Saving the AKP


AKP: Shoe Box Party

Bekir Bozdağ, Turkey’s new Justice Minister, spent his first several months on the job performing duties more reminiscent of an emergency room surgeon than of a nation’s top law-enforcement official. It could hardly have been otherwise: when he assumed the office on December 25th, his party was badly injured with little sense of how to stem the bleeding. The sons of three ministers had been arrested on corruption charges implicating their fathers; the mayor of an Istanbul district had been detained on charges that he took bribes endangering a massive transportation project and public safety; a businessman with ties to the prime minister’s son had been arrested; and rumors were flying that a second wave of arrests was forthcoming. That, in a matter of months, Bozdağ seems to have cauterized the wound and stabilized the patient is quite an accomplishment.

The success has not come without a cost. Recent months have seen several bloody fights in the chambers of parliament as well as official complaints leveled against Bozdağ himself. Nonetheless, on February 16th, the Turkish parliament passed a bill restructuring the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the institution tasked with overseeing the Turkish judicial system. The following day, Bozdağ announced that there was still uncertainty whether the ministers under investigation had committed “crimes regarding their duties” or “personal crimes”—an important distinction given that parliamentarians have a large degree of immunity.[1]

With only a month until local elections, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) seems set to weather its most serious challenge in more than half a decade. Significantly, unlike previous existential challenges—a threatened coup in 2007, a legal attempt to shut the party in 2008, or even the massive protests that shook Turkish cities in mid-2013—this challenge has come from within the party and called into question nearly all of the pillars on which its electoral success rest.



I. December 17th and Its Causes

II. A Government Caught Off-Guard

III. Wack-a-Mole: Investigations Spread

IV. A New Battleground: Foreign Policy

V. Regulation as a Weapon: Television and Newspapers

VI. The War Against Twitter and Youtube

VII. The AKP Victorious


Fethullah Erdogan

Fethullah Gülen and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

The “December 17th” corruption scandal, which dominated Turkish news for months, has already been summarized excellently by the usual suspects.[2] Suffice it to say, tensions had been building for quite some time between the AKP and followers of Fethullah Gülen, a popular religious leader whose supporters control a vast network of businesses, including media conglomerates. For years, the two worked in harmony; the AKP allowing Gülenists access to key positions within the government and Gülenists using the power of these positions to prosecute AKP opponents. Shared interests helped to paper over many disagreements: Gülenists, for example, emphasize inter-faith dialogue, and have tended to oppose the AKP’s hardening stance toward Israel; by contrast, they adhere to a “Turkish” nationalism that leads them to distrust the government’s concessions to ethnically Kurdish Turks.[3]

Despite much chatter about potential splits, tensions remained submerged. The most serious disagreement before 2012 related to football: in 2011, the leadership of Fenerbahçe, one of Istanbul’s three main football teams, was accused of match fixing. As Fenerbahçe also happened to be Prime Minister Erdoğan’s favorite team, the prosecutor initiating the investigation was generally viewed to be a tool of Gülen and subsequent developments in the case were often filtered through the lens of political struggle. As Erdoğan intrigued to protect the team’s management, many came to view the entire prosecution as an attempt by Gülenists to put their own men on the team’s board of directors.[4]

Whatever the truth of such theories, power struggles between the AKP and Gülenists in the bureaucracy became more serious in early 2012 when prosecutors (allegedly Gülenists) sought to frustrate efforts by Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency to negotiate with the Kurdistan Workers Party.[5] During the following year, tensions remained subdued. Though a bill to reform the Turkish education system included provisions to shutter test-prep schools—many of which are owned by Gülenists—opposition remained muted. Over the past six months, however, as the government’s commitment to following through with the closures became clear, tension increased. In November, two AKP parliamentarians close to the Gülenist movement resigned from the party in protest.[6] Late in the month, the newspaper Taraf reported that, nine years earlier, the AKP had agreed with the military’s plans to take action against the Gülen movement. These measures included monitoring individuals and groups that made donations to Gülenist organizations, potentially bringing even apolitical citizens under surveillance.[7] Furthermore, on December 12th, judges ruled that a pair of suspects in the OdaTV case should be released. The online magazine is a harsh critic of Gülen and of prosecutions its editors believe to be engineered by his followers.[8] After years of court decisions going in the Gülenists’ favor, such a ruling could be construed as a turning of the tide.

And then came the morning of December 17.

The mass arrests that day were actually connected with three distinct investigations. The first centered on Reza Zerrab, an Iranian businessman who had made a fortune helping Turkish and Iranian companies skirt western sanctions. Though Turkey had secured an exemption allowing it to purchase oil and gas from Iran, it remained bound by March 2012 sanctions that had removed Iran from SWIFT, the banking network that facilitates international transfers. In order to continue purchases, a system was devised whereby Iranian oil was purchased with Turkish lira.

As Turkish lira held little interest for Iranian producers, these lira were held in accounts with Halkbank—a Turkish bank without branches in the US and, therefore, beyond the US’s power to directly penalize. The lira in these accounts was then used to buy gold in Turkey and ship it to Iran. The arrangement infuriated American lawmakers, but was tremendously beneficial to both Turkey and Iran: it gave Iranians access to gold, which could be easily converted to other currencies; for the Turkish government, it boosted trade statistics—the exported gold helped reduce the country’s consistently negative trade balance. Between 2010 and 2013 (when new sanctions forbade companies from using gold to purchase Iranian oil) gold exports rose from 3% of all Turkish exports to over 10%. Even after the enhanced sanctions went into effect, Turkey continued to export $45 million in gold each month.[9]

Zerrab made a fortune acting as a middleman between Turkish and Iranian companies. The son of a well-connected Iranian steel-baron, he had initially worked in Dubai as a financial trader before moving to Turkey in 2008 and establishing a shipbuilding firm called Royal Maritime. The business was quite successful and Zerrab found himself hobnobbing with the Turkish elite—even marrying a famous singer. Overtime he become more involved in trading precious metals until finally establishing a new firm, Safir Holding, in 2012. By year’s end, the company had come to control 46% of the gold exports leaving Turkey, with Zerrab making a 1.7% commission off all transactions.[10]

There were snags along the way, of course: in January of 2013, a plane of Zerrab’s carrying gold from Ghana to Dubai for sale to an Iranian businessman had to make an unplanned stop at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.[11] While there, customs agents noticed that the buyer was on US and European blacklists. In order to remove his plane from impound, Zerrab (allegedly) called in favors with Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, whose office convinced customs officials to release the plane. Such good relations were (again allegedly) maintained through copious bribery to the minister and his son, including a $350,000 watch and a $37,000 piano. Similar gifts and bribes to Interior Minister Muammer Güler and his family allowed Zerrab and his relatives to be fast-tracked for Turkish citizenship—which, upon receiving, led Zerrab to change his last name to Sarraf.[12]

When the arrests came, they swept up Zerrab, Güler and Çağlayan’s sons, and several of Çağlayan’s aides who had acted as go-betweens. The general manager of Halkbank was also arrested with around $4.5 million discovered stuffed into shoeboxes in his home.[13]

The second investigation, focused on a trio of construction magnates: Osman Ağca, whose firm, Yorum Construction, had built some of Turkey’s most famous shopping malls; Emrullah Turanlı, the head of the internationally successful Taşyapı Group; and Ali Ağaoğlu, owner of the eponymous firm and Turkey’s eighth richest man.[14] All three were accused of bribing officials at the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning, including Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar and his son, in order to win public contracts and special planning exemptions.[15]

In the case of Ağaoğlu, for example, the construction magnate had sought to reduce the amount of green space on a construction site in the Bakırköy municipality. After his requests for an exemption had been rejected by the city council, he appealed to the mayor of Istanbul and (allegedly) Erdoğan himself. The latter promised, but the former dragged his feet.[16] Perhaps connected to these dealings, during the course of 2013, Ağaoğlu donated a $100,000 piece of property to TÜRGEV, a charitable foundation managed by Erdoğan’s son Bilal and daughter Esra.[17]

In addition to Bayraktar’s son and the three businessmen, the December 17th arrests included multiple officials from TOKİ, the public housing authority, and the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry. The investigation also snared the general manager of Emlak Konut GYO, Turkey’s largest real estate developer (whose largest shareholder is TOKİ itself).

The final investigation also centered on construction projects—this time in the Fatih municipality. Here, a different construction company, RCI, had hoped to build a hotel on a piece of property sitting directly above the Marmary, the new subway line running partially below the Bosporus, connecting Istanbul’s European and Asian sides. Despite warnings from the Japanese construction firm building the subway, Fatih’s mayor went along with the request, changing the property’s zoning from “first-degree” historical to “second-degree” in order to facilitate the project.[18] Besides the mayor and the businessman, multiple officials from the committee responsible for preserving the region’s cultural heritage were also arrested. Of all the investigations, this one, if true, could prove the most damaging as it suggests long-serving AKP officials’ willingness to disregard public safety in order to make a quick lira—or, in this case, three million.

All told, over eighty had been detained by the day’s end.[19] The prosecutor overseeing all these investigations was Zekeriya Öz. Over the past decade, Öz had gained notoriety in a number of cases. These included the prosecution of “Ergenekon,” a vast, conspiratorial network opposed to the government, composed of generals, journalists, politicians, professors, hitmen, and—by the time the investigation entered its forth or fifth year—seemingly anyone prosecutors chose to include.[20] Working below him as head prosecutor on the case was Celal Kara who had previously been involved in prosecuting journalist Nedim Şener, a critic of both Erdogan and the Gülen movement.[21]

Although the investigations had been going on since as early as September 2012, the involvement of lead prosecutors in multiple cases with a Gülenist bent immediately suggested that these arrests were the newest—and most open—salvo in the recent tit-for-tat power struggle. As to why the arrests had been made at this precise moment, sources suggested that the Interior Ministry had become aware of the investigation. While staking out Zerrab’s house, officials from the Financial Crimes Unit noticed another car in the vicinity that they suspected belonged to the Police Intelligence Unit.[22] Fearing that the investigation had been compromised and that Interior Minister Güler would now move to block further wiretaps, the prosecutors made their play.




Bekir Bozdağ and Associates

The arrests caught the AKP off guard. Ankara mayor—and constant Twitter presence—Melih Gökçek, for example, was informed by another user that his son too had been arrested. Demanding to know where the other Tweeter had heard such a thing, he was told that it was merely a joke.[23] His fear was understandable, of course: in the first twenty-four hours of the scandal, it was unclear whether the government remained in control of its own judicial apparatus.

Within a day, however, steps had been taken to reign in the investigation. Two new prosecutors were added to the team and, although Bülent Arınç—one of four assistant prime ministers and the closest to the Gülen movement[24]—suggested cautiously that implicated ministers might have to resign, Bekir Bozdağ (at the time also serving as an assistant prime minister) announced his intention to file a criminal complaint against whomever had leaked details of the investigation to the police. In addition, the directors of the Istanbul units responsible for financial crime, smuggling, terrorism, organized crime, and public safety were all reassigned. More reassignments occurred later in the day in both Istanbul and Ankara. On December 19, the Istanbul chief of police was reassigned and Zekeriya Öz was called in for a meeting with his superiors. By late in the day, it was announced that decisions in the investigation would now require the approval of at least two of the prosecutors involved.[25]

Prime Minister Erdoğan began suggesting his own theory of events. Starting on December 18, he argued:

In these struggles [of ours] the steps taken [against us] have international as much as national support . . .You can guess who these are. This was a process that started with the Gezi events, after which these new steps have been taken. I must say this very clearly: if one listens and follows for the fourteen months, and doesn’t report his finding to his headquarters, this isn’t engineering corruption; this is political corruption. This is a species of gang. A state within a state . . .[26]

Pro-government papers like Yeni Şafak backed up these claims in the following days, claiming that the US ambassador had criticized the government’s connections with Halkbank and described the scandal as “the fall of an empire.”[27] Touring Black Sea provinces over the weekend, Erdoğan continued with the tack of alluding to foreign powers seeking to undermine Turkey by suggesting that meddling ambassadors would be shown the door.

On Saturday, a number of suspects including Ali Agaoglu and Faith Mayor Mustafa Demir were released from detention, albeit on the condition that they remain in the country. Back in Ankara, lawmakers passed new legislation requiring police and prosecutors to inform their superiors of all investigations they were involved in. The following morning brought a new round of police reassignments as well as new regulations banning journalists from entering police stations. On Monday, when prosecutors attempted to bring in the head of the Police Intelligence Department for questioning, on the suspicion that he had tipped off Interior Minister Güler, their efforts were blocked by the newly installed chief of police.[28] That evening, Erdoğan, returning from a quick trip to Pakistan, was greeted by crowds of cheering supporters—some waving banners mocking Zaman and Bugün, two pro-Gülen newspapers which Turkish Airlines had just declared it would stop promoting. Here Erdoğan reiterated:

We are passionate about the nation, we love it. These operations against our government: you know that behind them is [an operation against] the national will, against the nation. There’s a choice here: nation or filth. I believe that those who say “nation” will win.[29]

Prosecutors persisted in the face of government resistance. On Tuesday, news leaked that two new investigations were in the works. The first concerned corruption in the tender process for Turkish State Railways’ new high-speed line from Istanbul to Ankara. The leak named Director Süleyman Karaman specifically. The second investigation was less detailed—simply claiming that another prosecutor, Muammer Akkaş, had submitted a new slate of arrest requests to the police and that the operation would “starting in the coming hours.”[30] Like prosecutors involved in the December 17 arrests, Akkaş had previously worked on the Ergenekon case.[31]

Tuesday also brought a new AKP resignation—this time from İdris Naim Şahin, a former Interior Minister, who had been removed from office in early 2013 for (what many believed to be) his harsh policies towards the country’s Kurdish population.[32] He justified his resignation from the party on the grounds that it had become increasingly controlled by a “narrow” and “oligarchic” cadre of leaders.[33] The same morning, Erdoğan announced a thoroughgoing cabinet reshuffle. With local elections only three months away and several cabinet ministers running in mayoral races, the shake-up had been expected. Now, however, it was more sweeping and the choices to fill key positions far more predicated on loyalty than on political balancing. The three ministers under suspicion were all removed, as was the minister responsible for EU affairs whose name had subsequently come up in association with Zarrab.[34]

In leaving office, the ministers displayed starkly different attitudes: Interior Minister Güler maintained that the whole investigation was a political plot and that a stash of $1.2 million found in his son’s house had come from the sale of a suburban villa (to an unnamed buyer).[35] Urban Planning Minister Bayraktar, however, stepped down on a different note, observing that, “A large part of the zoning plans in the investigation dossier were done with the instruction of the prime minister . . .to ease the nation and country, I believe it is necessary for the prime minister to resign.”[36]

With the pressure seemingly increasing, Erdoğan was careful to fill the key posts in the cabinet, Interior Minister and Justice Minister, with close allies. The new Interior Minister, Efkan Ala, had served in key positions in Eastern Turkey before becoming Erdoğan’s undersecretary in 2007.[37] As for the new Justice Minister: Bekir Bozdağ, had been an AKP parliamentarian since the party came to power twelve years earlier and had been involved in most of the its major initiatives. He was a politician who “never departed from Erdoğan’s talking points.”[38] On assuming his new role, he declared, “No one should doubt that we will continue this struggle against corruption with the same speed and care. We are on the side of the legal process.”[39]

The following months would test this commitment.



Layout 1

Lawyer: We’ve come to give a statement Washing Machine: Ready!

Thursday, just two days after the cabinet shake up, brought the first volley in what has (thus far) been the government’s most controversial battle. In response to Saturday’s new regulations requiring prosecutors to report their investigations to superior officers, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) issued a stern reprimand, stating that the new regulations were “clearly against . . .the principals of judicial independence and separation of powers.”[40]

The HSYK oversaw the appointment, promotion, and disciplining of prosecutors and judges. Until four years earlier it had been composed of seven members—the Justice Minister, his undersecretary, and five members selected by the president from a pool of candidates proposed to him by the higher courts. This set up gave politicians an excessive degree of control over the judicial system in comparison to neighboring European countries, where such boards were usually selected by lawyers and judges themselves. In order to move more closely in-line with European standards, the government had reformed the HSYK in 2010.[41] As it stood in December 2014, the HSYK was composed of twenty-two members—the Justice Minister and twenty-one others; four still selected by the president, but the rest selected in one fashion or another by various judicial bodies. When the group met, the Justice Minister served as the president of the body. Generally, though, the HSYK was split into three smaller boards of seven—one responsible for appointments and transfers, a second for promotions, and a third for investigations.[42]

The HSYK statement was signed by thirteen of the twenty-one members—including the president of each board. Five members (a majority) of the boards overseeing promotions and investigations signed the statement, but only three of the seven-member board in charge of transfers approved. More to the point, four members chose to write dissents—all but one came from the board responsible for transfers.

Support for the government on the transfer board would prove crucial in coming weeks. On the same day that the HSYK issued its statement, Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş announced to the media that his arrest requests had been denied and that the case had been taken out of his hands. His superior, Istanbul Attorney General Turan Çolakkadı, argued that Akkaş had no authority to be issuing such orders in an investigation he had been running for two years without once even phoning a superior.[43] (Newspapers close to the government also called Akkaş’ credibility into question by suggesting he had quashed an investigation into businesses run by the powerful Koç family after they had donated money to Gülenist pet projects.[44]) In protest at the government’s handling of the scandal—and in advance of being forcibly ejected by the party disciplinary committee—three more AKP parliamentarians resigned from the party. Most prominent among these was Ertuğrul Günay, a former opposition party leader who had joined the AKP six years earlier and subsequently served as a cabinet member.

