament. Considering the fact that in 1987 elections
the MCP had obtained 2.9% and the IDP 0.8% of the votes, the leaders of
these two parties became candidates in RP lists.
Of 62 deputies of the Alliance, 40 belonged to the
RP, 20 to the MCP and 2 to the IDP. A number of Grey Wolves who
had been detained after the coup for political murders too managed to
enter Parliament as deputies thanks to their alliance with the RP.
Among them are also Muhsin Yazicioglu and Muharrem Semsek, two former
chairmen of the Idealist Youth Organization (UGD), terror organization
of Grey Wolves; Ökkes Sendiller, principal author of the massacre of
more than 100 people in Kahramanmaras in 1978; Esat Bütün who had shot
dead with machine gun 30 people in a bus in Ankara.
After having entered the Parliament, the MCP decided
to rename itself as the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), notorious
organization of the pre-coup period.
According the right-wing daily Tercüman of November
5, 1991, the RP is distinguished from other right-wing parties by the
- The European Communities are a part of the "Great
Israel" Project. Instead of adhering to the EC, Turkey should develop a
Common Islam Market with Islamic countries.
- In the military field, Turkey should be withdrawn
from the NATO and should set up, with other Islamic countries, a Common
Islamic Defence Organization.
- The State should open a Koranic Course in every
village, a religious high school in every district and a university of
theology in every province of Turkey
- Local assemblies should be authorised to decide to
teach in schools any other language [particularly Arabic or Kurdish] by
the side of Turkish.
- However, the education carried out exclusively in
some foreign languages [particularly English, French and German]
in certain higher education schools, aiming to spread imperialist
cultures in the country, should be abolished.
- Since taking interest is considered as a sin by
the Koran, interest on bank accounts and commercial transactions should
be prohibited and the economic life should reorganise on a "no
The RP has always made it clear that it is
completely against the equality of sexes. The party leaders refused to
employ female secretaries when they were setting up the bureau of their
parliamentary group in Parliament.
However, the extreme-right alliance received
votes not particularly from the religious and nationalist people, but
also from areas where small business owners and producers are located.
The RP's electoral manifesto addressed to different social categories
including workers. The RP promised new administrative management in the
work place, like the participation of workers in management and not to
fire any worker without the authorisation of the Supreme Arbitration
The ideological differences and the provocations of
former Grey Wolves might any time lead to a divorce between the RP and
the MCP. However, since 20 deputies are enough to form a parliamentary
group, 20 deputies coming from the MCP might easily leave the RP group
Anyway, with the remaining 40 deputies, the RP would
be one of the key political forces in the Parliament to play a key role
in coalition bargainings. (Info-Türk, N°180, October 1991)
ISLAMIST SHOCK AT 1992 ELECTIONS
The pro-Islamic Welfare Party (RP) dealt a stunning
blow to all other political parties at the partial elections held on
November 1, 1992, in 23 municipalities, by raising its votes to
24.52% from 17.05 in 1991.
The biggest shock occurred in Istanbul where the RP
took 26.95% of more than half a million valid votes cast and turned
into the strongest political force of the biggest city of the country.
In Istanbul, the main opposition Motherland Party (ANAP) came second
with 24.43% as the coalition partners, Social Democrat Populist Party
(SHP) and the Correct Way Party (DYP), stayed at the third and fourth
ranks with respectively 17.31% and 14.24%.
As for the ensemble of the municipalities where
partial elections were held, the RP obtained 24.52% of the votes, it
was followed by the ANAP with 22.85%, SHP 19.15%, DYP 16.68% and
Ecevit’s Democratic Left Party (DSP) 12.83%.
The victory of the RP was generally considered as a
reaction of the popular strata against the present situation in Turkey
which is marked by a rapid deterioration of living conditions.
The reports about the corruption and irregularities
at the municipalities controlled by the coalition parties pushed the
population of slums to revolt and to replace them by RP candidates who
claimed that only the mayors attached to religious values can put an
end to this situation.
In political field, the RP had remained since the
1991 elections as the only parliamentary force leading an efficient
opposition against the government’s repressive policies.
The Turkish media’s frenzy of sensation and lottery,
the pornographic programmes of the new private televisions, the
general upset of traditional moral values too played an important role
in the new political choice of conservative masses.
