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HATE SPEECH AND BEYOND:
TARGETING THE GULEN
MOVEMENT IN TURKEY
TURKEY TASK FORCE
RETHINK PAPER 16
June 2014
The Rethink Institute is an independent, not-for-profit,
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our understanding of contemporary political and
cultural challenges facing communities and societies
around the world, in realizing peace and justice,
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CONTENTS
1
Summary
3
Özet
5
Introduction
7
Part I Hate Speech in the Case Law of the
European Court of Human Rights
8
Limitations on freedom of expression
and hate speech
9
Three categories of abuse of freedom of
expression
11
How is hate speech defined?
17
Part II The Gülen Movement as the Target of
Hate Speech
17
Expressions by Prime Minister Erdogan
targeting the Gülen movement
20
Applying the standards of the ECtHR:
Do Prime Minister Erdogan’s
expressions constitute hate speech?
28
Assessment
30
Part III Beyond Hate Speech
32
Mass hatred
33
Expressions of other leading figures of
the ruling party
34
Expressions of media and journalists
38
Expressions of the general public
39
Boycotting the Gülen movement
39
Two elements worsening mass hatred
41
Dangers of mass hatred: Example of
Gezi protestors
43
Legitimacy of boycott calls: German
example and ECtHR case law
45
Realizing contents of hate speech
through governmental powers
50
Conclusion
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
Summary
On December 17, 2013, a graft probe alleging corruption among some members
of the cabinet became public. Immediately thereafter, the Gülen movement
(a.k.a. Hizmet), one of the largest faith-based communities in Turkey, became the
target of offensive statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdoğan is one of the most influential political figures in the history of Turkey,
and he has shaped the last decade of Turkish politics. From the standpoint of
human rights law, there is little doubt that some of the prime minister’s
statements are fundamentally incompatible with the principles underlying the
concept of human rights. Some of these expressions, indeed, amount to prima
facie hate speech as understood by the European Court of Human Rights, the
jurisdiction of which is already accepted by Turkey.
According to the European Court of Human Rights, any language which spreads,
incites, promotes or justifies hatred based on intolerance, including racial and
religious intolerance, is considered to constitute hate speech and is unworthy of
protection under the guarantees of freedom of speech. As a matter fact, if the
element of hatred is detectable at first sight, the European Court of Human
Rights defines such language as abuse of freedom of expression. In this regard,
some of the language used by Prime Minister Erdoğan to describe the Gülen
movement - i.e. “perverts”, “hashashins”, “traitors”, “spies”, “worse than
Shiites”, “leeches” and “a terrorist organisation” - do indeed constitute prima
facie hate speech.
A government leader’s perpetration of hate speech is unprecedented for
Strasbourg jurisprudence. In case law in the European Court of Human Rights,
there is not a single case in which a High Contracting Party to the European
Convention on Human Rights has been convicted for failing to sanction
individuals using hate speech, let alone for perpetrating hate speech itself.
However, the expressions of the Turkish prime minister exhibit so much
seriousness and vehemence that they tend to extend beyond the already existing
contours of hate speech as drawn by the European Court of Human Rights. Not
only did Mr. Erdoğan blatantly insult the movement, but he also encouraged the
masses to do the same, and actually succeeded in creating mass hatred towards
the Gülen movement. In the process, he put out a boycott call to exclude the
Gülen movement from the layers of social life that led to repercussions among his
supporters. In tandem with the boycott call, he declared that he would use the
powers of the government to discriminate against the Gülen movement and
started a “witch hunt.” For these reasons, in light of ECtHR case law, it is hard, if
not impossible, not to consider Prime Minister Erdoğan’s expressions targeting
the Gülen movement as unprecedented prima facie hate speech.
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Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
Özet
17 Aralık 2013 gününde, bazı kabine üyelerine karşı yürütülen yolsuzluk
soruşturması günyüzüne çıktı. Bunun hemen akabinde, Gülen ya da Hizmet
hareketi, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Başbakanı Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’ın hakaret içeren
söylemlerinin hedefi haline geldi. Erdoğan, Türkiye tarihinin en önemli siyasal
figürlerinden birisidir ve son on yıla mührünü vurmuştur. İnsan hakları hukuku
açısından, Başbakan’ın bazı söylemlerinin, insan hakları kavramının altını çizen
ilkelerle temelden uyuşmazlık gösterdiği konusunda şüphe yoktur. Hatta, bazı
ifadeler, ilk değerlendirmede, yetkisi Türkiye tarafından da tanınan Avrupa İnsan
Hakları Mahkemesi açısından nefret söylemine karşılık gelmektedir.
Avrupa İnsan Hakları Mahkemesine göre, ırka ve dine dayalı hoşgörüsüzlük de
dahil olmak üzere, genel olarak hoşgörüsüzlüğe dayalı nefreti yayan, tahrik ve
teşvik eden ya da meşrulaştıran her türlü dil, nefret söylemine karşılık
gelmektedir. Bu türlü ifadeler, ifade özgürlüğünün koruması altında değildir.
Hatta, nefret unsuru daha ilk bakışta farkedilebiliyorsa, Avrupa İnsan Hakları
Mahkemesi, bu tür söylemleri, ifade özgürlüğünün kötüye kullanımı olarak
değerlendirmektedir. Bu açıdan bakıldığında, Başbakan Erdoğan’ın Gülen
hareketini kastederek kullandığı dil – mesela “sapıklar”, “haşaşiler”, “hainler”,
“ajanlar”, “Şiilerden daha kötüler”, “sülükler”, “terörist organizasyon” – ilk
değerlendirmede nefret söylemini teşkil etmektedir.
Strasburg yargısı açısından, bir hükümet liderinin nefret söylemini kullanması
daha önce görülmemiş bir şeydir. Avrupa İnsan Hakları Mahkemesinin içtihadında,
Avrupa İnsan Hakları Sözleşmesine taraf olan bir ülkenin, nefret suçu işlemek bir
yana, nefret söylemini kullanan bireyleri cezalandırmadığı tek bir dava yoktur.
Bununla birlikte, Türkiye başbakanının ifadeleri o kadar ciddi ve ağırdır ki, Avrupa
İnsan Hakları Mahkemesinin nefret söylemine ilişkin belirlediği çerçevenin dışına
taşmaktadır. Erdoğan sadece harekete hakaret etmekle kalmamış, kitleleri de
buna teşvik etmiş ve sonuçta Gülen hareketine karşı kitlesel bir nefretin
oluşmasını sağlamıştır. Bu süreç içerisinde, Gülen hareketini toplumsal
tabakalardan tecrit etme amacıyla bir boykot çağrısı yapmış, bu çağrı, kendisini
destekleyen kitlelerde yankı bulmuştur. Boykot çağrısıyla eş zamanlı olarak,
devletin bütün gücünü Gülen hareketine karşı kullanacağını belirtmiş ve kendi
ifadesiyle bir “cadı avı” başlatmıştır. Bütün bu nedenlere bakarak, Avrupa İnsan
Hakları Mahkemesi içtihadı ışığında, Başbakan Erdoğan’ın Gülen hareketini hedef
alarak kullandığı ifadelerin ilk izlenimde nefret söylemi olarak
değerlendirilmemesi, imkansız olmasa da, son derece zordur.
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4
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
Introduction
Since the unfolding of the corruption investigation that began on December 17,
2013, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been overtly targeting the Gülen
movement (a.k.a. Hizmet), one of the largest faith based movements in Turkey,1
by persistent use of expressions which seem to constitute hate speech judging by
the standards developed in case law in the European Court of Human Rights. As a
matter of fact, targeting of the Gülen movement began in the last quarter of 2013
over an educational dispute and accelerated immediately after the beginning of
the corruption investigation, in which three cabinet members were accused of
taking bribes, facilitating money laundering and distribution of benefits to foreign
nationals. Since then, thanks to relentless accusations by Prime Minister Erdoğan,
the Gülen movement has been relegated in the minds of many to the status of
being the usual suspects, of many, if not all,
malevolent activities in Turkey. Even when the
actual perpetrators of a crime are just nothing
What really matters, in more than a mystery to state authorities,
the context of this Prime Minister Erdoğan has not hesitated to
study, is that a group declare the Gülen movement guilty.2
of people inspired and
motivated by their
faith seems to have
become a victim of
expressions of what
appears to be prima
facie hate speech.
While Erdoğan’s targeting of the Gülen
movement resembles to hate speech, his
expressions also carry other consequences.
First, due to the extraordinary popular support
for him, Erdoğan’s offensive language about
the Gülen movement paved the way for
instigation of mass hatred against the Gülen
movement. Moreover, while Prime Minister
Erdoğan is aggressively targeting the
movement, he is also calling on the nation to
take action against the Gülen movement. He is actively encouraging a boycott
against all establishments affiliated with the movement, and he has publicly
declared that the powers of the Turkish government will also be utilized
arbitrarily in this boycott.
What really matters, in the context of this study, is that a group of people
inspired and motivated by their faith seems to have become a victim of
expressions of what appears to be prima facie hate speech. Hence, the purpose
of this study is to find out whether the expressions of Prime Minister Erdoğan
1
Helen Rose Fuchs Ebaugh, The Gülen Movement(Springer, 2010). Page 44
"No Perpetrators Found but ‘Parallel Structure' Behind Wiretappings, PM Argues," Cihan News
Agency, 2 May 2014. [http://en.cihan.com.tr/news/No-perpetrators-found-but-parallel-structurebehind-wiretappings-PM-argues_2081-CHMTQyMjA4MS8xMDA1]
2
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actually amount to hate speech as defined by the European Court of Human
Rights (“ECtHR” hereafter), the first and most authoritative international judicial
organ tasked with the protection of human rights.
Part I of this study will explore the contours of hate speech in detail as defined by
the ECtHR. At this stage, it is necessary to explain why Strasbourg jurisprudence
is selected as a measure of value, when Turkey: (a) Has already incorporated
mechanisms into its domestic law with the purpose of fighting hate speech; and
(b) Has already ratified other international human rights conventions that
combat hate speech, such as International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination.
First, some hate speech mechanisms, such as Article 122 of Turkish Criminal Code,
were recently incorporated into domestic law, but the Turkish judiciary has not
yet developed consistent case law for their implementation. Additionally, any
Turkish domestic law proscription has to be in accordance with the European
Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR” hereafter) at all times, as the ECHR has
precedence over Turkish law. With regard to the second point, unlike many other
international human rights monitoring organs, the ECtHR is a fully developed
international judicial organ, judgments of which are indisputably binding for 47
European states, including Turkey. No other international convention is as
effective as the ECHR at this stage. Additionally, the guarantees provided by the
ECHR inspire heightened awareness in Turkey. As a matter of fact, these
expressions will certainly be brought before the ECtHR in several years, rather
than any other international human rights monitoring organ. Also, the responsive
character and birth of the ECtHR at the end of a brutal era of hate crimes render
ECtHR case law all the more relevant.
Part II of the study will first provide detailed narration of the expressions used by
Prime Minister Erdoğan. Thereafter, the criteria developed by the ECtHR in
defining the constituents of hate speech will be applied to these expressions so
as to analyze whether they really amount to hate speech. Part III will explain how
a possible judgment of the ECtHR regarding the expressions of Prime Minister
Erdoğan might extend beyond existing case law and definitions of the hate
speech on two grounds: The true potential of the expressions of Prime Minister
Erdoğan in the creation of mass hatred, and the blatant and arbitrary utilization
of governmental powers accompanying the expressions of hate speech.
6
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
Part I
Hate Speech in the Case Law of the European
Court of Human Rights
Article 10 of the ECHR Convention
Freedom of expression
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall
include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart
information and ideas without interference by public authority
and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States
from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema
enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties
and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities,
conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and
are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national
security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of
disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the
protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing
the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for
maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Freedom of expression enjoys a remarkable status in ECHR jurisprudence, as the
ECtHR places freedom of expression at the very center of democratic values by
defining it as “one of the preconditions of a functioning democracy”3 and “one of
the essential foundations of” a democratic society.4 In this regard, the Court has
taken advantage of every opportunity to expand the protections provided by
Article 10 of the ECHR, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression.
According to the Court, any form of expression ought to be protected under the
umbrella of freedom of expression.5 This is why all kinds of expression, regardless
of medium is used in their dissemination (including paintings6, books,7 films8,
radio interviews9, etc.), are to benefit from the protection of this right. With
regard to the contents of speech, the ECtHR is principally of the opinion that
3
Özgür Gündem v. Turkey, ECtHR, 16 March 2000, Application no. 23144/93 para. 43
Handyside v. The United Kingdom, ECtHR, 7 December 1976 Application no. 5493/72 para. 49
5
Müller and Others v. Switzerland, ECtHR, 24 May 1988, Application No. 10737/84 para. 27
6
Idem
7
"Handyside v. The United Kingdom."
8
Otto-Preminger Institute v. Austria, ECtHR, 20 September 1994, Application No. 13470/87
9
Barthold V Germany, ECtHR, 25 March 1985, Application No. 8734/79
4
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Turkey Task Force
there is no inherent limitation to determine contents of speech. Accordingly,
expressions about politics10, separatism11, pornography12, or even hatred13 enjoy
protection under Article 10. In this regard, any idea or information of any kind,
even if offensive, shocking or disturbing, is worthy of protection in accordance
with the guarantees of Article 10 of the ECHR.14
Limitations on freedom of expression and hate speech
While it should be acknowledged that very wide protection is afforded to
freedom of expression in ECtHR jurisprudence, nevertheless, it is not an absolute
and unconditional right. Enjoyment of freedom of expression is subject to certain
limits which are defined in the second paragraph of Article 10 of the ECHR.15 In
this regard, hate speech falls far outside the scope of protection guaranteed by
the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the ECHR. That is
because hate speech is in many cases, in the account of the ECtHR, not
considered as a form of enjoyment of freedom of expression but as an abuse of
freedom of expression prohibited by Article 17 of the Convention. Accordingly, as
Article 17 states:
Nothing in this Convention may be interpreted as implying for any
State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or
perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and
freedoms set forth herein or at their limitation to a greater extent
than is provided for in the Convention.
The establishment of the Council of Europe and the creation of the Strasbourg
court was a response to atrocities that took place before and during World War
II. This is a reflection of militant democracy, a lesson Europeans learned the hard
way. Up to now, the European human rights protection system has managed to
protect itself and prevent dissemination of hatred in Europe with the help of the
reflexes it developed, such as the aforementioned abuse clause. Even a
superficial examination of the case law of the ECtHR, at this point, suffices to
10
Castells v. Spain, ECtHR, 23 April 1992, Application no. 11798/85
Erdoğdu v. Turkey, ECtHR, 15 June 2000, Application no. 25723/94
12
Wingrove v. United Kingdom, ECtHR, 25 November 1996, Application No. 17419/90
13
Jersild v. Denmark, ECtHR, 23 September 1994, Application No. 15890/8
14
"Otto-Preminger Institute v. Austria."
15
For a detailed explanation on the limitation procedures set out in Article 10(2), see: A. R. Mowbray
A. R. Mowbray, Cases, Materials, and Commentary on the European Convention on Human
Rights(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). Chapter 10; D. J. O'Boyle Michael Warbrick Colin
Harris, Law of the European Convention on Human Rights(Oxford: Oxford university Press, 2009).
Chapter 11; Robin C. A. Ovey Clare Jacobs Francis Geoffrey White, Jacobs, White and Ovey : The
European Convention on Human Rights(Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). Chapters
14 and 18
11
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Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
reveal the fact that the responsive character of the Strasbourg court has not lost
its vitality.
Three categories of abuse of freedom of expression
According to case law, it would be accurate to name three categories of
expression that constitute abuse of freedom of speech:16 Negationism, hate
speech,17 and totalitarian views. In the first category, any remarks that question
the existence of the Holocaust or the evil of the Nazi regime are deemed
unworthy of protection18 because they clearly contradict “clearly established
historical facts.”19 However, it is necessary to mention that such a strict approach
is only valid for Holocaust denials.20
Similarly, the Court has also adopted a very strict approach towards hate speech,
which forms the second category of abuse of freedom of speech. Any remarks
that spread, incite, promote or justify hatred against any particular group are
deemed unworthy of protection. Linking all Muslims with terrorism,21 spreading
hatred against foreigners,22 declaring a particular ethnic group as the source of all
evil in a given country,23 spreading serious and prejudicial allegations against a
specific group in society, 24 and insulting a specific group of people in the
16
Anne Weber lists three categories of abuse of freedom of speech: totalitarian doctrines,
negationism and racial hate speech. See Anne Weber, Manual on Hate Speech(Strasbourg: Council of
Europe Pub., 2009). pages 24-27; Mario Oetheimer , on the other hand, lists only two: Holocaust
denials and racial hate speech. See Mario Oetheimer, "Protecting Freedom of Expression: The
Challenge of Hate Speech in the European Court of Human Rights Case Law," Cardozo journal of
international & comparative law 17, no. 3 (2009).