The following day, the list of names Akkaş had submitted was leaked to the press.[45] Whereas the previous three investigations had led to the detentions of around eighty suspects in total, Akkaş’ list called for another forty-one to be rounded up. Among these names were some of Turkey’s most important “Islamic” businessmen: the CEO of BIM, a supermarket chain[46]; Fatih Saraç, the vice-president of Ciner Media Group, which controlled the pro-government newspaper Haberturk[47]; two members of the Kalyoncu family, whose Zirve Holding had recently purchased the pro-government newspaper Sabah and whose construction projects included Istanbul’s third airport[48]; the chairman of Limak Group, also part of the joint-venture constructing the third airport[49]; a part owner of the Simit Sarayı café chain; and Yasin El Kadı, a well-connected Saudi businessman, who had only recently been removed from a UN list of terrorist abettors. Most incendiary, Akkaş had requested that Erdogan’s son Bilal come in for questioning.[50]

In the face of leaks and pushback from within the judiciary, the government took a firm stand. Bozdağ rebuked the HSYK, saying that “making public statements” was not among its duties—only he, as its president, was empowered to do so.By the weekend, Bozdağ had issued a memo to the HSYK formally asserting his authority. [51] Erdoğan too argued that the HSYK members had overstepped their constitutional authority and were “committing a crime. But who,” he wondered, “would prosecute this HSYK? If I possessed such authority, I would prosecute it right away.”[52] Even the fairly moderate Deputy Prime Minster Bülent Arınç suggested that there must be a “response” to the HSYK’s actions—perhaps even constitutional revisions.[53]

With government officials asserting that prosecutors and judges were acting unconstitutionally, and with pro-government newspapers claiming that multiple Ergenekon prosecutors were acting in bad faith, the military entered the debate.[54] On January 2 is was announced that the General Staff had filed a complaint with the Ankara Attorney General’s office alleging that, in a series of recent cases, experts had been manipulated, the judiciary had violated its duties, and prosecutors had manufactured evidence.[55] These were hardly new claims, but the time was opportune: the government could hardly vilify Akkaş and other prosecutors now without calling into question their equally controversial previous cases. And, sure enough, within days Erdoğan was meeting with the head of the Turkish Lawyers Association; announcing that, “We are looking positively on [the possibility of] retrials”; and hinting that new legal arrangements were in the works to facilitate such trials. This would likely include abolishing the special courts in which prosecutions of military officials (as well as alleged Kurdish militants) had taken place.[56]

A day later the HSYK sub-board responsible for investigating prosecutors and judges—the board on which the most members had signed the statement a week earlier—announced its intention to launch investigations of the Istanbul Attorney General, the Istanbul Police Chief, Zekeriya Öz, and Muammer Akkaş to determine whether any of the officials had overstepped their duties. For most of these officials, the issue was whether requesting arrests or blocking them had been the greater error; in the case of Öz, however, there were additional questions: a day earlier, meeting with reporters, Erdogan had alluded to Öz by wondering:

Can a judiciary member go abroad twenty or twenty-two times a year? Skiing, beaches, tennis . . .where does such an income come from? See, a judiciary official goes to a mayor’s office and, if that mayor doesn’t give him what he wants, he puts together a dossier on that mayor.[57]

Within hours, pro-government papers were accusing Öz of shaking down Ali Ağaoğlu and the other construction magnates whose arrests he had recently overseen. At the same time one HSYK board was opening an investigation on him, another HSYK board—the one in which the fewest members had signed off the statement criticizing the government’s actions—decided to demote him and move him to the less prestigious Bakırköy prosecutor’s office. Öz responded to his demotion first by claiming that, within days of the December 17 arrests, he had been visited by a pair of judiciary officials sent by Erdoğan to threaten him.[58] Though the officials admitted to meeting Öz, they denied any such threats—by contrast, an AKP representative from Izmir was more direct when he suggested the same day that Öz would end up like “Murat Gök,” another prosecutor who’d overseen large investigations only to be reassigned and end up dead.[59]

Öz largely ignored such threats and sought to fight his transfer. Rather than take up his new post, he took vacation leave with the implication that he would hold out for his old job. Ultimately, however, he was transferred again—this time even further out of the way to the city of Bolu. Nor was he alone in being reassigned: on the night of January 6, around 600 police officers in Ankara were reassigned—nearly half of them from the units dealing with terrorism, organized crime, and intelligence gathering.

The government might have better focused its purging energies elsewhere as, on the following day, Izmir, not Ankara, became the new site of corruption investigations. Early in the morning, simultaneous police raids in five different Turkish provinces resulted in twenty-seven detentions—and, ultimately, ten arrests. The investigation focused on corruption in the tendering process at the Turkish State Railways Authority. Most of the suspects were employees or businessmen connected to the Port Authority of Izmir, but the director of the İskenderun Port Authority and the Lake Van Ferry Director were also detained. Among the list of detainees the İzmir Attorney General had requested was the brother-in-law of Binali Yıldırım, who, until stepping down two weeks earlier to run in the Izmir mayoral race, had served as Minister of Transportation.[60] Yıldırım’s brother happened to be out of the city at the time of the arrests, but willingly turned himself in two days later—by which point, Izmir’s assistant chief of police and the assistant directors of both the organized crime and narcotics units had been relieved of their duties.

Like a game of whack-a-mole, however, the corruption investigations simply switched venues again: on the morning of January 10, a new set of raids in the port city of Mersin led to the detentions of multiple customs officials.[61] Unlike in Izmir and Istanbul, retaliatory police transfers in Mersin were not immediate—instead they took nearly two weeks. On January 18, five unit commanders were transferred; a week later fifty-three officials from the Mersin Police Intelligence Unit were reassigned, as was the Provincial Police Chief.[62] The same day around 200 police in Izmir were reassigned.

türkiye haritası büyük boy şehirler

Provinces of Turkey

Moving around police was easy; moving around prosecutors and judges required a bit more effort. Though the HSYK had scheduled a meeting for January 8 to investigate the various prosecutors, the Istanbul Attorney General, and the Istanbul Chief of Police, Bozdağ announced in the morning that he would not allow investigations of the latter two to move forward—and within two days, the parliament had moved to remove the HSYK’s power to investigate police chiefs entirely. During the course of the day, the government also released details of its new bill to reform the HSYK. The bill would give the Justice Minister sweeping new powers—in addition to more clearly codifying his power to speak for the board, it would also grant him the power to chose topics for it to discuss, initiate investigations of members, and appoint members to different sub-boards (where currently they were chosen by a more complex process). The sub-boards too would be rearranged with the first two reduced to five members each and third increased to eleven with its powers of investigation transferred to the smaller second board. Taken in sum, the changes gave the government clear control over the body, which, in turn, controlled the judiciary.[63]

During the following week, the bill worked its way through the parliament’s judicial committee. For more than eighty hours, the committee discussed the various clauses, ultimately approving it with few significant changes. From there it moved on to the constitutional committee. As it made its way through the legislature, the bill provoked scuffles: on January 11, one fight resulted in injuries and tablet computers being thrown about; on January 23, a call for the arrest of Erdoğan’s son by a CHP legislator led to a violent fistfight on the floor of parliament.[64] Throughout the process, President Gül was conducting negotiations between parties in the hopes of finding a compromise and, finally, on January 24 the government agreed to suspend the bill.

The move was hardly a victory for the opposition. With bills pending on military trials, the internet, and the security apparatus, the government was simply prioritizing its fights. By the time the bill was shelved, the Istanbul Attorney General, the Izmir prosecutor overseeing the port investigation, and ninety-five other judges and prosecutors around the country had also been reassigned.[65] The following week, both of the prosecutors originally working on the “December 17th” investigations were reassigned as well.

No wonder that, on the day the HSYK bill was suspended, Bilal Erdoğan’s lawyer announced that his client was ready to give testimony should prosecutors request his presence in the coming days. The storm seemed to have passed.




Turkish Syrian Border

While charges of corruption in the tendering process for high-profile projects directly struck at the AKP’s reputation, they were far from the only point at which government opponents could strike. Even as Bozdağ and other legislators were busily attempting to restructure the judiciary in Ankara, difficulties were arising on the country’s borders.

Proximity—but also conscious policy choices—have led the Turkish government into deep involvement with the civil war in neighboring Syria. When fighting began in 2011, Turkish policy-makers initially tried to pressure the Syrian regime into compromise. When this tack showed few results, however, the Turkish government came out strongly against the regime. In late November of 2011, it cut off trade and financial relations—a painful act for populations on both sides of the border as Turkey accounted for 10% of all Syrian trade and Syria was among the few countries with which Turkey had a positive balance of trade.[66]

One of the few things that have continued to flow from Turkey into Syria during the subsequent two years has been weapons—forty-seven tons of them between June and December 2013 alone. Weapons produced in Croatia are purchased by the Saudi Arabian and Qatari governments, flown to Esenboğa airport in Ankara, and warehoused temporarily in Turkey before being shipped by truck in the rebel-held areas in northern Syria—all under the co-ordination of the United States. During 2013, the process has accelerated with rebels claiming September of 2013 to have marked their largest shipment yet.[67]

Though the Turkish government hopes to strengthen certain rebel groups in northern Syria, others make it more skittish: in particular Kurdish rebel groups. Nearly 15% of Syrians are ethnically Kurdish and much of this population is concentrated along the Turkish border. During the course of the civil war, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdish organization similar to the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) in Turkey, has succeed in winning the region a great deal of autonomy from the center. As late as January 2013, the Syrian regime was complimenting Syrian Kurds on their loyalty—which is true to the extent that the PYD finds itself fighting off attacks from many of the same groups in conflict with the regime itself. The Turkish government, however, is convinced that the PYD seeks to establish a semi-autonomous state similar to what Iraqi Kurds have achieved.[68] To weaken the PYD, the Turkish government has withheld aid and weapons shipments to Kurdish areas. Pro-government charities, like the İHH Humanitarian Relief Fund (an Islamic charity that made headlines for its attempts to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2011), claim they are unable to deliver relief to Kurdish areas due to a lack of “security.”[69]

In essence, the government finds itself in a difficult position: opposed to a neighboring regime that seems increasingly secure; supporting some rebels, but not others; siding with some Kurdish leaders (those in Iraq) while opposing others (those in Turkey and Syria); trying to negotiate a peace agreement with the PKK while actively undermining its allies in Syria . . .it all adds up to a delicate diplomatic balance—one which has now become tied up in the larger struggle between the government and the Gülen movement.

In November 2013, a truck loaded with rockets, bazookas, and missiles heading toward the Syrian border was stopped by police. The police were acting on a phone tip that the truck contained drugs, but—as the Gülenist newspaper Today’s Zaman quickly reported—there were “allegations” that the arms were intended for “al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.”[70] Such a possibility did not improve public support for the government’s already unpopular Syria policies. Yet, despite numerous reports to the contrary, the government continued to assert that it was not aiding militants, Al-Qaeda linked or otherwise. On the morning of December 17, as coincidence would have it, the Defense Minister explained to the parliament that “no arms intended for fighting had been exported to Syria in 2013 . . .[only] smoothbore hunting rifles appropriate for sports.”[71]

On January 1, gendarme in the southern province of Hatay received a tip off that a truck full of weapons was heading toward the Syrian border. Upon being stopped by the gendarme, the passengers announced that they were connected with the National Intelligence Administration (MİT) and that the contents of the truck were “state secret.” Despite orders from their commanders to release the truck, officers on the scene argued that authority over the case had passed to the Adana attorney general responsible for terrorism-related issues in the southeast. While they waited for the attorney general to appear, an order arrived from the Hatay governor’s office to release the truck. At this point the gendarme felt obligated to comply. The Adana attorney general, however, directed local police further down the highway to stop the truck again. Once more, a command came from the governor forbidding any search. Unable to continue the investigation, the prosecutor and the police left the scene. Within a day, the officers had been relieved from duty and officials in the Terrorism and Organized Crime Unit had been reassigned.[72] Within a week, the Adana attorney general had been reassigned and his investigations turned over to another prosecutor, Aziz Takcı.[73]

According to the government, the truck had contained aid for Turkmen villagers living along the border. In recent months, these Syrian Turks had been attacked by rebel groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda. As the pro-government paper Sabah explained, the truck was trying to avoid both Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups and the PYD, which it accused of confiscating humanitarian aid. As for who was delivering this aid, initial reports suggested that İHH Humanitarian Relief Fund members had been on the truck, but the group was quick to deny any connection.[74] Nonetheless, on January 14, twenty-eight people were arrested across six provinces on charges of aiding Al-Qaeda. The İHH office in the border town of Kilis was raided on the suspicion that it served as a point for distributing aid to Syrian rebel groups, as well as ferrying fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan across the border.[75]

The İHH general secretary immediately denied the allegations, suggesting that the entire operation was a smear by Israel and the “parallel structures and organizations, both inside and outside Turkey” that supported it. When asked if he thought these included the Gülen movement, he agreed it was possible.[76] The conflation of Gülen and Israel was not new: only a few weeks earlier, the İHH president had explained that relations between his group and Gülen had become “strained.” When the group’s attempt to deliver supplies to the Gaza Strip aboard the Mavi Marmara had ended with Israeli commandos killing nine passengers, Gülen had opted to criticize rather than support its actions. As the İHH president saw it, “the hoca has schools in America, he must say such things to protect himself.”[77]

Syria Map BBC

Syrian Civil War

Transfers followed fast and furious. The Kilis chief of police was relieved of his duties and thirteen Terrorism Unit officers were reassigned the day of the raid.[78] Even so, on January 19, police acting on yet another tip stopped seven more trucks and discovered an even larger cache of weapons.[79] Within five days, Aziz Takcı, the prosecutor newly tasked with overseeing the region’s terrorism investigations, was also reassigned.[80]

Besides providing another avenue for undermining the government, interdicting weapons shipments and arresting pro-government NGOs serves to embarrass and stymie the MİT, another bête noire of the Gülen movement. The intense dislike stems not only from the lead role the intelligence organization plays in negotiations with the PKK, but also from the crucial part it plays in monitoring Gülenists themselves. After February 2012, when prosecutors (believed to be) close to the Gülen movement sought to block MİT-PKK talks, the government (allegedly) directed the MİT to produce a report on the movement. According to the left-wing newspaper Aydınlık, the MİT had identified businessmen, bureaucrats, politicians, and military officials close to the movement and begun building dossiers on them. Subsequent reporting by the muckraking paper Taraf claimed that the MİT had been submitting reports for the past three years on government employees suspected of Gülenist ties.[81]

If Gülen and his supporters were hostile to the PKK and MİT, the feeling was certainly mutual. In the days following December 17, the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, made it known that he saw the investigations as tantamount to a coup directed at the peace process and that “those who are trying once again to light the country aflame with the fire of a coup should know that we are not going to carry the gasoline for them.”[82] A month later, the vice-president of the Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK), the political organization undergirding the PKK in Turkey and beyond, questioned the timing of the investigations. Though he did not deny the likelihood of corruption, he emphasized that the revelations served to weaken the AKP at an inopportune time. Moreover, he suggested that the struggle was not truly between Gülen and Erdoğan, the former being merely a pawn. “Who is behind the [Gülen movement]? America.”[83]

As for the AKP government, it moved to strengthen the MİT. On February 20, a bill was submitted to parliament significantly expanding the organization’s powers to investigate threats to Turkish national security. Under the proposed changes, the MİT would be able to monitor phone calls both inside and outside the country as well as demand all types of documents from banks and public institutions. Were the organization to deem it necessary, it would now be permitted to enter into relationships with terrorist groups.

Clearly, there was room for abuse in the new law. Yet, as the bill increased the MİT’s powers, it simultaneously decreased the number of checks on the MİT: no longer would prosecutors be able to investigate MİT officials whose actions were said to be “necessary to the job,” and if newspapers published MİT documents, the penalty would no longer fall solely on the editors and journalists who made the decision, but extend to the owners as well, with penalties ranging from three to nine years.[84]

By removing the power to monitor the state security apparatus from the press and judiciary—which is to say any organization in which Gülenists had influence—the government sought to create an institution loyal enough to prevent any future “December 17ths” and buttress its rule. Not for nothing did Gülenist newspapers accuse the government of creating a “mukhabarat state”—a reference to the Arabic word for “intelligence agency” which had become shorthand for “secret police” in countries throughout the region.[85]



AKP Supporters Using Newspaper Names as Text (Translation: Those who hide on the SIDE of darkness TODAY will, with TIME, one by one come to an end)

Given that current Turkish government officials rose to power as outsiders, challenging the tight-knit political-business-media establishment that had controlled the country for generations, it is ironic—albeit accurate—to see it now accused of dominating the media landscape. Yet, despite the government’s best efforts to reassert control—over the judiciary, over the police, and over the intelligence services—other aspects of Turkish society have proved more difficult (thus far) to reach. Namely: social media. Try as it might, the government has struggled to muzzle a new generation of Turks seeking to challenge the power of the state and its allies.

Before considering the government’s current struggle against social media, it is useful to understand the media landscape on the eve of the December 17 arrests:



Newspaper* Sales
ZAMAN 1.219.354
POSTA 410.800
HÜRRİYET 386.968
SÖZCÜ 331.446
SABAH 316.183
TÜRKİYE 182.532
FANATİK 173.877
MİLLİYET 169.846
BUGÜN 137.081
STAR 125.504
YENİ ŞAFAK 113.121
VATAN 106.796
TAKVİM 106.486
AKŞAM 102.965
GÜNEŞ 100.448
*Numbers from Medyatava


When one talks of “traditional media”—newspapers and television channels—Turks initially seem overwhelmed with options. In Istanbul at least, newsstands are filled with more than a dozen papers expressing a wide range of views. The statistics are less encouraging, however: in the week before the scandals broke, around seventeen papers had a circulation over 100,000; put together, they accounted for 87% of all circulation in Turkey. The top five papers accounted for 51%. Of those papers—Zaman, Posta, Hürriyet, Sözcü, and Sabah—one alone, Zaman, garners 23%.[86]

Whether these numbers—any of them—are believable is a long-standing disagreement in the Turkish media. Zaman is owned by the Feza journalism group, which also owns the English language paper Today’s Zaman and the Cihan News Agency—which provides content to newspapers around the country and technical support for foreign media. The firm is considered close to the Gülen movement and has been accused of leveraging its relationship in order to boost its subscriptions. Even before December 17, the pro-government paper Yeni Akit was reporting that Gülen schools were pressuring students and families to subscribe, offering test-prep help to students on the condition that they subscribe to Zaman.[87] In the aftermath of the arrests, Yeni Akit began suggesting that Zaman was giving out papers for free in order to plump its numbers.[88]

The same questions might be asked—and, by Zaman, have been asked[89]—about PostaandHürriyet, both of which are owned by the Doğan Media Group (DYH) and feature its typical mix of sensational crime stories and cleavage. To a point these papers remain critical of the AKP. But, compared to more clearly anti-government papers, they have tended to mute their criticism since 2009, when the government hit DYH with a multi-billion dollar tax-fine—one which was reduced only after media magnate Aydın Doğan had stepped down from leading the day-to-day operations of his own company. As for Sözcü, a stridently anti-government, Kemalist paper, which was once owned by DYH, it has seen its numbers rise steadily climb during the course of the scandal, surpassing all but Zaman by late March 2014.[90]

As for Sabah—the only pro-government paper among these major dailies—it has changed ownership several times. In 2006, it was owned in full by the Ciner Group, a rather pro-AKP holding company. When, in 2007, it was seized by the government’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund due to tax issues, Erdogan helped facilitate its purchase by the Çalık Group, another pro-AKP holding company for which the prime minister’s son-in-law worked. Over the following years, however, the paper’s circulation has declined steeply and Çalık has sought to unload the property. Once more, Erdogan helped smooth the transfer, fielding offers from media moguls like Rupert Murdoch until it was finally purchased by a group of firms, including Kalyon Holding, Zirve Holding, Cengiz İnşaat, Limak Holding—all of whose directors were named in Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş’s arrest requests (as was Ciner vice president Fatih Saraç).[91]

As for the remaining twelve papers with circulation over 100,000, seven can be said to be pro-government. Of these Habertürk is owned by the Ciner Group; Star is own by a former AKP member of parliament[92]; Türkiye is owned by İhlas Holding, which the AKP has been accused of safeguarding from punishment for its financial crimes[93]; Yeni Şafak is owned by Albayrak Holding, another close ally of the government[94]; Takvimis owned by Turkuvaz Media, a subsidiary of the Çalık Group; and Akşam and Güneş are owned by Ethem Sancak, a former owner of Sabah and member of the AKP’s Internal Party Democracy Arbitration Board[95].