However the most important factor was without any
doubt the successful organisation and electoral campaign led by the RP
at popular quarters while the other parties were failing to show a
vitality and credibility. (Info-Türk, N°193, November 1992)
A series of alarming events happened in 1993 such as
turning President Özal’s funeral into a religious demonstration,
political assassinations committed by the Hezbollah, an armed Islamist
group at the service of the Army in its fight aginst the Kurdish
Guerrilla, attacks on a daily publishing Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic
Verses, insults at a TV broadcasting to the minority sect Alevi,
challenging declarations by the leaders of the Welfare Party (RP) and
frightening growth of its side-organization, the National Vision
(Milli Görüs) among Turkish migrants abroad incited a considerable
inquietude among democratic forces of Turkey.
The figures relating to the rise of the number of
mosques and religious institutions in last three decades show very
clearly to what extent the Islamic movement had grown in Turkey.
According to data from the Religious Affairs
Directorate, the number of mosques in Turkey, which was 35,657 in 1963,
45,152 in 1973, reached 66,674 in 1993.
The number of mosques constructed between 1971 and
1981 was around 5,000. The must spectacular rise was registered with
construction of 19,000 mosques after the September 12, 1980 Coup:
54,667 in 1984, 59,460 in 1986, 62,947 in 1988, 64,000 in 1990 and
66,674 in 1993.
The number of Turkish mosques abroad is about 1,100
according to the same source.
In addition to mosques, Turkey has 750 Islamic
theological schools and lycees, as well as around 5,000 Koran courses
in Turkey. The Religious Affairs Directorate which is directly
affiliated to the State Ministry has over 85,000 employees in Turkey
and 691 abroad.
Although there are no official figures about the
number of the clandestine Koran courses and religious schools, the
figures concerning the pro-Islamic media can give an idea about the
increasing influence of these movements.
According to a survey published by the Turkish
Daily News on February 2, 1993, these movements have 290 printing
houses, 40 country-wide and 300 local periodical publications, 100
radio stations and 35 local TV stations throughout Turkey.
Many of the pro-Islamic publications are also
printed and distributed in European countries. One of the four
pro-Islamic dailies, Milli Gazete, belongs to the National Vision
movement, now represented on the political plane by the Welfare Party
(RP). Another pro-Islamic daily, Zaman, has already started
publishing in Azerbaijan and Bulgaria as well. The Islamist holding
Ihlas owns the biggest Islamist daily, Türkiye, and a TV channel, TGRT.
The pro-Islamic radio and TV stations very often
broadcast excerpts from the Koran and programs produced by the Saudi
Arabian television and radio.
The Islamic fundamentalism, after having been an
undeniable ideological and political force in Turkey thanks to
concessions given by the successive governments, is now striving to
propagate its influence as well within the Turkish immigration abroad
as in the Turkish speaking countries or communities of the former
Soviet Union and the Balkans.
The National Vision claims to unite "1.5 billion
Muslims of the world who differ from their Western influenced
administration" under Turkey's leadership in a close relation with
The Welfare Party (RP) leader Necmeddin Erbakan, in
an interview to the Turkish Daily News of March 12, 1993, said: "In the
past two centuries, the West has occupied Muslim countries with its
culture. It had withdrawn from these countries with a policy of leaving
behind its influence on them. A supranational Islamic Union composed of
the 1.5 billion Muslims all over the world from the United States to
Australia should be established. Turkey should assume the leadership of
the Islamic world instead of entering into the Western orbit."
In his many declarations, Erbakan qualified the
European Communities as the fifth column of the Zionism.
The party's deputy chairman, Sevket Kazan, at a
press conference held on March 29, 1993 in Turkish Parliament, accused
the European Community of asking Turkey to change its national flag in
order to be able to be a member, said: "The EC is weary not of the star
and colour on the Turkish flag, but of the crescent, which symbolises
Islam. Next, they will ask us to change our religion in order to get
into the EC."
He also claimed that the number of RP members, which
was around 800,000 in 1991 elections, has risen to 1,300,000 and is
expected to reach the 2 million mark by the end of the year. He also
claimed that 2 million members would amount to 10 million votes, which
would mean around 30 per cent of the votes. (Info-Türk, N°200, June
RISE OF ISLAMIST VIOLENCE
As for the Islamist violence, it had already
restarted few years ago in parallel with the rise of Islamic
fundamentalist movement in Turkey. On May 3, 1987, a university student
had been assassinated by the pro-Saudi Guardians of Islam in the
eastern province of Van because the students were not fasting during
the holy month of Ramadan.
First violent Islamist mass demonstrations took
place in Turkey in 1989 in protest against Salman Rushdie's The Satanic
Verses and the banning of Islamic attire in universities. On March 10,
several thousand demonstrators gathered at the main entrance of
Istanbul University after Friday prayers. Instead of using force to
disperse the demonstrators, the police pleaded with them to obey the
In Ankara too, a crowd of about 1,500 men gathered
at the Haci Bayram Mosque after sending telegrams of protest from the
Kizilay post office to the Constitutional Court, the Parliament and the
prime minister's office.
Shouting slogans like, "Break the hands that want to
take off the head scarves," "Death to Rushdie" and "Down with the
British and Israeli Zionism," the crowd walked towards Ulus Square.
RP leader Necmettin Erbakan said that the
demonstrations constituted "popular reaction within the, limits of the
law." He said he was against banning head scarves. Oguzhan Asilturk,
the party's general secretary, praised the protesters as "glorious
On March 13, 1989, about 600 women students clad in
chadors held a demonstration at Tehran University carrying placards in
Turkish in support of the Islamic fundamentalists in Turkey.
In a commentary broadcast on March 14, Tehran radio
said those who opposed head scarves in Turkey were "the lackeys of
America and imperialism." (Info-Türk, N°149, March 1989).
ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS AND INTELLECTUALS
On May 5, 1989, the last Friday of the holy month of
Ramadan, thousands of fundamentalists flocked to the newly opened
Cezeri Kasim Pasa mosque in Cagaloglu, Istanbul's press centre,
stopping traffic and beating up journalists on the pretext of marking
what they called "Jerusalem Day."
The faithful, most of them wearing beards, green
coats without lapels and skull caps, stopped the traffic on the busy
thoroughfare for hours when they used the streets for Friday prayers.
When the prayers finished the crowd began shouting slogans and tossing
pamphlets into the air.
The pamphlets, which began "In the name of God",
declared that the last Friday of the holy month Ramadan is a day of
struggle for all Moslems who must take back Jerusalem from Israel.
The demonstrators began marching toward the main
office building of the daily Hürriyet about 70 meters from the mosque,
chanting slogans such as "Down with Zionists", and "Police are with us."
In front of the Hürriyet building, the crowd
protested what they termed the pro-Zionist policies of the newspaper.
Several photographers who were taking pictures of the demonstrators
were attacked by the group. Other reporters trying to cover the events
in Cagaloglu were chased away by the demonstrators.
The police did not move to stop the attack on the
After the demonstrators cleared the Cagaloglu
Square, a group of newspaper reporters left their cameras on the street
in protest of the actions of the police. Besides, journalist
organizations carried out a series of protest demonstrations in
Istanbul, Ankara and Adana.
Prime Minister Turgut Ozal told reporters that they
should not exaggerate what happened in Cagaloglu. (Info-Türk, 152, June
Islamist terror shocked again Turkey on January 31,
1990, by assassinating a distinguished professor of constitutional law
Prof. Muammer Aksoy, 73, an outstanding protagonist
of secularism, was shot dead inside the apartment block where he lived
as he returned home from his office. Unidentified people called
newspapers' offices and said Prof. Aksoy was "punished by Moslems
because of his attitude against Islamic attire." The callers claimed
responsibility for the killing on behalf of a hitherto unknown
organization calling itself "The Islamic Movement."(Info-Türk, N°159,
Journalist Turan Dursun, a former clergyman and
writer for the weekly Yüzyil, was assassinated on September 4, 1990, in
Istanbul by unidentified persons. Dursun was leaving his house on the
Asian side of the Bosphorus, when seven shots were fired at him by
assailants. He died at the scene.
An advocate of secularism, Dursun had written many
articles criticising Sharia (Islamic Law) and been receiving death
threats for six months. In one such letter by "a businessman from Van,"
he was told that if he did not publicly apologise for his accusations
against Moslems, he would pay with his life. However, he did not ask
for police protection against the fundamentalist threats.