17
As a matter of fact, the other two categories of abuse of freedom of expression also fall under
the definition of hate speech. In this regard, the term “hate speech” refers to any kind of hate
speech that cannot be described as negationism and defense of totalitarian views. About
inconsistent use of the term “hate speech” in case law, see T. McGonagle, "A Survey and Critical
Analysis of Council of Europe Strategies for Countering "Hate Speech"," The content and context of
hate speech : rethinking regulation and responses (2012). page 464
18
Witzsch v. Germany, ECtHR, 13 December 2005, Application no. 7485/03 (dec)
19
Gerd Honsik v. Austria, Eur. Comm. HR, 28 October 1997, Application No. 25062/94 ; Marais v.
France, Eur. Comm. HR, 24 June 1996, Application No. 31159/96 (dec); Garaudy v. France, ECtHR, 24
June 2003, Application no. 65831/01 (dec)
20
Perinçek v. Switzerland, ECtHR, 17 December 2013, Application no. 27510/08
21
The ECtHR explained that “… linking the group as a whole with a grave act of terrorism, is
incompatible with the values proclaimed and guaranteed by the Convention, notably tolerance,
social peace and non-discrimination.” Norwood v. The United Kingdom, ECtHR, 16 July 2003,
Application no. 23131/03 (dec)
22
Glimmerveen and Hagenbeek v. The Netherlands, Eur. Comm. HR, 11 October 1979, Application no.
8348/78 (dec)
23
Pavel Ivanov v. Russia, ECtHR, 20 February 2007, Application no. 35222/04 (dec)
24
Le Pen v. France, ECtHR, 20 Aril 2010, Application no. 18788/09 (dec)
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population25 can be shown as examples of abuse of freedom of speech that
constitute hate speech.
The Court displays a somewhat different attitude towards expressions in favor of
totalitarian doctrines, which is the third category of abuse of freedom of speech.
As seen above, even merely vocalizing opinions that fall under the first two
categories of abuse of freedom of speech is deemed to contradict the values
underpinned by the Convention and hence no protection is ever afforded to such
expressions. However, for the Court, only expressions falling under the first two
categories above are categorically incompatible with the values adopted by the
Council of Europe. When it comes to expressions defending systems that are not
considered to be compatible with the Convention's underlying values, in the
account of the Court, as long as such expressions can be seen as contributions to
public and political debates26 and as long as no evidence exists of an actual or
even remote danger that disorder would be triggered,27 such opinions might be
tolerable in a democratic society.28 Otherwise, the Court does not hesitate to
regard such acts of expressions as abuse of freedom of speech.29
The issue of how Article 17 as approached and implemented by the ECtHR also
deserves some attention at this point. According to case law, applications to the
ECtHR regarding expressions that prima facie constitute abuse of freedom of
expression are declared to be inadmissible, as they are ratione materiae
incompatible within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. Such
inadmissibility decisions are “strongly content-based, with little to no attention
being paid to contextual factors.”30,31 If no abuse of freedom of speech is spotted
25
Seurot v. France, ECtHR, 18 May 2004, Application no. 57383/00 (dec)
Gündüz v. Turkey, ECtHR, 14 June 2004, Application no. 35071/97
27
Vajnai v. Hungary, ECtHR, 08 October 2008, Application no. 33629/06
28
Compare " Witzsch v. Germany."; Also compare Gerrman Communist Party v. Germany, Eur.
Comm. HR, 20 July 1957, Application no. 250/57 (dec)( “Whereas even if 11 could be proved that the
Party's present activity is directed towards the seizure of power solely through the constitutional
means afforded to it in the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, this would in no sense
imply that the Party had renounced its traditional objectives…”) and The United Communist Party
of Turkey and Others v. Turkey, ECtHR, 30 January 1998, Application no. 19392/92 (“Accordingly, in
the absence of any concrete evidence to show that in choosing to call itself “communist”,
the TBKP had opted for a policy that represented a real threat to Turkish society or the Turkish
State, the Court cannot accept that the submission based on the party’s name may, by itself, entail
the party’s dissolution.”)
29
See Refah Partİsİ and Others v. Turkey ECtHR, 13 February 2003, Application no. 41340/98 ; Hizb UtTahrir and Others v. Germany, ECtHR, 12 June 2012 Application no. 31098/08 (dec) ;Vona v. Hungary,
ECtHR, 9 July 2013, Application no. 35943/10 ; Kasymakhunov and Saybatalov v. Russia, ECtHR, 14
March 2013, Applications nos. 26261/05 and 26377/06
30
Hannes Voorhoof D. Cannie, "The Abuse Clause and Freedom of Expression in the European
Human Rights Convention : An Added Value for Democracy and Human Rights Protection?,"
Netherlands quarterly of human rights 29, no. 1 (2011).
31
Article 17 is also called “guillotine provision”, as it immediately excludes expressions from the
guarantees of Article 10 without assessment of the merits. Françoise Tulkens, "When to Say Is to
26
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Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
at first glance, only then does the ECtHR move on to examination of the merits
and decides whether the expression in question can be subject to restrictions
under Article 10(2).32 However, when the Court engages in the procedures set
forth in Article 10(2), the function of which is to allow the Court to decide
whether interference with freedom of expression is justifiable in a democratic
society, the abuse clause is not considered as irrelevant by the ECtHR at all. That
is because, at this stage, the Court employs the abuse clause as a supplementary
tool in the application of the limitation procedures under Article 10(2).33 Hence,
even if an expression is considered to fall within the ambit of Article 10(1), it does
not mean the expressions in question do not incite hatred or constitute hate
speech, by default.34
How is hate speech defined?
The Court decides whether or not an expression constitutes hate speech on a
case-by-case basis. In a given application, the main point that the Court focuses
on is whether such speech can be regarded as tolerable and acceptable in a
democratic society. In so doing, the main criterion employed by the Court is
whether the expression in question incites, spreads, promotes, or justifies any
form of hatred based on intolerance, including religious35 and racist36 intolerance.
If the answer to this question is in the affirmative, then such expressions shall not
be afforded protection in a democratic society. It is necessary to note that, in the
Court’s account, not just direct calls to violent acts or other offences are
necessarily required to classify an expression as hate speech. “Attacks on
persons committed by insulting, holding up to ridicule or slandering specific
Do: Freedom of Expression and Hate Speech in the Case-Law of the European Court of Human
Rights," Freedom of expression : essays in honour of Nicolas Bratza (2012). Instead of applying Article
17 as a guillotine provision, some critics are in favor of reviewing hate speech related cases entirely
under Article 10. Antoine Buyse, "Dangerous Expressions: The Echr, Violence and Free Speech,"
International & Comparative Law Quarterly (2014). For more critical analysis of the case law see D.
Keane, "Attacking Hate Speech under Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights,"
Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 25, no. 4 (2007).; Stefan Sottiaux, ""Bad Tendencies" in the
Ecthr's "Hate Speech" Jurisprudence," European constitutional law review 7, no. 1 (2011).; Roger
Kiska, "Hate Speech: A Comparison between the European Court of Human Rights and the United
States Supreme Court Jurisprudence," Regent University Law Review 25, no. 107.
32
Under Article 10(2), in determining whether an interference to freedom of expressions is
justifiable, the ECtHR applies a three-fold inquiry. In this test the ECtHR questions lawfulness of
interference, legitimate aim pursued by interference and necessity of interference in a democratic
society.
33
“The Court will rule on the application of Article 17 in the light of all the circumstances of the case.
It will accordingly begin by considering the question of compliance with Article 10, whose
requirements it will however assess in the light of Article 17” Lehideux and Isorni v. France, ECtHR, 23
September 1998, Application no. 24662/94 para. 38
34
Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden, ECtHR, 9 February 2012, Application no. 1813/07 ; Féret v. Belgium,
ECtHR, 16 July 2009, Application no. 15615/07
35
"Norwood v. The United Kingdom."
36
"Pavel Ivanov v. Russia."
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groups of the population” 37 are also considered to be tantamount to hate
speech.
As already explained, the Court assesses whether an expression constitutes hate
speech on a case-by-case basis. In determining the contours of hate speech, the
Court takes several factors into consideration:38



The purpose of the person who made the statement
Content of the expression in question
Context in which the statement is made39
It will be helpful to briefly examine how each of these factors affects the
judgments of the ECtHR in case law.
The purpose of the person who made the statement
Any prima facie intention to publicly defend or disseminate hatred towards a
particular group of people will render an act or an expression unworthy of
protection.40 In the Jersild judgment, for example, a television presenter shot a
documentary about a racist group in Denmark, known as the Greenjackets; as a
natural consequence, the documentary contained a lot of blatantly racist remarks
about foreigners. However, the ECtHR clearly stated that it was indisputable that
the purpose behind broadcasting such racist remarks was not racist at all, as the
main purpose was to inform the public about racist movements in society. On the
other hand, as the remarks of the Greenjackets were purely racist, the Court
explained, these remarks undoubtedly could not enjoy protection under the
guarantees of freedom of expression. Similarly, in Féret v. Belgium, the
employment of slogans such as “Stand up against the Islamification of Belgium”
and “Send non-European job-seekers home” by a political party leader was
considered to constitute hate speech. The Court explained that the purpose of
Mr Féret was to gain popularity among less knowledgeable members of the
37
"Féret v. Belgium."
This systemic approach adopted from Anne Weber. See: Weber, Manual on Hate Speech. For
example, Françoise Tulkens lists “intention” amongst the contextual factors, see: Tulkens, "When
to Say Is to Do: Freedom of Expression and Hate Speech in the Case-Law of the European Court of
Human Rights."
39
There is another factor taken into consideration by ECtHR and that is “nature and seriousness of
interference”. However, there seems to be no reason to examine this factor in the context of this
research since there is no interference to anyone’s right to freedom of expression as the next
chapter will explain. For an analysis of this factor, see: Weber, Manual on Hate Speech. page. 59
40
“Those activities, whose compatibility with Article 11 of the Convention will be the subject matter
of a review on the merits… do not reveal prima facie any act aimed at the destruction of any of the
rights and freedoms set forth in the Convention …or any prima facie intention on the applicant’s
part to publicly defend or disseminate propaganda in support of totalitarian views …” "Vona v.
Hungary."para. 38
38
12
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
public by igniting hatred against foreigners. In another case, Lehideux and Isorni,41
the Court contended that the expressions in question could not be considered
abuse of freedom of expression, as the complainants did not have any sort of
racist agenda. The Perinçek,42 Garaudy,43 Vona44 and Soulas45 cases can also be
examined in the same vein to see the role of the intention of the speaker in
determining whether expressions in question constitute abuse of freedom of
speech.
Content of the expression in question
According to the ECtHR, in principle, any speech with any content can enjoy
protection under the guarantees of Article 10. However, expressions with specific
contents, such as political speech 46 or expressions relating to public
interest,47 enjoy a much more favorable and wider margin of protection. At this
point, such wide protection covers not only expressions made by politicians,48
but also speech that criticizes politicians49 or the government.50 Additionally, it is
crucial to draw attention to a distinction made by the Court with regards to types
of expression. Accordingly, a distinction exists “between statements of fact and
value judgments. While the existence of facts can be demonstrated, the truth of
value judgments is not susceptible of proof.”51 Therefore, value judgments are
provided with a heightened level of protection. However, a heightened level of
protection under no circumstances means absolute protection. This being saidbe it in the field of politics, relating to public interest, expression of a fact, or
expression of a value judgment - expressions which incite, spread, promote, or
justify any form of hatred based on intolerance or expressions which insult
specific groups of the population cannot be afforded protection by the
Strasbourg court.
Context of the expression in question
Context bears a vital role in deciding whether a speech contains remarks that
incite hatred or insult specific groups of society. As a matter of fact, the relevant
context might have bearing on the intention of the speaker and the content as
well. However, in any case, if contents of an expression are blatantly intended to
41
"Lehideux and Isorni v. France."
"Perinçek v. Switzerland."
43
"Garaudy v. France."
44
"Vona v. Hungary."
45
Soulas and Others v. France, ECtHR, 10 July 2008, Application no. 15948/03
46
Erbakan v. Turkey, ECtHR, 6 July 2006, Application no. 59405/00
47
Giniewski v. France, ECtHR, 31 January 2006 Application no. 64016/00 ; "Perinçek v. Switzerland."
48
Mehdi Zana v. Turkey (No:2), ECtHR, 06 April 2004, Application no. 26982/95
49
Lingens v. Austria, ECtHR, 8 July 1986, Application no. 9815/82
50
İncal v. Turkey, ECtHR, 9 June 1998, Application no. 22678/93
51
Oberschlick v. Austria (No. 2), ECtHR, 1 July 1997, Application no. 20834/92 para. 33
42
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Turkey Task Force
publicly defend or spread hatred, in practice the ECtHR pays very little, if any,
attention to contextual factors. Yet, several factors, such as the identity/role of
the person who makes the speech,52 the existence of ongoing debates on the
subject of the expression in question in society and/or the contribution made by
the expression in question to such a debate, 53 the target audience and
dissemination of the expression in question, 54 the impact of the statement,55 the
profile of the people who are the targets of the statements in question,56 and the
existence of imminent and present danger57 are to be considered, although not
exclusively, in the attempt to assess the context in which the expression in
question is made. A brief illustration of case law will be beneficial in
understanding the holistic approach taken by the Court in the assessment of the
context.
In the Erbakan judgment,58 for instance, with regards to the categorization of
voters as “believers” and “non-believers” prior to a municipality election, the
Court emphasized that the avoidance of dissemination of intolerance is crucially
important for a politician. By the same token, in the Zana judgment,59 expressions
of sympathy for the Kurdish separatist terrorist organization, the PKK, by the
former mayor of Diyarbakır, the biggest city in southeast Turkey ,whose
population is dominantly Kurdish, was considered to incite violence as it would
“exacerbate an already explosive situation in that region.”60 It should not be
disregarded that as a politician the applicant, Mr Zana, enjoys extended
protection. However, the possible impact and influence of his remarks as an
eminent political actor in the eyes of the society, especially on the Kurdish
population, was also of great significance in assessing the statements of Mr Zana
as constituting hate speech. The Incal case61 provides an excellent comparison at
this point. Mr Incal, who was also a politician, distributed leaflets regarding
injustices committed against Kurdish people. Since the content of the leaflet did
not incite hatred or violence, in the Court’s account, this case could not be seen
as comparable to the Zana case. According to the Court, Mr Incal was not “in any
way responsible for the problems of terrorism in Turkey, and more specifically in
İzmir”, 62 a city that suffered relatively less from terrorism, while the remarks of
52
See "Erbakan v. Turkey.", "Lingens v. Austria.", " Oberschlick v. Austria (No. 2)."
See "Giniewski v. France.", "Lehideux and Isorni v. France."
54
See Purcell and Others v. Ireland, Eur. Comm. HR, 16 April 1991, Application no. 15404/89 (dec);
"Seurot v. France."
55
Zana v. Turkey, ECtHR, 25 November 1997, Application no. 18954/91 ; "İncal v. Turkey."
56
"Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden."; "Perinçek v. Switzerland."; "Vajnai v. Hungary."
57
"Gündüz v. Turkey.", "Erbakan v. Turkey."; "Refah Partİsİ and Others v. Turkey ".
58
"Erbakan v. Turkey."
59
"Zana v. Turkey."
60
Ibid. para 60
61
"İncal v. Turkey."
62
Ibid. para. 58
53
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Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
Mr Zana “coincided with murderous attacks carried out by the PKK on civilians in
southeast Turkey, where there was extreme tension at the material time.”63
In assessing the possible impact of an expression in question, the Court also pays
attention to the medium used to disseminate the expression. In this regard, it is
acknowledged that the impact of expressions broadcast by radio and television is
more powerful, more influential and more immediate64 in comparison to print
media. Yet again, the power of print media cannot be compared to that of
expressions such as painting, 65 poetry 66 and satire. 67 Similarly, in Strasbourg
jurisprudence, it is clear that the assessment of whether an expression
constitutes hate speech may vary if the intended target is a well-informed
audience68 or pupils in a school.69
Contribution to public or political debates bears vital importance for the proper
comprehension of the context in which the statements in question are made. In
the Giniewski case,70 for instance, a newspaper article accused Christianity of
preparing the grounds for the Holocaust. According to the Court, such a
statement cannot be considered to incite hatred because with such remarks, the
writer of the article “contributed to a discussion of the various possible reasons
behind the extermination of the Jews in Europe, a question of indisputable public
interest in a democratic society.”71 Similarly, the Court, in the Perinçek case,72
concluded that the denial of an Armenian genocide cannot amount to hate
speech, as Mr Perincek “had engaged in speech of a historical, legal and political
nature which was part of a heated debate.”73
In such cases, the profile of the respondents to the expression in question is also
of crucial importance. In principle, “[t]he limits of acceptable criticism are
accordingly wider as regards a politician as such than as regards a private
individual.”74 What follows is that, when it comes to criticism of religious or racial
minorities or specific groups in the population, the scope of the protection
afforded to freedom of expression may shrink even more after a careful and
63
"Zana v. Turkey." para. 59
"Purcell and Others v. Ireland."