Few of the remaining “non-AKP” papers openly challenge the government. Milliyet and Vatan are owned by the Demirören family who, though not particularly close with the government, have repeatedly bent to government pressure to quiet or fire their more vocal writers.[96] Meanwhile, the papers Fanatık and Foto Maç are owned by DYH and the Çalık Group, respectively—but focus almost exclusively on sports.[97] Finally, there is Bugün, owned by Koza İpek Holding, a large family firm, close with the Gülen movement, specializing in mining and jewelry. In late November, when tensions were still mounting, the government began investigations into its operations, sending the firm’s share prices tumbling.[98]

In short: ignoring the remaining 13% of papers, the AKP can be said to control a solid 26% of newspapers—35% when sports papers owned by allies and the cowed Demirören papers are included. Another 27% is controlled by the Gülen movement and 19% by Doğan Media Group. Sözcü stands out as the only vigorously—if knee-jerk—anti-AKP paper in wide circulation.



Rank Channel Viewers Reyting
1 ATV 163.951 % 7,670
2 Show TV 159.090 % 7,442
3 TRT 1 140.444 % 6,570
4 STV 133.154 % 6,229
5 Fox Tv 124.640 % 5,831
6 Star Tv 116.422 % 5,446
7 Kanal 7 114.163 % 5,340
8 Haber Türk 109.281 % 5,112
9 Tv 8 107.406 % 5,024
10 Kanal Türk 95.624 % 4,473
11 Beyaz Tv 91.478 % 4,279
12 TRT Haber 77.448 % 3,623
13 A Haber 56.085 % 2,624
14 Yumurcak Tv 52.375 % 2,450
15 Flash Tv 48.792 % 2,282
16 Cine 5 39.702 % 1,857
17 S Haber 30.328 % 1,419
18 TRT Müzik 27.660 % 1,294
19 TRT Türk 26.263 % 1,229
20 Ulusal Kanal 23.535 % 1,101
21 TRT Belgesel 23.091 % 1,080
22 TRT Çocuk 23.001 % 1,076


The pattern holds true for television as well. As of November 2013, the top nine channels accounted for 54% of the total audience.[99] ATV led in viewers, winning 7.67% of the audience with shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Karadayı, a 1970s period drama about a man wrongly accused of killing a prosecutor only to fall in love with the judge investigating him. Like the newspapers, Habertürk and Sabah, the network was owned by the Çalık Group and in the process of being sold to the Kalyon Group.

Show TV came second and the government-run station TRT third. Show TV, owned by the Ciner Group, airs some of the most popular shows in Turkey, such as the Turkish versions of American Idol (O Ses Türkiye) and Deal or No Deal (Var mısın Yok musun?), as well as the insanely popular secret-agent drama Valley of the Wolves (Kurtlar Vaadesi). Similarly, TRT entertains viewers with shows such fare as Rich Girl, Poor Boy (Zengin Kız Fakir Oğlan) and The 1980s (Seksenler). As a state-run station, TRT lacks insulation from government pressure. Within days of the initial December 17 arrests, the head of the TRT news bureau, who had previously worked for the pro-Gülen network Samanyolu, was removed. His replacement had previously worked for both Star Gazete and Yeni Şafak.[100] In the subsequent weeks, more removals followed.[101]

The forth most popular network in November 2013, Samanyolu was founded in 1993 after Gülen encouraged a group of his supporters in the business community to pool funds and establish a station that would reflect a “family orientation.” [102] After several years of financial uncertainty, the network has grown into a ratings powerhouse with dramas like Between Two Worlds (İki Dünya Arasında) and The Little Bride (Küçük Gelin) in which characters try to find love and meaning in accord with their religious values.

Fox TV, as the name suggests, is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Media Corporation in partnership with a number of different partners.[103] As with any foreign Turkey company in Turkey, the station operates through a Turkey-based company called Huzur Radyo TV A.Ş. Although head of Fox’s European and African divisions is also the nominal head of the company, the real owner is Engin Güner, a former head advisor and special secretary to President Turgut Özal. From his time in office during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Güner maintains cordial relations with the Bush family. His participation is helpful since Fox TV, as with many Murdoch ventures—and as with many Özal initiatives—the interests of Fox are business, not politics and maintaining good relations with the government trumps political necessity.[104]

Accounting for 5.4% of the viewing audience, Star TV is home to the most famous Turkish television program in recent years, the Ottoman historical soap opera The Magnificent Century (Muhteşem Yüzyıl).[105] That show in particular has come in for opprobrium from the prime minister, and the overall relationship between Erdoğan and the Doğuş Group, which owns the network, is little better. The firm purchased the network from Doğan Media Group in 2011, thereby adding it to a media empire that includes the popular news channel NTV.[106]

As the Doğuş Group is a holding with interests ranging from banking to construction to education, it has attempted to maintain good relations with the government, muting critical voices. These attempts came in for harsh criticism in 2013, during the Gezi protests, when angry Istanbullites gathered outside the NTV headquarters, criticizing its coverage. Many even began to close their accounts at Garanti Bank, also owned by the firm. Apologies by executives followed—but so did further censorship by the company. When History, one of the firm’s many magazines, wanted to devote an issue to the protests, it quickly found itself cancelled. Resignations by high-ranking employees followed.[107]

The seventh most-watched network in November, Kanal 7, broadcasts religious programming. The network was developed in the early 1990s by Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the Turkish Islamist movement at the time, and a number of his close allies in the business community. It was funded in its early years by a combination of money from these large companies and cash raised from Turks in Germany, where Erbakan’s political movement was well organized.[108] In 2008, the network came in for intense scrutiny when German courts began investigating a charity called Light House, whose founders included Zekeriya Karaman, the chairman of Kanal 7’s board of directors. (As it happens, Karaman’s son is married to the daughter of Osman Ketenci, a taxi medallion magnate; Kentenci’s other daughter is married to Erdoğan’s elder son Burak.)[109] According to prosecutors, Light House and Kanal 7’s European channel, Euro 7, solicited € 41.3 million in donations, 60% of which went into the pockets of Kanal 7 executives.[110] When newspapers owned by the Doğan Media Group (DYH) took up the story, DYH was hit with the largest tax fine in Turkish history.

Like Kanal 7, the eighth-ranked news network Haber Turk is owned by AKP supporters—in this case the Ciner Group, which also owns Show TV. As for the ninth: TV8 was owned for many years by the MNG Group, before being purchased in 2013 by a partnership of the Doğuş Group and Acun Holding—the latter a production company responsible for adapting hits like Survivor, Deal or No Deal?, America’s Got Talent, and Fear Factor for Turkish audiences. MNG Holding is especially associated with its cargo shipping and tourism arms, but also owns construction companies that compete for public contracts. During the fourteen years MNG operated the station, it sought to make good with whichever government was in office, hiring and firing as necessary. Occasionally, its owner, Mehmet Nazif Günal, has gone above and beyond—in early 2013, for example, he was among the group of businessmen who donated money to found Recep Tayip Erdoğan University in the city of Rize.[111] Similarly, Acun Ilıcalı, the network’s new majority owner, speaks of his respect for Erdogan, but emphasizes that the friendly feelings he has have brought him “no advantage” in his business life.[112]

In November 2013, the tenth through twenty-second ranked channels comprised another 30% of the viewing audience.[113] In considering this top 80% of viewers, we see that the government can expect support from 64%. This number includes channels owned by the state (including music and children’s channels); companies owned by pro-government businesses; and companies like Doğuş that simply lack any political convictions beyond profit. “Gülenist” media comprises another 15%, while media outlets close to the CHP and leftist-nationalist Workers Party account for 2% and 1% of viewership.



Considering the Gülen movement’s stake in the media, both television and print news constituted potential challenges to the government in the early weeks of the December 17 scandals. Controlling these media outlets would be crucial.

In Turkey, the government monitors television through the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), whose head, Davut Dursun, a former professor of economics and public administration, has written numerous books and articles on the relationship between Islam, democracy, and development. Serving as president since 2009, Dursun has overseen numerous controversial decisions such as fining a channel for showing Sex and the City 2 on the grounds that it contained a gay wedding ceremony and fining the pro-CHP channel, Halk TV, for broadcasting video of the Gezi Park protests.[114]

Unlike television, print media lacks a specific body to regulate it. Instead, journalists, editors, and owners are directly subject to the whims of the judicial system. The constitution states that:

[Print media] may be restricted for the purposes of protecting national security, public order and public safety, the basic characteristics of the Republic and safeguarding the indivisible integrity of the State with its territory and nation, preventing crime, punishing offenders, withholding information duly classified as a state secret, protecting the reputation and rights and private and family life of others, or protecting professional secrets as prescribed by law, or ensuring the proper functioning of the judiciary.[115]

The slippery nature of these terms—especially in conjunction with restrictions included in the Turkish Anti-Terror Law—has served as grounds for imprisoning many journalists. Despite a number of releases in early 2014, Turkey continues to jail more reporters than any country besides Iran and China.[116]

In this environment of highly concentrated media ownership, regulatory agencies whose leaders are closely tied to the government, and malleable laws governing press freedom, a great deal of information is necessarily shared in other ways—in particular via Facebook and Twitter.[117] As of early 2013, Turkey boasted the seventh highest number of Facebook users in the world.[118] In the last several years, Twitter too has expanded rapidly in Turkey: the number of “active users” increased over 20% in 2012, making the country the eleventh most active in the world. By 2013, Twitter was being used by 9% of all internet users in Turkey—only 2% lower than in the United States.[119]

Like television, the internet in Turkey is regulated by a government appointed board, the Telecommunications Presidency (TİB). On December 24, a week after the scandals broke, Ahmet Cemaleddin Çelik was appointed head of TİB. Over the past decade, Çelik had served in a variety of different posts: first, as an advisor to the prime minister on legal issues, later as an advisor on security issues. For the past two years, however, he had worked in the National Security Administration (MİT).[120] In his new role, he would have control over internet content. Complaints about programs and websites would be referred to his office and the board he chaired would have the authority to admonish, fine, and block access to content providers.

On January 8, three weeks after the scandal had begun, the Istanbul chief prosecutor requested that RTÜK investigate eight channels including the pro-CHP Halk TV and pro-Gülen Samanyolu TV, Samanyolu Haber TV, Bugün TV, and Kanaltürk TV.[121] In the following months, fines were handed down ranging from minor (a Bugün TV program was replaced with a documentary about birds for a week) to the unprecedented (seven Samanyolu news shows were suspended for twenty episodes).[122]




Youtube, As Seen in Turkey

With news content filtered by both large media firms and the government’s regulatory agencies—and with few media outlets lacking an ax to grind—it is exceedingly hard in Turkey to know what degree of credence to lend any particular piece of news. Some facts—say, the corrupt acts of a particular official—are simply “known” without being reported; other “facts”—say, Erdoğan’s Jewish roots—circulate outside of the mainstream news.[123] In either case, in an environment where the news cannot be fully trusted, the lack of mainstream attention gives such claims a certain level of credibility—and creates a context in which social media serves as a powerful tool for spreading such ideas.

Two days after the December 17 arrests, a video began circulating the internet showing a man with a striking resemblance to AKP Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmuş engaged in grainy sexual activity. The video was mentioned on Halk TV—a CHP owned network—and in Gülen-affiliated outlets. Other media outlets dealt with the tape more elliptically by covering Kurtulmuş’s denial rather than the tape itself.[124] At his request, an investigation into Halk TV for discussing the tape was quickly initiated. To further downplay the significance of the tape, pro-government pundits suggested it to be one of many, part of a vast conspiracy. In the words of one columnist:

The Cemaat [Gülen movement] wants to associate the AK Party—more precisely Erdoğan, MİT Chief Hakan Fidan, and the İHH with terrorists. For this job, they’ve put together a team of more than one hundred people. MOSSAD, CIA, and MI5 are all on this job . . .In this business are certain of our own industries—locals. Kemalist nationalists too . . .Kemalism can change its dress at any moment and, by accommodating to the environment it finds itself in, create itself anew . . .In this plan around fifty representatives will resign; through blackmail tapes, another forty will be brought to [the Gülen movement’s] side; the AK Party will fall from power; from those close to [Gülen]—the CHP and the MHP—a new government will be created; the local elections will be postponed; and the presidential, mayoral, and parliamentary elections will be put together, thus ending the AK Party.[125]

Erdoğan himself responded:

This is dirty, dishonorable, ignoble, and immoral. [Gülen] both says he’s a religious man and—without batting his eyes—flings the most filthy sort of dirt at people. Shame on you! . . .You know that—settle [in America] as you wish—we will go into your cave—we will go in! We will rip apart and expose this organization inside the state.[126]

By meeting the challenge head on, both rhetorically and legally, the government succeeded in removing the sex tape from the discussions surrounding AKP corruption—except in so far as it recalled how the former leader of the CHP had been forced to resign after a (far less graphic) sex tape of his own had been leaked.[127]

The subsequent three weeks were filled with police raids in Izmir and along the border, as well as battles over the judicial bill in the parliament. By mid-January, with the government seemingly in control of the legal situation, the venue for conflict between the Gülen movement and the government shifted. On January 15, a series of phone conversations between Fethullah Gülen and his aides, allegedly recorded in mid-October 2013, were leaked to the internet. The conversations touched on many themes popular with critics of Gülen within the AKP: in particular, his close ties with large secular industrial firms like Koç and Sabancı. In one conversation, Gülen and an aid discussed using their influence in Uganda, where the movement has many schools, in order to help Koç secure rights to a refinery. This assistance was understood as a quid pro quo for the firm sponsoring the movement’s annual Turkish Olympics. In a follow up conversation, an advisor cryptically informed Gülen that they had received “pineapples” from their business associates.[128]

The following day, Can Dundar—a former columnist for the newspaper Milliyet who had been fired by its owner, Demirören Holding—announced that the police had been tapping Erdoğan’s phone lines as part of the corruption investigation. On the show he shared one of these recordings: a conversation between Erdoğan and Latif Topbaş, whose holding company includes a major Turkish supermarket chain and who had been among the many prominent businessmen whom prosecutor Muammer Akkaş had unsuccessfully attempted to have arrested on December 25. The two men talked briefly about rezoning forested land so that Topbaş could build on it.[129] Though the conversation was hardly proof of serious corruption, it suggested more to come.

Sure enough, the following weeks brought a flood of voice recordings, typically announced via a Twitter account and uploaded to YouTube by unknown sources, first under the name Haramzedeler (“Den of Thieves”) and later Başçalan (“Head Thief”). With a few notable exceptions, the tapes generally linked Erdoğan and his family to media tycoons and real-estate developers (often one-and-the-same), or various unsavory activities.

Case in point was the series of tapes related to vacation homes. A recording leaked on January 24 presented Erdoğan and his daughter, Sümeyye, talking with Latif Topbaş about constructing a villa in the Mediterranean town of Urla. The details of the conversations were all quotidian, but in slightly embarrassing ways: Sümeyye is particularly interested in the location of the swimming pool and the feasibility of surrounding it with a large curtain to give modest swimmers privacy. In another phone call, Latif Topbaş calls to double-check certain details with the prime minister:

Latif Topbaş: If I’m not mistaken, you said to me you wanted the top floor bedroom’s bathrooms to have two separate toilets. One “western-style” and, next to that, a bidet, right?

Prime Minister Erdoğan: What’s a “bidet?”

Latif Topbaş: You get up from the toilet and can clean yourself with a spray—for getting clean—you want that?

Prime Minister Erdoğan: No![130]

Other leaked conversations contained Latif Topbaş calling Erdoğan and other government officials in an attempt to rezone the area.[131] When asked about the project and the Erdoğan family’s involvement, Topbaş stated:

This property under discussion: I bought it thirty-four years ago with seven of my friends. That same year we started construction on it . . .I have a friendship with the prime minister going back thirty-five years. Our families were friends prior to political life. However, after becoming prime minister, on account of the heavy workload, he’s only been my guest [there] three times . . .In the process of doing restorations on a house built thirty years ago for our family and friends, we are trying to learn their preferences.[132]

When a reporter from Zaman asked Erdoğan about the villas, he replied, in typically gruffer fashion:

This issue has nothing to do with me. In law, there’s a principal—learn it. Claimants must have evidence. Who’s the claimant? The newspaper you work for? . . .Why are you coming and asking me this? Ask your bosses . . .You can’t smear the prime minister with this stuff.[133]

Answers of this sort were far from satisfying to critics. Google images suggested that the construction was not on a thirty year old house but rather a project that had begun in the past year.[134] One opposition parliamentarian, Umut Oran, went so far as to submit official questions to the prime minister, asking why his family was interested in the minutiae of a place they had only been a few times. And, within a month, a new recording had been released focusing attention on a villa in the rural Istanbul municipality of Çatalca. This time, recordings contained Erdoğan speaking with Osman Kentenci, his son Burak’s father-in-law. Although the villa was in Kentenci’s name, Erdoğan was clearly interested in the details of its upkeep and maintenance—all of which a subsequent leaked conversation between Erdoğan and his son Bilal suggested to be very expensive.[135]

Bilal was also implicated in tapes relating to Bosphorus 360, a real-estate investing and consulting firm whose partners included several Saudi businessmen suspected of donating to Al Qaeda. The firm was seeking the rights to develop a property in the posh northern Istanbul suburb of Etiler and hoped to avoid the bidding process. Tapes and photographs showed Bilal meeting with these men, as well as other government officials.[136] Several conversations implied he was essentially “a secret partner,” receiving kickbacks for his efforts. One conversation indicated that Efkan Ala (currently serving as Interior Minister) had been tasked with altering the relevant laws.[137]

Much like the recordings of Gülen, these leaked tapes spoke to the common complaints of many AKP detractors—in particular, the cozy relations between Erdoğan and certain businessmen, and the luxury in which his family surrounded itself. Rather than implicating Erdoğan in any a single, jaw-dropping act of corruption, the recordings cumulatively suggested that he spent as much time angling for personal gain as his discredited predecessors.

Other leaked recordings focused on the government’s interventions in the media. One series of leaks illustrated how Erdoğan and his ministers had guided the sale of ATV-Sabah. Comprising one of Turkey’s top television networks and one of its highest-selling newspapers, this Çalık Group media unit drew the prime minister’s interest. For several years, Erdoğan had been meeting with potential bidders, screening out those he disapproved of, but on December 19, the unit was finally sold to Zirve Holding—essentially a consortium of businessmen.[138] Beginning in late January, however, leaked recordings suggested that these bidders—all of whose firms frequently secured major public tenders—had been pressured into pooling their resources. Erdoğan had deputized Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım to organize the consortium over the summer of 2013. For his efforts, Yıldırım was to receive a ten percent commission on projects he helped them secure. Further implicating the government, some of the money businessmen contributed came from their lines of credit at government run banks. And, just to top the scandal off, recordings contained one businessman declaring—apropos of nothing—“Don’t worry, we’re going to fuck this nation,” midway through a conversation.[139]

As with the villa recordings, these tapes and transcripts called into question the prime minister’s probity—and even more that of Binali Yıldırım, who was running for mayor of Izmir and simultaneously embroiled in the ongoing port scandal there. Again, Umut Oran submitted parliamentary questions on the subject and opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu began reading portions of these and other recordings during his speeches in parliament and around the country. Within days of posting his questions on his website, Oran received a letter from the Telecommunications Presidency (TİB) telling him to remove the material. After Oran contested the emails, the TİB apologized claiming it had “sent the email inadvertently.”[140] In the case of Kılıçdaroğlu, the response came from Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ who declared:

This is a crime . . .disclosing documentation of secret recordings and investigative proceedings is a crime. Giving voice to [such things] under the roof of parliament is not befitting of either politics, the assembly, or the high offices that represent the nation—nor is it good. If it keeps on like this . . .the respect for parliament will be destroyed.[141]

Among the other recordings that Kılıçdaroğlu read was a June 4 call from Erdoğan to Fatih Saraç, the Ciner Group executive responsible for its network Habertürk TV. At the time protesters were still occupying Istanbul’s central Taksim Square and the prime minister was on a trip abroad to Algeria. Calling from Algiers, Erdoğan complained that the network was running a breaking news scroll across the bottom of the screen quoting opposition politicians and told Saraç he needed to “do something” about it.[142] In another leaked conversation recorded the following month, Erdoğan again called Saraç to complain; this time that an opposition leader’s speech in parliament had gone on for too long. The prime minister criticized the executive for not cutting off the speech sooner. In addition to Erdogan’s call, the leak contained Saraç’s subsequent calls to his subordinates and follow-up calls to Bilal to communicate his regret for having aired the speech at such length.[143] When questioned about the call, Erdoğan did not deny it but rather explained, “Yes, I called him . . .All I did was call and remind him . . .They did the necessary actions.”[144]

The prime minister was less proud of another leak that contained his son Bilal speaking with Saraç in March 2013 about a recent poll.[145] Although the results showed the National Action Party (MHP) to be rising modestly in the polls, Bilal suggested that the numbers be shifted to the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Following their discussion, another leaked recording showed Saraç calling the editor of Habertürk newspaper and relaying the decision.[146] Yet another leak—this one released on February 17—dated from early November 2013 and contained Erdoğan calling Saraç to complain that the advertisements for the opposition’s Istanbul mayoral candidate, Mustafa Sarıgül, were appearing in his paper. Erdoğan grumbled that the paper’s owner was soft on Sarıgül because his wife’s father was a prominent CHP supporter.[147]

Days later, a new leak revealed an Erdoğan advisor speaking with a TİB official about how to deal with offending videos; the regulator observing that YouTube will only take down videos that violate privacy, but assuring Erdoğan’s advisor that he is putting together a team to deal with the situation.[148] Both men (and Erdoğan himself) were less worried about tapes of Gülen being released at the same time; most recently a tape released of Gülen speaking with an advisor, implying that both Sarıgül and publisher Aydın Doğan were in the movement’s good graces.[149]

The biggest accusation against the Gülen movement came on February 24 when the pro-government paper YeniŞafak announced that over 7,000 people in Turkey were being wiretapped. These included not only Erdoğan and his advisors, but also members of the opposition, journalists, academics, and artists. According to the paper, Special Prosecutor Adnan Çimen had secured permission to tap these individuals in 2011 as part of his investigation into Tevhid-Selam, a small domestic terrorist organization. The scope of his taps had only come to light at this particular moment because a new prosecutor had taken over the case.[150] Though all major newspapers reported the story, pro-Gülen papers questioned the reporting. Pro-government papers, on the other hand, played it up; Sabah providing a list of all the numbers allegedly wire-tapped and YeniŞafak including a searchable version of the list.

While AKP members decried the broad scope of these wiretaps, they did not express surprise that they themselves were being tapped. Energy Minister Taner Yıldız guessed that he himself had been recorded “officially for two and half years, unofficially for five.”[151] Puzzlingly, if such suspicions were common among government ministers, they were hardly translated into behavior. One recording leaked in early February, for example, had contained Muammer Güler, the former Interior Minister, talking with his son on the morning of the December 17 arrests:

Muammer Güler: Son, what do they want from you?

Barış Güler: They came at 6:30 with a search order . . .Racketeering, bribery, forging official documents—they came with those sorts of charges. I don’t have anything […]

Muammer Güler: Which house are they searching?

Barış Güler: The Ritz Carlton one.

Muammer Güler: What’s in your house son?

Barış Güler: Not a thing dad.

Muammer Güler: What about money?

Barış Güler: My money—two or three kuruş—you know that […]

Muammer Güler: How many lira son?

Barış Güler: Around a “trillion” or so . . .

Muammer Güler: Yeah, yeah. Fine son. Did they take the money?

Barış Güler: No, they are searching […]

Muammer Güler: Now son, from what you’re telling me, they’re mentioning bribery in connection with Rıza Zarrab. You’re going to say “I have a consulting job—I’m doing it unofficially . . .this isn’t my dad’s stuff. This is money from my business . . .[152]

The day after the wiretapping story broke, the most incriminating tape yet was released. Ostensibly recorded on December 17, it contained a series of conversations between Erdoğan and his son, Bilal from throughout the day. The first call came at 8:00 in the morning:

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Are you home son?

Necmettin Bilal Erdoğan: Yeah dad.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: There were some operations this morning—to do with Ali Ağaoğlu and Reza Zerrab. Our Erdoğan [Bayraktar]’s son, Zafer [Çağlayan]’s son, Muammer [Güler]’s son, and so on. They searched their houses.

Necmettin Bilal Erdoğan: Say that again dad?

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: I’m saying that [those guys] and more than eighteen others, on account of a big corruption matter, are getting their houses searched at this moment.

Necmettin Bilal Erdoğan: Okay

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Okay? Now I’m saying, what’s in your house? Remove it.

Necmettin Bilal Erdoğan: What can I do dad? Your money’s in the safe.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Here’s what I’m saying: I’m sending your sibling. Okay? […][153]

During further phone calls that day, Erdoğan and his son touched base about whom Bilal had talked to and where he was distributing money for safekeeping. Two days later, a new tape was leaked implicating Erdoğan in the 2011 release of the sex tapes which had led to CHP leader Deniz Baykal’s resignation.[154]

Speaking on February 26, Erdoğan denounced the tapes as a montage, explaining:

There are those who want to divide us. This “parallel structure” virus has emerged to divide us and our unity. But they will not succeed . . .at the March 30 [local elections] we will say “old Turkey” or “new Turkey.” They will make gossip; they are montage-makers! But the liar’s candle burns out quick . . .[155]

Later in his response, Erdoğan recalled the coup of 1960, which had removed the conservative government of the day, effectively replacing it with the CHP. He brushed off these recordings as just new examples of CHP perfidy. On the internet, AKP supporters backed ups his accusations by editing convincing montages of opposition party leaders voicing shocking opinions.[156] Two days later, on the anniversary of the “February 28”—the day in 1997 when the military began pushing Erdoğan’s predecessor, Necmettin Erbakan, out of office—Erdoğan added to his critique of the tapes, the opposition, and Gülen himself:

At this moment in Pennsylvania, there is a guy setting a trap for his own country, stabbing it in the back. This “parallel structure” is giving awards to those who looked fondly on the February 28th coup leaders. And now, on December 17, with the “Group of Five” [i.e. the major unions], the media, and the CHP, they are making their move. They are providing wiretap services. Today they are doing refinery and “pineapple” business with these same people. This nation does not forget treachery. This nation will call treachery to account.[157]

Over the following three weeks, the stream of recordings continued. Almost every day one (or more) recordings would be announced via Twitter and posted on YouTube and similar sites. These tapes included conversations between Erdoğan’s family members about property deals and shredding documents; additional discussions about the ATV-Sabah deal and Reza Zarrab’s bribery activities; discussions by Habertürk executives about withholding news that PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan might have cancer; Erdoğan discussing appointments to various key legal institutions with his justice minister; businessmen promising to pay tuition for government officials in return for favors; the new interior minister, Efkan Ala, telling subordinates to quash corruption investigations; government officials intentionally blocking critical oversight reports; Erdoğan berating the owner of the newspapers Vatan and Milliyet until he cried; Erdoğan pressuring the president of NTV and the manager of the newspaper Star to fire critical columnists; and conversations from the time of the Gezi Park protests between (then) Interior Minister Güler and the owner of Kalyon Holding, whose firm had won the contract to renovate Taksim square, in which the minister refers to protesters as “faggots”.[158]

Since the first day of the scandal, the government had been working to close the various accounts spreading these videos. On December 17 itself, an AKP legislator submitted a bill to alter the existing internet law. According to her bill, complaints about content would no longer need to be directed to the offending websites’ owners, but could be taken directly to a judge who could then issue an order for content to be removed within three days. Although the government had already blocked video sites like Vimeo and VargusTV, which had posted recordings, these new powers would drastically speed up the process.[159] On January 10 another legislator submitted additional changes, empowering the Telecommunications Presidency (TİB) to temporarily block sites without the prior approval of a judge. Within a week, the changes were passed out of committee as part of a massive omnibus bill, and on February 5 the law was passed by the parliament.[160]

In its final form, the bill allowed the TİB to request detailed information about internet users in Turkey and block sites within four hours of issuing its decisions. President Gül, constitutionally required to approve or reject legislation within fifteen days of its passage, hinted that he had reservations about the bill as leaders and groups around the world called on him to veto the legislation in the name of internet freedom. Yet on February 18, he signed off on it while calling for changes.[161] He announced his action on Twitter that evening and, within days, 100,000 of his followers had “un-followed” him. Within a month, however, the protest was moot: on March 20 the TİB blocked Twitter in Turkey.

That morning, speaking before a rally in Bursa, the prime minister had explained:

A prime minister, a president, a minister—you will not listen in on them. You will not get a court decision allowing any such thing. These lousy people will even listen to government institutions and secure phone lines. A court decision came down and—twitter, shmitter—we will clean away the stench. The international community will say this and that—it doesn’t matter a bit. They will see the strength of the Turkish state. This has nothing to do with freedom. We won’t give [these despicable people] an opportunity.[162]

By the end of the day, access to the site had been blocked. Much like the Haramzedeler YouTube accounts (which had been taken down two weeks earlier on the grounds that the music which played before each leaked recording lacked proper copyright), the justifications for blocking Twitter were more circuitous than Erdoğan’s words might have suggested.[163] In the end, Twitter was not officially closed because of the anti-government leaks; rather it was closed for “violating individuals’ private lives.”

The TİB made its decision to block the entire country’s access based on four complaints: the first came from İsmet Özel, an Islamist poet who wanted a fake account using his name removed. The second from Binali Yıldırım, the former transportation minister, who wanted a critical account removed. The third came from a retired government employee in the northern city of Samsun, who had filed a complaint after “pornographic” pictures of her had been spread via Twitter. A final one was based on vague claims of an investigation into terrorist-linked accounts.[164]

The government’s move to block Twitter was less than wholly successful given the ease with which users could change DNS settings and download VPNs. Prominent AKP politicians such as Ankara mayor Melih Gökçek, continued to use it, and President Gül issued a tweet reaffirming his belief in internet freedom.[165] Meanwhile, recordings continued to appear with rumors flying that the most damning of all would be released on March 25 to coincide with the anniversary of a nationalist politician’s death and the beginning of Fethullah Gülen’s self-imposed exile in the United States.[166] The day came and went without major incident, however: nothing more than a recording of Erdoğan’s son Burak speaking with an unidentified “Swiss” mistress. The following day, pro-government media responded with recordings tying the religious leader to petroleum companies and American and German intelligence agencies.[167]

The idea that Gülen did not have Turkish interests at heart and was in league with foreign powers played well with what followed: on March 28, a recording was released of Foreign Minister Davutoğlu taken just days earlier. In the recording, Davutoğlu speaks with MİT Chief Fidan, an assistant, and a military liaison about how to handle a crisis along the Syrian border. In recent weeks, the Tomb of Süleyman Shah, had been threatened by a Syrian militant group called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Following strict religious beliefs that reject the worship of tombs, the group argued that the tomb was idolatrous. Moreover, the tomb is on Turkish sovereign territory, 35km inside the Syrian border, and the ISIL was looking for ways to punish Turkey for its support of the Free Syrian Army, another faction vying for control of northern Syria.[168]

As they talked, the men tossed around various contingency plans and mulled their consequences. These options included tank attacks, special forces, bomber strikes, arming the rebels, and communicating with the Syrian government (which was believed to be backing the ISIL.) The most controversial observations and suggestions came from Gulenist bête noir Hakan Fidan. At one point, Fidan pointed out that, “From the moment [we attack] there will be domestic bombings. The border is not under control,” only to be told by a Davutoğlu assistant, “Bombs, shmombs, of course, of course that is going to happen.” Though Fidan seemed the voice of caution here, as the discussion turned to the casus belli for a strike on Syria, he took a different tack:

MİT Chief Hakan Fidan: If those men threaten–

Assistant Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu: Then there’s a grounds [for our attack] . . .

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu: As a side note, the prime minister said on the phone that this necessity can be seen as an opportunity at this moment in time.

Fidan: Now look, look, my commander: if a reason is needed, I will send four guys to the other side and toss eight bombs into an empty space. It’s not a problem. A grounds can be manufactured [. . .] why are we waiting for Süleyman Shah in any case, I don’t get it.

Davutoğlu: We’ve done everything we can diplomatically.

Sinirlioğlu: A grounds is needed, a solid grounds.

Fidan: No, I can create a grounds, that’s no problem . . .if necessary, we’ll organize an attack there . . .[169]

The government reacted furiously to the leak. Davutoğlu did not deny the tape was real, but rather fumed that the recording was “an attack directed against the government and the state of the Republic of Turkey.”[170]

Within hours—and within two days of the municipal elections—YouTube had been blocked in Turkey.[171]




Bilal, Recep and Emine Erdoğan Celebrating Victory

On May 5, the Turkish parliament convened a long postponed session to consider the corruption charges against the four former ministers implicated in the December 17 investigations. Three were accused of providing Reza Zerrab with permits and other documents he had needed in order to import and export vast quantities of gold; these were Egemen Bağış and Muammer Güler (who had used their postions as EU Minister and Interior Minister to secure visas for Zerrab), and Zafer Çağlayan (who had used his post as Trade Minister to grant import and export licenses). Allegedly, Zerrab had gained their assistance through bribes funneled through the ministers’ sons. The fourth, Erdoğan Bayraktar, was accused of granting construction permits in return for bribes while serving as Minister of Environment and Urban Planning.

As members of parliament, Turkish politicians have immunity from prosecution while in office; the exception being prosecutions begun prior to their election and relating to violations of the constitutional prohibition on acts that “divide” the nation or seek to do away with its “laic” character.[172] Aside from this exception, prosecution is only possible with the consent of the parliament—something that only occurs in rare instances (typically those cases in which a member of parliament is seen as being too close to the Kurdish nationalist movement).

Prosecutors seeking to try a member of parliament must prepare a report summarizing the charges and submit it to the parliament. The report is then read and discussed before the parliament votes on whether to form a bipartisan commission to investigate further and determine whether the case should be referred to the Supreme Court.[173] Between each step in the process are numerous opportunities for extension and delay. In the case of the four ex-ministers, the session had been postponed twice; once for the local elections and later due to the ruling party’s desire to make the documentation “more comprehensive.”[174]

Though the session was closed to television cameras, one opposition member recorded the former ministers’ speeches and uploaded them. All three of the accused who chose to speak vigorously denied the allegations.[175] Zafer Çağlayan asserted:

In this so-called corruption operation accusation tossed at my person, it states that I used my position—even my official assistants—to assist businessmen. Yes, I am agreeing with this accusation—I’m confessing this. In my time as an industry association president, in my time as a minister—even in my time as a representative after my resignation—myself and my associates have been prepared to serve everyone in this country who hammers a nail, who stacks stone upon stone; those businessmen who raise—and will raise—Turkey’s exports. And I will continue to be. This crime—well, I agree I have been committing this crime for twenty years.