In announcing Dursun's murder, Tehran Radio said
"the Turkish Salman Rushdie has been killed. Like Rushdie, Dursun had
repeatedly betrayed and insulted Islam and the Prophet
Mohammed."(Info-Türk, N°167, September 1990)
One month later, the editor-in-chief of Hürriyet,
Cetin Emec was gunned down in October 1990 as he entered his car in
front of his home. The assailants of this anti-fundamentalist
journalist remain unknown.
One of the most outspoken anti-Fundamentalist
Turkish journalists and authors, Ugur Mumcu was assassinated on January
24, 1993, as a bomb planted in his car exploded in front of his
house in Ankara.
The daily Aydinlik has, after having started to
publish Turkish excerpts from the Satanic Verses of Salman Rushdie on
May 26, 1993, subjected to bans and a series of attacks and threats.
First, all copies of Aydinlik were seized
after going into distribution on the basis of an earlier governmental
decision banning the entry of Rushdie's book into Turkey. Moreover, a
public prosecutor of Istanbul launched an investigation about the
responsibles of the newspaper.
On May 28, in Istanbul, after Friday prayers,
hundreds of fundamentalists raided Kaynak printing house, which is
known to have close links with Aydinlik, shouting "May the hands that
are raised against Islam be broken."
On May 29-30, Aydinlik's Izmir office was attacked
by groups of fundamentalists, while the newspaper's Diyarbakir office
was arsoned and a distributor truck was attacked.
On June 3, unidentified people hurled firebombs at a
newspaper kiosk in Gebze (Istanbul) and Osmaniye (Adana).
In Ankara, fundamentalists distributed leaflets
containing death threats on newspaper distributors and kiosk owners if
they continue to sell Aydinlik.
The responsibles of the newspaper qualified these
attacks and the seizure of the Aydinlik copies as a violation of the
freedom of press. (Info-Türk, N° 200, June 1993)
THE SIVAS POGROM BY ISLAMISTS
The most dreadful crime of Islamists was marked on
July 2, 1993, by an arson attack on a hotel which killed 37
people and injured 60 in the central Anatolian city of Sivas. All the
victims were guests, including authors and poets attending a cultural
festival in memory of the famous Alevi leader, Pir Sultan Abdal, who
was executed in the 16th century by the Ottoman rulers.
The Alevi is the second Islamic sect in Turkey after
the Sunni and the Alevis are distinguished with the philosophy and way
of living conforming to the standards of a civilian society. They have
always taken part by the side of reformist and progressive movements
and resisted against the repressive policies of the State authorities.
Because of this attitude, they have very often been subjected to
discrimination by the State and attacks and massacres by the Sunni
It is noteworthy that the horror occurred in a city
of which the municipality belongs to the fundamentalist Welfare Party
(RP). The foundations established and backed by the RP mayor of Sivas
are the principal centres of anti-secular activities. The provincial
Chamber of Commerce said that the municipality does not issue license
to operate or creates difficulty for those who do not make donations to
In Sivas there is also an important Alevi community.
When the Alevis started to organize a series of festivities in Pir
Sultan Abdal's memory, the RP officials began to provoke the Sunnis
against them. Leaflets signed "Muslims" and "Muslims of Turkey" and
calling for "holy war" had been distributed before the festivities
The State authorities, despite warning from the
local people, did not take any measure in Sivas and let free the
fundamentalist groups to commit one of the most shameful horrors of the
The presence of writer Aziz Nesin in Sivas was used
a pretext for instigating the people to riot. He was already a target
of fundamentalists for publishing Turkish excerpts from Salman
Rushdie's controversial book, The Satanic Verses in the daily Aydinlik
of which he is the chief editorialist.
A day before the riots, local newspapers had blasted
Nesin for remarks he made during a speech at the festival, criticising
Islam and declaring that he was a non-believer. According to observers,
if it were not for Nesin, it would have been another incident, again
putting the Islam fundamentalists of Sivas on the street and directing
them at the Alevis.
Further provoked during Friday prayers, an initial
group of about 500-600 people started to march through the streets of
the city shouting slogans against Nesin and governor Ahmet Karabilgin
who had recently made erected Pir Sultan Abdal monument in front of the
city's cultural centre. They gradually built up force and marched
to the Hotel Madimak where Nesin and other guests to the Pir
Sultan Abdal festival were staying.