65
Vereinigung Bildender Kunstler v. Austria, ECtHR, 25 January 2007, Application no. 68354/01
66
The ECtHR explains that poetry is “a form of artistic expression that appeals to only a minority of
readers” ibid.; Karatas v. Turkey, ECtHR, 8 July 1999, Application no. 23168/94 para. 49
67
Eon v. France, ECtHR, 14 March 2013, Application no. 26118/10
68
"Jersild v. Denmark."
69
"Seurot v. France."; "Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden."
70
"Giniewski v. France."
71
Ibid. para 51
72
"Perinçek v. Switzerland."
73
Ibid. para 112
74
"Lingens v. Austria."para 42
64
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holistic examination of the context.75 Yet, in any case, such groups “cannot
reasonably expect to be exempt from all criticism.”76 As the Court explains,
specific groups in the population, such as religious groups, “must tolerate and
accept . . . even the propagation by others of doctrines hostile to their faith.”77
75
İ.A. v. Turkey, ECtHR, 13 September 2005, Application no. 42571/98
"Otto-Preminger Institute v. Austria." para. 47
77
Ibid.
76
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Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
Part II
The Gülen Movement as the Target of Hate
Speech
As there is not a universally accepted definition of what hate speech is,78 Part I
attempted to demonstrate the definition of and legal practice concerning the
concept of hate speech developed by the ECtHR. The approach developed by the
ECtHR in hate speech-related cases, as analyzed in Part I, resembles the definition
of pornography explained by Justice Stewart: “I know it when I see it.” 79
Therefore, in order to see whether expressions of hate speech targeting the
Gülen movement actually exist according to the standards developed by the
ECtHR, this section will first exhibit numerous expressions of Prime Minister
Erdoğan targeting the Gülen movement and then apply the standards developed
by the ECtHR to these expressions to see whether they constitute hate speech.
Expressions by Prime Minister Erdogan targeting the Gülen movement
December 17, 2013, will be long remembered in Turkish politics, as it launched an
unprecedented chain of events. Details of an ongoing graft probe became
public.80 Among other public figures, the sons of three ministers were arrested
that day, and four of the cabinet members were associated with corruption.
Prime Minister Erdoğan remained silent for a day after the graft probe shook the
country. Then, on December 18, 2013, in a press conference, Erdoğan declared
that the graft probe was a "very very dirty operation" aimed at toppling his
government. 81 In his account, this probe was carried out by a gang with
connections abroad.82 He also explained that this gang was acting as a sovereign
being within the structure of the state, with no respect for or compliance with
the hierarchical rules and procedures of that state. In other words, this gang had
already established a state within the state. 83 Soon, the prime minister adopted
the term “parallel state” to define this entity. As he explained:
78
European Court of Human Rights, "Hate Speech" Fact Sheet, July 2013
http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/FS_Hate_speech_ENG.pdf.
79
Concurring opinion of Justice Potter Stewart in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964),
80
"New Details Revealed About Turkey’s Ongoing Graft Probe," Hurriyet Daily News, 18 December
2013. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/new-details-revealed-about-turkeys-ongoing-graft-probe.aspx?pageID=238&nID=59792&NewsCatID=341]
81
"Başbakan Erdoğan'dan Yeni Açıklama," Hürriyet Gazetesi, 18 December 2013.
[http://www.cnnturk.com/turkiye/basbakan-erdogandan-yeni-aciklama]
82
"Power Struggle Racks Erdogan Government in Turkey",
http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/19/world/europe/turkey-graft-probe/.
83
Ece Toksabay Ayla Jean Yackley, "Turkish Prime Minister Faces Biggest Threat of His Rule"
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/20/us-turkey-corruption-idUSBRE9BJ1AI20131220.
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“Those who want to establish a parallel structure alongside the
state, those who have infiltrated the state institutions . . . we will
come into your lairs and we will [destroy] these organizations
within the state.”84
Only days later, one of the advisors of the Prime Minister Erdoğan, also a Member
of Parliament, clarified who actually was referred to by the term “parallel state”:
the Gülen movement.85 Accordingly, as repeated many times by Prime Minister
Erdoğan on many other occasions, members of the Gülen movement had
infiltrated the state and established their own hierarchy as if they were a
sovereign state.
After the graft probe became public, the Gülen movement became the primary
topic in Prime Minister Erdoğan’s speeches. In his view, members of the Gülen
movement are “perverts”,86 “tape editors”,87 and “twitterers.”88 Additionally, he
also stated that those people are “hashashins”89 (a medieval cult of assassins),
“worse than Shiites”, 90 “viruses”, 91 “traitors”, 92 “spies”, 93 “spy rings”, 94 and
members of a terrorist organization.95 In a rally, he also accused the Gülen
movement of blackmailing the president of Turkey:
84
"Investigation Secrecy Lifted as Turkish Government Slams Police for Hiding Corruption
Operation," Hürriyet Daily News, 22 December 2013.
[http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/investigation-secrecy-lifted-as-turkish-government-slamspolice-for-hiding-corruption-operation-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=59953&NewsCatID=341 ]
85
Yalçın Akdogan, "Ellerinde Nur Mu Var, Topuz Mu?," Star Gazetesi, 27 December 2013.
[http://haber.stargazete.com/yazar/ellerinde-nur-mu-var-topuz-mu/yazi-820061]
86
"Başbakan: Bunlar Sapık, Bunlar Kasetçi, Montajcı, Tweetçi!," Radikal Gazetesi, 10 March 2014.
[http://www.radikal.com.tr/politika/basbakan_bunlar_sapik_bunlar_kasetci_montajci_tweetci1180572]
87
Ibid.
88
Ibid.
89
"PM Erdoğan’s Remarks on Hizmet Stir Animosity," Today's Zaman, 24 January 2014.
[http://www.todayszaman.com/news-337584-pm-erdogans-remarks-on-hizmet-stir-animosity.html]
90
"Erdogan on Gülenists: They Are Worse Than Shiites",
http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=5d6_1394749319.
91
"PM Says State Will Fight against ‘Virus’ in Its Midst," Daily Sabah, 11 January 2014.
[http://www.dailysabah.com/nation/2014/01/11/pm-says-state-will-fight-against-virus-in-its-midst]
92
"Erdoğan: Bu Ne Cesaret, Bu Aşağılık Faaliyetin Hesabını Soracağız," Star Gazetesi, 16 February
2014. [http://haber.stargazete.com/politika/erdogan-bu-ne-cesaret-bu-asagilik-faaliyetin-hesabinisoracagiz/haber-844046]
93
"Başbakan’dan Hizmet Hareketi'ne 'Casus' Suçlaması," Zaman Gazetesi, 29 March 2014.
[http://www.zaman.com.tr/politika_basbakandan-hizmet-hareketine-casussuclamasi_2208005.html]
94
"Turkish PM Erdoğan Slams Gülen Movement as ‘Spy Ring Entering the Ruler’s Harem’," Hürriyet
Daily News, 24 March 2014. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-pm-erdogan-slams-gulenmovement-as-spy-ring-entering-the-rulers-harem.aspx?pageID=238&nID=64044&NewsCatID=338]
95
Ibid.
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Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
“They're busy [fighting] the prime minister. Why should they also
be busy with the president now? But they wiretapped him, too.
When it is time, they will release those tapes. These people are
assassins, montage-makers, a gang, an organization that amounts
to a terrorist group”96
Initially, in the discourse he developed against the Gülen movement, Erdoğan
distinguished the executives of this dangerous organization97 from the remaining
members of the “Gülenist organization”, “sincere people”, in his own words,
who reached beyond the continents with the love of service.” 98 He also
advocated, on numerous occasions, a boycott against the Gülen movement. He
additionally explained that the Gülen movement sucked the blood of the nation
like “leeches.” As a matter of fact, there is an important difference between
leeches and the Gülen movement because, as Prime Minister Erdoğan explains,
“[l]eeches are more virtuous: leeches suck dirty blood, while they suck clean
blood…”99
Additionally, Prime Minister Erdoğan also stated in a rally that he is “suspicious of
their [the Gülen movement] faith [in Islam].”100 In his account:
“For them [the Gülen movement] hypocrisy is legitimate, lying is
legitimate, slandering is legitimate, sedition is legitimate. In other
words, every possible means is justifiable [for them] to reach the
goal, to reach the purpose. This is not a religious organization;
this is not a religious community at all. This is a completely
political organization that does everything, including
espionage.”101
Prime Minister Erdoğan seems not only to have denied the Gülen movement a
religious identity, but also appears to have actively encouraged others to do the
same. In a live television broadcast, for example, a journalist attempted to ask a
question Erdoğan while referring to the Gülen movement as a “community” in a
religious sense. However, Erdoğan strongly warned the journalist not to refer to
96
Ibid.
"Erdoğan'dan Gülen Cemaatine: Türkiye Hasımlarının Maşasıdır",
http://www.cnnturk.com/haber/turkiye/erdogandan-gulen-cemaatine-turkiye-hasimlarinin-masasidir
98
Ibid.
99
Ayla Jean Yackley, "Turkish Parliament Votes to Shut Schools Run by Erdogan Rival"
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/03/01/uk-turkey-corruption-idUKBREA2005520140301.
100
"Erdoğan: İnançlarından Şüphe Ediyorum", http://www.yirmidorthaber.com/Dunya/erdoganinanclarindan-suphe-ediyorum/haber-854622.
101
[translated by the author] "Başbakan Erdoğan: "İnternette Yeni Düzenlemeler Yapılacak"",
http://www.cnnturk.com/haber/turkiye/basbakan-erdogan-internette-yeni-duzenlemeler-yapilacak.
97
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them as a “community”, but as an (illegal) organization. 102 After the prime
minister’s intervention, the journalist then used the terms “movement” and
“group.” Yet again, Erdoğan insisted that the journalist call them an (illegal)
organization.103
Applying the standards of the ECtHR: Do Prime Minister Erdogan’s
expressions constitute hate speech?
It should be admitted that, at the very least, it is unusual to hear the abovementioned expressions from a politician in a modern democracy. Hence, they
stand a very good chance of making their way to Strasbourg. However, it should
be noted that the role of the ECtHR is “subsidiary to national systems
safeguarding human rights“.104 According to the principle of subsidiarity, the duty
of protecting human rights first and foremost lies with the states. Once all the
domestic remedies have been exhausted, only then can a human rights violation
be brought to the attention of the ECtHR.105 At this point, a number of civil libel
actions have been brought against Prime Minister Erdoğan by individuals
associated with the Gülen movement.106,107 Currently, no legal proscription aiming
to combat hate speech has been invoked against Prime Minister Erdoğan by state
authorities.
There are, at this stage, two possibilities as to how the designated expressions of
Prime Minister Erdoğan may be heard before the ECtHR. In the first case
scenario, the domestic hate speech safeguards will be enforced at some point
and the designated expression of the prime minister will be sanctioned under
Turkish domestic law. In the second case scenario, this language will not be
treated as hate speech by Turkish authorities and no sanctions will be applied. In
the first scenario, the issue could be brought before the ECtHR by Prime Minister
Erdoğan himself, while in the second, the applications could be lodged by the
victims of hate speech. This nuance is important because in the first case
scenario, the application of Prime Minister Erdoğan to the ECtHR may face the
102
During the program Prime Minister Erdoğan actually used the word “örgüt” (“organization”).
This word has a negative connotation in Turkish and mostly used with reference to illegal criminal
organizations.
103
"Erdoğan and Ak Party Deputies Split over Hate Speech against Hizmet," Today's Zaman, 16
March 2014. [http://www.todayszaman.com/news-342190-erdogan-and-ak-party-deputies-split-overhate-speech-against-hizmet.html]
104
Kudla v. Poland, ECtHR, 26 October 2000, Application no. 30210/96 para. 152
105
Article 35(1) of ECHR states that: “The Court may only deal with the matter after all domestic
remedies have been exhausted, according to the generally recognised rules of international law,
and within a period of six months from the date on which the final decision was taken.”
106
"Erdoğan'a 'Haşhaşi' Davası," Milliyet Gazetesi, 20 January 2014.
[http://siyaset.milliyet.com.tr/erdogan-a-hashasi-davasi/siyaset/detay/1824680/default.htm]
107
There are also a number of private tort cases brought against Prime Minister Erdoğan. However,
these are civil libel cases filed by Fethullah Gülen, himself.
20
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
danger of being rejected with an immediate inadmissibility decision. However, in
the second case scenario the ECtHR would most likely assess the merits of the
application. Nevertheless, in either situation, the essence of the approach of the
ECtHR would remain the same. As case law demonstrates, if the ECtHR receives
any applications regarding the expressions mentioned above, it will focus its
attention on three main aspects to determine whether the language in question
constitutes hate speech: (a) the purpose of the statements; (b) the content of
the expressions; and (c) the context in which the statements were made
The purpose of statements of Prime Minister Erdoğan
The purpose of contributing to live public and/or political discussions108 and
journalistic works aiming to reach a well-informed audience109 can, in the account
of the ECtHR, in some cases justify the use of a harsh language or derogatory
remarks against a particular group. Can Prime Minister Erdoğan be considered as
acting to realize a justifiable, legitimate purpose? Are his expressions actually
aiming only at participation in public and/or political discussions? Or do they only
seek to inform the public?
In an attempt to understand the intentions behind these expressions, some other
expressions of Prime Minister Erdoğan will be helpful. In a speech addressing
members of the AKP Parliament at the Grand National Assembly for the first time
following local elections, Erdoğan stated that “the people [of Turkey] entrusted
them [the ruling party] with the duty to fight against the agents of the Gülen
movement”,110 and on another occasion, he added that he “will clear the state of
those hashashins.”111 Prime Minister Erdoğan also made it crystal clear that,
referring to the Gülen movement, he will show no mercy112 and no “tolerance to
such networks.”113,114
108
See "Giniewski v. France.", "Perinçek v. Switzerland."
See "Jersild v. Denmark."
110
"PM Lauds Poll Results, Slams Gülen," Daily Sabah, 09 April 2014.
[http://www.dailysabah.com/politics/2014/04/08/pm-lauds-poll-results-slams-gulen]
111
"'Cumhurbaşkanımla Görüşüp Değerlendireceğiz'", http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/id/25511389.
112
"Turkish PM to Show ‘No Mercy’ to ‘Group’ Behind Graft Probe," Hürriyet Daily News, 14 January
2014. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-pm-to-show-no-mercy-to-group-behind-graftprobe.aspx?pageID=238&nID=61045&NewsCatID=338]
113
"Full Text: Turkish PM Erdoğan's Post-Election 'Balcony Speech'," Hürriyet Daily News, 31 March
2014. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/full-text-turkish-pm-erdogans-post-election-balconyspeech.aspx?pageID=238&nID=64341&NewsCatID=338]
114114
In all fairness, Prime Minister Erdoğan also specified that process of combing them out will be
carried out “within the law”.(ibid.) However, for what it’s worth, he also declared that Turkey and
Syria were actively in “a state of war”(ibid.) in the same speech, a remark which the Minister of
Foreign Affairs had to correct two days later.("Davutoğlu Clarifies Erdoğan's Syria War Remarks",
http://en.cihan.com.tr/news/Davutoglu-clarifies-Erdogan-s-Syria-war-remarks_4008CHMTM5NDAwOC80.)
109
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Of course, in principle, Prime Minister Erdoğan can always claim the presence of
an intention to start a new public debate or contribute to an already existing one
about the Gülen movement. However, the expressions mentioned above
invalidate such a defense. Additionally, the wording of those expressionsleeches, traitors, viruses, etc. - can hardly be regarded suitable for starting or
contributing to a public debate on a subject concerning public interest in a
democratic society.115 By the same token, asserting an intention to only inform
the general public would also be unconvincing, at the very least.116
One possible ground of defense would be available to Erdoğan at this point. He
could claim that in his speeches he targeted
only specific individuals within the Gülen
The expressions of movement who perpetrated illegal activities,
Prime Minister not the entirety of the movement. However,
Erdoğan mentioned in the prime minister seems to have quite clearly
demonstrated in his speeches that this is not
this study, therefore, at all the case. The live television broadcast
cannot be considered during which he interfered with the journalist’s
to be in pursuit of any use of the term “movement” in describing the
of the legitimate aims Gülen movement, for example, might suffice
that could potentially to explain the point that the entirety of the
Gülen movement was actually targeted. If this
be accepted by the was not the case, why would Erdoğan
ECtHR. advocate a boycott against the educational
institutions established by the Gülen
movement?117 To conclude, the expressions of
Prime Minister Erdoğan mentioned in this study, therefore, cannot be considered
to be in pursuit of any of the legitimate aims that could potentially be accepted
by the ECtHR.