Though Çağlayan’s defense grew less graceful as he passed through a variety of accusations—including one that he had demanded a shockingly expensive Swiss watch—the more aggressive speech came from Egemen Bağış, who echoed the prime minister in calling his incriminating tapes a “montage” and explaining:

These so-called documents are seeking to convict us in the court of public opinion. Since these accusations came to light, we’ve said our foreheads are clean and our heads held high. In the time that’s passed, everyone’s talked—we’ve been quiet. But now we will not remain silent. We will not swallow any more. We, along with our nation, will continue to struggle against those who composed this traitorous plot.

As for Muammer Güler, whose Interior Ministry was ostensibly responsible for carrying out investigations like the one that he was ensnared in, he emphasized the baselessness of the case:

In this investigation, a minister has been treated like a suspect . . .A minister cannot be treated like a suspect. A prosecutor of the republic is not authorized to investigate a minister, and I have given no such authorization. This operation—from its beginning until the arrests—more than finding concrete evidence, has been devoted to discrediting [this government] . . .Those who made this operation—by means of judges and even those [they have] placed in the parliament—have dogmatically characterized these things as crimes.[176]

With all the speeches made, the 550 member parliament took a secret vote on whether to form an investigative commission. Of those present, 453 voted to proceed and only nine voted against the commission. The decision, however, was far from a victory for the opposition. From the beginning, they had hoped for four separate commissions—it was the government that had pressed for a single one that might (the opposition feared) more easily dismiss the entire investigation.[177]

In any event, by early May, the point was nearly moot: for all intents and purposes, the government seemed to have thoroughly quashed both the December 17th investigations and all other serious challenges from the Gülen movement.

The Gülenists had pressed the government on many fronts: the December 17th arrests had focused on gold smuggling and improper zoning, while the scuttled December 25th arrests had intended to target developers involved in the ATV-Sabah purchase and several other large development projects; border stops had sought to reveal weapons shipments to Syrian militants; leaked conversations had called into question the government’s regional policies; and other wiretap leaks had shed light on the relations between government ministers, their families, businessmen, and media groups.

To counter this multipronged—and multi-media—offensive, the government had pursued several different strategies, many of which played off divisions in the opposition. In the first place, the government (and the newspapers that supported it) cast doubt on the prosecutors involved. Both Zekeriya Öz and Muammer Akkaş were characterized as selective in their prosecution decisions, or even outright corrupt. While the AKP had welcomed earlier investigations by both men—especially the Ergenekon investigation that had sent dozens of nationalist government-critics off to prison—the ruling party now began to question everything that these men (and other Gülenist prosecutors) had touched.

In the early weeks of the scandal, Erdoğan met with the head of the Turkish Lawyers’ Union to discuss closing the Specially Empowered Courts (ÖYM) that had conducted both Ergenekon and other controversial trials. As the opposition had long criticized these courts, it could hardly now oppose the government’s about-face. At the same time, however, that the government was working with the Lawyer’s Union to close these courts, it was also outlining a law to assert more control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), that selected lawyers and judges.

Similarly, in response to truck stops along the border in which gendarme officers had sought to interdict weapons shipments organized by the Turkish intelligence service (MİT), the government prepared a bill to strengthen the MİT and, since the organization had played a central role in the government’s efforts to move the Kurdish process forward, it too was met with divided opposition. Though no opposition party desired a stronger spy agency, legislators seeking greater Kurdish rights were hesitant to block the bill and thus empower the hostile Gülen movement.

Between January and March, the MİT, HSYK, and ÖYM bills—as well as the bill to strengthen the government’s regulatory power—all made their way through the parliament. The HSYK bill went into effect on February 27, granting the Justice Minister enhanced appointment powers and a stronger vote in meetings of the board.[178] The ÖYM bill followed the following week.

Throughout its history, the Turkish Republic has had one form or another of special courts whose judges and prosecutors are given enhanced powers to investigate and try cases related to terrorism and attacks on the unity of the state. A series of judicial reforms in 2012 did away with these courts as separate legal entities and instead empowered a handful of courts within the normal judicial system to act in a similar fashion.[179] As a result, high profile investigations like the Fenerbahçe’s match fixing case, Ergenekon, Sledgehammer, OdaTV, KCK, and cases related to a military blackmail ring continued to be tried within an exceptional legal framework.

The new ÖYM bill did away with these Specially Empowered Courts entirely and redistributed their caseloads to other courts. Additionally, the bill strengthened the evidentiary burden on prosecutors seeking wiretap authorization so that, henceforward, courts would require “concrete evidence” that a crime had taken place before signing off on surveillance. In a similar vein, the crime of “establishing an organization to commit crimes” was removed from the list of offenses whose investigation justified surveillance. These alterations fit well with the arguments of government supporters that some of these courts—especially Istanbul’s 10th and 13th Heavy Crime Courts, which had handled the most controversial cases—had become Gülenist strongholds, dreaming up fictitious criminal organizations and signing off on endless wiretap requests.[180]

The most direct assault on Gülenist priorities, however, was the bill’s alteration of maximum custody periods. Previously, suspects in criminal cases could be held for five years before final approval of their sentencing—for terrorism suspects this period could extend to ten years.[181] The ÖYM bill reduced the period to five years for all suspects with immediate effect: prisoners held since 2008 as part of the Ergenekon investigation began applying for release under the new law and, within days, courts began granting their requests.

Although these men had been sentences to lengthy terms in August 2013, these convictions had not yet been approved by higher courts and were, therefore, not yet official. Consequently, men judged only months earlier to be serious threats to the state were released. Some of those released on March 10 and 11 had been tied to the Ergenekon investigation on thin evidence, but others, like Alparslan Arslan, who had walked into an appellate court building and opened fire on a group of judges, were more clearly culpable.[182] (Ultimately, however, Arslan was not released due to a separate set of charges—namely that he had sworn at a judge during his trial—for which he had only been held for four years without conviction.[183])

The most surprising release came a the day after the bill had gone into effect and—at least technically—had no connection to the ÖYM bill. On March 7, İlker Başbuğ, the former head of the Turkish Armed Forces who had been convicted of leading the entire Ergenekon plot, was released. Unlike the other convicts, his release was based on an appeal to the Supreme Court arguing that his rights had been violated in two ways: first, his initial appeal had been given insufficient consideration; second, nearly seven months after his life sentence had been handed down, the courts had still not published a decision explaining the grounds for their ruling. Upon his release, the retired general even received a phone call from the prime minister expressing satisfaction with the outcome.[184]

This roll back of the largest court case in the past decade was not free from resistance. On March 10, Istanbul’s 13th Heavy Crime Court, which had overseen the Ergenekon case, rejected the releases, arguing that the parliament lacked the authority to do away with special courts. The claim was quickly rejected in statements by the Supreme Court and the HSYK. The latter institution went a step further and, the following day, voted to begin an investigation into why the 13th Court’s judges had failed to produce a justification for their sentences after six months. By the end of the month, the HSYK had reassigned the judges (along with 268 others); two were sent to the nearby cities of Kocaeli and Sakarya, a third was sent to Trabzon 1100km away.[185]

Unlike the HSYK, ÖYM, and internet reform bills, legislation to reform and strengthen the intelligence service was postponed until after the local elections. The bill passed by the parliament and signed into law in late April was largely unchanged from two months earlier, when the parliament’s Interior Committee had approved it: it gave the MİT expanded powers to monitor and collect data inside and outside the country. MİT officials were shielded from prosecution by any courts aside from the Supreme Court—and even that would require the approval of the president; furthermore, MİT officials were empowered to meet with groups that the state deemed to be criminal or terrorist in nature.[186]

While the MİT came in for greater protection, its critics would now receive greater scrutiny. Anyone involved in obtaining and publishing MİT documentation—real or fake—without approval now faced stiffer jail terms. Likewise, the penalty for “those who block the duties and authorities [of intelligence officials rose] from three to five years.”[187] Given that the bill had been, in part, a response to gendarme along the Syrian border detaining MİT operated trucks, such new deterrents made sense. On the other hand, less than two weeks after the president signed the bill, it was announced that prosecutors in Adana would seek life sentences for the thirteen gendarmes who had detained an MİT truck on January 19. Instead of using the new MİT reforms as a basis, the prosecutors simply charged the gendarme with “spying.”[188]

The Adana truck stop had provoked heated exchanges. In early February, the provincial prosecutor had announced that he was submitting a summary of charges against Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, arguing that the minister had blocked the investigation. This summary was the second that a provincial prosecutor had submitted against Bozdağ; the Izmir office had also sent one to the parliament several weeks earlier, alleging that Bozdağ had worked to quash an investigation into corruption at the Port of Izmir. In both cases, the summaries of charges were rejected by the parliament on the grounds that they had been improperly formatted and submitted. Subsequently, prosecutors in both offices were reassigned.[189] (It was the newly appointed Adana prosecutor who was seeking life sentences for the gendarmes.)

Amid all the reassignments, rejected summaries, and bureaucratic reforms, the December 17 investigation itself—the event which had kicked off the entire scandal—was also being rolled back. Within days of the initial arrests, central figures like Fatih municipality Mayor Mustafa Demir and construction magnate Ali Ağaolğu had been released (albeit with travel bans in place). Both men—and others released within the first month—were tied to corrupt zoning and permit practices, not to Reza Zerrab’s gold smuggling. Yet those tied to Zerrab soon began to be released as well. On February 14, the general manager of Halk Bank, who stood accused of facilitating Zerrab’s illicit transactions and had been found with $4.5 million stuffed into shoeboxes in his apartment, was released and reappointed to a government-run bank. By February 26, the prime minister was arguing that his confiscated millions should be returned, explaining:

This isn’t money that was taken from the state’s till. It’s aid collected for religious schools in the Balkans. For this reason that money was returned.[190]

Though this announcement turned out to be untrue at the time, within a few weeks, a court had indeed accepted the argument that the bank manager had been keeping millions of dollars in his house for safe keeping and turned $1 million over to a school in Skopje.[191] Moreover, on the same day Erdoğan gave his speech, a court returned $7,600 that had been seized from Erdoğan Bayraktar’s son during the raid of his office.[192]

On February 28, Reza Zarrab, Barış Güler, Salih Kaan Çağlayan, and all remaining suspects were released from prison. The pro-government paper Yeni Akit reported the court decision with the headline, “Dirty Operation’s Victims Released” and Erdoğan echoed the sentiment in his own reaction:

Sadly, a sort-of parallel judiciary has taken rather baseless and unjust steps, and since that moment I have hoped that justice will find its place—and it has. I had hoped that, like those similar victims, these victims might have been released from prison earlier by the grace of God. This, of course, is a legal process. How we got here, or our struggles as a prime minister, are not the point, but, God willing, today’s developments are paving—or will pave—the way forward. My hope is that after this, this business can move swiftly and that these victims’ situation may reach a conclusion [193]

The day following the releases, the parliament passed its long planned bill to close the Gülen movement’s prep schools. Although the government had been moving towards such a bill ever since its tensions with the movement became public in early 2012, detailed legislation had been lacking. In its final form, the law mandated that the prep schools either close on September 1, 2015 or convert themselves into licensed private schools. Prep schools that chose to convert would be given government loans due back with interest if the school failed to meet the state’s licensing requirements. Prep teachers who lost their jobs would be given positions in the state school system.[194]

At the time of the releases, it was also reported that prosecutors would soon begin issuing decisions on whether to pursue the investigations further. In the first of these, issued on March 14, prosecutors determined not to continue the case against Fatih mayor Mustafa Demir and thirty others. On May 2, prosecutors also dropped the case against construction magnate Ali Ağaolğu, Erdoğan Bayraktar’s son, and fifty-eight other suspects. In explaining his conclusion in the latter case, the chief prosecutor argued that:

The goal is to arrive at material facts . . .Methods that are limitless, beyond the rule of law, and which disregard the rights of suspects cannot be followed. A court must not take into consideration evidence obtained in a manner contrary to criminal procedure. Because this must be considered illegal evidence.[195]

The argument did not bode well for the remaining investigations.

In the local elections on March 30, the AKP’s share of the vote remained essentially unchanged nationwide.[196] In Fatih, where Mustafa Demir had only recently been cleared of wrong-doing, the opposition’s combined percentage of the vote rose a mere four percent and Demir was easily reelected.[197] In a few provinces like İzmir and Hatay, candidates with strong AKP backing lost; in both cases, however, the influence of scandals on voter’s decisions was unclear.[198] The Gülenist movement had attempted to undermine the AKP’s claims to financial probity and diplomatic competence; it had sought to dirty the AKP’s image in the eyes of its supporters. It had failed.
[1] Nuray Babacan, “Prosecutors reviewing proceedings on ministers,” Hurriyet Daily News, 2/17/14. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[2] See Tim Arango, “Corruption Scandal Is Edging Near Turkish Premier,” The New York Times, 12/25/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; “Erdogan v Gulen,” The Economist, 12/14/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; “Erdogan v Gulen, part two,” The Economist, 12/21/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; Constanze Letsch, “Turkish PM: corruption probe part of ‘dirty operation’ against administration,” The Guardian, 12/18/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; and Suzy Hansen, “Whose Turkey Is It?The New York Times, Accessed: 2/17/14.

[3] Every year, for example, the network of Gulenist schools spread around the world holds a “Turkish Olympics,” where an international array of children compete to show both their national talents and their abilities to recite Turkish poems. A large number of the sponsors (though, one must emphasize, not all) are part of the Gulenist “Society” or the larger network of Islamically-oriented businessmen; these include banks (Bank Asya), media (Zaman and Samanyolu), food (Yildiz Holding), and furniture (Istikbal/Boydak Holding). Also—very ironically—included among the sponsors, Ağaoğlu construction.

[4] James Dorsey, “Turkish rigging case a precursor to graft probe rocking gov’t,” Hurriyet Daily News, 1/27/14. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[5] Halil Karaveli, “The Coalition Crumbles: Erdogan, The Gulenists, and Turkish Democracy,” The Turkey Analyst, 5(4), 2/20/12. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[6] The first, İdris Bal, had long complained of the AKP’s Kurdish policies (e.g. “Yogan Gitti Kavga Bitmedi,” OdaTV, 4/13/12) and now extended his criticisms to include the prep school closings and the handling of the Gezi Park protests. The second, Hakan Şükür, had been one of Turkey’s most famous football players before retiring and becoming a legislator.

[7] Mehmet Baransu, “Gülen’i bitirme kararı 2004’te MGK’da alındı,” Taraf, 11/28/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[8]Court releases Küçük, Avcı in OdaTV case,” Today’s Zaman, 12/12/13. Accessed: 2/17/14. These suspects were Hanefi Avcı, a former police chief whose 2010 book, Haliç’te Yaşayan Simonlar, had accused Gülenists of taking over the police force. The book was a bestseller, but within months of its publication Avcı was arrested on charges of providing classified documents to OdaTV and being part of a radical left-wing terrorist group. The other suspect, Yalçın Küçük, was a prominent left-wing writer (noted in part for his Jewish conspiracy theories) who had been arrested both for involvement with OdaTV and with Ergenekon. Neither man was released from prison as a result of the court decisions since both were being held on these other charges as well.

[9] See Jan Harvey and Humeyra Pamuk, “Turkish gold imports hit highest on record in 2013,” Bloomberg, 12/5/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; Behiye Taner, “Turkey gold exports to Iran resume despite tough US sanctions,” Reuters, 3/29/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; See Pierre Kohler, “The end of the Iranian-Turkish oil-for-gold trade?” UN, 7/3/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; “Turkey’s Gold Imports In 2013 May Surpass Record Over 269.5 Metric Tonnes,” Zero Hedge, 11/5/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; Isobel Finkel, “Halkbank Says Role in Iran Gold Trade Legal After CEO Arrest (1),” Bloomberg, 12/23/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[10] Mehul Srivastava, “Turkey Crisis Puts Jailed Millionaire at Heart of Gold-Smuggling Ring,” Bloomberg, 12/29/14. Accessed: 2/17/14; “Iranian Purchases of Turkish Gold May Help It to Foil Sanctions,” Al-Monitor, 9/8/12. Accessed: 2/17/14; Fehim Taştekin, “Iranian gold stars in Turkish corruption scandal,” Al-Monitor, 12/20/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[11] There was also the time when his chauffer posted a picture on Facebook showing his friends and himself standing next to stacks of cash . . . (“Operasyonu başlatan fotoğraf: Facebook’ta balya balya dolar!Radikal, 12/18/13).

[12] Mustafa Gürlek, “5 milyon dolara aile boyu ‘istisnaî’ vatandaşlık,” Today’s Zaman, 12/27/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[13] The money filled shoeboxes has given fodder for endless cartoons, speeches, and jokes at the ruling party’s expense, my favorite being the term “Shoe Box Party” (in Turkish this would be “Ayakkabı Kutusu Partisi,” or “AKP”). As the pro-government paper Sabah was quick to observe, however, investigations of Halkbank conveniently addressed the concerns the US and Israel had been voicing for several years (“Petrodolarların Halkbank’a akacak olması rahatsız etti,” Star, 12/19/13).

[14]Emrullah Turanlı kimdir? Emrullah Turan hakkında merak edilenler,” Haberdar, 12/27/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[15] Mert Taşçılar, “Yolsuzluk inşaat sektörünü de vurabilir,” Cumhuriyet, 12/23/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[16] Aysun Yazıcı, “Ali, boşver sen bildiğin gibi yap,” Taraf, 12/23/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; “New corruption cases exposed in Turkey,” Today’s Zaman, 12/23/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; Turanlı allegedly had similar dealings with TÜRGEV in order to arrange an exemption for a project of his in Şişli (Göksel Genç, “Bribery ring prevented non-Muslim minority from using its land,” Today’s Zaman, 12/22/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[17]Ağaoğlu 100 milyon dola vrlık araziyi yutkunarak verdi,” OdaTV, 1/21/14. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[18]Çöktürme izni,” Hurriyet, 12/18/13. Accessed: 2/17/14. The mayor of Fatih, Mustafa Demir, should not be confused with Mustafa Demir, Erdoğan Bayraktar’s predecessor as Minister of the Environment and Urban Planning.