They first attacked the hotel with stones and
sticks. Men tried to climb up to first-floor balconies. Thousands
chanted slogans in favour of Islam. Under the siege, Aziz Nesin and
many other intellectuals staying in the hotel called many times SHP
leader and deputy premier Erdal Inönü and asked him to order security
forces to stop the attack, but no help arrived. The demonstrators were
not stopped and the security forces were not directed in a co-ordinated
and active way. It was later understood that such a stance on the part
of officials stemmed from instructions and suggestions which had come
from Ankara, particularly from the President of the Republic.
Finally, in the evening, a group set the hotel on
fire. "This is Hell's fire," demonstrators were heard shouting.
Although Aziz Nesin was saved at last moment and
escorted from Sivas under police protection, other guests including
distinguished authors and artists such as Asim Bezirci, Muhlis Akarsu,
Nesimi Cimen were killed in arson attack. Most of the victims were
members of a Semah (traditional Alevi dance) group who were there to
attend the Pir Sultan Abdal festival.
In the meantime, the demonstrators attacked newly
erected Pir Sultan Abdal monument, pulled it to the ground and
The State authorities who did not take a shred of
measure to prevent the massacre, instead of pursuing Fundamentalist
instigators of this massacre, attempted to accuse Aziz Nesin of having
provoked the people to riot by talking against Islam.
As for new Prime Minister Ciller, she first shocked
everyone in Parliament by minimising the incident and claiming that the
hotel was burned down by its own owner. She and the DYP ministers in
her government never pronounced a word expressing sorrow on the events.
They refused to participate in the funerals of the victims.
In fact, Ciller herself had a big responsibility
in the recent upsurge in fundamentalist violence. At her
provocative speeches during the Correct Way Party (DYP) emergency
convention that named her chairwoman, she frequently expressed the
desire "to hear the Islamic call for prayers (ezan) in every
neighbourhood of Turkey" and continuously referred to Allah, Islam and
the Turkish flag.(Info-Türk, N°201/202, July-August 1993)
A SHEIKH UL-ISLAM IN GERMANY
The National Vision movement, RP's European
organization, has recently taken a series of further steps in taking
over migrant families and succeeded to legitimate its fundamentalist
activities thanks to the heedlessness and even the open support of some
Turkish immigrant organizations.
Despite its activities incompatible with the social
and cultural promotion and integration of immigrants, the National
Vision Organizations in Europe (AMGT)was admitted to take part among
the founding members of the Council of Turkish Communities in Europe
(ATTK) which was founded last year on the initiative of a number of
left-wing organisations in a view to being the sole representative of
Turkish migrants with the European Communities.
By the side of the AMGT, the following organizations
take part in the ATTK: The Federation of Migrant Associations
(Germany), the Federation of Turkish Workers Associations (Sweden),
Türk-Danis (Belgium), the Council of Migrants from Turkey (France), the
Islamic Federation (Holland), the Turkish Workers' Union (Holland) and
the Union of Turkish Women (Holland).
In a most recent spectacular move, the Secretary
General of the National Vision Organizations in Europe (AMGT),
Ali Yüksel managed to get named the Sheikh ul-Islam (Chief of Muslims)
in Germany by the so-called German Islamic Council (Der Islamrat in
Deutschland) consisting of 14 Islamist organizations.
Of the 140,000 members of the council, 80 per cent
are of Turkish origin. Some 10 per cent are German Muslims and the
remaining 10 per cent are of Arab, Bosnian or other origin.
The most powerful one of the member organizations of
the German Islamic Council is the AMGT. Among the other Turkish
associations in the council are also Cemaat-i Nur (Community of Nurcu
Order believers) and the German Turkish Islamic Cultural Union (ATIB).
The duty of the Sheik ul-Islam is to regulate
relations between the Muslims and the State. According to some rumours,
the Sheikh ul-Islam will have the authority to collect taxes as the
Catholic and Protestant churches do, if the election is ratified by the
This election has given rise to a power struggle for
the influence of Muslims in Europe, as the Muslim population in Europe
rises due to the presence of 2 million Turkish migrants.
In late 1970s, the Süleymanci, another
fundamentalist group active in the Turkish Community of Germany had
attempted to be registered as the official representative of Muslims in
Germany with the authority to collect taxes, but they failed after the
Religious Affairs Directorate of Turkey intervened.
