THE LEVANT – Faced with a smear campaign aimed at discrediting him, outgoing President Abdullah Gül has bowed to the pressure from circles close to President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and has withdrawn invitations to an upcoming reception that were extended to independent journalists who are critical of the government.
Gül’s giving in to the pressure was announced on Wednesday by anonymous Twitter user @AKKULIS, an account reportedly managed by officials in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in coordination with Erdoğan’s aides. The account is allegedly connected to Mustafa Varank, İsmail Cesur, Aydın Ünal and Ertan Aydın, all of whom are Erdoğan’s consultants.
Twitter user @AKKULIS wrote: “Our president [Gül] heard our voice. The invitations extended to parallel elements for the reception for civil society organizations on Aug. 19 were cancelled.”
“Parallel elements” is a derogatory term created by Erdoğan to shift the blame for his legal troubles related to corruption investigations that were exposed on Dec.17, 2013 onto his opponents.
Erdoğan targeted members of the Hizmet movement, inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, opposition political parties, the business community, independent media, the judiciary and the police after the corruption exposé, and accused them of cooperating with foreign powers in a major conspiracy to topple his government.
He abused the criminal justice system to orchestrate a witch hunt against anti-corruption investigators and created special courts to try the police chiefs who exposed both the corruption and the infiltration of the Iran-backed terror group Tawhid-Salam into the Turkish government.
Gül was also added to the list of enemies of Erdoğan’s camp after he announced on Monday that he will return to his party, reversing his earlier stated position that he wished to retire. This announcement was interpreted as being a signal that Gül may take over the AK Party, upsetting Erdoğan’s plans to design the structure of the party management and the next government before he takes up presidential office.
Erdoğan’s spin machine started targeting Gül immediately after the announcement. The invitation of journalists to Gül’s farewell reception on Tuesday night, which used to be a routine practice in the Turkish capital, was immediately exploited by the government’s propaganda machine as a sign that Gül does not have the best interests of the ruling party at heart.
Investigators in Gül’s office have identified several senior officials in the government as the culprits who have been hurling insulting remarks at the current president, all while hidden by anonymous social media accounts.
Yet the exposé did not result in any dismissal or punishment of those officials. On the contrary, the smear campaign against President Gül has increased further, leading to the conclusion that the culprits are being protected by Erdoğan himself.
Several anonymous users who are known to have been attacking Erdoğan’s opponents fiercely slammed Gül for inviting Abdullah Bozkurt, the bureau-chief of Today’s Zaman, and Abdullah Abdülkadiroğlu, the bureau-chief of Samanyolu TV, to the reception. Both journalists were called “enemies of the state,” and “traitors,” who should be banned from attending a state reception.
The users also said that Gül has no place within the AK party, as they accused him of siding with the so-called “parallel structure.”
The hard-line pro-Erdoğan daily Yeni Şafak published pictures of journalists who are critical of the government, including Bozkurt, in its Thursday edition, saying that they should not have been invited to the reception in the first place.
Commenting on the smear campaign, Bozkurt said: “It is very obvious that these people, who mask their real identities, want to discredit the outgoing president by using the names of independent journalists who are critical of the government. They are afraid that Gül, one of the key founding members of the ruling party, may take over the party from the grip of the increasingly authoritarian Erdoğan.”
Bozkurt also emphasized, “These users have been practicing hate speech and committing hate crimes on social media.”