[19]İşte o liste!” Sözcü, 12/18/13. Accessed: 2/17/14. Over the coming days, however, many would be released. The prosecutors would ultimately request that forty-nine of the suspects be formally arrested—and, of those, only twenty approved by judges (“Yolsuzluk operasyonunda 24 kişi tutuklandı,” Hurriyet, 12/21/13).

[20] Öz had also initiated the Fenerbahçe match-fixing investigation.

[21] Tulin Daloglu, “Nedim Sener focuses on Cemaat role in Turkey scandal,” Al-Monitor, 12/26/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[22]Police chief blocks probe into commissioner accused of leak,” Today’s Zaman, 12/23/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[23]Türkiye’yi sarsan gözaltıların ardından Ankara Büyükşehir Başkanı Melih Gökçek’i de endişe sardı,” Sözcü, 12/17/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[24]Bülent Arınç’tan dershane açıklaması,” Bugün, 11/20/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; “Bülent Arınç-Fethullah Gülen görüşmesi! Arınç anlattı…” Akşam, 5/22/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; Hakan Hastaoğlu, “‘Cemaat’in rolü çok açık’” Sabah, 12/18/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[25] Fatih Yağmur, “New requirements for prosecutors in Turkey’s bribery case raise impartiality concerns,” Hurriyet Daily News, 12/20/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[26]Başbakan’dan önemli açıklamalar,” Hurriyet, 12/18/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; “Başbakan Erdoğan ve Macaristan Başbakan’ı ile ortak basın toplantısı 18 Aralık 2013,” Youtube, 2/9/14. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[27]Çek git bu ülkeden,” Yeni Şafak, 12/21/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[28]İstihbarat Şube Müdürü ifadeye çağrıldı, Emniyet göndermedi,” Milliyet, 12/23/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[29]Erdoğan: Önce Yol Arkadaşı Sonra Yol,” Sondakkika, 12/24/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[30]Operasyonda ikinci dalga geliyor!Radikal, 12/25/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[31] Akkaş had also overseen high-profile investigations like the murder of newspaper editor Hrant Dink and the attempted murder of Turkish musical legend İbrahim Tatlıses

[32]‘Kurtulduğumuz için şükrediyoruz,’Milliyet, 1/26/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; “Bahçeli’nin ‘Şahin’ sırrı,” OdaTV, 1/31/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[33]İdris Naim Şahin AK Parti’den istifa etti,” Zaman, 12/25/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[34]İşte Egemen Bağış hakkındaki iddialar ve yolsuzluk görüntüleri,” Sol, 12/19/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[35]Barış Güler’in villasını kim satın aldı?Radikal, 12/24/13. Accessed: 2/17/14. Interestingly, though, a day later he publically stated that pepper spray had been added to TOMA water cannons used against Gezi protesters—thereby directly contradicting statements made by officials loyal to Erdoğan (“Muammer Güler’den ‘Gezi’ itirafı: TOMA’lara ‘biber gazı’ koydurduk,” Radikal, 12/26/13).

[36]Erdoğan Bayraktar istifa etti,” Hurriyet, 12/25/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[37] Whatever may come of his time in office, it is worth noting that his tenure in the east produced positive results in the lives of many poor Turks (“Efkan Ala için 2007’de ne yazılmıştı?” Radikal, 12/26/13).

[38]Sözünden çıkmamak.” Serkan Demirtaş, “Yeni kabine ‘savaş kabinesi’ mi?” Hurriyet, 12/27/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[39] Oya Armutçu, “HSYK, Bozdağ’ın suç duyurusunu işleme koydu,” Hurriyet, 12/25/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[40] See the regulation HERE and the full text of the response HERE.

[41] Serap Yazıcı, “Turkey’s Constitutional Amendments: Between the status quo and Limited Democratic Reforms,” Insight Turkey, 12(2), 2010, p. 9.

[42] İsmail Aksel, “Turkish Judicial System: Bodies, Duties, and Officials,” Turkish Ministry of Justice, 2013. Accessed 2/21/14.

[43]Başsavcılıktan savcı Muammer Akkaş’a sert cevap,” Hurriyet, 12/26/13. Accessed 2/21/14.

[44]Savcı Akkaş’la ilgili şok iddia,” Sabah, 12/27/13. Accessed 2/21/14.

[45]Prominent Turkish businessmen among arrest list in second corruption probe: Report,” Hurriyet Daily News, 12/27/13. Accessed: 2/17/14; Ayşegül Usta, “Savcıları karşı karşıya getiren gözaltı listesi,” Hurriyet, 12/27/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[46] Also on the list was Mehmet Cengiz, a businessman with connections to BIM, Limak, and the Kalyon Group (Aysel Alp, et al, “Yedi ünlü işadamı için büyük şok,” Hurriyet, 12/27/13).

[47] The Cinar Group is a massive holding company whose component parts include Habertürk news and Park Holding, among whose sponsorships include Kasimpaşa FC, which plays in Istanbul’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Stadium.

[48]Sabah ve ATV Kalyon’a satıldı,” Hurriyet, 12/20/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[49]17 Aralık operasyonu 2. dalga-Nihat Özdemir kimdir?” Haberevet, 12/27/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[50] Fatih Yağmur, “Soruşturmada şüpheli Bilal Erdoğan,” Radikal, 12/27/13. Accessed: 2/17/14.

[51]Bozdağ’dan HSYK’ya yanıt,” Hurriyet, 12/27/13. Accessed 2/21/14; “Bozdağ’dan HSYK’ya talimat,” Sabah, 12/31/13. Accessed 2/21/14. Nor was this the first time Bozdağ and the Justice Ministry had engaged in such an exchange. Four months earlier, while still serving as a deputy prime minister, Bozdağ had been punched while attending an Alevi festival. When his assailant was not arrested, Bozdağ had grumbled that he wondered what would happen if a prosecutor or judge had been punched instead of him. His accusation of special treatment had prompted the HSYK to issue a statement saying that it could not make decisions regarding cases, such as this assault, where the penalty was less than two years. In response, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin had reminded the board that it was not authorized to make such statements.

[52]Erdoğan: HSYK suçludur,” Milliyet, 12/27/13. Accessed 2/21/14.

[53]Arınç’tan HSYK’da değişiklik sinyali,” Milliyet, 12/30/13. Accessed 2/21/14.

[54] On December 24, Yalçın Akdoğan, one of Erdogan’s closest advisors had written in the pro-government newspaper Star that the people now plotting against the AKP had also plotted against the military. Such statements could be taken as a signal that the government was seeking common ground with the military it had just recently been opposing (Yalçın Akdoğan, “Ellerinde nur mu var, topuz mu?Star, 12/24/13).

[55] At the same time, it is worth noting that the military also filed a complaint against a CHP parliamentarian, Hüseyin Aygün, for referring to the Chief of the General Staff as the army’s “imam” as a way of emphasizing his closeness to the government. The army has not shed its tendency to see legal action as a way of countering criticism (Cengizhan Çatal, “TSK: Suç duyurusunda bulunduk,” Hurriyet, 1/6/14).

[56]Erdoğan: “Yeniden yargılamaya olumlu bakıyoruz,” CNNTurk, 1/5/14. Accessed 2/21/14.

[57]Savcı Öz’den Dubai’de kral tatil,” Sabah, 1/7/14. Accessed 2/21/14; “Zekeriya Öz’ün adamları Ağaoğlu’ndan sahte makbuz isterken böyle yakalandı,” OdaTV, 1/10/14. Accessed 2/21/14.

[58]Zekeriya Öz’e giden isim Ombudsman Nihat Ömeroğlu muydu?” T24, 1/8/14. Accessed 2/21/14.

[59]Zekeriya Öz’e, “Süper Savcı Murat Gök” hatırlatması,” CNNTurk, 1/9/14. Accessed 2/21/14.

[60]İzmir’de ihaleye fesat karıştırma operasyonu,” Zaman, 1/7/14. Accessed 2/21/14; “Beş ilde yolsuzluk operasyonu,” Radikal, 1/7/14. Accessed 2/21/14.

[61]Mersin gümrüğünde rüşvet operasyonu,” Radikal, 1/10/14. Accessed 2/21/14.

[62]5 emniyet müdür yardımcısının yeri değişti,” Bugün, 1/18/14. Accessed 2/21/14.

[63]HSYK tasarısında kritik ayarlama,” Bugün, 1/10/14. Accessed 2/21/14; Ömer Şahin, “HSYK’daki 5+5+11’in şifresi,” Radikal, 1/10/14. Accessed 2/21/14; Oya Armutçu, “Süper Bakan HSYK teklifi,” Hurriyet, 1/9/14. Accessed 2/21/14.

[64]Meclis’te kavga!” Sözcü, 1/11/14. Accessed 2/21/14; “Komisyonda HSYK Kavgası Çıktı, Tabletler Havada Uçuştu,”, 1/11/14. Accessed 2/21/14; Oya Armutçu, “Meclis’te yine HSYK kavgası,” Hurriyet, 1/12/14. Accessed 2/21/14.

[65]96 hakim ve savcının görev yeri değiştirildi,” Radikal, 1/21/14. Accessed 2/21/14.

[66]Turkey-Syria Economic and Trade Relations,” Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Accessed 2/26/14; Dan Bilefsky and Anthony Shadid, “Turkey Moves to Intensify Sanctions Against Syria,” The New York Times, 11/30/11. Accessed 2/26/14.

[67] CJ Chivers and Eric Schmitt, “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.The New York Times, 3/24/13. Accessed 2/26/14; Martin Chulov, “Syrian rebels claim receipt of major weapons shipment,” The Guardian, 9/25/13. Accessed 2/26/14.

[68] In order to avoid a strong PYD—which is to say a strong PKK—the Turkish government has sided with Massoud Barzani, the leader of Northern Iraq’s Kurdish region to support the KDP-S, another Syrian Kurdish party. Barzani has always had troubled relations with the PKK (and, therefore, the PYD), but the reason he and other Kurdish leaders give for their opposition to the PYD is that is is too close to the Assad regime. (Wladimir van Wilgenburg, “Relations among Syrian Kurdish parties hit new low,” Al-Monitor, 2/7/14.)

[69]Blurring the Borders: Syrian Spillover Risks for Turkey,” International Crisis Group, Europe Report 225, 4/30/13. Accessed 2/26/14.

[70] “Seized rocket warheads made in Turkey, Adana governor says,” Today’s Zaman, 11/7/13. Accessed 2/26/14. Available:; “Adana’da bir TIR dolusu füze ve bomba yakalandı!Sabah, 11/7/13. Accessed 2/26/14.

[71]Milli Savunma Bakanı Yılmaz: Suriye’ye spor amaçlı silahlar gitti,” Radikal, 12/17/13. Accessed 2/26/14.

[72]Bir Garip TIR Meselesi,” Bianet, 1/2/14. Accessed 2/26/14; “TIR bilmecesi çözülemiyor!Zaman, 1/2/14. Accessed 2/26/14; Fevzi Kızılkoyun and Fırat Alkaç, “O polisler gitti,” Hurriyet, 1/3/14. Accessed 2/26/14.

[73]Savcı Özcan Şişman’ın görev yeri değişti,” Milliyet, 1/6/14. Accessed 2/26/14.

[74]İşte o TIR’ın gerçek hikâyesi,” Sabah, 1/4/13. Accessed 2/26/14; Amberin Zaman, “Al-Qaeda in Syria targets Turkmen minority,” Al-Monitor, 12/3/13. Accessed 2/26/14; Hasan Kanbolat, “Syrian Turkmen,” Today’s Zaman, 3/19/12. Accessed 2/26/14; Fatih Yağmur, “Suriye’ye giden yardım TIR’ında ‘askeri malzeme’ iddiası,” Radikal, 1/1/14. Accessed 2/26/14.

[75] Fevzi Kızılkoyun, “El Kaide’ye 6 ilde operasyon,” Radikal, 1/15/14. Accessed 2/26/14; Fatih Yağmur, “6 ilde büyük operasyon: El Kaide yöneticileri yakalandı,” Radikal, 1/14/14. Accessed 2/26/14.

[76]İHH’dan baskın açıklaması,” Sabah, 1/14/13. Accessed 2/26/14. Sabah also ran articles pointing out that Gulenist papers and the Israeli paper Haaretz had both run articles alleging an İHH-Al-Qaeda connection (“İHH operasyonunun perde arkası,” Sabah, 1/15/14).

[77]İHH Başkanı Bülent Yıldırım Gülen Cemaati’ne seslendi!Star, 12/25/13. Accessed 2/26/14. Accusing Gülen of complicity with Israel was typical of a pro-government papers like Star and Yeni Akit (“Cemaat, İsrail ile ilişkili,” Yeni Akit, 12/26/13).

[78]İHH deposuna baskın yapılmıştı… Kilis Emniyet Müdürü görevden alındı,” Radikal, 1/17/14. Accessed 2/26/14. Though, by January 30, the lower-level officers had been allowed back to work.

[79]Adanada 2 Otobüste Mühimmat Ele Geçti,” Aktif Haber, 1/10/14. Accessed 2/26/14; “Turkish gendarmerie stops seven Syria-bound trucks, finds weapons and ammunition,” Today’s Zaman, 1/19/14. Accessed 2/26/14.

[80]Adana’da TIR araması yapan savcı görevden alındı,” Hurriyet, 1/24/14. Accessed 2/26/14.

[81]700 şirket mercek altında,” Aydınlık, 8/9/12. Accessed 2/26/14; Mustafa Baransu, “Hükümete ters düşen cemaatler fişleniyor,” Taraf, 12/2/13. Accessed 2/26/14.

[82]Öcalan: Bu ateşe benzin taşımayacağız,” Radikal, 1/12/14. Accessed 3/1/14.

[83] Ruşen Çakır, “Cemil Bayık ile söyleşi -Tam metin,” Rusen Cakir, 2/3/14. Accessed 3/1/14; for more information about the PKK/KCK, see “Turkey: The PKK and a Kurdish Settlement,” The International Crisis Group, No. 122, 9/11/12. Accessed 3/1/14.

[84]MİT’e olağanüstü yetki veren teklif TBMM’ye sunuldu,” Radikal, 2/20/14. Accessed 3/1/14; “MİT yasa teklifi komisyonda kabul edildi,” Bugün, 2/24/14. Accessed 3/1/14.

[85]Türkiye, muhaberat devleti oluyor,” Zaman, 2/21/14. Accessed 3/1/14.

[86] Circulation statistics come from Medyatava.

[87] Sinan Yavuzoğlu, “İşte RANT’ın belgesi,” Yeni Akit, 12/4/13. Accessed 3/25/14.

[88] Emre Küskün, “Zaman’dan tiraj hilesi,” Yeni Akit, 12/28/13. Accessed 3/25/14.

[89] Abdullah Bozkurt, “Controversy rages over dailies’ circulation figures,” Zaman, 3/28/10. Accessed 3/25/14.

[90]SÖZCÜ 1 numara,” Sözcü, 3/25/14. Accessed 3/25/14. Notably, Sözcü declines to even count Zaman among its rivals. Sözcü’s owner Burak Albay is the son of Ertuğrul Albay, a famous journalist. Burak Albay has been accused of being a closet member of the Gülen movement, but no particular evidence supports such claims.

[91] Zirve Holding is a newly registered company, created in August 2013 and owned by Ömer Faruk Kalyoncu. “Sabah ve Atv Kalyon İnşaat’a satıldı (Kalyon İnşaat kimin?),” Rota Haber, 12/20/13. Accessed 3/25/14; “Erdoğan, Sabah ve ATV’yi satın alan Kalyoncu’nun düğününe katıldı,” T24, 1/31/13. Accessed 3/25/14.

[92] Tevfik Karakaya. “Kanal 24 -Star gazetesini aldı ve sattı şimdi Skytürk ve Akşam’ı aldı,” OdaTV, 11/22/13. Accessed 3/25/14.

[93]Bank Asya’ya saldır, İhlas Holding’i kurtar,” Taraf, 1/16/14. Accessed 3/25/14.

[94] Erdoğan and the Albayrak Group have been accused of cronyism for years. More recently, Erdogan served as a witness at the wedding of Nuri Albayrak’s daughter. “Erdoğan nikah şahitliği yaptı,” Yeni Şafak, 11/14/12. Accessed 3/25/14; “Tayyip Erdoğan’a ağır suçlama,” Radikal, 2/14/02. Accessed 3/25/14.

[95] Sancak is also the owner of MediPark Hospitals, a chain of private healthcare providers that has proved very successful under the AKP. Ercan İnan, “‘Emine hanım Medical Park’ların gizli ortağı’ efsanesine hastanenin sahibinden yorum,” Vatan, 7/8/11. Accessed 3/25/14.

[96] Serkan Ocak, “Ve Can Dündar da gitti,” Radikal, 8/2/13. Accessed 3/25/14.

[97] Not that Turkish sports news lacks a political side, as can be seen in the way Erdoğan and the Gülen movement’s conflict is connected to the Fenerbahçe match-fixing case.

[98]Koza İpek hisselerine soruşturma darbesi,” Sözcü,12/2/13. Accessed 3/25/14.

[99]Televizyon Reytingleri: Kasim 2013,” Canli TV. Accessed: 4/4/14.