Content of the expressions of Prime Minister Erdoğan
It has long been established that any idea or information of any kind can and
should enjoy the guarantees provided under Article 10 of the ECHR, even if they
are shocking or disturbing. There is no question that the expressions mentioned
in the previous section are shocking and disturbing. However, there is genuinely
more to it, because some of the language incites, spreads, promotes, or justifies
hatred based on intolerance. And the rest is “insulting, holding up to ridicule or
115
Cp. "Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden."
Cp. "Jersild v. Denmark."
117
""Çocuğu Yok, Anlamaz!"," Habertürk Gazetesi, 28 February 2014.
[http://www.haberturk.com/gundem/haber/925497-cocugu-yok-anlamaz-]
116
22
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
slandering specific groups of the population.”118 For these very reasons, these
expressions should, according to case law, be deemed hate speech.
It is true that politicians and journalists, as a necessity of the jobs and duties they
perform in the society, enjoy wider freedom of expression. However, in the
examples above, in order to consider these expressions under the protection of
freedom of speech, this very right has to be accepted as an absolute right, which
is definitely not the case in the theory and practice of human rights law in any
jurisdiction. In the Oberschlick case,119 for example, a journalist was considered to
enjoy wider protection under Article 10 when he called a politician an “idiot” who
explained that Nazi soldiers fought for peace and freedom in World War II and
said people should be grateful to them. The ECtHR concluded that the term
“idiot” was proportionately covering “indignation knowingly aroused”120 by the
politician himself. By way of drawing a resemblance from the Oberschlick case,
one cannot help but wonder what it would take for the Gülen movement to
deserve to be called “leeches”, “viruses”, “hashashins”, etc. if those expressions
were to be justified in Strasbourg.
In this regard, Pavel Ivanov v Russia 121 serves as an appropriate tool for
comparison. Pavel Ivanov, a Russian citizen who is the owner and publisher of a
monthly newspaper with a circulation of 999 copies, authored a series of articles
in which he called for the exclusion of Jews from social life. From his point of
view, the reasons for such a call were more than compelling. First and foremost,
as he asserted, the Jews were nothing but a source of evil in Russia. They were
the root of many problems in the Russian community. Additionally, he continued,
Jews were carrying out a conspiracy against the Russian people; he also ascribed
Fascist ideology to the Jewish people. The ECtHR, at this point, did not hesitate
to conclude that:
Such a general and vehement attack on one ethnic group is in
contradiction with the Convention's underlying values, notably
tolerance, social peace and non-discrimination.122
Hence, the statements of Pavel Ivanov were declared to constitute blatant abuse
of freedom of expression. To get back to the matter at hand, in Turkey, the Gülen
movement has been depicted in only a six-month period as evil, at least by the
virtue of being “worse than Shiites”, among many other accusations, by Prime
Minister Erdoğan, similar to the accusations of Pavel Ivanov that declared the
118
"Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden." para. 55
" Oberschlick v. Austria (No. 2)."
120
Ibid. para 34
121
"Pavel Ivanov v. Russia."
122
Ibid.
119
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Turkey Task Force
Jews to be evil.123 To reiterate, some of the expressions mentioned in the
previous section demonized the Gülen movement and accused it of carrying out a
conspiracy against the Turkish state. The accusations of Mr Ivanov targeting
Jewish people, from a legal standpoint, appear to be completely
indistinguishable from the accusations by the prime minister targeting the Gülen
movement. Additionally, some of Erdoğan’s accusation fall into the category of
statements of fact, such as “terrorist organization” 124 or having “dark
connections with abroad”,125 which would oblige Prime Minister Erdoğan to
prove his accusations. However, up until the publication of this study, no factual
basis has been provided by Erdoğan to support his allegations. A similar
assessment was carried out by the ECtHR when French politician Le Pen declared
Muslims were a threat to the national security of the French. The ECtHR declared
that his unproven allegations were abuse of freedom of expression.126 The rest of
the expressions mentioned in the previous section simply insulted and slandered
the Gülen movement, which is another justified reason for the ECtHR to “favor
combating racist speech in the face of freedom of expression exercised in an
irresponsible manner.”127 Therefore, in light of ECtHR case law, it is quite difficult
for a European human rights lawyer not to deem such expressions hate speech
under Article 17 of the Convention.
Context in which Prime Minister Erdoğan made his statements
Theoretically, context might have bearing on both the purpose of the speaker
and the contents of the statements in question. However, the contents of the
expressions blatantly constitute hate speech, and they are prima facie intended
to defend or spread hatred against the Gülen movement. So in any case, the
ECtHR would pay very little attention, if any, to contextual factors. However, for
the purposes of this study, the circumstances in which the aforementioned
statements were made should also be examined carefully. The analysis of the
contextual factors will only serve to demonstrate the level of vehemence and
seriousness of the situation.
123
Case law reveals that Holocaust denials receive a different treatment than denials of other
historical events. However, unlike case law concerning negationist views, hate speech case law
demonstrate that it does not matter for the ECtHR against which group hatred is incited by
expressions in question. In this regard, North Africans, Muslims, Jewish people, homosexuals have
already received protection against expressions of hate speech in Strasbourg. In this specific case,
there is no apparent reason to deny the Gülen Movement from the status of hate speech victims.
124
"Erdoğan'dan Gülen Cemaatine: Türkiye Hasımlarının Maşasıdır".
125
"Erdoğan'dan Cemaate Çok Ağır Sözler!", http://www.internethaber.com/erdogan-cemaate-cokagir-sozler-666695h.htm.
126
See "Le Pen v. France."
127
"Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden." para.55
24
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
Identity/Status of the person who made the statements in question
By 2014, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had been holding the office of prime minister for
11 years, the second longest term for a prime minister in the history of Turkey. He
is indeed a very successful politician who has won every election in which he
competed in the last two decades. He and his party drew 45% of the votes at local
elections on March 30, 2014.128 Erdoğan has so much a popularity and influence
that he can even organize rallies in other countries.129 In addition to his popularity
among Turkish people, his worldwide influence cannot be underestimated.130
Dissemination, target audience and impact of the expressions in question
Some of the speeches of Prime Minister Erdoğan that are subject to examination
in this study were actually broadcast live by more than a dozen national television
channels. This fact alone is sufficient to give an outsider an idea of the extent of
coverage given to the expressions of Erdoğan
by the media. Based on such a widespread
Some of the speeches of dissemination, it is only fair to conclude that
Prime Minister the target audience was simply the general
anyone and everyone,
Erdoğan that are public, which includes
131
less knowledgeable
subject to examination including children and
members of the public.132 At this point, it is hard
in this study were to imagine anyone, even in the remotest
actually broadcast live corners of rural Turkey, from school children to
by more than a dozen pensioners, who is unaware of and uninformed
national television about the allegations and accusations of Prime
Minister Erdoğan regarding the Gülen
channels. movement.
As a matter of fact, far-reaching dissemination
of the expressions in question does not actually make any difference in the
assessment of these expressions. This is because the ECtHR is of the opinion that
the dissemination of hate speech to a smaller or larger audience is
irrelevant.133 For the Court, hate speech is hate speech no matter how many
128
Hümeyra Pamuk; Nick Tattersall, "Erdogan Targets Enemies after Poll Triumph"
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/31/us-turkey-election-idUSBREA2R12X20140331.
129
Emre Peker; Harriet Torry, "Turkey Leader Rallies Voters—in Germany"
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304626804579362562423638286.
130
In 2010, for example, the Time Magazine declared him to be amongst the 100 most influential
people of the world. See: "The 2010 Time 100",
http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1984685,00.html.. Similarly,
according the annual periodical the Muslim 500, he is the sixth most influential person in the
Muslim world in 2013/2014 See: "The Top 50", http://themuslim500.com/2013-2/the-top-50.
131
Cp. "Seurot v. France."; "Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden."
132
Cp. "Féret v. Belgium."
133
" Witzsch v. Germany."
25
Turkey Task Force
people hear it. The stickers on the rear window of Mr Norwood constituted no
less hate speech than the expressions of Le Pen, just because the stickers could
be seen by many fewer people than could hear Mr Le Pen’s statements.134
Therefore, it should be admitted that such a wide dissemination only serves to
aggravate the disastrous nature of the expressions in question.
By the same token, it would be unreasonable to conclude that such widely
disseminated expressions by one of the most eminent figures in the history of
Turkish politics would have no impact on society. 135 Only after the Gülen
movement became the target of such allegations and insults did some practical
consequences occur. For example, teachers at schools established by the Gülen
movement were beaten.136 In another case, a demonstration with a sprinkle of
violence was held by the supporters/members of the ruling party in front of the
premises of a television station close to the Gülen movement.137 Yet again, linking
these expressions to acts of violence is unnecessary as far as ECtHR case law is
concerned. In Norwood, for instance, the ECtHR did not need to establish any
acts of violence committed against the Muslim population as a result of posters
displaying the phrase “Islam out of Britain” to conclude that such posters
constituted hate speech . Similarly, in the Féret,138 Le Pen,139 Ivanov,140 Seurot141
cases, the ECtHR did not inquire into the existence of violence at all to declare
that those expressions already constituted hate speech. Likewise, the existence
of violent acts which are causally linked to the expressions examined in this study
are not at all necessary. However, to demonstrate the vehemence of the
situation, it is important to keep in mind the fact that some acts of violence took
place that can reasonably be linked to the expressions in question.
Contribution to a public and/or political debate
It is undeniable that, beginning in the last quarter of 2013, numerous public and
political debates about the Gülen movement have frequently been the subject of
general public attention. So much so that, at some point, the Gülen movement
134
In fact Mr Norwood claimed that his posters had not any possibility of having an effect of any
sort inciting violence or hatred as he lived in “a rural area not greatly afflicted by racial or religious
tension and there was no evidence that a single Muslim had seen the poster” "Norwood v. The
United Kingdom." Yet, the ECtHR did hesitate to conclude existence of hate speech.
135
Cp. "Zana v. Turkey."
136
Orhan Yıldırım, "Korkulan Oldu, Nefret Söylemi Erzurum’da Şiddete Dönüştü," Zaman Gazetesi, 9
March 2014. [http://www.zaman.com.tr/gundem_korkulan-oldu-nefret-soylemi-erzurumda-siddetedonustu_2203926.html]
137
"Provokatörler Seçim Arabasıyla Kapıya Dayandı," Zaman Gazetesi, 16 March 2014.
[http://www.zaman.com.tr/gundem_provokatorler-secim-arabasiyla-kapiya-dayandi_2205276.html]
138
"Féret v. Belgium."
139
"Le Pen v. France."
140
"Pavel Ivanov v. Russia."
141
"Seurot v. France."
26
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
became the leading topic for political debates. It is almost impossible to think of a
politician, columnist or political commentator who has not expressed an opinion
on the Gülen movement. However, the great majority of the people, including
politicians and journalists, have done so without inciting hatred or slandering the
movement. As has already been explained, expressions examined in this study
contain a selection of words that can hardly be considered suitable for a
contribution to public and political debates. As case law demonstrates, if the
contents of expressions are distinguishable as prima facie hate speech at first
sight, it does not really matter if the expressions in question actually relate to a
live public or political debate. The issue of immigration, for example, has been a
matter of heated public and political debates for decades in Europe. Yet,
contribution to public and political debates on the issue of immigration and the
increasing presence of Islam in Europe was not considered by the ECtHR to be a
justification for the expressions in question in cases such as Le Pen 142 and
Norwood.143
The profile of the people who are targets of the statements in question
The target of the above-mentioned expressions in this study is the Gülen
movement. Some academics define it as “a civil faith-based movement”,144 “a
faith-based movement”,145 “faith-inspired civil society movement”,146 “the largest
faith-based movement in Turkey”, 147 or “the largest religious movement in
Turkey.” 148 Similarly, several years ago Turkish law enforcement agencies
categorized it as a religious group.149 Some other academics, on the other hand,
while acknowledging its religious identity, describe it as a threat to Western
civilization, for example by calling it “Islam's Trojan Horse.”150 The important
142
"Le Pen v. France."
"Norwood v. The United Kingdom."
144
Ian Williams, "A Movement in Counter-Point: The Significance of the Fethullah Gulen Movement
as a Global Educational and Inter-Religious Model of Social and Religious Change-a Uk Perspective"
(paper presented at the Proceedings of the conference Islam in the age of global challenges:
Alternative Perspectives of the Gulen Movement, November, 2007). ;
145
John L Esposito and Ihsan Yilmaz, "Transnational Muslim Faith-Based Peacebuilding: Initiatives of
the Gülen Movement," European Journal of Economic and Political Studies 3(2010).
146
“It evolved from a faith-based community (“cemaat”) into a faith-inspired civil society
movement” Gürkan Çelik, The Gülen Movement : Building Social Cohesion through Dialogue and
Education(Delft: Eburon, 2010). Page 50 ;
147
Ebaugh, The Gülen Movement. Page 44
148
Graham E. Fuller, The New Turkish Republic : Turkey as a Pivotal State in the Muslim
World(Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2008).
149
Orhan Erdemli, Today's Zaman, 23 March 2014 Is Hizmet being subjected to genocide?
[https://www.todayszaman.com/news-342832-is-hizmet-being-subjected-to-genocideby-orhanerdemli-.html]
150
Paul Stenhouse, "Islam's Trojan Horse?: Turkish Nationalism and the Nakshibendi Sufi Order,"
Quadrant 51, no. 12 (2007). For a comprehensive list of negative descriptions of the Gülen
143
27
Turkey Task Force
point to be highlighted here is that the Gülen movement has a religious or faithrelated identity. However, at this point, it needs to be noted that Prime Minister
Erdoğan declared that it is not a religious movement but a political group.151
It is true that members of the Gülen movement have raised their voices about
subjects of political debates. For example, the last time they got involved in
political debates was when shutting down private preparatory schools became a
heated subject of politics. However, it seems inadequate to label a movement as
a political group and neglect its religious character simply because it raises, be it
frequently or rarely, concerns about political issues. On those grounds, if one is to
assume that the Gülen movement is a political group, then the Church of England
also has to be assumed to be a political organization, not a religious one. This is
because the Church of England defends the right of Christians to intervene in
politics.152 It follows is that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the
Church of England, must be considered a political rather than religious leader,
since as he frequently gets involved in political issues such as energy costs. 153
Hence, just because it is politically active, it is not actually possible to deny that
the Gülen movement has a religious identity. At the end of the day, there is no
doubt that, be it a religious or political, one very specific and tangible group of
people has become the target of expressions of hate speech. At this stage,
labelling it as a political group cannot suffice to justify using expressions of hate
speech.154
Assessment
Based on this detailed examination, it would only be fair to conclude that the
expressions of Prime Minister Erdoğan mentioned in this study constitute prima
facie hate speech. Of course, neither the Gülen movement nor any other group in
the society is exempt from criticism. However, it has to be admitted that there is
Movement see: Dogan Koç, Strategic Defamation of Fethullah Gülen : English Vs. Turkish(Lanham,
Md.: University Press of America, Inc., 2012).
151
"Başbakan Erdoğan: "İnternette Yeni Düzenlemeler Yapılacak"".
152
Martha Linden, "Archbishop of Canterbury: I'm Told to Stick to God When I Intervene in Politics,"
The Independent, 13 November 2013. [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/homenews/archbishop-of-canterbury-im-told-to-stick-to-god-when-i-intervene-in-politics-8937233.html]
153
Paul Cahalan Jonathan Petre, "Archbishop Damns Energy Price Hikes in Controversial Attack:
'Firms Must Show Generosity...Not Just Maximise Their Profits'," Daily Mail, 19 October 2013.
[http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2467854/Archbishop-Justin-Welby-damns-energy-pricehikes-controversial-attack-Firms-generosity--j]
154
It needs to be noted that a long lived suspicion exists in all parts of the Turkish society against
the Gülen Movement, for example see: "Profile: Fethullah Gulen's Hizmet Movement",
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13503361. The founder of the movement, Fethullah Gülen, has
actually been brought before the judiciary for these accusations and acquitted. Hence, from a legal
perspective, there is no alternative but to treat such opinions only as suspicions and rumors. As a
matter of fact, to an extent, most of the hate speech examples examined in this study seem to be
nothing but only amplified versions of these suspicions and rumors.
