Erdogan has accused the Gülen movement of forming a state within the state. However, a majority of the Turkish people believe that this is an exaggeration. About 60 percent of people asked in polls think that Erdogan instead is trying to cover up the corruption within his own government by blaming the Gülen movement.
But something that could be called a state within the state actually exists in Turkey, sponsored with the tax payers money. Its name is Diyanet, The Ministry of Religious Affairs. It serves directly under the prime ministers office.
Ataturk founded Diyanet in 1924 as a replacement for the caliphate, that was managing the religious affairs during the Ottoman era. Diyanet’s role thus became to support the building and management of mosques and to teach citizens about religion in different ways.
Since AKP came to power in 2002, the size and influence of Diyanet has increased dramatically. Its personnel has doubled to almost 120 000 people, and more than 2000 people from the Diyanet has been positioned within other state ministries, without clear reasons. The ministry’s tone against other religions has also become more harsh; it publishes propaganda books against christianity as one example.
But the most jaw-dropping thing with this ministry is its budget. During the AKP rule, it has skyrocketed to an astonishing TL 4.6 billion in 2013 and it is going to increase to TL 5.4 billion in 2014.
To get the impression of how much money Diyanet is given each year by the AKP, lets compare its budget to the budgets of other ministries in 2013.
A budget of TL 4.6 billion is:
1.6 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of the Interior
1.8 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Health
1.9 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology
2.4 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning
2.9 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
3.4 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Economy
4.6 times larger than the budget allocated to MIT – Secret Services
How this enormous amount of money is spent is far from known. In 2009 it was reported that only TL 3 million went to support the building of mosques. The rest seem to be put into religious education, religious services towards families and providing each mosque with an Imam. But its hard to find any reason how this can add up to TL 5.4 billion. If you don’t consider corruption, that is.
In short, Diyanet is a discriminative, religious institution, employing 120 000 people with a jaw-dropping budget that is not properly accounted for.
From my point of view it is the closest you can come a state within the state in Turkey.