The following joint statement below (in English and Turkish) was prepared over two years ago (November 2018) by a group Hizmet participants, primarily engaged in Hizmet-related dialogue activities in Western Europe. We prepared this statement of our own free will without consulting or informing Hizmet’s senior participants. The aim was to publish this statement in the last week of November with the support of at least one hundred Hizmet participants from diverse Hizmet backgrounds (dialogue practitioners, academics, community organizers (bölgeci), mentors (rehber), mütevelli (donors) and so forth) from around the world. In doing so, we aimed to contribute towards the process of Hizmet’s renewal through critical self-reflection in the form of a public joint statement, which drew attention to four specific points of concern (and recommendations) regarding Hizmet’s decision-making processes. We chose to communicate our concerns through a joint statement to ensure that it was no longer ignored. After all, the issues raised in the statement had been aired countless times before behind closed doors. However, the statement was leaked to Hizmet’s senior participants days before its planned release. What followed was the organised suppression of the statement by an opaque and unaccountable decision-making process(es), that is, the very point of complaint highlighted within the said statement. Thus, those involved in suppressing the statement were in fact vindicating its fundamental point of criticism by doing so.

This process of suppression was multi-pronged, including but not limited to, a ‘man-to-man’ or rather an ‘abi-to-draftsperson’ marking and the immediate delegitimization of the statement and its supporters within Hizmet. Furthermore, we were told that Hizmet’s Alliance for Shared Values (AFSV) was already in the process of preparing a similar statement (‘biz zaten yapıyorduk’) and that there was no need for an ‘independent’ statement from the signatories as well. Moreover, we were promised the opportunity to contribute to the substance of the AFSV’s statement, prior to its release. That promise was made by the AFSV and Hizmet’s senior participants, including Hizmet’s senior leadership in the U.S. In addition, we were implored to attend a high-level meeting with Hizmet’s senior participants to discuss our ‘grievances’, while the AFSV prepared their draft statement for our contribution.

The said meeting, organized at break-neck speed, began with a personalized sermon on the merits of uhhuvet (brotherhood). We were then given the opportunity to air our concerns, once again, behind closed doors. The ‘spokesperson’ for Hizmet’s senior leadership took notes while promising to report back to us with any progress in subsequent meetings (no subsequent meeting was held). This person was also aware of, and quite possibly responsible for, the promise that was made to us, as noted above. The general thrust of the spokesperson’s argument was that we should resolve our issues from within Hizmet, not from without it, as we had apparently attempted to do, and that Hizmet’s longstanding practices were sound on account of being, longstanding.

We emerged from the meeting only to discover that the AFSV’s statement had been released during our meeting. We subsequently discovered that the decision to release the statement was coordinated with the spokesperson sat across from us at our meeting. Apparently, this person gave the go-ahead for the release of the AFSV’s statement during a telephone call he took from the U.S. while taking a short break from his meeting with us. We were told this by another senior Hizmet participant who witnessed this call. As a result, we were denied the opportunity to even see, far less be granted the promised-opportunity to contribute, towards the AFSV’s statement1. Thus, Hizmet’s senior leadership delayed us while crafting their own statement with the benefit of our statement at their disposal. The AFSV’s statement drew attention to the issues raised within our statement, albeit in a far more watered down and indirect manner. By publishing their statement before ours, they aimed to co-opt our criticisms and thereby undermine our ability to publish our own2.

When confronted, Hizmet’s senior leadership in the U.S. (as well as Hizmet’s spokesperson at our meeting) denied that they had broken any promises to us. Their convoluted rationalization (‘yaptik ama niye yaptik’) went as follow: they had originally planned and penned a statement that related to the entirety of Hizmet. Their promise to us related to this ‘global’ statement. However, they apparently had a change of heart at the very last moment and decided to release a ‘local’ statement on behalf of Hizmet in the U.S. instead. They claimed that their promise to us did not apply to this ‘local’ statement.

When pressed, however, they admitted that there was no meaningful difference between their ‘global’ and ‘local’ statements (the only difference was that they had added a reference to ‘Hizmet in the U.S.’ to the beginning of their statement). Furthermore, all of the ‘principles’ in their ‘local’ statement were in fact general and global in nature and were interpreted as such by Hizmet’s grassroots. Moreover, they had no reasonable explanation for their rush to release their ‘local’ statement with grammatical errors and typos and without an accompanying English translation either.