28
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
a huge gap between the expressions examined in this study and acceptable
criticism in a democratic society. For this very reason, in order to comply with
their obligations under the ECHR, Turkish national authorities must make sure
that the guarantees incorporated in Turkish domestic law with the purpose of
combatting hate speech are effectively implemented against Prime Minister
Erdoğan. Therefore, these expressions should be sanctioned under Turkish
domestic law. If not, when an application regarding any of these expressions hits
the registry of the ECtHR, the ECtHR would certainly not hesitate to declare these
expressions as hate speech, in other words, abuse of freedom of expression.
However, with regards to the expressions of the leading figures in the ruling
party, especially those of Prime Minister Erdoğan, there is a good chance that the
possible judgment of the ECtHR might be different from those already existing in
case law. This is mainly because the existing definition and practice of case law
concerning hate speech is simply not adequate to cover the situation created by
the remarks of Prime Minister Erdoğan in Turkey, due to the plain fact that the
trouble existing in Turkey moves beyond just hate speech.
29
Turkey Task Force
Part III
Beyond Hate Speech
“Our tragic experience in the last century demonstrates that
racist and extremist opinions can bring much more harm than
restrictions on freedom of expression. Statistics on hate crimes
show that hate propaganda always inflicts harm, be it immediate
or potential. It is not necessary to wait until hate speech becomes
a real and imminent danger for democratic society.”155
Judge Yudkivska, in her concurring opinion in the Vejdeland judgment, touches
upon a key feature of hate speech cases in Strasbourg jurisprudence. In no case
in which the ECtHR reached a verdict that the expressions in question constituted
hate speech were the victims in any real and present danger. In these cases,
people who performed hate speech tried to incite and promote hatred against a
particular group, but none of them had the means to achieve their aims. Of
course, they could individually seek recourse to violent acts, but their aims were
primarily to create mass hatred and mass reactions towards their target groups.
In Ivanov v Russia,156 for example, Mr Ivanov did not have any chance of excluding
Jewish people from Russian society. He could only disseminate his ideas to a
limited number of people, as only 999 copies of his newspaper were circulated. In
Norwood v Great Britain157 and Seurot v France,158 the applicants, although clearly
expressing that they were disturbed by the presence of, respectively, Muslims
and North Africans in their countries, chasing Muslims and North Africans out of
their counties was not actually a possibility. In fact, Mr Norwood was able to
spread his message only to the people who could physically see his car’s rear
window, while Mr Seurot disseminated his views in a school bulletin. In Vejdeland
v Sweeden, 159 homosexuals were not under any real threat, created by the
distribution of 100 leaflets in a high school. Although these hate speech examples
had the potential to stir things up in relatively small circles, they did not pose any
real threat to the entirety of the groups targeted by these expressions of hate
speech.
In Feret v Belgium160 and Le Pen v France,161 however, things were a little different
because the perpetrators of the hate speech were politicians. Hence, by
definition, they were heard by much larger groups. This was especially true in Le
155
Concurring of opinion of Judge Ganna Yudkivska in "Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden." para. 11
"Pavel Ivanov v. Russia."
157
"Norwood v. The United Kingdom."
158
"Seurot v. France."
159
"Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden."
160
"Féret v. Belgium."
161
"Le Pen v. France."
156
30
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
Pen v France, because Mr Jean-Marie Le Pen was a very active and influential
figure in French politics. As the chairman of the French National Front party he
had competed for presidency several times. In 2002 and 2007, he gained the
support of, respectively, 18% and 10% of the French electorate. Therefore, when
he made his anti-Muslim remarks in 2003, his message had the potential to reach
a majority of the French electorate. Judging by the general support and sympathy
he received given from the general public, the ECtHR rightfully concluded that he
was “certainly capable of giving a negative image, and even disturbing, the
‘Muslim community’ as a whole.”162
On the other hand, none of the perpetrators in the hate speech cases heard by
the ECtHR had the opportunity to utilize state powers to enhance and realize the
contents of their messages. Even Le Pen, the
most influential perpetrator of hate speech in
If the expressions of ECtHR case law, did not have the luxury of
Prime Minister utilizing any governmental powers to realize
Erdoğan became the contents of his speech. Let alone being
supported by the state, he was
subject to an somehow
actually sanctioned by state authorities for
application to the adopting hate speech. It should be noted that
ECtHR, a government all the hate speech-related applications
would, for the first time brought before the ECtHR concerned either a
an expression
in the history of the claim that the state sanctioned
163
which was not hate speech or the state did
ECtHR, be accused of not sanction expressions of hate speech.164
actually perpetrating Until mid-2014, no application has ever been
hate speech per se. received by the ECtHR which complained that
a particular state has actually perpetrated hate
speech.
However, if the expressions of Prime Minister Erdoğan became subject to an
application to the ECtHR, a government would, for the first time in the history of
the ECtHR, be accused of actually perpetrating hate speech per se. And such an
application is bound to be differentiated from the rest of existing hate speech
case law for two reasons. The first reason is that the hate speech discourse
adopted by Prime Minister Erdoğan has actually achieved the production a
flagrant mass hatred towards the Gülen movement. Secondly, Prime Minister
Erdoğan definitely has all the powers of the state at his disposal to realize the
contents of the discourse of his hate speech, as he has already openly expressed.
162
Ibid.
"Pavel Ivanov v. Russia."
164
Aksu v. Turkey, ECtHR, 27 July 2010, Applications nos. 4149/04 and 41029/04
163
31
Turkey Task Force
Mass hatred
Being exposed to hate speech is already a sufficiently negative and unwanted
experience. Even so, it is not comparable to the case of being subject to hate
speech by the prime minister of one’s country, which categorically inflicts much
worse consequences. As a matter of fact, the dire consequences suffered, at this
point, escalate to a whole different level if the name of the country is Turkey and
the name of the prime minister is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Such an escalation is
merely a direct consequence of circumstances in Turkey, the success of Prime
Minister Erdoğan’s political career, and support given to him by the people of
Turkey.
Even in his early career, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received unprecedented attention
and support from the Turkish people. When he was removed from the mayoralty
of Istanbul by a court decision and imprisoned for reciting a poem at a rally, he
received a myriad of support letters in prison.165 His kindness in responding to
each and every one of those letters in his own handwriting did nothing but
strengthen his popularity. He is one of the very few politicians, if there are any
others at all, who recorded an album containing his recitation of several poems,
which sold more than a million copies.166 Such sympathy and support from the
public brought him to victory in the 2002 election, which was held after an
economic crisis. Since then he has become the long-sought leader of the
conservative majority of Turkey, and roughly half of the population has not
withheld its support from him. After 2002, he consolidated his popular support
and won five more elections and two referendums. Not long after he won his first
general election victory, partly due to his religious sensitivities, he became a
popular and important political figure for Muslims worldwide.
Such a remarkable political career and immense popular support, however, can
only render the expressions examined above all the more dangerous. It would be
incomprehensibly illogical to assume that Erdoğan’s expressions of hate speech
would have no consequences or echo in society, especially when they are so
widely disseminated. Starting in October 2013, Prime Minister Erdoğan had
already very clearly distanced himself from the Gülen movement due to the
dispute about shutting down private preparatory schools. However, when he
publicly accused the Gülen movement of treason and attempting to topple his
government in the second half of December 2013, millions plainly supported him
in his struggle with the Gülen movement, as the latest election results show.
When he accused the Gülen movement of treason at dozens of rallies, tens of
165
"Hapisteyken Mektup Yazmıştı," Sabah Gazetesi, 20 October 2010.
[http://www.sabah.com.tr/Gundem/2010/10/20/erdogan_hapisteyken_mektup_yazmisti]
166
"Erdoğan Şiir Albümü Çıkaracak," Yeni Şafak Gazetesi, 16 February 2010.
[http://yenisafak.com.tr/Aktuel/?i=241909]
32
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
thousands of people applauded him and booed the “traitors.” Millions watched,
heard and read his expressions through the media and hundreds of thousands of
people, maybe even millions, visibly demonstrated their support for Erdoğan in
his fight against the Gülen movement through different types of social media.
Just on Twitter, for example, millions of tweets were posted repeating and
adding to his expressions of hate speech. To do this topic justice, a detailed
illustration of the support he found in Turkish society should be provided,
starting with the statements of leading figures in the AKP.
Expressions of other leading figures of the ruling party
Zafer Çağlayan, one of the former cabinet members accused of corruption, made
a statement quite similar to that of a week before by Prime Minister Erdoğan that
depicted the Gülen movement as “worse than Shiites.” Çağlayan said, “I would
understand if a Jew, an atheist, a Zoroastrian would do all these things to us.
Shame on them, if these things are done by those who claim to be Muslim. How
can a Muslim do this?”167 Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç claimed that the
Gülen movement dared to bluntly threaten and blackmail Prime Minister Erdoğan
face-to-face in his office.168 On another occasion, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ahmet Davutoğlu, after a recording of a secret meeting of state officials leaked
to the internet, immediately blamed the Gülen movement for secretly taping the
meeting.169 It was also striking that Mr Davutoğlu gave voice to this accusation in
a local elections rally during which the leader of the Gülen movement was
symbolized with a jacket, in scarecrow style, with many accusations fastened to
it.170 Minister of Internal Affairs Efgan Ala accused the Gülen movement of
making huge profits off the graft probe at the expense of the general public. He
claimed that the Gülen movement had bought up U.S. dollars from the market
only a few days before the police raids took place on December 17, at a time
when the price of the dollar had not peaked, and made a $2 billion profit.171 He
also added, to make his claim more convincing, that his accusation was based on
solid evidence.172 In the aftermath of these claims, no one was charged for
threatening and blackmailing Prime Minister Erdoğan; Davutoğlu admitted that
167
"Çağlayan: I Would Understand If Jews, Atheists Were Behind Graft Probe," Today's Zaman, 9
March 2014. [http://www.todayszaman.com/news-341557-caglayan-i-would-understand-if-jewsatheists-were-behind-graft-probe.html]
168
"Who Threatened Erdoğan?," Today's Zaman, 5 March 2014.
[http://www.todayszaman.com/news-341192-who-threatened-erdogan.html]
169
"Davutoğlu Meydan Okudu," Sabah Gazetesi, 28 March 2014.
[http://www.sabah.com.tr/Gundem/2014/03/28/davutoglu-meydan-okudu]
170
"Konya'da Öyle Bir Gülen Ceketi Ortaya Çıktı Ki...", http://www.internethaber.com/konyada-oylebir-gulen-ceketi-ortaya-cikti-ki...-654438h.htm.
171
"Gov't Attempts Vigilantism to Sink a Private Bank," Today's Zaman, 19 January 2014.
[http://www.todayszaman.com/news-336961-govt-attempts-vigilantism-to-sink-a-private-bank.html]
172
"Efkan Ala: Piyasada Dolarları Kim Topladı," Yeni Şafak Gazetesi, 29 December 2013.
[http://yenisafak.com.tr/politika-haber/efkan-ala-piyasada-dolarlari-kim-topladi-29.12.2013-598380]
33
Turkey Task Force
his claim was nothing but his personal opinion.173 The Central Bank of Turkey
refuted the claims of the Minister of Interior Affairs. 174 Even so, at the end of the
day, a clear image of the Gülen movement was inscribed in the perception of the
society: They are sinister and dangerous. Depiction of such a malicious image of
the Gülen movement by the prime minister and other ministers paved the way for
members of the AKP to increase the level of accusation leveled against the Gülen
movement. A member of the executive board of the AKP declared that the lives
of the people of the Gülen movement should be turned into a living hell.175
Expressions of media and journalists
Unsurprisingly, such harsh expressions from the prime minister and other
influential figures in the AKP found immediate support from the media. As a
matter of fact, in some cases, the media was literally obliged to adopt this
offensive language against the Gülen movement.176 Since December 17, 2013,
news items slandering the Gülen movement have become a daily routine for part
of the Turkish press.177 The media reported that the Gülen movement had a long
list of immoral and illegal activities. One news item reported that, on the orders
of Fethullah Gülen, followers of the Gülen movement were forced to pray to God
that Prime Minister Erdoğan would drop dead.178 It was reported that this ritual
was also obligatory for innocent young students who were attending schools
established by the Gülen movement in Saudi Arabia.179This information was
dubious, to say the least, since in fact no schools had been established by the
173
"Fm Davutoğlu Tones Down Allegations over Leaked Syria Audio," Today's Zaman, 18 April 2014.
[http://www.todayszaman.com/news-345551-fm-davutoglu-tones-down-allegations-over-leakedsyria-audio.html]
174
"Central Bank Data Disprove Interior Minister's Rigging Claims," Today's Zaman, 5 January 2014.
[http://www.todayszaman.com/news-335807-central-bank-data-disprove-interior-ministers-riggingclaims.html]
175
"Ak Party Politician Sparks Hatred against Hizmet Movement," Today's Zaman, 15 April 2014.
[http://www.todayszaman.com/news-344784-ak-party-politician-sparks-hatred-against-hizmetmovement.html]
176
See supra note 103
177
Audio-visual media, at this stage, played a very important and influential role. However, due to
the extremely time consuming nature of tracking and examining each and every broadcast, this
study focuses its attention to print media. The combined daily circulation of seven pro-government
national newspapers- Sabah Gazetesi, Star Gazetesi, Türkiye Gazetesi, YeniŞafak Gazetesi, Takvim
Gazetesi, Akşam Gazetesi, Yeni Akit Gazetesi- news items and columns of which are examined in
this study exceeds over 1.000.000 in April 2014. For exact circulation numbers of each newspaper
see: "İstanbul, Nisan 2014 Tiraj Raporu", http://www.bik.gov.tr/istanbul/nisan-2014-tiraj-raporu/.
To note the seriousness of the situation, the combined number of negative news items targeting
the Gülen Movement published by these seven newspapers is 232 only between April 1 2014 and
June 1 2014.
178
"Beddua out Deaddua In!," Takvim Gazetesi, 13 February 20104.
[http://www.takvim.com.tr/Guncel/2014/02/13/beddua-out-deaddua-in]
179
Murat Kelkitlioğlu, "‘Paralel Yapı‘Nın Dinleme Ağı," Akşam Gazetesi, 12 February 2014.
[http://www.aksam.com.tr/yazarlar/murat-kelkitlioglu/paralel-yapinin-dinleme-agi/haber-284345]
34
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
Gülen movement in Saudi Arabia.180 Among many other allegations, the media
accused the Gülen movement of blackmailing university students by using
inappropriate photos;181 recording and leaking sex tapes featuring several Turkish
parliament members;182 establishing a highly secret espionage system formed
only by janitors; 183 wiretapping all the communications in Turkey from an
underwater base that could accommodate 60 people;184 establishing a secret
terrorist organization, called “Ötüken”;185 and being involved in the coup d’état
that toppled the Morsi government in Egypt.186
Since December 17,
2013, news items
slandering the Gülen
movement have
become a daily routine
for part of the Turkish
press.
Only a very small fraction of the columnists
who wrote in pro-government media during
this period displayed any kind of reaction to
the speeches made by the government187 or to
the news items. 188 Instead, many of them
joined the choir against the Gülen movement.
As a matter of fact, devotion and allegiance to
the government and Prime Minister Erdoğan
by a number of journalists reached such a level
that some happily contended that they were
not journalists, but Tayyibists (devoted supporters of Prime Minister Erdoğan).189
Many columnists also adopted an aggressive tone that closely resembled that of
the government in the fight against the Gülen movement, and directed a variety
of insults and accusations toward the movement. To begin with, for some the
180
"'Başbakan'ın Ölmesi Için Beddua' Iddiası Alçaklıktır," Zaman Gazetesi, 14 February 2014.
[http://www.zaman.com.tr/medya_basbakanin-olmesi-icin-beddua-iddiasi-alcakliktir_2199459.html]
181
Mehmet Özmen, "‘Uygunsuz Fotoğrafları Şantaj Için Kullanıyorlar’," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 21 March
2014. [http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/roportaj/uygunsuz-fotograflari-santaj-icin-kullaniyorlar-67.html]
182
"Mhp’ye Paralel Komplo! İhsan Barutçu Star'a Konuştu," Star Gazetesi, 21 February 2014.
[http://haber.stargazete.com/politika/mhpye-paralel-komplo-ihsan-barutcu-stara-konustu/haber846276]
183
"Paralel Istihbarat Kapıcılardan Alındı," Akşam Gazetesi, 8 April 2014.
[http://www.aksam.com.tr/guncel/paralel-istihbarat-kapicilardan-alindi/haber-298150]
184
Abdurrahman Erzurum, "Dinleme Olayı Ile Ilgili Skandal Iddia! Deniz Altından Dinleniyoruz"
http://www.ajanshaber.com/dinleme-olayi-ile-ilgili-skandal-iddia-deniz-altindan-dinleniyoruzhaberi/52362.
185
"Suikastlarda Paralel Izi Var," Akşam Gazetesi, 14 April 2014.
