Sunday, February 9, 2014

Eyes Wide Shut In Illinois

As you know, I've been writing about the fact that one of our big charter networks is connected in a very fundamental way to a figure in a foreign political crisis, a phenomenon I find unique and worthy of discussion.

The Guardian is currently running a story about the Turkish police,  which are pretty much being purged of Gulen Movement members, who had apparently established themselves as a secretive force within a force, if you will.  The authoritarian prime minister of Turkey is in a political death match with Fethullah Gulen, his former ally, and this police purge is part of that unpleasant divorce.

Türker Yilmaz* was not long into his police academy training when he realised how the system worked. The good jobs, the better pay, the promotion prospects all depended on your dedication to a shadowy Islamic network with its headquarters based in Pennsylvania.
"They kept tabs on every recruit, had a grading system from zero to five – five being the ones who prayed, fasted, never drank alcohol," the policeman said, referring to the movement founded by the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who lives in exile in the US.

The officers welcomed the backlash against the network inside the police but stressed that it should not serve to legitimise corruption. "Of course I want those who are corrupt to be punished. I am not defending corruption at all. But these purges were long overdue," said Yilmaz. "The government knew about this. It was the government in the first place who enabled them, who helped them, they came to power together. Helping them was the government's biggest mistake."
Gün spoke of a huge sense of relief among his colleagues that the police were being cleared of the network. "It really was an atmosphere of deep paranoia. Even if it seemed technically impossible for every single officer's phone to be tapped, we were all afraid of being spied on all the time."
The pressure was subtle, but constant: "Nobody would force you to pray, or fast during Ramadan. But they kept tabs on all of that, on everyone. Nobody talked about it. Everybody knew, but nobody dared to discuss the issue. This has started to change."
It's a fascinating piece. Read the whole thing. The religious aspect of it doesn't always make it into the press, even I avoid it on this blog, but there it is, in The Guardian.

Meanwhile, the next Niagara Foundation event here in Chicago is scheduled for May. We don't know who's going to get trophies from these guys, and we certainly don't know which political figures have been accepting travel gifts from them, whether "authorized" or not. All we know is that it's strange that very few people can even bring themselves to talk about the fact that there's more to this movement than meets the eyes.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It's human nature not to criticize someone who's given you an award or toured you through a beautiful ancient land. Given the wide array of Democrats who've gotten onto planes with members of the Gulen Movement, and given the Democratic control of our state government, I wouldn't hold my breath for anyone in office to call for an investigation.

Alarmist? No. I actually think that this kind of behavior---soft lobbying, influence peddling, secret societies-- has a long history here in the States. What's different about it is the connection to public education, the closeness of actors in a foreign crisis to the privatized American public schools, and the sheer numbers of Illinois politicians who are determined to keep their eyes wide shut.

Would the Movement ever try to gain a foothold in our own justice system? It's a tactic that worked well for them back home for a very long time. Probably not. I think they're doing very well with the charter school growth curve, and that's probably enough.

But I'll leave you with some random screenshots of people who have been showered with awards by the Movement here in Chicago.

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