It has now been over two years since our joint statement was suppressed in the manner just described. I have delayed publishing it so as to provide Hizmet’s senior leadership with an opportunity to disprove our concerns about their willingness to, and capacity for, change. What troubles many of us is not the lack of change but the lack of genuine effort towards change. The former is time-dependent, the latter is not. Alas, despite the lapse of time, Hizmet’s senior leadership, for the most part, appears to be focused on maintaining the status quo.

This raises the question as to why I am publishing our ‘joint statement’ now. While there are numerous reasons, the foremost is to respond to those calling upon Hizmet participants to work for change from within Hizmet, without airing their concerns in the public domain. To them, I’d like to say, this is what that looks like. I am not suggesting that all efforts to bring about change from within Hizmet are broadcast to the world in real-time. However, there are occasions when this becomes necessary. To outcast these efforts as sinister, dissident and fitne-esque from the outset are extremely troubling, unhelpful and, ironically, reminiscent of the AKP’s demonization of Hizmet en masse. Furthermore, defending Hizmet’s positives requires us to call out Hizmet’s negatives. To do one without the other is disingenuous. Finally, while it is unclear if speaking up will bring about change, one thing appears to be certain: remaining silent, won’t. Therefore, and with that in mind, here is what a group of 100 diverse Hizmet participants wanted to say to and about Hizmet back in November 2018 (as penned in English and Turkish at the time, below).

 

Joint Statement on Hizmet’s Decision-Making Processes

22 November 2018

We, the signatories to this joint statement, support the values, teachings and practices of the Hizmet movement (hereafter ‘Hizmet’) as they pertain to education, dialogue, social responsibility and citizenship3. We are positively moved by Hizmet’s demonstrable achievements in these fields worldwide. In many respects, Hizmet has been a pioneering faith-based movement both within and outside of Turkey.  Hizmet’s teachings and practice on the primacy and worth of human dignity, religion in the modern age, religion and science and religiously-inspired activism are of particular significance.

We feel compelled to issue the following statement because of, not in spite of, our support for Hizmet’s values and its many achievements in the public domain. This statement is solely focused on Hizmet’s decision-making processes at all levels of Hizmet and is intended to be non-exhaustive in conveying our thoughts on this particular topic. It is the expression of a maturing conversation that has been ongoing within Hizmet for some time. It recognizes that all social efforts require change and development. Through this statement, we make the following four suggestions in the first instance, while drawing attention to a number of challenges.