[http://www.aksam.com.tr/siyaset/suikastlarda-paralel-izi-var/haber-299585]
186
"Mısır Darbesinde Derin Örgüt Izleri," Akşam Gazetesi, 22 April 2014.
[http://www.aksam.com.tr/guncel/misir-darbesinde-derin-orgut-izleri/haber-301744]
187
Sibel Eraslan, "Rahmet Günlerinde Nedir Bu Intikam Çağrısı?," Star Gazetesi, 18 April 2014.
[http://haber.stargazete.com/yazar/rahmet-gunlerinde-nedir-bu-intikam-cagrisi/yazi-871512]
188
"Akşam Gazetesinde 'Ötüken' Istifası," Radikal Gazetesi, 14 April 2014.
[http://www.radikal.com.tr/turkiye/aksam_gazetesinden_otuken_istifasi-1186537]
189
Hakan Albayrak, "Tayyipçi Olduğumu Zaten Ilan Etmemiş Miydim?," Star Gazetesi, 22 March 2014.
[http://haber.stargazete.com/yazar/tayyipci-oldugumu-zaten-ilan-etmemis-miydim/yazi-858964]
35
Turkey Task Force
Gülen movement is just a puppet of international actors,190 although the answer
to the question of who these international actors are varies from one journalist
to another. Columnists claimed that a variety of entities -- The Vatican,191 the
United States,192 the European Union,193 Israel,194 Jewish lobbies,195 neo-cons,196
international Zionism,197 the Iraq-Damascus Islamic State,198 MOSSAD,199 MI5,200
the CIA, 201 the FBI, 202 the Moon Cult, 203 the Freemasons, 204 the Rockefeller
family,205 and the Sephardi chief rabbis of Israel206 -- are either employers or
partners of the Gülen movement. Members of the Gülen movement were
190
Emin Pazarcı, "Cemaat’in Boyunu Aşar Bu Iş," Akşam Gazetesi, 27 December 2013.
[http://www.aksam.com.tr/yazarlar/emin-pazarci/cemaatin-boyunu-asar-bu-is/haber-272142]
191
This article was written even before Prime Minister Erdoğan publicly targeted the Gülen
Movement. Mehtap Yılmaz, "Gülen Cemaati- (İslami+İnsani)=Gülenizm!," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 28
November 2013. [http://www.habervaktim.com/yazar/62436/gulen-cemaatiislamiinsanigulenizm.html]
192
Hasan Karakaya, "Nerede İsrail, Orada Cemaat... Bunlar “Tesadüf”(!) Mü?," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 23
December 2013. [http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/yazarlar/hasan-karakaya/nerede-israil-orada-cemaatbunlar-tesaduf-mu-4138.html]; Abdurrahman Dilipak, "Amerika’nın Şemsiyesi Altında
Gölgelenirken," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 28 January 2014.
[http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/yazarlar/abdurrahman-dilipak/amerikanin-semsiyesi-altindagolgelenirken-4624.html]
193
"Saflar Netleşirken," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 17 January 2014.
[http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/yazarlar/abdurrahman-dilipak/saflar-netlesirken-4476.html]
194
Abdülkadir Selvi, "Hocaefendi'nin Wall Street Journal Tercihi Kime Mesaj?," Yeni Şafak Gazetesi,
24 January 2014. [http://yenisafak.com.tr/yazarlar/AbdulkadirSelvi/hocaefendinin-wall-street-journaltercihi-kime-mesaj/49969]
195
Mehtap Yılmaz, "Bankasya Fedaileri!," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 5 February 2014.
[http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/yazarlar/mehtap-yilmaz/bankasya-fedaileri-4731.html]
196
Prof. Dr. Mazhar Bağlı, "Bir Istihbarat Örgütü Olarak Cemaat," Yeni Şafak Gazetesi, 15 January
2014. [http://yenisafak.com.tr:999/yorum-haber/bir-istihbarat-orgutu-olarak-cemaat-16.01.2014607800]
197
Ahmet Varol, "Baronlar Balon Çıktı," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 3 April 2014.
[http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/yazarlar/ahmet-varol/baronlar-balon-cikti-5488.html]
198
Hakan Albayrak, "Cemaat, Ümmete Saldırıyor!," Star Gazetesi, 11 January 2014.
[http://haber.stargazete.com/yazar/cemaat-ummete-saldiriyor/yazi-828127]
199
Nusret Çiçek, "Zaman Ve Sermaye," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 13 March 2014.
[http://www.habervaktim.com/yazar/64103/zaman-ve-sermaye.html]
200
Abdurrahman Dilipak, "Cemaat Yanlış Yapıyor!," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 19 December 2013.
[http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/yazarlar/abdurrahman-dilipak/cemaat-yanlis-yapiyor-4081.html]
201
Ergün Diler, "Gizli Gerçek," Takvim Gazetesi, 17 March 2014.
[http://www.takvim.com.tr/Yazarlar/ergundiler/2014/03/17/gizli-gercek]
202
It needs to be noted that this is a news item, not a column. "Fbi-Gülen Örgütü Ortaklığı," Takvim
Gazetesi, 10 April 2014. [http://www.takvim.com.tr/Guncel/2014/04/10/fbigulen-orgutu-ortakligi]
203
Hasan Karakaya, "Cfr’den, Moon’a... Fethullah Gülen’in Esrarengiz Ilişkileri!," Yeni Şafak Gazetesi,
1 January 2014. [http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/yazarlar/hasan-karakaya/cfrden-moona-fethullahgulenin-esrarengiz-iliskileri-4259.html]
204
Ergün Diler, "Paralel Kim!," Takvim Gazetesi, 18 March 2014.
[http://www.takvim.com.tr/Siyaset/2014/03/18/paralel-kim]
205
"Gülen'in Seçimi," Takvim Gazetesi, 12 March 2014.
[http://www.takvim.com.tr/Siyaset/2014/03/12/gulenin-secimi]
206
"Görüşme," Takvim Gazetesi, 20 March 2014.
[http://www.takvim.com.tr/Siyaset/2014/03/20/gorusme]
36
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
declared to be pornsters,207 sneaky,208 putschists,209 tape editors,210 companions
of Israel,211 rebelling against the Turkish state in the name of Israel,212 a foreign
threat,213 a threat to national security,214 hashashins,215 worse than hashashins,216
perpetrators of the Dink murder,217 bandits,218 snakes,219 parasitic ivy,220 and the
people who altered the rules of Islam.221 The Gülen movement was equated with
an illegal criminal organization, 222 a gang, 223 a junta, 224 and an intelligence
organization.225 It was also argued that this movement was the sole perpetrator
of all the illegal phone tapings226 that had recently taken place in Turkey, as they
had infiltrated to the very depths of a GSM company.227 Interestingly, members of
the Gülen movement who are actually university students were caught red207
Hakan Albayrak, "Pornocular," Star Gazetesi, 19 December 2013.
[http://haber.stargazete.com/yazar/pornocular/yazi-818082]
208
Emin Pazarcı, "Paralel, Sinsi Ve Kaypak," Akşam Gazetesi, 26 January 2014.
[http://www.aksam.com.tr/yazarlar/emin-pazarci/paralel-sinsi-ve-kaypak/haber-279753]
209
Mustafa Karaalioğlu, "O Rektörün Ve O Grubun Trajedisi," Star Gazetesi, 16 April 2014.
[http://haber.stargazete.com/yazar/o-rektorun-ve-o-grubun-trajedisi/yazi-870362]
210
Ibid.
211
Ibid.
212
Hakan Albayrak, "İsrail Adına Kendi Hükümetine Başkaldıranlar," Star Gazetesi, 21 December 2013.
[http://haber.stargazete.com/yazar/israil-adina-kendi-hukumetine-baskaldiranlar/yazi-819034]
213
İbrahim Karagül, "Cemaat Önce Dış Güç Oldu, Şimdi De Dış Tehdit Oluyor," Yeni Şafak Gazetesi, 6
February 2014. [http://yenisafak.com.tr/yazarlar/IbrahimKaragul/cemaat-once-dis-guc-oldu-simdi-dedis-tehdit-oluyor/50179]
214
Kurtuluş Tayiz, "Umutsuz Bir Savaş..." Akşam Gazetesi, 13 March 2014.
[http://www.aksam.com.tr/yazarlar/kurtulus-tayiz/umutsuz-bir-savas/haber-291960]
215
Cem Küçük, "Haşhaşilerle Mücadele Yeni Başlıyor!," Yeni Şafak Gazetesi, 16 January 2014.
[http://yenisafak.com.tr/yazarlar/CemKucuk/hashasilerle-mucadele-yeni-basliyor/48710]
216
Ibid.
217
Hilal Kaplan, "Dink Cinayetinde Paralel Kuşkular," Yeni Şafak Gazetesi, 24 January 2014.
[http://yenisafak.com.tr/yazarlar/HilalKaplan/dink-cinayetinde-paralel-kuskular/4997]
218
Hasan Karakaya, "Millet Her Şeyi Affeder Ama Ihaneti Affetmez!," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 2 February
2014. [http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/yazarlar/hasan-karakaya/millet-her-seyi-affeder-ama-ihanetiaffetmez-4687.html]
219
Ergün Diler, "Yılan!," Takvim Gazetesi, 24 March 2014.
[http://www.takvim.com.tr/Siyaset/2014/03/24/yilan]
220
Hasan Karakaya, "Bugün “Ağaç, Çiçek Ve Kuş”Ları Yazmak Istiyorum!," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 22
January 2014. [http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/yazarlar/hasan-karakaya/bugun-agac-cicek-ve-kuslariyazmak-istiyorum-4541.html]
221
Serdar Arseven, "Evangelist/Kalvinist Taktikler!.." Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 7 February 2014.
[http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/yazarlar/serdar-arseven/evangelistkalvinist-taktikler-4751.html]
222
Hilal Kaplan, "Bu Örgüt Değilse, Örgüt Nedir?," Yeni Şafak Gazetesi, 21 March 2014.
[http://yenisafak.com.tr/yazarlar/HilalKaplan/bu-orgut-degilse-orgut-nedir/50902]
223
Ahmet Varol, "İktidar Kavgası Mı Türkiye’ye Savaş Mı?," Yeni Akit Gazetesi, 5 April 2014.
[http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/yazarlar/ahmet-varol/iktidar-kavgasi-mi-turkiyeye-savas-mi-5517.html]
224
Cem Küçük, "Bu Saatten Sonra Barış Olmaz!," Yeni Şafak Gazetesi, 6 January 2014.
[http://yenisafak.com.tr/yazarlar/CemKucuk/bu-saatten-sonra-baris-olmaz/46716]
225
Bağlı, "Bir Istihbarat Örgütü Olarak Cemaat."
226
Tayiz, "Umutsuz Bir Savaş...".
227
Rasim Ozan Kütahyalı, "Paralel Örgütün Gsm Operasyonları," Sabah Gazetesi, 18 March 2014.
[http://www.sabah.com.tr/Yazarlar/kutahyali/2014/03/18/paralel-orgutun-gsm-operasyonlari]
37
Turkey Task Force
handed trying to “infiltrate” state-funded student dormitories using their student
identities. 228 But the most creative by far was the claim that there was a
resemblance between the Gülen movement and the aliens from the Matrix films,
even though the entire trilogy was all about machines and computers with not a
single reference to aliens.229
Expressions of the general public
The discourse developed against the Gülen movement by Prime Minister
Erdoğan, leading figures of the AKP, and pro-government media also found
immediate support from the AKP electoral base. Obviously, it is not possible to
infer that everyone who voted for the AKP supported and embraced the hate
speech discourse. However, it would be illogical to claim that the general public
remained neutral or did not develop any hostility against the Gülen movement.
The reaction of the general public can be vividly observed through social media.
Following the expressions of Prime Minister Erdoğan, hundreds of thousands of
tweets slandering, ridiculing and accusing the Gülen movement were posted on
Twitter. It is not possible to mention each and every one of these tweets within
the scope of this study due to their volume, and of course it is not possible to
declare that all of them are hate speech. However, just mentioning some of the
“hashtags” 230 under which thousands of tweets were posted might give a
sufficient feeling for the offensive character of the tweets posted about the
Gülen movement. Here are some direct translations of the most offensive
hashtags:
“Gülen organization are traitors” (#gülenörgütüvatanhainidir);
“parallel treason” (#paralelihanet);231
“fairy tale corruption super-duper treason”
(#YolsuzlukBahaneİhanetŞahane);
“deep ear Pennsylvania” (#DerinKulakPensilvanya);232
“the code of CIA-maat (#CIAmatinSifresi);233
“Gülen terror organisation” (#Gülenterororgutu);
228
Murat Kelkitlioğlu, "Cemaat Okullarındaki Öğrencilere Müjde!," Akşam Gazetesi, 20 March 2014.
[http://www.aksam.com.tr/yazarlar/murat-kelkitlioglu/cemaat-okullarindaki-ogrencileremujde/haber-293751]
229
Sevilay Yükselir, "Paralel Devlet Ve Matrix Filmi," Sabah Gazetesi, 14 January 2014.
[http://www.sabah.com.tr/Yazarlar/yukselir/2014/01/14/paralel-devlet-ve-matrix-filmi]
230
A hashtag, as used in social networking websites, is a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark
(#), used within a message to identify a key word or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it.
"Hashtag", http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hashtag.
231
The phrase “parallel” refers to the Gülen Movement.
232
Pennsylvania here refers to the Gülen Movement as the leader of the Gülen Movement resides in
Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
233
“CIAmaat” is combination of words “CIA”, the Central Intelligence Agency, and “Cemaat”, which
means “community” in Turkish referring to the Gülen Movement.
38
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
“Hashashi” (#Haşhaşi);234
“No friends with Fettushi” (#FettuşidenDostOlmaz)235
Despite the unusual and extremely offensive nature of the above mentioned
expressions of leading figures of the AKP, journalists and general public,
declaring each and every one of them to be hate speech would be unsound and
unhealthy speculation, which would be incompatible with the methodology
followed by the ECtHR. Yet again, their unusually offensive nature cannot go
unnoticed, even if they are not to be declared hate speech right away. In any case
they do serve as a sufficient basis to conclude that the expressions of Prime
Minister Erdoğan -- aside from being blatant hate speech -- came to have another
meaning: His expressions actually resulted in distinctive mass hatred targeting
the Gülen movement.
Boycotting the Gülen movement
As shocking as it may sound, the role played by Prime Minister Erdoğan in the
creation of such mass hatred of the Gülen movement is much more threatening
and direct than has already been portrayed in this study, which is bad enough per
se. Not only did he demonize a particular group of people, but he also openly
called on the nation to take action against the Gülen movement. Erdoğan called
on the public to boycott any institutions established by members of the Gülen
movement. Such a call to boycott a group of people just because of their identity
is not only morally wrong but also defined and prohibited as a hate crime under
the Turkish Criminal Code.236 Yet, following Prime Minister Erdoğan’s call for
boycotts, a Twitter account with almost 150,000 followers posted a very detailed
list of institutions and businessmen who were claimed to be members of the
Gülen movement.237 The names of these “traitors” have been in circulation on the
Internet since mid-March, 2014.
Two elements worsening mass hatred
In an attempt to understand the extent and possible consequences of this mass
hatred, there are two factors in particular that have to be taken into
consideration. First, the Gülen movement has been active in all parts of Turkey,
including the southeast provinces. In this region of Turkey, there is an evident
presence of a pro-Kurdish militant organization, the PKK. It is well-known that the
234
A hashtag with reference to Prime Minister Erdoğan’s referral to the Gülen Movement as
Hashashins, a medieval order that gained political influence through assassinations.
235
“Fettushi” is a slang either referring to the leader of the Gülen Movement or members of the
Gülen Movement.
236
See Article 122 of Turkish Criminal Code.
237
See 127 tweets posted by GİZLİARŞİV(@GizliArsiv) on 19th of March 2014.
[https://twitter.com/GizliArsiv]
39
Turkey Task Force
PKK has for long considered the Gülen movement to be an enemy; in due course,
they organized lethal attacks on the movement’s institutions238 and members.239
The call by PKK leaders to boycott the educational institutions established by the
Gülen movement,240 although it predates the boycott called by Prime Minister
Erdoğan, is an important point to be considered in understanding the possible
reach of mass hatred against the Gülen movement. In this regard, being
boycotted by both the prime minister of a country and by the leaders of a
terrorist organization that has an undeniable presence in the same country can
only sound intimidating and frightening.
