Conservatives of Turkish origin for a long time felt quite at home with the social-democratic PvdA

Öztürk and Kuzu.
Öztürk and Kuzu.
In November 2014 two members of Parliament of Turkish origin, Tunahan Kuzu and Selcuk Öztürk, caused quite a stir in the PvdA after their party member and deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher announced that in the coming five years he will be investigating the Turkish religious organisations in the Netherlands. The Turkish term for such organisations is Cemaatler and they are: Milli Görüs, Diyanet, Suleymancilar and the Gülen movement. Asscher also expressed his concern about a survey that was conducted by research bureau Motivaction among Turkish-Dutch young people. Ninety per cent of them are supposedly sympathising to some extent with the terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS). After feverish consultations both Kuzu and Öztürk were expelled from the party.

The original text in Dutch
(November 27th, 2014)
Translated by Jet

The two former PvdA members decided not to give up their seats in Parliament but to continue as the Kuzu/ Öztürk Group. The media did not go into the details of the political background of these two members of Parliament. We at Doorbraak have already come across Kuzu in the past. This was in 2012 when we wrote an article about a festival that was organised by Turkish fascist organisations in the Netherlands. Kuzu was also at the festival and sent out some angry tweets in reaction to our article. In addition to listing the names of the organising groups, we also wrote about the fact that the Muslim fundamentalist Foundation Islamic Centre the Netherlands (SICN), better known as “Suleymancilar” (= followers of Suleyman), had withdrawn from the organisation of the festival. According to Kuzu it was unjustified to refer to Suleymancilar as fundamentalists.

Turkish migrants

So let’s now have a closer look at the curious relationship of the PvdA with Turkish nationalist and Islamic fundamentalist organisations. From the end of the sixties onwards, when the first Turkish migrants arrived in the Netherlands and it became clear that most of them would not go back, the PvdA has profiled itself as the party that puts the interests of the migrants on the agenda. It was not surprising that many of the migrants actually really felt at home in the party. In their view their interests as workers would be best looked after by the ‘workers party’ PvdA. At the time Turkish families lived mostly in poor and impoverished neighbourhoods. The younger generations lacked any positive perspective for the future. Although over the years this decreased to a certain extent, it is true to say that the PvdA remained the party for the migrants.

What is the most striking in the engagement of Turkish migrants with the PvdA from the early years until today is that the followers of the extreme right-wing movements in Turkish politics, such as the Grey Wolves and all sorts of Islamic fundamentalists, have remained loyal to their ideology but adopted the ‘left wing’ PvdA en masse once they were in the Netherlands. If they would have made their ideological choice in Dutch politics based on their own political roots, the Grey Wolves would have had to choose the extreem Right PVV and the fundamentalists would have opted for the SGP. But that never happened.

The PvdA benefits from this more than any other party. Although they know very well where the votes come from, the party so far has invariably, consciously and opportunistically ignored the ideological differences. After all, a substantial number of votes are at stake. And the more the PvdA moves towards the right, the more the right-wing Turkish Dutch citizens feel at home in the party. This development is a win-win situation for both groups. However, the incident involving Kuzu and Öztürk shows that a rift has developed that appears to be difficult to close.

Angry with Asscher

The cause of the conflict was the investigation that was announced by Asscher. According to him the Turkish religious organisations are not transparent, they have a hidden agenda and are significantly influenced by Turkish politics. Asscher’s announcement created considerable unrest among the followers of Kuzu and Öztürk. Hasan Huseyin Gogus and Yusuf Altuntas who are representatives of Milli Görüs wrote a letter to Asscher, also on behalf of the other organisations. They claimed that the suspicions he had voiced were unfounded, and that anyhow Milli Görüs had changed from a religious-political into a religious-cultural organisation since the nineties. Under pressure of the cemaats Kuzu and Öztürk defended the interests of their followers, something that did not at all please the PvdA.

Kuzu and Öztürk asserted that the PvdA had become increasingly right-wing and tough, and that they did not want to go along with it. However, they are only reacting to the integration policy because they see it as an attack on their conservative political agenda. After all, they are defending a reactionary conservatism that submits people to religious fanaticism and where there is no space for people with different views, or for equal rights for women, homosexuals, and other ‘minorities’. Kuzu and Öztürk are not opposing the shift to the right in the migration policy because of their progressive vision. They have no problem at all with the PvdA’s increasingly right-wing approach with regard to other policy areas. Kuzu and Öztürk do not in any way criticise the erosion of the rights and social gains of the poorer parta of society, to which many Turkish-Dutch people belong. They have enthusiastically contributed to this as PvdA members of parliament.

Supported by the cemaats, and from Turkey by the virtually indestructible power base of the fundamentalist governing party AKP, the two extremely conservative Turkish representatives obviously feel strong enough to stand up against the pressure exerted by Dutch politicians.


And to complete the picture: on November 26, 2014, the Turkish ministry of Foreign Affairs published a letter to the Netherlands on its website. In this letter they called on the Dutch government to put a stop to racist accusations and aggressive language against Turkish-Dutch citizens – read: against Milli Görüs and the other right-wing groups. There is no doubt that the Dutch government is racist. However, the racist Erdogan has no right to comment on this. So we see, it took a few days but Erdogan’s long arm did not take long to catch up.

Bülent Yilmaz