[100]TRT’de Cemaatçi depremi,” Internet Haber, 12/21/14. Accessed: 4/4/14; “TRT Haber’in başına Nasuhi Güngör atandı,” Hürriyet, 12/27/13. Accessed: 4/4/14

[101]Yolsuzluk operasyonu sonrası görevden almalar TRT Şeş’i de vurdu!,” T24, 1/3/14. Accessed: 4/4/14. In the run-up to the 2014 municipal elections, critics of the network demonstrated that it gives significantly more coverage to goverment candidates than to opposition ones. (Elif Akgül, “Prof. Cankaya: TRT Hükümetin Memuru Gibi Yayın Yapıyor,” Bianet, 1/28/14. Accessed: 4/4/14)

[102] Helen Rose Fuchs Ebaugh, The Gülen Movement: A Sociological Analysis of a Civic Movement Rooted in Moderate Islam, Springer Press: New York, 2010, p.86

[103]Fox Tv´nin 4 Türk ortağı belli oldu,” Haber 7, 4/6/07. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[104]Murdoch, TGRT’ye 98 milyon dolar verdi, Türkiye’ye Ertegün’le girdi,” Hürriyet, 7/25/06. Accessed: 4/5/14. Serpil Yilmaz, “Murdoch, Fox’taki filmi atv’ye taşıyor,” Milliyet, 10/20/07. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[105] Elif Batuman, “Ottomania,” The New Yorker, 2/17/14. Accessed: 4/5/14; Susan Fowler, “The Dirt, and the Soap, on the Ottoman Empire,” The New York Times, 3/17/11. Accessed: 4/5/14; Andew Finkle, “Erdogan, the Not-So Magnificent,” LA Times, 11/30/12. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[106] Doğan Media Group was obligated to sell the network because RTÜK, the supreme television council, had ruled that its share of total television revenue was in excess of the 30% of the market allowed by Article 19(d) of the law governing radio and television firms. (Ahmet Hakan, “Aydın Doğan’la medyayı konuştum,” Hürriyet, 2/4/12. Accessed: 4/5/14.) Also see Ceren Sözeri and Zeynep Güney, Türkiye’de Medyanın Ekonomi Politiği: Sektör Analizi, TESEV, Demokratİkleşme Programı Medya Raporları Serİsİ – 2, June 2011. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[107]İş dünyası paniğe kapıldı,” Taraf, 6/5/13. Accessed: 4/5/14; “NTV’den özür: Eleştiriler haklı,” Radikal, 6/4/13. Accessed: 4/5/14; “NTV Tarih dergisi ‘Gezi’ sayısı nedeniyle kapatıldı,” Radikal, 7/1/13. Accessed: 4/5/14; “Doğuş Grubu Gezi eylemlerinde kimseye yaranamadı!” Rota Haber, 6/19/13. Accessed: 4/5/14; “Çiğdem Anad ve Mirgün Cabas, Doğuş Yayın Grubu’ndan istifa etti, Nermin Yurteri NTV Yayın Yönetmeni oldu,” T24, 7/4/13. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[108] These founders included major “Islamist” firms like Kombassan and Yimpaş, as well as members of the Welfare Party like Erbakan’s ally Recai Kutan. (“Kanal 7 camilerde para toplanarak kuruldu,” Milliyet, 9/20/08. Accessed: 4/5/14.)

[109] Ümran Avcı, “Erdoğan’ın taksici dünürü,” Milliyet, 2/16/01. Accessed: 4/5/14; Ümran Avcı, “Erdoğan’la Karaman’ı akraba yapan düğün,” Milliyet, 6/26/07. Accessed: 4/5/14; “Karaman ve Erdoğan’ın oğulları bacanak,” Milliyet, 9/9/08. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[110]Şirket ve dernekler farklı yöneticiler aynı,” Radikal, 9/9/08. Accessed: 4/5/14; Sadi Özdemir, “Deniz Feneri Almanya’da karardı Kanal 7 Türkiye’de ’daraldı,’Hürriyet, 9/19/08. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[111]TV 8 Mesut Yılmaz’ın Adamlarını Tasfye Etmeye Başladı,” Haber Vitrini, 12/25/03. Accessed: 4/5/14; Neşe Karanfil, “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Üniversitesi’ni geliştirme vakfı kuruldu,” Radikal, 2/14/13. Accessed: 4/5/14; “3. havalimanı ihalesini alan şirketleri tanıdınız mı?” Yürt, 5/5/13. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[112]Acun Ilıcalı: Başbakan’ı çok seviyorum,” Videonuz, 11/28/13. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[113] Quickly: 10) Kanal Türk is owned by the pro-Gülen Koza İpek Holding. 11) Beyaz TV is owned by Osman Gökçek, the son of Ankara’s AKP mayor Melih Gökçek, and runs programs like the Erdoğan documentary The Master’s Tale. 12) TRT Haber is a state-run news channel. 13) A Haber is owned by the Çalık Group’s Turkuaz Media Group. 14) Yumurcak TV is a children’s network owned by Samanyolu. 15) Flash TV is “independent” according to its owner, Ömer Göktuğ—but CHP member Mustafa Sarıgül did oversee the recent wedding of Göktuğ’s daughter. 16) Cine 5 is a movie channel owned since 2011 by Al Jazeera and fairly apolitical. 17) S Haber is owned by Samanyolu TV. 18, 19, 21 and 22) are TRT channels (ie. state-run). 20) Ulusal Kanal is connected with the Workers Party, a nationalist-leftist party that was targeted during the Ergenekon investigations.

[114] Guner Law Office, “Turkish Media Law: The Rise Of Television Broadcasting In Turkey,” Mondaq, 3/13/09. Accessed: 4/5/14; “Üst Kurul Üyeleri,” RTÜK. Accessed: 4/5/14; “RTÜK Üyeleri, Eşcinsellerden Özür Dilemeli” Bianet, 3/25/11. Accessed: 4/5/14; “RTÜK başkanı Davut Dursun: Yeni cezalar gelebilir,” Bugün, 6/19/13. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[115] Translation from Dilek Kurban and Ceren Sözeri, “Does media policy promote media freedom and independence? The case of Turkey,” TESEV, December 2011, p. 19. Accessed: 4/5/14; text of constitution (article 26) available HERE.

[116] The Anti-Terror Law (Law 3713) can be viewed HERE, and 2006 changes can be seen HERE. See a list of journalists in prison (c. December 2013) prepared by the Committee to Protect Journalists HERE.

[117] Nor are such sites monopolized by any particular political affiliation—Facebook posts “proving” the influence of Israelis on the Turkish military are no less common than those “proving” AKP skullduggery. For example: accusations of former army chief (and former convicted Ergenekon leader) İlker Başbuğ being a Jew have made the rounds in recent years. (“Başbuğ’a Ağlama Duvarı’ndaki fotoğrafı sorulunca…,” Sabah, 3/29/12. Accessed: 4/5/14. )

[118] Maximilian H. Nierhoff, “Facebook Country Stats February 2013 – Top 10 Countries Lose Users Due To The Ongoing Account Cleanup,” Qunitly. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[119]Twitter Now The Fastest Growing Social Platform In The World,” Globalwebindexblog, 1/28/13. Accessed: 4/5/14; “4 ways how Twitter can keep growing,” Peer Research, 11/7/13. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[120] Ahmet Fatih Erturan, “TİB’in başına MİT’ten atama,” Star Gazete, 12/24/13. Accessed: 4/5/14.

[121] Fox TV, Kanal D, and Cem TV were also investigated. (Fırat Kozok, “Yolsuzluk haberlerine ceza yolda,” Cumhuriyet, 1/8/14. Accessed: 4/5/14.)

[122]Bugün TV RTÜK kararıyla kuş belgeseli yayınlayacak!” Gazeteciler, 2/27/14. Accessed: 4/5/14; “RTÜK’ten Samanyolu Haber’e 20 yayın durdu,” Radikal, 3/15/14. Accessed: 4/5/14; “05.02.2014 tarih ve 2014/09 sayılı Üst Kurul Toplantısı Kararları,’ RTÜK, Karar 29, 33. Accessed: 4/25/14.

[123] See for example: Ergün Poyraz, Musa’nın Çocukları: Tayyip ve Emine, Istanbul: Togan Yayıncılık, 2007

[124]Kurtulmuş: Şahsıma yapılan iğrenç bir iftira,” Zaman, 12/19/13. Accessed: 4/21/14; “Kurtulmuş’tan kaset açıklaması,” Posta, 12/19/13. Accessed: 4/21/14.

[125] Abdurrahman Dilipak, “Cemaat yanlış yapıyor!Yeni Akit, 12/19/13. Accessed: 4/21/14.

[126]Fethullah Gülen-Tayyip Erdoğan kavgasında en ağır sözler!” T24, 12/21/13. Accessed: 4/21/14.

[127] In the run up to the 2011 elections, sex-tapes of MHP members also emerged. Though it remains unknown who made and/or released the tapes, the scandal conventiently came at a moment when the AKP’s electoral strategy involved pushing the MHP below the 10% election threshold, thereby swelling its own number of seats in parliament (“Kaset depremi yine istifa getirdi,” Sabah, 4/28/11. Accessed: 4/30/14).

[128]Gülen’in kasetleri,” Yeni Akit, 1/14/14. Accessed: 4/17/14

[129]Erdoğan’ın da ses kaydı ortaya çıktı!,” Sol, 1/15/14. Accessed: 4/17/14

[130]Tayyip Erdoğan’ın villa konuşmaları internette! İşte o ses kaydı,” Aydınlık, 1/24/14. Accessed: 4/17/14; “Umut Oran Başbakan Erdoğan’a kızının neden villalarla ilgilendiğini sordu,” Bugün, 2/15/14. Accessed: 4/22/14

[131]O görüşmeler ortaya çıktı!,” Ulusal Kanal, 1/25/14. Accessed: 4/22/14. It was also suggested by various anti-AKP media that such favors from the government were old hat for Topbaş. For example, a site on which he had planned to build a depot had turned out to contain mosaics from the fifth century. After some efforts, the government had agreed to move the mosaics so that construction could continue (“BİM için mozaikler taşınıyor!Sözcü, 2/5/14. Accessed: 4/22/14).

[132]Latif Topbaş suskunluğunu bozdu,” Bugün, 2/12/14. Accessed: 4/22/14

[133]Latif Topbaş’ın “Urla’daki İnşaat 35 Yıl Önce Başladı” Sözlerini Google Earth Yalanladı,” Başkahaber, 2/14/14. Accessed: 4/22/14. The reporter got of easier than some: an Azeri columnist for Zaman’s English language version, Today’s Zaman, was denied a new visa after he tweeted accusations about Erdoğan’s support for Al Qaeda (“Cemaat yazarından skandal tweet!” Haber 7, 12/27/13; “Erdoğan’dan Zeynalov için suç duyurusu,” Yeni Şafak, 12/31/13; “Ailecek sürgün edildik,” Radikal, 2/8/14. All accessed: 4/23/14.)

[134]Google Earth, Başbakan Erdoğan’ın ‘villa inşaatı 35 yıllık’ sözlerini yalanladı mı?” T24, 2/13/14. Accessed: 4/17/14

[135]Erdoğan’ın yeni ses kaydı ortaya çıktı,” Ulusal Kanal, 2/28/14. Accessed: 4/17/14; “Bu kez de Çatalca villalarının ses kaydı çıktı!Cumhurriyet, 3/1/14. Accessed: 4/17/14

[136]İşte Bilal Erdoğan’ın polis takibinden görüntüler,” T24, 1/15/14. Accessed: 4/17/14; “İşte Başbakan ve Bilal Erdoğan’ın adlarının geçtiği telefon konuşmaları,” T24, 1/12/14. Accessed: 4/22/14; “‘Bosphorus 360’ projesinin maketi internete sızdı,” Bugün, 2/14/14. Accessed: 4/22/14; ““Bilal Erdoğan gizli ortağımız,’” Sözcü, 2/12/14. Accessed: 4/22/14.

[137]Gizli ortak Bilal iddiası,” Gazeteport, 2/15/14. Accessed: 4/23/14.

[138] NewsCorp, for example, was interested in buying ATV in early 2012, but had withdrawn by the middle of the year. Some reports suggest that Erdoğan effectively rejected Rupert Murdoch’s offer because he wanted closer allies (Mehul Srivastava, et al. “Erdogan’s Media Grab Stymies Expansion by Murdoch, Time Warner,” Bloomberg, 5/4/14. Accessed: 4/17/14)—perhaps, as others note, due to Murdoch’s support for Israel (“Media Monkey: Murdoch’s European citybreak, threats of violence and Paxman’s exit,” The Guardian, 3/11/12. Accessed: 4/17/14). Yet others suggest that the wiretapping scandals rocking Newscorp in 2012 made governments wary of it (Amy Chozick, “Scandal and Scrutiny Hem In Murdoch’s Empire,” New York Times, 4/29/12. Accessed: 4/17/14)—or, alternatively, because of ATV’s unclear road to profitability (Seda Sezer and Asli Kandemir, “News Corp out of race for Turkey’s ATV TV-sources,” Reuters, 5/24/12. Accessed: 4/22/14).

[139] Doğu Eroğlu, “İktidarın inşaat lobisinin ‘Sabah-ATV Operasyonu’Birgün, 2/6/14; “Sabah ve atv için işadamlarından ihale karşılığı para toplanmış,” Zaman, 2/1/14. Accessed: 4/22/14; “Hallederiz Mehmet AbiTaraf, 2/6/14. Accessed: 4/22/14; “Yüzde 10 itirafı,” Sözcü, 2/4/14. Accessed: 4/22/14. As a Gülenist paper, it is barely worth asking how Zaman managed to piece together its investigative pieces so quickly. Interestingly, another paper involved in spreading news of the recordings, Gazeteport, is owned by the brother of former prime minister (and AKP critic) Mesut Yilmaz (“Medyada yılın skandalı!Sabah, 5/31/12. Accessed: 4/22/14.).

[140]Umut Oran’ın soru önergesine sansür!Sözcü, 2/1/14. Accessed: 4/22/14; Habib Güler “Ulaştırma Bakanı sansürü itiraf etti, Oran’dan özür diledi,” Zaman, 2/4/14. Accessed: 4/22/14

[141]Bekir Bozdağ: Kılıçdaroğlu, tape dinletmeye devam etmemeli,” Radikal, 2/12/14. Accessed: 4/17/14

[142]Başbakan Erdoğan’dan Habertürk’e Bahçeli sansürü,” Bugün, 2/5/14. Accessed: 4/22/14.

[143]Erdoğan Habertürk’te Bahçeli’nin konuşmasının yayınını da durdurmuş!” T24, 2/8/14. Accessed: 4/22/14.

[144] Kenan Bülbül, “Örgüt lideri,” Yeni Şafak, 2/11/14. Accessed: 4/23/14.

[145] The same goes for a tape of his daughter, Sümeyye, speaking with one of her father’s consultants, instructing him to have their fake Twitter accounts tweet positive things. (“Sümeyye Erdoğan’dan twitter trollerine talimat,” Sol, 2/20/14. Accessed: 4/17/14)

[146]Bilal Erdoğan ve Altaylı telefonda; HaberTürk’te anket nasıl çarpıtıldı?” T24, 2/6/14. Accessed: 4/22/14; “Habertürk’ün kilit isimlerinden anket manipülasyonu,” Sözcü, 2/6/14. Accessed: 4/22/14.

[147]Bir ‘Alo Fatih’ daha: Sarıgül için gereğini yapın!Birgün, 2/17/14. Accessed: 4/22/14. Turgay Ciner is married to Didem Özkan, whose father, Hüsamettin, was an important center-left politician for many years.

[148]Sansür Altyapısı Yasadan Önce Hazırlanmış,” Bianet, 2/20/14. Accessed: 4/25/14.

[149]Fethullah Gülen’in birbirinden çarpıcı 6 ses kaseti: Sarıgül’ün adaylı!ında problem yok Hocam!Aydınlık, 2/19/14. Accessed: 4/24/14; “Fethullah Gülen’in ortalığı karıştıran ses kayıtları,” Sabah, 2/18/14. Accessed: 4/24/14.

[150]Derin kulak Pensilvanya,” Yeni Şafak, 2/24/14. Accessed: 4/25/14. At the same time he was conducting this investigation, Çimen had also been in charge of a major investigation into the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), essentially a more politically focused iteration of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), with which the Turkish government has been fighting for decades. Given the high-profile nature of the prosecution, Çimen had been given a security detail. In February 23, 2012, however—at the height of an earlier power struggle between the government and (allegedly) Gülenist prosecutors—his body guards were removed (“‘Koruma skandalı’na jet yalanlama,” Bugün, 2/23/12. Accessed: 4/25/14).

[151]Her şey ortada,” Yeni Şafak, 2/24/14. Accessed: 4/25/14.

[152]‘Paradan 14 sıfırı attıkları’ kayıtlar çıktı!” Birgün, 3/1/14. Accessed: 4/27/14. Interestingly, in the recording and on the Turkish transcripts, “a million” is actually a “trillion,” the reason being that Turks tend to refer to currency using terms from before the 2001 economic crisis, after which six zeroes were knocked off. Thank you to Izel Sulam for explaining this to me.

[153]İşte Tayyip – Bilal Erdoğan’ın şok ses kayıtları,” Ulusal Kanal, 2/24/14. Accessed: 4/27/14.

[154]Deniz Baykal’ın seks kasedinin talimatı Erdoğan’dan iddiası,” Sözcü, 2/26/14. Accessed 4/26/14.

[155]Erdoğan’dan önemli açıklamalar,” Hürriyet, 2/27/14. Accessed: 4/27/14.

