What is the Hizmet movement?

What is the Hizmet movement?

Hizmet is a faith-inspired civil society movement that seeks to create a culture of coexistence within universal, humanist values and is comprised of volunteers.

The essence of volunteerism is to make a contribution without the expectation of anything in return. Put a different way, whoever does his service with any expectations whatsoever would not be acting in the spirit of Hizmet.

Second, Hizmet, as a civil society movement, operates with a strictly civic character. It is not an organ or an affiliate of a government program, political party or agenda. Likewise, this civil movement is not an opponent of any political party. In the final analysis, political scientists base the definition of a civil society movement on three main elements: It must be voluntary, autonomous and nongovernmental. A social movement that fulfills these three criteria is considered a civil society movement and ought to be called such. For this reason, whoever seeks to ascribe a political agenda to Hizmet ignores the spirit of this civic movement. Likewise, as a result of its civic character, there is no official connection or hierarchy among the adherents of the movement, nor is there a central administration directing all of Hizmet’s efforts.

At this point, the discussions of the relationship between this movement and politics in particular should be carefully analyzed. Arguments suggesting that Hizmet is associated with a particular political party or is a secret supporter or opponent of a political party are not compatible with the essence of the movement. As uncompromising supporters of democracy, those who participate in Hizmet are respectful of all political movements that do not rely on terror and violence, which are rejected by universal legal standards. However, Hizmet does not pursue integration with or detachment from any democratic and non-violent political movements.

The growing respect for Hizmet in numerous countries and among varying religious, ethnic and language groups is attributable to its civic character. If people associated with the Hizmet movement had been involved in acts that violated this character or acted as representatives of political parties or government programs, they would not have been welcomed by cultures all over the globe.

But here is another critical point: As in any other social movement, some participants in the Hizmet movement may act contrary to the movement’s core value of civic volunteerism. However, these mistakes cannot be attributed to Hizmet. If such a person’s mistake has legal consequences or liabilities, the only proper recourse is to take this person before the courts and the legal process.

This description is being made to offer a small contribution to the ongoing debates in Turkey. Because of the focus of the long-standing debate on the Hizmet movement in Turkey, Turkish politics and its agenda have been taken as the main point of reference in our discussion as well. But it would be misleading to conclude that Hizmet is an exclusively Turkish movement. While from a historical and sociological perspective Hizmet certainly originated in Turkey, the values and the understanding it represents are universal.


Excerpted from Journalists and Writers Foundation’s statement on April 6, 2012

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