Yüksel justifies his election to the post of
"representative of Muslims in Germany" by reminding his success in
obtaining a concession from German authorities: Last year, when some
Turkish Muslims reacted to obligatory swimming lessons where their
daughters would be together with half-naked boys, the German
authorities accepted the German Islamic Council's proposal in the same
sense. Now, swimming lessons in many states of Germany are not
obligatory for Muslim girls. (Info-Türk, N°200, June 1993)
"NATIONAL VISION" IN BELGIUM
On the eve of the local elections in Turkey, on
March 26, 1994, the AMGT organized a gigantic meeting in Antwerpen on
the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Islam's recognition in Belgium.
At this meeting held at Sporthal, Sheikh ul-Islam
Ali Yüksel gave a speech raising the question of the unity of Muslims
The meeting was also addressed by Prof. P.S. van
Koningsveld (Leiden University), Prof. Yahya Michot and Prof. Albert
Martens (Catholic University of Leuven), Prof. Jef Verschueren
(University of Antwerpen) and Dr. Yassin D. Beyens (Chairman of the
Higher Council of Muslims in Belgium).
The organization of such a meeting in Belgium with
the participation of Belgian personalities has been interpreted as a
new attempt of the National Vision to extend its self-claimed spiritual
authority to the capital of Europe. One of the main objectives of the
AMGT is to set up Islamic universities, Islamic trade unions and
Islamic political parties in Europe.
Earlier, the AMGT had organized its annual congress
in Gent with the participation of RP Chairman Necmeddin Erbakan.
The AMGT has been organized in Belgium under the
name of Islamic Federation of Belgium and has branch offices and
mosques in many Belgium cities and towns inhabited by Turkish migrant
In a move to propagate fundamentalism and to educate
young girls as preachers, the National Vision Organizations in Europe
(AMGT) opened a boarding school in the town of Hensies in the Mons
region of Belgium.
According to a report published by the daily Milli
Gazete of 12 September 1992, this school is situated in a site of
19,000 Square Meters bought by the AMGT and has a capacity of 350
students. There are also 13 lodgings for teachers.
The education is carried out during 25 hours per
week only in Arabic language and is based on the Koran. Although the
AMGT had obtained a permission for opening this school from Belgian
authorities, it has not yet been recognised an agreed school
because its education programme does not correspond to the Belgian
school regulations which stipulate that 36 hours of the weekly
education be made according to the Belgian education programme and by
the teachers recognised by the Education Ministry.
Instead of conforming to these regulations, the
young Muslim girls were ordered to quit Belgian schools and to follow
this religious education in Arabic language alone. So, these young
girls have been deprived of any education for their social and cultural
Beside this full time education, many young girls
between 10 and 18 years old too come to Belgium from Germany, Holland,
Switzerland or Denmark during the annual summer holidays or at
Christmas and Easter.
The Chief of Training Section of the AMGT, Abdullah
Yüksel said that they were planning to open religious classes for the
young boys as well. (Info-Türk, N°200, June 93)
ISLAMIC INVESTMENTS IN TURKEY
Behind the rise of fundamentalism
is no doubt also the growing economic power of Islamic capital.
Islamic fundamentalism's economic
activities in Turkey are getting more and more uncontrollable in Turkey
thanks to the Ozal Government's encouraging attitude. Within the total
foreign capital invested in Turkey, the Islamic countries hold a share
of 8 per cent. At the end of 1988, the number of companies founded with
the participation of Islamic capital reached 309 of which 134 are
shared by Iraq and 31 by Saudi Arabia. The total capital invested by
Islamic countries is estimated at 64.3 billion TL. (Cumhuriyet,
One of the main Turkish partner
of these companies is Korkut Ozal, brother of the Turkish Prime
Minister. He is the principal shareholder of Akabe Insaat,
Ozal-Bayraktar Oil and Chemical Products Co., Hak Investment Co. and
Akoz Commercial Advisory Co. He has also a share of O,1% in Al Baraka,
principal international investment company of Saudi Arabia. (Milliyet,
Islamic capital appears as the
most eager in the field of foundations. While there were 754
foundations in 1984 in Turkey, their number rose to 1237 in 1988. The
new 483 foundations' properties are estimated at 300 billion TL. At
least 10 per cent of the new foundations have been founded with
religious purposes. (Cumhuriyet, 6.2.1989)
Islamic foundations' growing
control in the field of education is seriously menacing the principle
of secular education, one of the main pillars of the Republican state.