[156]Muhalefete montaj yaptılar,” Hürriyet, 2/26/14. Accessed: 4/27/14

[157]Başbakan’dan çok önemli açıklamalar,” Takvim, 2/28/14. Accessed: 4/27/14; Nazlı Ilıcak, “”5’li çete,”” Sabah, 12/18/12. Accessed: 4/22/14

[158] Summaries of clips: Eyüp Serbest, “Dört yeni ses bombası,” Hürriyet, 2/28/14. Accessed: 4/17/14; “Hafta sonu 6 ses kaydı internete yüklendiHürriyet, 3/6/14. Accessed: 4/17/14; “Tape yağıyor,” Hürriyet, 3/9/14. Accessed: 4/17/14. Transcript of Reza Zarrab discussions: “Reza Zarrab’dan yardımcısına: Orospu ile memurun bahşişini başında verin,” T24, 3/2/14. Accessed: 4/17/14; “”Rüşvet” uğruna o müdürü “İ… oğlu …t” diye sürdürdü,” Gazeteciler, 3/19/14. Accessed: 4/20/14. Erdoğan conversations with Sadullah Ergin: “Yeni ses kaydı iddiası! Erdoğan yargıya böyle müdahale etmişSol, 3/3/14. Accessed: 4/17/14; “Tayyip Erdoğan ve Sadullah Ergin yargıya böyle müdahale etmiş! İşte o ses kaydıAydınlık, 3/5/14. Accessed: 4/20/14; “Sadullah Ergin ve Tayyip Erdoğan’ın ses kaydı / Adalet Akademisi’ni böyle ele geçirdiler,” Aydınlık, 3/9/14. Accessed: 4/20/14. Transcript of Erdoğan speaking with Erdoğan Demirören, Ferit Şahenk, and Mustafa Karaalioğlu: “Başbakan ‘rezillik, namussuzluk’ dedi, Milliyet’in patronu telefonda ağladı!” T24, 3/6/14. Accessed: 4/17/14; “Erdoğan kızdı, Karaalioğlu ‘Haklısınız’ dedi, Hidayet Tuksal Star’dan gitti!” T24, 3/18/14. Accessed: 4/20/14. Transcript of Efkan Ala transcripts: Skandal ses kaydı! ‘İfade mifade yok, savcıyı tanımayın,’” Aydınlık, 3/9/14. Accessed: 4/17/14; “Efkan Ala ile Vali Mutlu ses kaydı: Polisleri açığa alın,” Aydınlık, 3/13/14. Accessed: 4/20/14; “Efkan Ala’dan bomba ses kaydı: Zekeriya Öz’ü içeri alın / İşte o ses kaydı,” Aydınlık, 3/14/14. Accessed: 4/20/14. Erdoğan and Ferit Şahenk transcript: Alo Ferit: Erdoğan’dan NTV’ye müdahale,” Sol, 3/10/14. Accessed: 4/17/14. Discussion of blocked Sayıştay report: “Yeni ses kaydı, AKP’nin Sayıştay operasyonunu gözler önüne serdi!” Sol, 3/9/14. Accessed: 4/20/14. Güler’s Gezi Park discussions: “Erdoğan ile ilgili şok ses kaydı!Sözcü, 3/14/14. Accessed: 4/20/14. Öcalan cancer operation cover-up: “Öcalan’ın Kanser Olduğu İddia Edildi!Bitlis News, 3/21/14. Accessed: 4/17/14.

[159]Popüler video sitesi kapatıldı,” Hürriyet, 1/10/14. Accessed: 4/27/14; “ kapatıldı,” Sözcü, 1/27/14. Accessed: 4/27/14.

[160]İnternetten içerik kaldırmak kolaylaştırılıyor,” T24, 12/30/13. Accessed: 4/27/14; “TİB için yasa teklifi,” Sabah, 1/10/14. Accessed: 4/27/14; “Milyonları ilgilendiren değişiklikler,” Sabah, 1/10/14. Accessed: 4/27/14. Amusingly, this article by the pro-government paper covers every part of the bill and requires clicking through fifteen pages—only on the last of which is there a mention of the internet regulations.

[161] These alterations required the TİB to seek judicial approval of its actions within twenty-four hours and limited the range of data it could collect about internet users in Turkey (“Turkish Parliament amends Internet bill after Gül’s last-minute intervention,” Hürriyet Daily News, 2/26/14. Accessed: 4/27/14).

[162]Twitter’ın kökünü kazıyacağız,” HaberTürk, 3/20/14. Accessed 4/29/14.

[163] Ayşegül Akyarlı Güven, “Youtube telif hakkı nedeniyle Haramzadeler’in hesabını feshetti,” Wall Street Journal, 3/8/14. Accessed: 4/27/14.

[164] İsmail Saymaz,“İşte Twitter yasağına gerekçe olan mahkeme kararları,” Radikal, 3/21/14. Accessed: 4/27/14; Osman Arslan,“Twitter’ın yasaklanmasına tuhaf gerekçe,” Zaman, 3/21/14. Accessed: 4/27/14; Tulin Daloglu, “Turkey Grapples with the Reality, Implications of Internet Ban,” Al-Monitor, 3/21/14. Acessed: 4/27/14.

[165] Constanze Letsch, “Turkey Twitter users flout Erdogan ban on micro-blogging site,” The Guardian, 3/21/14. Accessed: 4/27/14. Though government critics saw this back-door rejection of the government’s policies as postive, some writers see it as the product of more negative trends in Turkish political culture: “Although citizen-consumers think the state should not introduce such bans, they normalise coping mechanisms such as using proxy servers as a way of dealing with the situation and hence do not impose concrete sanctions on the state through votes, as was seen in the elections in 2011” (Çagri Yalkin, et al. “Legitimisation of the role of the nation state: Understanding of and reactions to Internet censorship in Turkey,” New Media Society, 16(2), 2014, p. 285).

[166] The politician in question, Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, was the leader of the Great Union Party (BBP), an offshoot of the National Action Party (MHP). He had broken with the MHP leadership in the early 1990s—seemingly on account of the MHP’s willingness to compromise with the military regime, its insufficiently relgious nature, and factional disputes between Yazıcıoğlu and Alpaslan Türkeş, the leader of the MHP. The BBP still garners votes in a few Istanbul municipalities and even won the mayoral elections in Sivas in 2009. That same year, however, Yazıcıoğlu was killed when the helicopter shuttling him between campaign rallies crashed. The crash has been the subject of much conspiratorial speculation on the nationalist-right—consider the book Who Killed the ‘Last Idealist’?.

[167]25 Mart Tapesi: Olası Pozisyonlar,” Radikal, 3/23/14. Accessed: 4/17/14; “AKP’de 25 Mart korkusu!,” Sözcü, 3/6/14. Accessed: 4/27/14; “Burak Erdoğan’dan İsviçreli sevgiliye ölüm tehdidi!” Sözcü, 3/25/14; “Gülen ile dış istihbarat servislerinin ilişkisini deşifre eden ses kaydı,” Yeni Akit, 3/26/14. Accessed: 4/28/14; “Gülen’in skandal bir ses kaydı daha yayınlandı,” Takvim, 3/26/14. Accessed: 4/28/14.

[168] For an overview of the Free Syrian Army, see Elizabeth O’Bagy, Middle East Security Report 9:The Free Syrian Army, Institute for the Study of War, March 2013. Acessed: 4/30/14; for details about ISIL see Robin Yassin-Kassab, “The rise and fall of ISIL in Syria,” Al Jazeera, 12/19/14. Accessed: 4/30/14; for a general overview of the Syrian opposition movements, see Middle East Report 146: Anything But Politics: The State of Syria’s Political Opposition, International Crisis Group, 10/17/13. Accessed: 4/30/14.

[169]Ankara’daki savaş lobisinin kirli Suriye planı: Türkiye’yi bombalayalım!Aydınlık, 3/28/14. Accessed: 4/30/14; Jack Moore, “Turkey YouTube Ban: Full Transcript of Leaked Syria ‘War’ Conversation Between Erdogan Officials,” International Business Times, 3/27/14. Accessed: 4/30/14.

[170]Davutoğlu’ndan ses kaydı tepkisi,” Son Sayfa, 3/28/14. Accessed: 4/26/14.

[171]İşte YouTube’un Gerçek Kapatılma Nedeni,” Bianet, 4/4/14. Accessed: 4/30/14.

[172] “Laic” is different from “secular”; it implies that the state (the laity) controls the religion, not that the two are separate (see Andrew Davison, “Turkey a ‘Secular’ State? The Challenge of Description,” South Atlantic Quarterly, 102(2/3), Spring/Summer, 2003, pp. 333-350).

[173] See Ersan Şen, “Fezlekeler ve Meclis Soruşturması,” Haber7, 3/18/14. Accessed: 5/8/14; and Kadir Aktaş , “Yasama Dokunulmazlığı Kapsamı,” Türkiye Barolar Birliği Dergisi, No. 84, 2009. Accessed: 5/8/14. For relevant documents see 1982 Anayasa, Madde 83 and 100 [Turkish]. Accessed: 5/8/14; and Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi İçtüzüğü, Madde 108-12 and 130-34. Accessed: 5/8/14

[174] Zeynep Gürcanlı, “AK Parti önergesini geri çekti, görüşme ertelendi,” Hürriyet, 4/22/14. Accessed: 5/7/14

[175] Erdoğan Bayraktar made use of his “right to remain silent” and did not make a formal speech. In the early days of the investigation, Bayraktar, who was charged separately from the others, had called on the prime minister to resign and announced his intentions to do likewise. Quickly, however, it became clear that he had not submitted a resignation, but had simply been shuffled like all the other ministers as part of a long-planned cabinet change. As for his plans to leave the AKP, by early February he had rethought the decision and apologized to the prime minister for his “excessive” comments.

[176] All quotes from “3 Bakan kendini savundu,” Sözcü, 5/5/14. Accessed: 5/8/14

[177]4 eski bakan için ‘Meclis Soruşturma Komisyonu’ kurulacak,” Bugün, 5/5/14. Accessed: 5/7/14

[178]İşte Gül’ün onayladığı HSYK Yasası,” Hürriyet, 2/26/14. Accessed: 5/6/14. Upon going into effect, the HSYK allowed the Justice Minister to replace the board’s bureaucratic personnel. By the time the Supreme Court rejected the bill in early April, these re-appointments had already been made (“AYM’den HSYK’ya kısmi ret,” Hürriyet, 4/12/14. Accessed: 5/6/14).

[179] Naim Karakaya and Hande Özhabeş,“Judicial Reform Packages: Evaluating Their Effect on Rights and Freedoms,” TESEV, 2013; “Özel yetkili mahkemeler kaldırıldı,” Hürriyet, 6/5/12. Accessed: 5/6/14; “Profiles on Counter-Terrorism Capacity: Turkey,” Committee of Experts on Counter-Terrorism, May 2013, pp. 5-7. Accessed: 5/11/14.

[180]ÖYM’leri kaldıran kanun teklifi TBMM’de kabul edildi,” Bugün, 2/14/14. Accessed: 5/6/14; “Özel yetkili mahkemeler kaldırıldı, şimdi ne olacak?” T24, 2/22/14. Accessed: 5/6/14; Hande Özhabeş, “Assessment on Changes regarding the Specially Empowered Judicial System in Turkey,” TESEV, April 2014, pp. 5-7; “Paralel yargının adresi 10 ve 13’üncü ağır ceza,” Sabah, 1/14/14. Accessed: 5/11/14; see the Criminal Procedures Law, the Anti-Terrorism Law, and the bill to close the Specially Empowered Courts.

[181] Hande Özhabeş, “Assessment on Changes regarding the Specially Empowered Judicial System in Turkey,” TESEV, April 2014, pp. 3-5.

[182] Ayşegül Usta, Fırat Alkaç, Özge Eğrikar, “Ergenekon Davası’nda tahliye dalgası,” Hürriyet, 3/10/14. Accessed: 5/6/14; Yüksel Koç, Cem Tursun, Arzu Kaya, “Ergenekon’da ikinci gün: 18 tahliye,” Hürriyet, 3/11/14. Accessed: 5/6/14. Among the thirty-three released were Tuncay Özkan, Levent Göktaş, Sedat Peker, Kemal Kerinçsiz, Dursun Çiçek, İbrahim Şahin, Alparslan Arslan, Hasan Atilla Uğur, Muzaffer Tekin, Hikmet Çiçek, Oktay Yıldırım, Mehmet Demirtaş, Doğu Perinçek, Levent Ersöz, Hasan Ataman Yıldırım, Mehmet Bedri, Gültekin, Serdar Öztürk, Erkan Önsel, Turhan Özlü and Veli Küçük.

[183]Ergenekon’da tahliye dalgası!Sözcü, 3/10/14. Accessed: 5/6/14

[184]İlker Başbuğ cezaevinden çıktı,” Zaman, 3/7/14. Accessed: 5/6/14. Since 2012, when tensions with the Gülen movement came into the open, Erdoğan’s rhetoric on Ergenekon had been shifting. For a nice summary or Erdoğan’s shifting rhetoric on Ergenekon, see “Başbuğ’dan Erdoğan’a teşekkür,” Sabah, 8/6/12. Accessed: 5/11/14 and “Başbakan Erdoğan’ın Değişen Ergenekon Algılaması,” Demokrasi Denetçiler, 1/29/13. Accessed: 5/11/14.

[185]HSYK’dan 13. Ağır Ceza’ya tepki!” Sözcü, 3/10/14. Accessed: 5/11/14; “13. Ağır Ceza Mahkemesi hakimleri için inceleme kararı,” Akşam, 3/11/14. Accessed: 5/11/14; “271 hakim ve savcı atandı,” Sabah, 3/23/14. Accessed: 5/11/14.

[186]MİT Yasası kabul edildi,” Zaman, 4/17/14. Accessed: 5/7/14.

[187]Devlet İstihbarat Hizmetleri ve Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı Kanunu’nda Değişiklik Yapılmasına Dair Kanun,” Resmi Gazete, Kanun No. 6532, 4/26/14, Madde 7. Accessed: 5/12/14.

[188] Mehmet Şahin, “Savcı, 13 asker için müebbet istedi,” Zaman, 5/7/14. Accessed: 5/7/14

[189]Bakan Bekir Bozdağ hakkında bir fezleke daha ortaya çıktı,” Bugün, 2/6/14. Accessed: 5/12/14; “Bakan Bozdağ’la ilgili fezleke iade edildi,” Zaman, 1/20/14. Accessed: 5/7/14; “İşte Bekir Bozdağ’ın fezlekesi,” Sözcü, 1/25/14. Accessed: 5/7/14; “Tırları arayan askerlere dava!” Sozcu, 5/7/14. Accessed: 5/12/14. From the first days of his time as Justice Minister, Bozdağ had also faced accusations of nepotism for having immediately promoted his brother from the position of “Assistant Personnel Director” to “High Ministry Consultant.” According to Bozdağ this new position was a “passive” one that would actually reduce conflicts of interest. Accurate or not, pro-government newspapers (including Milliyet, which is not always considered firmly in the pro-government category) emphasized this “passive” aspect in their coverage (“Bozdağ’ın Bakanlık çalışanı kardeşine yeni görev,” Hürriyet, 1/3/14. Accessed: 5/6/14; “Bozdağ kardeşini pasif göreve yolladı,” Yeni Şafak, 1/3/14. Accessed: 5/6/14; “Kardeşini pasif göreve atadı,” Milliyet, 1/3/14. Accessed: 5/6/14).

[190] Göksel Genç, “Süleyman Aslan’ın paraları iade edilmedi,” Zaman, 2/26/14. Accessed: 5/6/14.

[191]1 milyon avroluk bağış parası vakfa iade edildi,” Yeni Akit, 3/9/14. Accessed: 5/6/14; “Ziraat Bankası’na atanan Süleyman Aslan’ın yeni maaşı ne kadar?” T24, 3/9/14. Accessed: 5/13/14. Upon being released, Süleyman Aslan was allowed to rejoin the Halk Bank board. Within a month he had been moved to the board of Ziraat Bank and, a month following that, resigned from the Ziraat board citing “psychological pressure” from the other board members (“Kutucu’yu mahalle baskısı götürdü,” Taraf, 5/10/14. Accessed: 5/12/14).

[192]Dolarlar Bayraktar’ın Oğluna İade,” Bianet, 2/26/14. Accessed: 5/6/14. Controversially, during the search of Abdullah Oğuz Bayraktar’s office, the policeman in charge had reclined on a sofa, twirling his prayer beads, and ordering lahmacun [little mince-meat pizzas] for his officers (“‘Lahmacun söyleyen’ polise ikinci sürgün,” Radikal, 1/25/14. Accessed: 5/12/14).

[193]Reza Zarrab ve Bakan çocukları tahliye edildi,” Hürriyet, 2/28/14. Accessed: 5/12/14; “Kirli operasyonun mağdurlarına tahliye,” Yeni Akit, 2/28/14. Accessed: 5/12/14. It did not go without comment that the judge who signed off on these releases indicated his support for Erdoğan on his Facebook page (“Tahliye eden hakimin beğenisi: “Uzun adam,”Radikal, 3/1/14. Accessed: 5/6/14).

[194]Dershaneler kapatılacak mı?Sabah, 3/26/12. Accessed: 5/12/14; “Dershanelere ceza yok,” Radikal, 11/15/13. Accessed: 5/12/14; “Dershaneler 1 Eylül 2015’te kapanıyor,” T24, 3/1/14. Accessed: 5/12/14; “Milli Eğitim Temel Kanunu ile Bazı Kanun ve Kanun Hükmünde Kararnamelerde Değişiklik Yapılmasına Dair Kanun,” Resmi Gazete, Kanun 6528, 3/14/14. Accesed: 5/12/14.

[195] Osman Arslan, “Yolsuzluk soruşturmasında TOKİ dosyasına takipsizlik,” Zaman, 5/2/14. Accessed: 5/6/14; “Reza Zarrab ve bakan çocuklarına tahliye,” Zaman, 2/28/14. Accessed: 5/12/14; “Fatih Belediye Başkanı Demir hakkında takipsizlik kararı,” T24, 3/15/14. Accessed: 5/12/14; “17 Aralık’ta ilk iddianame kabul edildi,” Sabah, 4/14/14. Accessed: 5/12/14.

[196] In the 2009 municipal elections the AKP won 44.2% (49.1% when combined with the Saadet Party’s vote). In 2014, the AKP won 47.9% (49.3 when combined with the Saadet Party’s vote). See election statistics HERE.

[197] In Fatih in 2009, Mustafa Demir was elected with 42.8% of the vote, while the opposition (CHP-MHP-DTP) garnered 39.7%. In 2014, he won 48.6% and the opposition (CHP-MHP-BDP) won 43.4 As in fn195, the gain in AKP’s total is generally attributable to a collapse in the SP vote share from 13.4% to 6.4%.

[198] Hoping to win in İzmir, the AKP had run Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım. While being implicated in scandals at the Port of İzmir did not help his candidacy, victory in the province had never been particularly likely—and, in point of fact, Yıldırım did raise the AKP vote by 5% from the 2009 election. As for Hatay, the province is very diverse. It has a large Alevi population which tend to vote for the CHP—especially in this election, given how many of those killed during the Gezi Park protests were Alevi. On the other hand, the Syrian civil war has made residents more security conscious, perhaps benefitting nationalist law and order candidates. In the 2014 election, the AKP ran Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin and the CHP ran a candidate with roots in the nationalist movement. In the election, the CHP’s share rose 8.4% above its 2009 showing and its candidate won by 0.7%. The nationalist vote (MHP-BBP) rose from 13.5% to 15.6% (Ömer Şahin, “Hatay’da seçime Suriye ve Gezi damga vuracak,” Radikal, 3/18/14. Accessed: 5/12/14).