The second factor to which special attention needs to be paid is that Prime
Minister Erdoğan is such an important political figure that his voice can easily be
heard outside the borders of Turkey. His expressions of hate speech actually have
the potential to create prejudice and mass hatred against the Gülen movement
even on an international level. In an interview with PBS talk show host Charlie
Rose, Prime Minister Erdoğan clearly had the opportunity to create worldwide
prejudice against the Gülen movement, as he expressly claimed that these people
posed a threat to U.S. security.241 Additionally, given the fact that Erdoğan is a
very popular leader among Muslims worldwide, at some point his accusations are
likely to be echoed throughout the Muslim world. Being “traitors”, 242
“hashashins”, 243 “under service of other countries”, 244 or having “dark
connections with abroad” 245 are only some of the examples of Erdoğan’s
accusations that have the potential to create repercussions against the Gülen
238
"Pkk Supporters Storm Student Dormitory in Southeast Turkey," Today's Zaman, 9 April 2014.
[http://www.todayszaman.com/news-344212-pkk-supporters-storm-student-dormitory-in-southeastturkey.html]; "Pkk Attack on Student Dormitory Outrages Nation," Today's Zaman, 29 May 2011.
[http://www.todayszaman.com/news-245553-pkk-attack-on-student-dormitory-outragesnation.html]; "Şırnak'ta Camii Ve Dershanelere Pkk Molotoflarıyla Saldırdılar",
http://gundem.bugun.com.tr/cami-ve-dershaneye-pkk-molotofu-haberi/739091.; "Dershaneye Silahlı
Saldırı," Sabah Gazetesi, 1 November 2012.
[http://www.sabah.com.tr/Gundem/2012/11/01/dershaneye-silahli-saldiri];
239
"Pkk Target Imam Shot Dead after Prayer," Today's Zaman, 24 August 2010.
[http://www.todayszaman.com/news-219879-100-pkk-target-imam-shot-dead-after-prayer.html];
"Outlawed Pkk after Imams Who Advocate Nonviolence," Today's Zaman, 8 September 2010.
[http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-221272-100-outlawed-pkk-after-imams-who-advocatenonviolence.html]
240
"Fehman Hüseyin: Cemaat Dershanelerine Çocukları Göndermeyin," Bugün Gazetesi, 2 December
2013. [http://gundem.bugun.com.tr/cocuklari-gondermeyin-haberi/881748]
241
“These elements which threaten the national security of Turkey cannot be allowed to exist in
other countries because what they do to us here, they might do against their host" Gülşen Solaker,
"Turkey's Erdogan Calls on U.S. To Extradite Rival Gulen"
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/29/us-turkey-erdogan-idUSBREA3S0A120140429.
242
"Erdoğan: Bu Ne Cesaret, Bu Aşağılık Faaliyetin Hesabını Soracağız."
243
"PM Erdoğan’s Remarks on Hizmet Stir Animosity."
244
Vahap Munyar, "Zarrab Hayırsever Aslan Saf Ve Dürüst," Hürriyet Gazetesi, 26 December 2013.
[http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/25443835.asp]
245
"Erdoğan'dan Cemaate Çok Ağır Sözler!".
40
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
movement among Muslim populations. Being accused of treason by a popular
Muslim leader cannot be taken lightly, taking into account the fact that the Gülen
movement has a presence all over the world, even in regions where elements of
extremist Islam are, at least partially, dominant, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Somalia.
Dangers of mass hatred: Example of Gezi protestors
To some extent, mass hatred towards the Gülen movement has taken its toll in
Turkey. Several teachers working in educational institutions affiliated with the
Gülen movement are reported to have been beaten simply because of who they
were. Additionally, demonstrations with a pinch of violence also took place in
front of the premises of institutions established by the Gülen movement.
However, this mass hatred did not turn into widespread violence. This is
surprising because only several months before the Gülen movement became the
target of mass hatred, Turkey experienced first-hand the consequences of a mass
hatred catastrophe. Starting in June 2013, another group of people was made the
target of mass hatred by Prime Minister Erdoğan: Gezi protestors. Among other
things, Gezi protesters were accused of being “a bunch of looters”, 246
“vandals”247 and tools of foreign powers248 by Prime Minister Erdoğan himself,
which turned the Gezi protestors into a group of people who were loathed by a
sizeable chunk of the population.249
246
Ruth Sherlock, "Turkey: Erdogan Brands Protesters 'Extremists' and 'Looters'," The Telegraph, 3
June 2013. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/turkey/10096762/Turkey-Erdoganbrands-protesters-extremists-and-looters.html]
247
"Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Dismisses Turkey Protesters as Vandals," The Guardian, 9 June 2013.
[http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/09/recep-tayyip-erdogan-turkey-protesters-lootersvandals]
248
"Turkish Intelligence Looking into 'Foreign Links' to Taksim Protests: PM," Hürriyet Daily News, 3
June 2013. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-intelligence-looking-into-foreign-links-totaksim-protests-pm-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=48097&NewsCatID=338]
249
In the early days of the Gezi protests, for example, Prime Minister Erdoğan stated that “[t]here
is 50 percent of [the country who voted for the ruling Justice and Development Party - AKP], and
we can barely keep them at home [and prevent them from coming onto the streets for counterprotests]. But we have called on them to calm down,” "Turkish PM Gets into Row with Reuters
Reporter over Taksim Protests," Hürriyet Daily News, 3 June 2013.
[http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-pm-gets-into-row-with-reuters-reporter-over-taksimprotests.aspx?pageID=238&nid=48101] 15 days later, Prime Minister Erdoğan explained that
““Social media was prepared for this, made equipped. The strongest advertising companies of our
country, certain capital groups, the interest rate lobby, organizations on the inside and outside,
hubs, they were ready, equipped for this.” "Turkish Prime Minister Vows to Increase Police Force,"
Hürriyet Daily News, 18 June 2013. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-prime-minister-vowsto-increase-police-force.aspx?pageID=238&nID=49006&NewsCatID=338]
41
Turkey Task Force
After being declared “looters” and accused of having foreign links by the prime
minister, Gezi protestors were actually attacked by their fellow citizens; some
were severely beaten and others were actually killed.250 At one point, Gezi
protesters were actually chased down the streets by their fellow citizens, who
were waving scimitars in their hands.251 One example will suffice to demonstrate
the extent and consequences of mass hatred. This mass hatred against anyone
who could be related to the Gezi protests made itself visible at around the time
of Berkin Elvan’s burial ceremony. Elvan was a 14-year-old boy who passed away
after being in a coma for 269 days after being hit on the head by a tear gas
canister shot by the police during the Gezi protests. His family explained that on
the day he was shot, he was only on his way to the grocery store to buy bread.
However, Prime Minister Erdoğan declared that the deceased boy had
connections with terrorist organizations, and immediately after his death his
mother was booed by thousands at a rally.252 The tensions got so high in the
neighborhood where he was killed that half the residents of the neighborhood
stood all-night guard, because they were
afraid that their neighbors would attack and
Several months before slaughter them all. At the same time, the other
half of the neighborhood was living in fear that
the Gülen movement their neighbors would attack their places of
became the target of worship, and hundreds of police officers were
to prevent any further
mass hatred, Turkey in the neighborhood
253
incidents.
experienced first-hand
the consequences of a
mass hatred
catastrophe.
250
During and after the Gezi protests, Prime
Minister Erdoğan paved the way to mass
hatred against the Gezi protesters by simply
declaring them to be looters, vandals and
extremists. 254 However, since the Gezi front
"Hrft: Fact Sheet on Gezi Park Protests as of July 16th",
http://www.fidh.org/en/europe/turkey/hrft-fact-sheet-on-gezi-park-protests-as-of-july-16th-13688.
251
"Police Intervene on İstiklal Avenue against Protesters Gathering to Re-Enter Gezi," Hürriyet Daily
News, 6 July 2013. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/police-intervene-on-istiklal-avenue-againstprotesters-gathering-to-re-enter-gezi.aspx?pageID=238&nID=50131&NewsCatID=341]; "Police
Intervene in Ankara as Another Machete-Wielding Man Threatens Protesters," Hürriyet Daily News,
11 July 2013. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/police-intervene-in-ankara-as-another-machetewielding-man-threatens-protesters.aspx?PageID=238&NID=50477&NewsCatID=341]
252
Seda Sezer, "Erdogan Links Dead Turkish Teenager to 'Terrorist' Groups"
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/15/us-turkey-protests-idUSBREA2E0A820140315.
253
Ismail Saymaz, "Okmeydanı Kimseye Mezar Olmasın," Radikal Gazetesi, 24 March 2014.
[http://www.radikal.com.tr/turkiye/okmeydani_kimseye_mezar_olmasin-1182818]
254
In this regard, Beşir Atalay, Deputy Prime Minister, bluntly blamed Jewish Diaspora for
conspiring against Turkey in Gezi protetests. "Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Denies Remarks on
'Jewish Diaspora'," Hürriyet Daily News, 2 July 2013. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkishdeputy-prime-minister-denies-remarks-on-jewish-diaspora.aspx?PageID=238&NID=49858&NewsCatID=338]
42
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
was so wide, what basically happened was that roughly half the country hated
the other half and vice versa. However, in the present case, the target of the
mass hatred, the Gülen movement, is a particularly small group of people
compared to the Gezi protestors. Although there has not been any widespread
violence against the Gülen movement, in light of the Gezi protests, the potential
dangers of such mass hatred should not go unnoticed.
Legitimacy of boycott calls: German example and ECtHR case law
Can a boycott call by a prime minister be justifiable and legitimate in a democratic
society? Although the ECtHR provides an answer in Willem v. France, 255 in
assessing the legitimacy of a boycott call, at this point, a brief illustration of two
judgments of the German Federal Constitutional Court will be helpful.256 In this
regard, German case law deserves rightful attention, as boycott calls were
analyzed for the first time from a human rights law point of view in Europe by the
German Federal Constitutional Court.257
In the legendary Lüth case,258 in 1950, Eric Lüth, a journalist, put out a call to
boycott a new film by Veit Harlan, a famous director of the Nazi Era, due to Mr
Harlan’s previous career. Mr Harlan brought a civil case against Mr Lüth to
prevent him from promoting a boycott against him. In a nutshell, after weighing
the freedom of expression of Mr Lüth against the economic interests of Mr
Harlan as guaranteed by the German Constitution, the German Federal
Constitutional Court concluded that such a boycott was under the protection of
freedom of expression as guaranteed by the German Constitution. More than a
decade later, in the Blinkfuer case,259 the German Federal Constitutional Court
developed its Lüth judgment. In Blinkfuer, Axel Springer, one of the leading
companies in the German publishing market, sent a letter to all newspaper
dealers calling on them to stop selling any media that disseminated television and
radio schedules of East Germany. The letter also implied that the company “will
consider whether they can justify continuing business relationships with” 260
dealers who still continued selling such media. The Blinkfuer Magazine filed a tort
complaint against the publishing house. When the issue went before the German
255
Willem v. France, ECtHR, 16 July 2009, Application no. 10883/05
The German approach is of course not binding on Turkey. Nevertheless, the German approach at
this point is hardly distinguishable from the approach of the ECtHR.
257
It is possible to bring American boycott call cases- such as Naacp v. Claiborne Hardware, U.S.
Supreme Court, 458 U.S. 886 (1982).- to attention, too. However, the state action doctrine as
applied in American constitutional jurisprudence would render such an attempt in vein purely
because European human rights law has a different take on horizontal application of human rights.
258
BVerfGE 7, 198 (1958) Available at:
[https://www.utexas.edu/law/academics/centers/transnational/work_new/german/case.php?id=136
9]
259
BVerfGE 25, 256 (1969) Available at:
[http://www.utexas.edu/law/academics/centers/transnational/work_new/german/case.php?id=650]
260
Ibid.
256
43
Turkey Task Force
Federal Constitutional Court, the publishing house claimed that they had only
exercised their freedom of expression as modeled on the Lüth judgment.
However, the German court distinguished Blinkfuer from Lüth on the basis that
the boycott call in Blinkfuer was accompanied by an economic threat, which
stripped the newspaper and magazine dealers of their freedom of choice.
Therefore, Axel Springer’s boycott call could not enjoy protection under the
guarantees of freedom of expression.
Some 50 years after the Lüth judgment, the ECtHR found a chance to judge the
legitimacy of a boycott call in Willem v. France.261 In this case, Mr Willem, the
mayor of Seclin, a municipality in northern France, in a town council meeting in
the presence of journalists, explained his intentions to order city catering services
to boycott foods produced in Israel, fruit juices in particular, as a reaction against
the policies of the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, Ariel Sharon. Due to
concerns raised by the public, he then repeated his call in a letter released on the
official municipality website. The mayor of Seclin was sentenced by French
authorities for inciting discrimination. When the dispute was brought before the
Strasbourg court, the ECtHR first placed strong emphasis on the importance of
freedom of expression. Then, the court underlined the fact that the mayor of
Seclin was not sentenced because of his expressions, which were clearly declared
to be under the protection of the guarantees of Article 10 of the ECHR, but
because he arbitrarily encouraged municipal services to carry out a positive act of
discrimination against a particular group of people.262 The ECtHR also stated that
the letter posted on the website of the municipality of Seclin aggravated the
discriminatory character of the position of the mayor of Seclin, which was
confirmed by the use of polemical terms.263 Therefore, the ECtHR concluded that
no violation of Article 10 was committed by the French state in the particular
case.
As these judgments clearly demonstrate, boycott calls clearly benefit from free
speech guarantees, both in German and Strasbourg jurisprudence. However,
Prime Minister Erdoğan’s boycott calls are definitely distinguishable from what is
defined as legitimate boycott calls in the Lüth, Blinkfuer and Willem judgments.
First, Mr Lüth called for a boycott against a person purely because of that
person’s career and actions in the past, and Mr Willem called for a boycott
against products of a particular state for political reasons. However, Prime
Minister Erdoğan called for a boycott against a particular group of people, not on
the grounds of any legitimate or justifiable reason, but only because of who they
are. Second, Mr Lüth did not implement any measures to force others to support
his boycott call, unlike the Axel Springer publishing house. On the other hand,
261
"Willem v. France."
Ibid. para. 38
263
Ibid. para. 36
262
44
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
Prime Minister Erdoğan, similar to the Axel Springer publishing house, clearly
stated that whoever did not take his side in the fight against the Gülen
movement would not go unnoticed.264 Even if such a direct emphasis is not made,
a boycott call by a very popular and powerful prime minister already carries the
potential to insinuate such a threat to third parties. Additionally, Prime Minister
Erdoğan had already stated that, similar to the mayor of Seclin, state authority
and power would be used to discriminate against the Gülen movement.
Therefore, even if Prime Minister Erdoğan’s boycott call was not accompanied
with blatant hate speech expressions, this boycott call could not possibly receive
any protection under the guarantees of free speech.
Realizing contents of hate speech through governmental powers
Successful demonization of a particular group in a given society through the
persistent utilization of hate speech is already a very grave and unprecedented
situation in the history of the Council of Europe. Yet, increasing the seriousness
of the situation by mobilizing state powers for this very purpose can only be
defined as ultimate wrongdoing in Strasbourg jurisprudence, given the historical
background that gave birth to the ECtHR. In the light of Strasbourg case law, it
would be completely inaccurate to claim any dearth of incidents in which
particular groups were discriminated against by member states of the Council of
Europe. However, no member state of the Council of Europe has ever attempted
to defend and insist on any unjustifiable discrimination when they were caught
red-handed, let alone when such discrimination was publicly advertised and
encouraged by state authorities in tandem with hate speech.
Prime Minister Erdoğan did what would precisely be branded as unacceptable in
in any democratic society: He made it crystal clear that a particular group in
society, the Gülen movement, was to be treated unfavorably by the state while
he continued to use prima facie expressions of hate speech against them. He
admitted that the actions of the government amounted to a “witch hunt”
targeting the Gülen movement, while he reiterated his accusations of treason.265
264
“Anyone who is negligent in this struggle will betray this nation. Anyone who takes steps back,
[or] intends to compromise and forget what has happened in the past will put a black mark on the
trust of our people. Anyone who keeps silent by showing no reaction or who bows to threats and
blackmail will go down in history as they are,” "Erdoğan Says His Gov't Will Carry out ‘Witch Hunt',"
Today's Zaman, 11 May 2014. [http://www.todayszaman.com/news-347529-erdogan-says-his-govtwill-carry-out-witch-hunt.html]
265
“It is argued that the fight against the parallel structure [referring to the Gülen Movement] has
turned into a ‘witch hunt’. Yes, my friends, if reassigning those [officials] committing treason is
called a ‘witch hunt,’ then yes, we perform a ‘witch hunt,’ rest assured. We will act accordingly as
we dig up people committing all kinds of provocative actions while they occupy offices. If we do
not do that we will be committing treason against this country ourselves. I told my ministers
repeatedly that we have to follow them step by step. This is not a simple struggle. Therefore I tell
you my dear friends: You will tell us about them, wherever they are whoever they are. I am telling
45
Turkey Task Force
In the same speech, as the prime minister of Turkey, he addressed every citizen,
including state officials, calling on them to spy on the Gülen movement so that
the government could act accordingly.266,267 Unfortunately, this is not a one-off
incident. Erdoğan expressed his wish on several occasions that the Gülen
movement be treated unfavorably by state authorities.
