Ankara Should Not Miss This Opportunity

What we saw in Turkey on the night of July 15, 2016 was reminiscent of the movie "Olympus Has Fallen", in which terrorists mounted an air and ground assault that resulted in the take-over of the White House.

A fraction within the Turkish Armed Forces directed by the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) - a group classified as a terrorist organization within the Turkish National Security Policy Document -attempted a coup d'etat on July 15. Over the course of the night, F-16 fighter aircraft and military helicopters made strikes against the Turkish Parliament - the core institution of Turkish democracy - the Presidency, the National Intelligence Service Headquarters, Special Forces Units, various municipality police headquarters and municipality councils. This bloody coup attempt resulted in 240 civilian deaths and left a further 1,491 people injured.

Democracy in Turkey has in the past been interrupted by a military intervention in 1960, a "half coup" in 1971, a military takeover in 1980 and "postmodern coup d'etat" in 1997, although this latest attempt was like nothing experienced in Turkey to date.

Following this most recent failed coup attempt, tens of thousands of employees who had managed to infiltrate state organizations over the last 40 years have been removed from military and government positions. Turkey, which is a founding member of the Council of Europe, then took the decision to suspend the European Convention on Human Rights and implemented a three-month state of emergency in order to eradicate the FETO organization from state institutions.

Police Force was Still Divided

The government had already taken precautions to prevent further infiltrations of Gülen Movement to the state institutions, and had already removed many police and prosecutors from their positions after the December 17, 2013 wiretap scandals.

During the Ergenekon (2008) and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) (2010) prosecutions, in which an alleged network of Kemalist officers and civilians were accused of orchestrating a coup d'etat, secrets of the army's plans were revealed by the media and leaked by the same sources - a "parallel state" - a network of police and prosecutors who were acting on behalf of the Gülen Movement, the largest and the most influential of all Nurcu groups in Turkey. The AKP government's once-good relationship with the Gülen Movement started to deteriorate after the removal of Kemalists from the army and administration, which both had perceived as a threat.

The power struggle that then emerged between the AKP and the Gülen Movement was exacerbated after the AKP's decision to close the Movement's preparatory schools (dershane) - a major source of its income - and its establishments for the education of young conservative Muslims, after which the AKP faced the largest corruption scandal in Turkish Republican history on December 17.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's response was to deny the allegations, and then to issue a new directive related to the judiciary prohibiting press and journalists from approaching police departments without prior authorization, halting the second wave of the investigation, attempting to change the structure of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSJP) and police involved in these investigations, and proposing curbs against the HSJP's powers. The battle between the AKP and the Gülen Movement continued within the judiciary, with the AKP submitting a draft law increasing its control over the justice department.

After the March 2014 local elections, which resulted in an AKP victory, the Erdogan administration stepped up their fight against the Gülen Movement and its affiliates in the state. The second round of the battle began with the arrest of police officers involved in the leaking of wiretap recordings of phone calls by politicians and civil servants related to the corruption scandal, and other issues related to national security.

Yet, among the majority of new personnel of the police force that are deployed after 2013 wiretap scandal still belongs to Nurcu groups such as the Menzilciler, Okuyucular (readers), Yazıcılar (writers) that are divided over the methods for teaching the Risale. The emerging picture within the police force has been described as a "polyphonic incompatible choir" (çok sesli uyumsuz koro). The Nurcu emerged as a civil society initiative at the time of Turgut Özal, a Naqshabandi Khalidi follower, when he abolished the criminalization of the propagation of Sharia with changes to Article 163 of the Turkish Penal Code in 1991.

Importance of Neutral Competence in Public Administration

Turkey is experiencing some of the worst days in its history, and a tough test awaits Ankara that will require a delicate balance of not only freedom of expression and national security, without damaging democratic principles such as the rule of law and personal freedoms, but also the essential values of public administration, such as neutral competence.

In Herbert Kaufmann's definition, neutral competence is a concept that has long been regarded as an essential value in the field of public administration. He defines the concept as "the ability to do work of government expertly, and to do it according to explicit objective standards rather than the personal or party or other obligations and loyalties."

The politicization of bureaucracy, whether through the "parallel state" with loyalties to the Gülen Movement or the possible placement of new civil servants who are loyal to another person or a party rather than a state, is against the spirit of the concept of "neutral competence" in public administration. There is always a fear that such parallel states will occur once the number of these people increase and consolidate power within government institutions.

What Turkey needs is to deploy personnel that have the ability to do the work of the government expertly, and to do it according to explicit objective standards rather than for personal or party benefit, or for any other obligations and loyalties - and more overtly, without loyalty to any tarikat (religious order) leaders. Whether or not one has religious affiliations should not be a criteria in the selection of people for public service, since it is clear that representatives of these kinds of movements in civil service are more interested in power than democracy.

We should not forget the history of the Ottoman Empire, particularly Abd-al-Wahhab, who created Wahhabism in a bid to weaken the Ottoman Empire. Religion has always been a useful tool for manipulating and dividing people by using the religious leaders of tarikats or Islamic orders. One of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's first reforms was to abolish all religious orders, aiming to prevent the possibility of such a division among the Turkish people. Ankara should not miss this opportunity to apply the principles of "neutral competence" in public administration, so as not to shift from its democratic and secular path.