  1. All organizational decision-making processes in Hizmet should be open, transparent and accountable at every level and across the entirety of Hizmet. Many schools, charities and incorporated bodies affiliated with Hizmet have internal decision-making processes that meet these criteria. Furthermore, many Hizmet organizations and networks now publically state their Hizmet identity and link on their websites and in their organizational documents. Notwithstanding, challenges remain in relation to informal networks, activities and social hierarchies, the very basis upon which social movements are built. While cognizant of this fact, we are nonetheless united in the view that any form of hizmet practice that cannot be conducted in an open, transparent and accountable manner should not be conducted at all. We appreciate that this approach has its own set of challenges. That said, we believe these challenges to be preferable to those associated with opaque decision-making processes, and as such we believe that they are worth overcoming. Opaque decision-making processes mask failure and incompetence in both strategy and people. Furthermore, such processes often lack the capacity and dexterity to acknowledge mistakes where mistakes were made, inspire trust while refuting baseless allegations in an effective manner. This in return lends false legitimacy to those seeking to persecute Hizmet participants, sympathizers and supporters in Turkey and abroad. We suggest that those who do not wish to contribute to Hizmet’s decision-making processes in the manner described herein, or struggle to do so, should not hold formal or informal decision-making roles in Hizmet altogether.
  2. Hizmet was born and developed in Turkey and as such its work ethic and mindset has been influenced and shaped by the Turkish socio-political landscape and cultural mores. For example, Hizmet’s ‘can do’ self-confidence, unfettered by concern for the finer details of forward planning, allowed the movement to expand across the world in a very short period of time. However, Hizmet’s focus outside of Turkey over the past twenty years, has been to integrate itself into its new surroundings. In doing so, Hizmet’s work ethic and mindset has been enriched by what Fethullah Gülen refers to as the ‘give and take’ of cross-cultural fertilization. As a result, today it is possible to speak of hizmets in the plural with hizmet in one location demonstrating marked differences in culture, ethos and practice with hizmet in another. It is important that this emergent heterogeneity in Hizmet is embraced and not inadvertently reversed. It must be recognized that Hizmet’s Turkey-based work ethic and mindset was shaped by conditions particular to Turkey, which may not resonate with Hizmet’s development, integration and practices overseas, especially as it pertains to its decision-making processes.
  3. Henceforth, Hizmet participants who in recent years held key decision-making roles in Turkey should not hold or be seen to hold any role of similar bearing outside of Turkey. There are a number of reasons for this. First, without casting aspersions of any type, one way or another such individuals have been framed by the Turkish government’s overwhelming propaganda machine. As a result, their continued presence in formal or informal decision-making roles acts as a constant reminder of the traumatic events of the recent past. Second, while Hizmet’s grassroots reject the Turkish government’s accusations about Hizmet, an increasing number of Hizmet participants and supporters consider some of these key decision-makers to be morally responsible for Hizmet’s failings and mistakes in Turkey, such as its domineering practices which alienated almost all sections of Turkish society. Third, given Hizmet’s participatory social action and education efforts over the past fifty years, it has many suitable candidates – both men and women – to rejuvenate Hizmet’s decision-making processes at every level.
  4. It is imperative that Hizmet’s decision-making processes, especially those pertaining to Hizmet’s general positioning, include male and female participants from a range of Hizmet practices including dialogue, education, relief work and media as well as participants and external advisers with a range of expertise and scholarship with a particular emphasis on the social sciences and humanities. We find it disappointing that, at present, the Hizmet movement appears to be failing to meet this obvious need.

It is our view that the foregoing recommendations are in line with Hizmet’s values, principles and teachings as well as the internal logic of Hizmet’s fifty-year public service. Above all, they are put forth in good faith, with a heavy heart and without any expectation of personal gain or reward whatsoever.

The Signatories (listed alphabetically)

 

Hizmet Hareketi’nin Karar Alma Süreçlerine Dair Ortak Bildiri

22 Kasım 2018

Bu ortak bildirinin imzacıları olarak bizler Hizmet Hareketi’nin eğitim, diyalog, sosyal sorumluluk, insani yardım ve etkin vatandaşlık alanlarındaki değerlerini, öğretilerini ve faaliyetlerini destekliyoruz. Hizmet’in bu alanlarda dünyanın dört bir tarafında elde ettiği ciddi başarılar bizleri de teşvik etmektedir. Birçok açıdan Hizmet, Türkiye’de ve dünyada çığır açan inanç temelli bir hareket oldu. Hizmet’in insanı ve insan haysiyetini merkeze alan öğretisinin, modern çağda dini ve bilimi buluşturma çabasının ve dinden ilham alan aksiyon anlayışının büyük önemi haiz olduğunu düşünüyoruz.

Hem bir vefa borcu hem de Hizmet’in değerlerine ve başarılarına verdiğimiz destekten dolayı bu ortak bildiriyi yayınlama zorunluluğu hissediyoruz. Hareketin sadece farklı seviyelerdeki karar alma süreçlerine odaklanan bu bildiride ifade edilenler, bu konudaki düşüncelerimizin tamamını kapsamamaktadır. Hizmet içerisinde bir süredir devam edegelen fikir alışverişlerinin olgunlaşmasıyla ortaya çıkmış olan bu bildiri, tüm toplumsal çabaların değişim ve gelişim göstermesi gerektiği inancına dayanmaktadır. Bazı zorluklara işaret etmekle birlikte bu bildiri vesilesiyle ilk etapta dört öneride bulunacağız.