The number of Koran courses throughout Turkey rose to 4,691 in recent
years. 633,000 children learn by heart the Koran in Arabic language,
without understanding its meaning. (Cumhuriyet, 23.1.1989). Meanwhile,
these courses, mainly founded and directed by Islamic foundations, form
children according to the Sharia (Islamic law) principles.
As for the official religious
high schools (Imam Hatip Okullari), their number rose to 384 in 1988,
while it was 384 in 198O. Accordingly, the number of students educated
by these schools rose from 178.000 to 290.000. (Cumhuriyet, 9.1.1989)
The majority of these students are lodged in the dormitories belonging
to Islamic foundations.
Recently, a group of Islamists,
led by former TV director Saban Karatas, has taken the initiative in
founding a private university, Bezm-i Alem, to operate on the basis of
Islamic principles. (Hürriyet, 30.1.1989)
And some more figures on the rise
of fundamentalism in Turkey:
The number of the personnel
employed by the Religious Affairs Directory was raised from 53,582 in
1984 to 84,717 in 1988. Every year at least 1,500 new mosques are being
built throughout Turkey. Five mosques and seven small mosques have been
opened in five universities of Ankara.
The number of the people who go
to Mecca to make the pilgrimage climbed from 30,450 in 1984 to 285,724
in 1988.(Cumhuriyet, 23.1.1989)
A holding company modelled after
Muslim charitable foundation, Ihlas, has a $ 200 million-a-year
turnover and puts its profits back into operations. It owns the
largest-selling Islamic paper, Türkiye, which has a room of prayer at
its istanbul headquarters, and runs a fundamentalist television
station. It also has interests in construction, hospitals and
publishing, and distributes Islamic books free outside Turkey.
(Info-Türk, N°208, February 1994)
A REPORT ON FUNDAMENTALIST EDUCATION
The upsurge of Islamic fundamentalism has given rise
to a nation-wide polemic. Recently, Turkish businessmen too have been
involved in the debate by accusing the government of encouraging
fundamentalist penetration into the Turkish educational system.
The Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's
Association (TÜSIAD) , on September 19, 1990, issued a report
criticising the quality of Turkish education and calling state funding
for education "inadequate." It also criticised the integration of
religious schools into the public system.
"Turkey falls behind African countries in
educational spending. Only 2.7 percent of the gross national product is
spent on education," the report said. In an indictment of the
proliferation of state-run religious schools and private Koran courses,
it also called for stricter controls upon both.
The report identified three educational standards in
"Turkish students attend either state-run religious
schools (initially designed to educate Moslem clergy). low-quality
state schools or with a foreign language curriculum,.
"The Turkish education system took a step back from
the unified and standardised system before 1980 to a 'three-channel'
system similar to the one in force in the first years of the Republic.
Fundamentalism begins where standardised education fails."
TÜSIAD's main criticism of the Turkish education
system was that "privileged" private high schools. "The Imam-Hatip
religious schools originally established to educate the clergy have
been integrated into the system as general-purpose institutions
competing with normal state run high schools."
Defining the Imam-Hatip schools as "anti-secularist"
the report said that in 20 years, the number of such schools has
increased by 1,250 per cent:
"Only 39,000 Imam-Hatip graduates have been employed
as clergymen since the schools were established in 1951. Their
students, meanwhile, have numbered 433,200. Figures were based on data
obtained from the Department of Religious Affairs.
"The schools educate 10 times more students than
there are clergy posts available. A 1983 amendment to the law
regulating the status of Imam-Hatip schools enabled their graduates to
transfer directly to universities, a step previously banned by law.
"These theological students are thus channelled into
a number of careers. Of the 9,931 students graduating from one
Imam-Hatip high school in 1988, only 981 entered university theology
"State and religious high schools produce two types
of people opposed to each other in cultural, social and religious
outlooks. This development contravenes the Tevhid-i Tedrisat Law (Law
of Unity in Education)."
The report also criticised obligatory religion
courses in elementary and secondary schools, and the increase in the
number of privately run Koran courses:
"The enrolment of Imam-Hatip schools should be
limited and the private Koran courses put under the control of the
Education Ministry. Most of the religious sects which were formerly
banned have been revived. Students of the Koran courses across Turkey
put pressure on Turkish children to join."(Info-Türk, N°169, November