İlhan Balkanlıoğlu, the new governor of Sakarya province in Turkey, took office in a religious ceremony. He was welcomed to his office by the members of the İsmailağa [Naqshbandi] religious sect, chanting "Allahuakbar", in a way that is against the principle of laicism.
After the video footage of the reactionary welcoming ceremony for Balkanlıoğlu had been released, his ties with the İsmailağa sect stirred debates. Various columnists questioned whether Balkanlıoğlu was assigned for the position because of his connection with the İsmailağa sect.
Hürriyet newspaper columnist Ahmet Hakan commented "If any disagreement arises with the İsmailağa sect in the future, nobody can say they are being fooled", alluding to the AKP government's conflict with the Fethullah Gülen sect during the 15 July coup attempt in 2016. The AKP government and the Fethullah Gülen sect had close ties before the coup attempt, and yet the AKP members started to deny their connection with the sect following the coup attempt, saying they had been deceived by the Fetullahists.
GOVERNOR DENIED TIES WITH RELIGIOUS SECT
Following the debates about Balkanlıoğlu's connection with the İsmailağa sect, Balkanlıoğlu denied his ties with them, saying that the group chanting "Allahuakbar" are "veterans of 15 July coup attempt". He said that the debate about the group is an insult for the so-called veterans and that the group only wanted to "commemorate" the 15 July coup attempt. Balkanlıoğlu also commented that the ones who spread the video footage are "serving for the Fethullahist crime organisation."
RELIGIOUS SECTS AS DE FACTO PARTNERS OF THE GOVERNMENT
Some commentators noted that the ties of Balkanlıoğlu with the İsmailağa sect show religious sects have the power to assign governors in Turkey.
Though the AKP government has embarked on a mission to purge people connected to Fethullah Gülen sect after the 15 July coup attempt, it replaced its partnership with Fethullahists by means of other sects. This is because the government of Turkey lacks the skills of governing without cults. There are tens of religious sects in Turkey all of which have political, social, cultural and economic power and activities. They own colleges, associations, publishing houses, newspapers and the like.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and leader of the İsmailağa religious sect.
The state resources had been allocated to the members of various cults and they had been assigned to various positions within the state. There are several MPs belonging to different cults acting as the spokesperson of their cults in the Turkish parliament.
TIES OF AKP GOVERNMENT WITH NAQSHBANDI ORDER
Apart from the Fethullah Gülen sect, the members of the AKP belong to various different sects and cults. Yet the Naqshbandi order has the most influence among AKP members. The President Erdoğan is known with his close ties with İskenderpaşa dervish lodge. According to a survey about religious affiliations of AKP MPs, around 80 of the total 350 MPs of the AKP government belong to the Naqshbandi order. The Naqshbandi order is also known as a source of block vote in each election.