  1. Hizmet Hareketi’ndeki idare ve işleyişe dair tüm karar alma süreçleri her seviyede açık, şeffaf ve hesap verilebilir olmalıdır. Hizmet ile irtibatlı çok sayıda okul, dernek ve şirkette halihazırda bu prensiplere mutabık işleyen karar alma mekanizmalar mevcuttur. Dahası, birçok Hizmet kurumu Hareket’e aidiyetini ve irtibatını kendi internet sitelerinde ve kurumsal yayınlarında açıkça belirtmektedir. Buna rağmen, her sosyal hareket gibi Hizmet’in de temelini oluşturan kurumsal olmayan ağlarında, faaliyetlerinde ve toplumsal hiyerarşilerinde sorun devam etmektedir. Uygulamadaki zorlukların farkında olmakla beraber, açıklık, şeffaflık ve hesap verilebilirlik prensiplerine uygun icra edilemeyecek herhangi bir Hizmet faaliyetinin yapılmaması gerektiği kanaatindeyiz. Burada tavsiye edilen karar alma süreçlerine dair yaklaşımın kendine has zorlukları olduğunun bilincindeyiz. Fakat bu zorlukların, kapalı karar alma süreçleri ile bağlantılı diğer zorluklara tercih edilmesi gerektiğine inanıyoruz. O yüzden, bu yaklaşımın sebebiyet vereceği sorunlarla yüzleşmenin daha değerli olduğunu düşünüyoruz. Kapalı devre karar alma mekanizmaları hem stratejik hataları hem de bu hatalara sebebiyet veren karar vericilerin liyakat eksikliğini gizlemektedir. Aynı zamanda, bu tür karar alma mekanizmaları genelde hataların teşhis edilmesini ve kabullenilmesini zorlaştırmakta; güvensizlik üretmekte ve Hizmet hakkındaki mesnetsiz suçlamaları etkili biçimde reddetmeyi zora sokmaktadır. Bu da Türkiye içindeki ve dışındaki Hizmet katılımcılarına, sempatizanlarına ve destekçilerine yönelik yapılan zulmü kolaylaştıran bir etken olmaktadır. Hizmet’in karar alma süreçlerine bu metinde zikredilen prensiplere mutabık şekilde katkı vermek ya da bu uğurda mücadele etmek istemeyen kişilerin Hizmet’in herhangi bir karar alma mekanizmasında yer almaması gerektiğini düşünüyoruz.
  2. Hizmet Hareketi Türkiye’de doğmuş ve büyümüştür. Hizmet’in düşünce yapısı ve çalışma ahlakı da Türkiye’nin toplumsal ve siyasi ortamından ve kültürel geleneklerinden etkilenmiştir. Mesela, bu kültürel dokunun da desteklediği bir özgüvenle, uzun vadeli planlamanın ince detaylarına takılmadan Hizmet, çok kısa bir sürede dünyanın dört bir tarafına yayılabilmiştir. Fakat son 20 yıldır Türkiye dışındaki Hizmet Hareketi’nin odak noktası kendini yeni çevresine entegre etmek olmuştur. Bunu yaparken de Hareket’in zihniyeti ve çalışma ahlakı, Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi’nin “karşılıklı alış-veriş” diye ifade ettiği kültürlerarası etkileşme sayesinde zenginleşmiştir. Sonuç olarak, bugün çoğul olan “hizmetlerden” bahsetmek mümkündür. Farklı kültüre sahip bir beldedeki Hizmet diğer bir beldedeki Hizmet’ten yerel değerler, tavır ve çalışma yöntemi açısından farklılıklar gösterebilmektedir. Bu yerelleşme ile doğal olarak ortaya çıkan farklılaşmanın benimsenmesi ve bu sürecin gayri iradi bir şekilde bile olsa tersine çevrilmemesi önemlidir. Hizmet’in Türkiye’nin kendine münhasır koşullarında şekillenen çalışma etiği ve zihniyetinin, Türkiye dışındaki Hizmetler’in gelişim, entegrasyon ve faaliyet şekilleriyle uyuşmayabileceği kabul edilmelidir. Bu durum bilhassa karar alma biçimleri için geçerlidir.
  3. Türkiye’de yakın zamanda karar alma süreçlerinde kilit görevlerde bulunmuş Hizmet katılımcılarının Türkiye dışındaki Hizmet karar alma süreçlerinde bundan böyle benzer bir rol üstlenmemesi ve bu şekilde yorumlanabilecek adımlardan kaçınmaları gerekmektedir. Bu tavsiyemizin altında yatan birkaç sebebi şöyle sıralayabiliriz: Birincisi, bu kişilere yönelik herhangi bir ithamda ya da haksız suçlamada bulunmaksızın, bu kişiler hakkında şu veya bu şekilde, Türkiye Hükümeti’nin ezici propagandası sebebiyle menfi bir algı oluşturulmuştur. Dolayısıyla, bu kişilerin resmi veya kurumsal olmayan karar alma süreçlerinde yer almaları veya böyle bir görüntü vermeleri, yakın geçmişte yaşanan travmatik hadiseleri sürekli hatırlatmaya sebebiyet vermektedir. İkincisi, Hizmet tabanı Türkiye Hükümeti’nin Hareket hakkındaki suçlamalarını reddederken, sayısı gittikçe artan Hizmet gönüllüsü, kritik konumdaki bu karar vericilerden bazılarının Hareket’in Türkiye’deki hata ve kusurlarında (mesela Türkiye toplumunun neredeyse tüm farklı kesimlerinin Hizmet’ten soğumasına neden olan uygulamalar) ahlaki sorumluluğu olduğuna inanmaktadır. Üçüncüsü, Hareket’in 50 yıldır devam eden toplumsal hizmetleri ve eğitim çabaları neticesinde, Hizmet’in her seviyedeki karar alma mekanizmalarını ve formatlarını çeşitlendirmeye yetecek liyakat sahibi erkek ve kadın adaylar yetiştirdiği de bir gerçektir.
  4. Hizmet’in özellikle genel duruşuna yön veren karar alma süreçlerinde diyalog, eğitim, insani yardım ve medya gibi farklı faaliyet alanlarında yer alan kadın ve erkek Hareket katılımcıların rol alması bir zorunluluktur. Aynı şekilde, bilhassa sosyal ve beşerî bilimlerde uzmanlığa sahip Hizmet katılımcılarının ve Hizmet’e destek olan danışmanların da bu süreçlere katılması gerekmektedir. Hizmet’in hâlihazırda bu bariz ihtiyacı karşılamıyor olmasının ve buna yönelik somut ve etkili bir adım atmamasının bizlerde derin bir hayal kırıklığına yol açtığını ifade etmek istiyoruz.

