Young Civilians loses sight of mission as it is mired in partisanship

A once very popular and promising civil society group, the Young Civilians (Genandc Siviller), who won the appreciation of many with their pro-democracy standing, anti-militarist discourse and use of sarcasm in their protests, has been keeping silent for a long while in the wake of many anti-democratic developments in the country, with many of its founders now acting as mouthpieces for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
The Young Civilians, founded by a group of people from diverse backgrounds, stated that it was established to demand greater democracy. They started as a group of students without political any affiliations and began holding protests in the early years of this century.
The youthful group took its name after a piece of news appeared in the secular Cumhuriyet daily in 2003 under the title, andquotYoung officers are restless,andquot meaning that the young officers in the military were uncomfortable with the AK Party that first came to power in 2002. There was an indirect threat of a military coup in the article.
To condemn the threat of a coup, the group named itself the Young Civilians and replaced the military boots of the young officers which appeared next to the Cumhuriyetand’s story with a pair of sneakers, using this image as a logo.
The Young Civilians came to public attention in the 2000s mostly through their protests and declarations against military tutelage and all the anti-democratic and unlawful developments in the country. They were most notable for their use of humor and sarcasm in their protests.
The Young Civiliansand’ emergence and their democratic moves led to great excitement among democratic and liberal circles in society as the group said it was working for a more democratic Turkey and aiming to contribute to the end of military tutelage in the country.
At the time when coup plots to topple the AK Party government were revealed, the Young Civiliansand’ pro-democracy stance benefited the AK Party the most. Since the end of the militaryand’s dominance of Turkish politics, the AK Party government has become more powerful, moved away from its founding principles and begun to silence dissent in the country by enacting repressive policies against its opponents.
The Young Civilians has never taken on a critical stance against the policies of the AK Party. It has kept silent for a long time, and even some of its members publicly support the AK Party governmentand’s anti-democratic policies. Its founding members such as Hilal Kaplan, Yildiray Oiur and Ceren Kenar are now fervent supporters of AK Party policies. They are either working in pro-government media outlets as columnists or TV hosts, elected to Parliament from the AK Party ranks, aisors to AK Party politicians or among the handpicked journalists who are allowed onto President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoiluand’s planes during their visits abroad.
h2 Group membersand’ dramatic changeh2 One of the well-known founders of the Young Civilians was Hilal Kaplan, a headscarf-wearing woman known for her fight for the freedom to use headscarves at universities in Turkey. Headscarves had been banned at Turkish universities until 2010.
Kaplan began her writing career at the liberal Taraf daily as a columnist. She claimed to be impartial, but she turns out to be a strong government supporter today.
Kaplan has gained notoriety for her U-turns on some issues, according to the attitude of the AK Party government. She is now working at the pro-government Sabah newspaper, which is known as the flagship of the andquotpool media.andquot
The popular term and”pool mediaand” is used in Turkey to describe pro-government media outlets and refers to the large amounts of money pooled by pro-government businessmen for certain media outlets to allegedly slander oppositional voices and magnify the governmentand’s actions through lies.
Kaplan caused a public outcry when video footage, that was taken before a live interview with President Erdogan earlier this year, emerged last month featuring Kaplan urging deputies from the AK Party government to adopt a harsher stance against the faith-based Gandulen movement and remove the TV channels that are linked to the movement from the state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Tandurksat).
President Erdogan blames the movement for instigating the massive corruption scandals that were probes revealed on Dec. 17 and Dec. 25, 2013, which implicated ministers in his government and even some of his family members.
Another of the Young Civilians founders, Ceren Kenar, also works as a columnist in a pro-government newspaper, the Tandurkiye daily. Kenar was known for her coordinator role in andquotThe World is Bigger than Fiveandquot project launched by the Young Civilians, which refers to the five nations holding permanent membership in the UN Security Council. Kenar is known to have paid $62,000 to a lobbying company for the promotion of this project abroad. It later turned out that she got this money from the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Mehmet Algan was another activist among the founders of the Young Civilians. He used to be a spokesperson for andquotThe World is Bigger than Fiveandquot project. Algan was nominated as a deputy from the AK Party ranks in Hatay province for the June 7 general election but was not elected to Parliament. He was not nominated for the snap election held on Nov. 1.
Muhammet Bilal Macit, another founder of the Young Civilians, was elected to Parliament in the 2011 general election as an AK Party deputy. He is the youngest person to have entered Parliament in the history of the Turkish Republic.
h2 Alternative group establishedh2 The Young Civilians groupand’s diversion from its pro-democracy stance into a government mouthpiece has prompted some of the group members to establish an alternative civil society organization under the name andquotReal Young Civilians.andquot
A founder of the Real Young Civilians, Yiiit Akbulut, explained why he and some of his friends felt the need to part ways with the Young Civilians and establish a different group.
andquotThe Young Civilians has turned into a statist mechanism it is no longer a civil society organization. Along with other founding members, such as Manduandcteba Kiliandc and Hayri inci, and many friends I have left the group. We have parted ways with the Young Civilians because it has lost its civilian characteristic and turned into a state mechanism. It has nothing to do with being a civil society organization. The groupand’s indifference to human rights, to environmental issues, to anti-democratic developments in the country, as well as the Dec. 17-25 corruption probes, have played a crucial role in our parting of ways,andquot Akbulut said, adding that the Young Civilians is now working more like the youth branch of the AK Party.
Real Young Civilians, established by Akbulut and his friend, is currently an online group with around 2,500 members.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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