In his speech at the Erzurum rally, Prime Minister Erdoğan stated that he would
not let members of the Gülen movement rent halls from the state for their
events.268 Indeed, after these remarks, the Gülen movement was not allowed to
use state halls on some occasions.269 By the same token, businesses owned by
members of the Gülen movement were raided by tax inspectors and the police 270
while the media reported it as an operation against the “parallel state.”271 On
another occasion, mining permits owned by a businessman close to the Gülen
movement were cancelled,272 an act which would be declared illegal by the
administrative courts,273 only a week after the Prime Minister Erdoğan targeted
the mining facility.274 In another incident, a member of the Turkish Parliament and
a former AKP member, Muhammed Çetin, a known sympathizer of the Gülen
movement, was treated unfavorably and eventually was asked to leave the plane
this to all my citizens: You will tell us so that we will act accordingly. Look, I am speaking clearly; I
mean I am telling it to all my mayors, all my regional representatives [of the AKP]…
… Fighting against the parallel structure has become an unshakeable mission for the AKP…
Everybody shall know that fighting against the parallel structure is a mission of the state, not
individuals; it is also the policy of the AKP. We shall accept it like this. AKP, which is the party of the
nation and established by the nation, together with the state, will continue fight against the parallel
structure that threatens the nation and the country at all costs.” [translated by the author] "Herkes
Konumunu Haddini Bilecek", http://www.aa.com.tr/tr/manset/326351--basbakan-erdogan-istisaretoplantisinda-konusuyor.
266
Ibid.
267
In all fairness, Prime Minister Erdoğan also added that they would act lawfully. However “witch
hunt” and remaining within the confines of law are mutually exclusive. Because discrimination
against a particular group of people on the ground of their identity by state authorities is a clear
human rights violation as prohibited by Article 14 of the ECHR.
268
“They won’t be able to organize the Turkish Olympics anymore. That’s over now. Renting a hall
from us … The subject is closed,”,” ‘No ; "Başbakan Erdoğan’ın Erzurum Mitingi’nde Yaptığı
Konuşmanın Tam Metni", http://www.akparti.org.tr/site/haberler/basbakan-erdoganin-erzurummitinginde-yaptigi-konusmanin-tam-metni1/61370#1.
269
Behram Kılıç, "Herkes O’nu Kazandi," Aksiyon Dergisi, 28 April 2014.
270
Toygun Atilla, "Kaynak Holding’e Baskın," Hürriyet Gazetesi, 28 March 2014.
[http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/ekonomi/26092467.asp]
271
"Paralel Yapının 2 Numarası Kaçtı," Sabah Gazetesi, 28 March 2014.
[http://www.sabah.com.tr/Gundem/2014/03/28/paralel-yapinin-2-numarasi-kacti]
272
"Koza Altın'a Şok Karar," Hürriyet Gazetesi, 31 December 2013.
[http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/ekonomi/25477294.asp]
273
"Koza Altın Tekrar Üretime Başlıyor," Hürriyet Gazetesi, 10 January 2014.
[http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/ekonomi/25539429.asp]
274
"Başbakan Erdoğan: Güçlenerek Çıkarız," Radikal Gazetesi, 21 December 2013.
[http://www.radikal.com.tr/politika/basbakan_erdogan_guclenerek_cikariz-1167342]
46
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
by Turkish Airlines,275 a company partially owned by the Turkish state.276 At a later
date, the president of Turkish Airlines stated on a television program that they
might not sell tickets to Muhammed Çetin anymore. 277 In another incident,
Turkish Airlines withdrew $300 million before its expiry term from a bank that
was established by the members of the Gülen movement, waiving a profitsharing loss of $10 million,278 when the government started a run on the bank.279
In another example of arbitrary use of government powers against the Gülen
movement, Mahir Zeynalov, an Azerbaijani national married to a Turkish citizen
working at Today’s Zaman, was deported from Turkey by law enforcement
authorities with no apparent reason.280
As the Gülen movement is active in over 150 countries, Prime Minister Erdoğan
also actively tried to get other governments to treat it unfavorably. He admitted
that in a meeting with the president of Azerbaijan he warned the Azerbaijani
275
With regards to the Turkish Airlines being a private actor actions of which are subject to private
law, an objection might be raised. The test applied in Radio France and Others v. France, ECtHR, 23
September 2003, Application no. 53984/00 (dec) to determine capacity of the national radio
broadcaster Radio France to apply to the ECtHR can be applied here as well, only this time to
determine whether the perpetrator is state or not. With regards to the issue of whether Turkish
Airlines is to be treated as a representative of the Turkish State, one cannot fail to notice the nexus
between the Turkish Airlines and Turkish government. See: “…the Court takes the view that the
liquidator may be regarded as a representative of the State… Even if the liquidator is a private
person, in view of the nature of his duties and the fact that he is authorized by the domestic courts
to discharge them, the Court is not persuaded that the State could avoid responsibility by
delegating its obligations to this person” Kotov v. Russia, ECtHR, 14 January 2010, Application no.
54522/00 para. 52 However, in any case, any discussions on the applicability of the Strasbourg
jurisprudence in this instant will be in vein. Because, Turkish state will be held liable for the
discriminatory actions of the Turkish Airlines before the ECtHR due to its positive obligations
emerging from the ECHR, even if Turkish Airlines is not to be treated as a representative of the
Turkish State. Cp. Eweida and Others v. The United Kingdom, ECtHR, 15 January 2013, Application no.
48420/10 For illustrations of the application of the nexus test in the American jurisprudence also
see: Evans v. Newton, 382 US 296(1966).; Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co, 457 US 922(1982).; Pennsylvania
v. Board of Directors of City Trusts of Philadelphia, 353 US 230(1957).; Powe v. Miles, 407 F. 2d
73(1968).; Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co, 419 US 345(1974).
276
"Turkish Airlines Tries to Force Former Ak Party Deputy to Leave Plane," Today's Zaman, 23
February 2014. [http://www.todayszaman.com/news-340173-report-turkish-airlines-forces-formerak-party-deputy-to-leave-plane.html]
277
"Turkish Airlines Blacklisting Critical Deputy Violates Constitutional Right," Today's Zaman, 15
April 2014. [http://www.todayszaman.com/news-344722-turkish-airlines-blacklisting-critical-deputyviolates-constitutional-right.html] ; "O Vekile Artık Bilet Yok," Milliyet Gazetesi, 15 April 2014.
[http://siyaset.milliyet.com.tr/o-vekile-artik-bilet-yok/siyaset/detay/1867241/default.htm]
278
"Main Opposition Brings Plans to Sink Bank Asya to Parliament," Today's Zaman, 19 January 2014.
[http://www.todayszaman.com/news-337030-main-opposition-brings-plans-to-sink-bank-asya-toparliament.html]
279
"Turkey: The Erdogan-Gulen Showdown," Financial Times, 18 March 2014.
[http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1b1d4ea0-ab8e-11e3-8cae-00144feab7de.html#axzz31ZVzr5e5]
280
"Azerbaijani Journalist for Today’s Zaman Leaves Turkey 'under Deportation Threat'," Hürriyet
Daily News, 7 February 2014. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/azeri-journalist-for-todays-zamanleaves-turkey-under-deportation-threat.aspx?PageID=238&NID=62143&NewsCatID=341]
47
Turkey Task Force
leader about the dangers of the Gülen movement.281 On another occasion, he
tasked Turkey’s ambassadors to discredit the Gülen movement abroad, as he told
the ambassadors that “[t]he true face of this organization should be clearly
unveiled abroad as well.”282 Although it is possible to add more to this list, these
should suffice to show the arbitrary ill treatment of the Gülen movement by the
Turkish state.283
In this regard, the actions of Turkish state authorities also clearly deserve a
detailed examination in the context of Article 14 of the ECHR, the provision that
prohibits arbitrary discrimination.284 However, such an examination falls outside
the scope of this research. With regard to the freedom of expression, the most
comparable case in Strasbourg jurisprudence is Willem v France 285 . Yet the
expressions of Prime Minister Erdoğan examined in this study differ from and are
worse than those questioned in the Willem judgment on three grounds, even
though the expressions of Mr Willem were already not compatible with the
ECHR. First, Mr Willem made a boycott call completely based on political motives.
In putting out a boycott call against food products produced in Israel, he did not
extend his boycott to Jewish people. No accusation, neither before domestic
courts nor before the ECtHR, was brought against him linking his boycott call to
anti-Semitism or incitement to hatred. Second, his boycott call did not create any
repercussions in the public services provided by the municipality of which he was
the president. In other words, the discrimination that he promised to put into
effect was not actually realized through implementation of state powers. Finally,
the boycott call made by Mr Willem was not accompanied with expressions of
hate speech against Jewish people or even against citizens of Israel. For these
281
Selçuk Şenyüz, "Cemaat Dosyası Verdi," Hürriyet Gazetesi, 5 April 2014.
[http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/26157088.asp]
282
"PM Erdoğan Tasks Ambassadors with Fighting against ‘Treacherous Plot’," Hürriyet Daily News,
15 January 2014. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/pm-erdogan-tasks-ambassadors-with-fightingagainst-treacherous-plot.aspx?pageID=238&nID=61109&NewsCatID=338]
283
For example see: "Despite Protests, Ministry Carries on Questioning at Schools, Dorms," Today's
Zaman, 17 March 2014. [http://www.todayszaman.com/news-342351-despite-protests-ministrycarries-on-questioning-at-schools-dorms.html]; Murat Yetkin, "Erdoğan Escalates Elimination of
Gülenists from State," Hürriyet Daily News, 3 May 2014.
[http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/erdogan-escalates-elimination-of-gulenists-fromstate.aspx?pageID=449&nID=65930&NewsCatID=409]; "Police Officer Reassigned for Attending
Dershane Picnic," Today's Zaman, 28 April 2014. [http://www.todayszaman.com/news-346385police-officer-reassigned-for-attending-dershane-picnic.html]; "Cadı Avı, Intihara Sürükledi," Zaman
Gazetesi, 3 June 2014. [http://www.zaman.com.tr/gundem_cadi-avi-intiharasurukledi_2221916.html];"Academic Freedom at Universities under Growing Threat," Today's Zaman,
4 May 2014. [http://www.todayszaman.com/news-346827-academic-freedom-at-universities-undergrowing-threat.html]
284
For more information on Strasbourg jurisprudence on discrimination see: Mowbray, Cases,
Materials, and Commentary on the European Convention on Human Rights. Chapter 16; Harris, Law of
the European Convention on Human Rights. Chapter 15; White, Jacobs, White and Ovey : The European
Convention on Human Rights. Chapter 24
285
"Willem v. France."
48
Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
reasons, the expressions of Prime Minister Erdoğan amount to an unprecedented
form of hate speech accompanied by exploitation of governmental powers.
49
Turkey Task Force
Conclusion
It is often said that law is politics just under another name. With the birth of
modern human rights law, however, this is only partially true in Europe. Ever
since particular groups of people were declared “bacilli” and arbitrarily
persecuted by state authorities, Europeans have decided to put some red lines in
place that politics cannot cross. The European Convention on Human Rights was
created in the first place for this very purpose.
In this regard, the founders of the ECHR wanted to make sure that the
unspeakable atrocities they suffered would remain in the pages of history books.
As case law demonstrates, the European Court on Human Rights, in accordance
with the impetus behind the creation of the ECHR, has adopted a strict approach
to tackling incitement of hatred in Europe. In light of Strasbourg jurisprudence,
the expressions of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan do not seem to
comply with the values underlying the ECHR, notably tolerance, social peace and
non-discrimination. Although he did not use the exact term “bacillus”, he
declared the Gülen movement to be “viruses”, 286 “traitors”,287 “perverts”, 288
“hashashins”289 (assassins), “spies”,290 “terrorist organization.”291 Not only did he
blatantly insult the movement, but he also encouraged the masses to do the
same, and actually succeeded in creating mass hatred towards the Gülen
movement.292 In the process, he put out a boycott call to exclude the Gülen
movement from the layers of social life that led to repercussions among his
supporters.293 In tandem with the boycott call, he declared that he would use the
powers of the government to discriminate against the Gülen movement and
started a “witch hunt.”294 For these reasons, in light of ECtHR case law, it is hard,
if not impossible, not to consider Prime Minister Erdoğan’s expressions targeting
the Gülen movement as unprecedented prima facie hate speech.
Unfortunately, the Gülen movement is only the most recent victim of the Turkish
prime minister’s blatant expressions of hate speech. Only a year ago, another
portion of Turkish society, the Gezi protestors, was also demonized, so much so
286
"PM Says State Will Fight against ‘Virus’ in Its Midst."
"Erdoğan: Bu Ne Cesaret, Bu Aşağılık Faaliyetin Hesabını Soracağız."
288
"Başbakan: Bunlar Sapık, Bunlar Kasetçi, Montajcı, Tweetçi!."
289
"PM Erdoğan’s Remarks on Hizmet Stir Animosity."
290
"Başbakan’dan Hizmet Hareketi'ne 'Casus' Suçlaması."
291
"Erdoğan'dan Gülen Cemaatine: Türkiye Hasımlarının Maşasıdır".
292
See pages 34293
See page 42
294
"Turkish PM Erdoğan Vows ‘to Sterilize’ Gülen Movement ‘by Boiling or Molecularizing’,"
Hürriyet Daily News, 11 May 2014. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-pm-erdogan-vows-tosterilize-gulen-movement-by-boiling-ormolecularizing.aspx?pageID=238&nID=66327&NewsCatID=338]
287
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Hate Speech and Beyond: Targeting the Gülen Movement in Turkey
that people lost their lives after they were declared to be “looters.”295 When
other expressions of Prime Minister Erdoğan -- such as the ones declaring
Shiites,296 foreigners297 and atheists298 bad -- and expressions of other leading
figures of the AKP government -- such as the ones declaring Jews299 and some
other groups300 bad – are taken into consideration, it would be fair to conclude
that Turkey suffers, at the very least, from an institutional lack of willingness to
fight hate speech.
In light of ECtHR case law, the aforementioned expressions of Prime Minister
Erdoğan constitute prima facie hate speech and hence they should not enjoy any
protection provided by the ECHR. At this stage, there may be two possible
scenarios. First, since it is incumbent on Turkish authorities to close all avenues
for such expressions to exist in Turkish social life, domestic hate speech
guarantees would be invoked and expressions of Prime Minister Erdoğan would
be defined and treated as hate speech. However, judging by the fact that
expressions of hate speech are actually made by the very people who are
supposed to enforce domestic hate speech guarantees in the first place, the first
option does not seem to be realistic. Therefore, by default, the second case
scenario is more likely to take place, in which the expressions of the Turkish
prime minister will be treated as hate speech. In this case, the Turkish state could
gain the distinction of being the very first state to be found guilty by the ECtHR of
perpetrating hate speech, and possibly actions even beyond hate speech, since
the establishment of the Council of Europe.
295
Sherlock, "Turkey: Erdogan Brands Protesters 'Extremists' and 'Looters'."
"Erdogan on Gülenists: They Are Worse Than Shiites".
297
"Erdogan Accuses Cnn Reporter of Spying," Daily Sabah, 3 June 2014.
[http://www.dailysabah.com/nation/2014/06/03/pm-erdogans-strong-reaction-to-cnn-reporter];
"Der Spiegel Withdraws Reporter after Death Threats over Soma Disaster Story," Hürriyet Daily
News, 20 May 2014. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/der-spiegel-withdraws-reporter-afterdeath-threats-over-soma-disaster-story.aspx?pageID=238&nID=66746&NewsCatID=339]
298
““We opened a boulevard in Ankara on Monday [Feb. 24] despite the [protests of] leftists,
despite those atheists.” "Turkish PM Erdoğan Calls Protesters Atheists, Leftists, Terrorists," Hürriyet
Daily News, 28 February 2014. [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-pm-erdogan-callsprotesters-atheists-leftists-terrorists.aspx?PageID=238&NID=63068&NewsCatID=338]
299
"Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Denies Remarks on 'Jewish Diaspora'."
300
Sedat Ergin, "Ermeni Olmak Suç Mu?," Hürriyet Gazetesi, 24 August 2012.
[http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/21292053.asp] ; "Ex-Economy Minister's 'Jews, Zoroastrians or
Atheists Attacked Gov't' Remarks Raise Concerns," Hürriyet Daily News, 9 March 2014.
[http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/ex-economy-ministers-jews-zoroastrians-or-atheists-attackedgovt-remarks-raise-concerns.aspx?pageID=238&nID=63372&NewsCatID=338]
296
51
Turkey Task Force
52