Yukarıdaki tavsiyelerin Hizmet’in değerleri, prensipleri, öğretileri ve 50 yıl boyunca sağladığı toplumsal hizmetlerin iç mantığıyla uyumlu olduğuna inanıyoruz. Hepsinden önemlisi, tüm bu tavsiyelerin halis bir niyetle, dertli bir gönülle ve herhangi bir şahsi menfaat ya da beklenti içine girmeden ortaya konulduğunu belirtmek isteriz.

İmzacılar (Alfabetik sıraya göre yazılmıştır.

  1. Correction: The claim that we did not see the AFSV statement prior to its release was contested by a senior Hizmet participant in the U.S. Upon further investigation, I determined the following: the AFSV statement was sent to us as a Word document by WhatsApp at 02:21am GMT on 27/11/2018. Our said meeting started on the morning of the same day. The AFSV statement was released at 3:24pm on 27/11/2018, that is, the afternoon of the day we received it. As a result, most of us did not have the opportunity to read the AFSV statement prior to its release. What’s more, and what remains uncontested is that we were not given the promised-opportunity to contribute towards the AFSV statement in any shape or form. []
  2. To be clear, I do not think that the AFSV were willing participants in this ploy. I have a lot of time and respect for Dr Alp Aslandogan and his team. Nonetheless, their organization appears to have been instrumentalized in the manner and for the purposes described in this piece. []
  3. Hizmet is an Islamically-inspired social movement which was founded in Turkey on the basis of the teachings and leadership of Fethullah Gülen. The Turkish government accuses Hizmet of orchestrating the failed coup in Turkey in 2016, which Gülen and Hizmet’s leading organizations vehemently deny, and has socially expunged the movement from Turkey. In Turkish, hizmet literally means ‘service’ and is primarily focused on education and dialogue. Prior to the crackdown by the Turkish government, Hizmet had founded and was running approximately 2,000 non-faith schools worldwide. []