Pages Navigation Menu

Turkish purges target anybody anywhere: the exemplary case of  Nazli Iliçak

Turkish purges target anybody anywhere: the exemplary case of  Nazli Iliçak

26.07.2016. Turkey .  

After the military, the judges, the civil servants, the teachers and the diplomats, an arrest warrant was issued against 42 journalists, including high media profile personality Nazli Iliçak, who supported President Erdogan for a long time before turning into one of his fiercest critique.

Astonishing, surprising, contradictory, this is the impression that Nazli Iliçak left on me the first time I ever met her, 17 years ago.

A media personality, non-practising Muslim, she supported Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Islamic conservative party AKP for a long time, before she squarely and loudly denounced their abuses.

And as I am looking at the images of Nazli Iliçak’s arrest as transmitted on television on this Tuesday morning 26th July, a memory comes back to my mind.

Nazi Iliçak is targeted in the context of the investigation on the authors of the failed coup attempt attributed by the Islamic conservative government to the supporters of Imam Fetullah Gülen, an exile in the US.  An estimated 13 thousand arrests have already been made, which affect all sectors of society well beyond the assumed Gülenist circles, such as the left and Kurdish spheres, and even people with Islamic sensitivities and averse to the ruling power.

And as I am looking at the images of Nazli Iliçak’s arrest as transmitted on television on this Tuesday morning 26th July, a memory comes back to my mind.

A staunch intellectual against die-hard-secularists

1999, in the midst of the electoral campaign. At first, this dainty, made-up, French-speaking, posh and bourgeois looking socialite woman, looks out of place in this huge popular, religious and dusty Istanbul suburb where I meet up with her.

But that specific year, Nazli Iliçak, then aged 55, is running for the Fazilet Party (Virtue Party), the Turkish Islamist party of Necmettin Erbakan, mentor to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, today’s Turkish president.

An outstanding speaker, she criticizes the “die-hard secularist Kemalists” and vilifies the universities which forbid the registration of veiled young women

Here she comes up on the stage, all blond and dainty. Facing her, in a huge shed, a sea of black silhouettes, formed by thousands of women wearing the hijab. Nazli Iliçak, lightly dressed in white and red clothes, starts talking. The contrast is startling.

An outstanding speaker, she criticizes the “die-hard secularist Kemalists” and vilifies the universities which forbid the registration of veiled young women. Nazli Iliçak hammers into them that they are absolutely right to claim their right to wear the Islamic veil everywhere, all the time: at school, at work, whether they be lawyers, doctors or civil servants.

These women of all ages, the ones who are looked down upon by the “Westernized” other half of society, think that at long last, here is a “modern” intellectual woman who understands the life they live.

Loyalty

A most unusual career path for this journalist

Once an elected MP, Nazli Iliçak is ostracized by the secularist elites of the country, to which she belongs. She nevertheless continues her struggle in defence of the Islamists, not without a certain amount of defiance.

During the opening session of the Parliament, her hair impeccably blow-dried, she takes office next to another Virtue Party MP who is wearing the Islamic veil.  This causes an outcry in the holy of holies, that is, the Parliament, where nobody as ever seen such a thing, since, at that time, the veil is still banned.

The above-mentioned MP, Merve Kavakçi, is prevented from swearing her oath. She will lose her seat in March 2001, being accused of having hidden her US citizenship. But in 2007 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) proves her right against Turkey. However, Merve Kavakçi has turned her back on Turkey and doesn’t come back: she is now pursuing a brilliant career in the US.

A go-between

Not Nazli Iliçak, who remains loyal to her country.

A most unusual career path for this journalist who got married at least twice, is the mother of two children, and an influential columnist who has worked in many different newspapers, some of which she even sometimes owned.

She first and very shortly was a left-winger, then moved to the right,then elected politician for the Virtue Party (islamist trend)

The daughter of a former minister who was in office in the 1950’s, she first and very shortly was a left-winger, then moved to the right, and eventually, became an elected politician for the Virtue Party. But in 1997, its head, Islamist Necmettin Erbakan is removed from office as prime minister during what was called “a post-modern coup”, before the party got banned in 2001.

She occasionally used to organize discreet meetings at her luxury house on the Asian shore of Istanbul.

Nazli Iliçak occasionally used to organize discreet meetings at the luxury house she owns on the Asian shore of Istanbul, for Necmettin Erbakan, a personality of Turkish political Islam, close to Tunisian Rached Ghannouchi.

This was how she put in contact the leader of the Islamist circles with European partners. The Turks were most interested by the advises the latter could provide them in the area of human rights, while sipping tea around the swimming pool and enjoying the view over the Bosphorus.

Educated at the French speaking high-school Notre Dame de Sion in Istanbul, then at university of Lausanne in Switzerland, Nazli Iliçak totally mastered the art of translating Erbakan’s statements into something understandable for these Europeans who were so unaccustomed to the Islamists’ rhetoric.

Well known but unmanageable, rebellious but nationalist

And when in 2001 she loses her MP seat as the Virtue Party gets banned, she turns to the European Court of Human rights (ECHR), which will settle the case in her favour.

Afterwards, during the battle that pitches “father figure” Necmettin Erbakan against his “son” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, she eventually gives her support to the latter, who then founds the Justice and Development Party, AKP.

She will gradually move away from him, denouncing his authoritarian excesses, and will definitely break with him in December 2013 when RT Erdogan’s relatives are charged with corruption.

An acknowledged personality, though unmanageable, rebellious though nationalist, Nazli Iliçak is eventually fired from Sabah, the pro-government newspaper, in which she writes.

Nazli Iliçak knows a lot about coups – she lived through them all.

A descendent of the Ottoman pashas, including Mecca’s commander, Nazli Iliçak knows a lot about coups. She’s been through them all.

The first time was on 27th May 1960, when she was 16 years old: Prime Minister Menderes was hanged on order of the junta in power, and the father of the young woman, a member of the democratic government, was jailed for two and a half years.

Fifty-six years later, her turn has come to be taken away by the police. During her custody, which, under the state of emergency, can last up to 30 days, she will have plenty of time to ponder over the lack of gratefulness of the Islamist conservative government whose public relations she took care of, and whose control she contributed to strengthen, with both confidence and sincerity; a government about which she then denounced the authoritarian excesses of its number one leader, RT Erdogan, with a courage that her male colleagues did not always share with her.

Ariane Bonzon

Translation: Laurence Mazure

Photo: Nazli Iliçak in Mugla on 26th July 2016 after her arrest by Turkish police / AFP PHOTO /IHLAS NEWS AGENCY

French original version (dates back to 26.07.2016) : Les purges turques concernent tout le monde et le cas de Nazli Iliçak l’illustre bien.

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *