Businessman and education volunteer Yusuf Bekmezci was arrested despite being 80 years old and suffering from illness. He struggled with illness in prison, his requests for release were ignored. He had a heart attack while undergoing cataract surgery at the beginning of January, and died on February 20, 2022. His family was not allowed to see him in intensive care, although the patient was under arrest, his release was again refused. Bekmezci had Alzheimer’s disease, as well as blood pressure and osteolysis disorders.
Yusuf Bekmezci, who was imprisoned in Kırıklar F Type Prison, had his heart stopped during the operation at İzmir Katip Çelebi University İzmir Atatürk Training and Research Hospital, where he went for eye surgery on January 4.
Bekmezci, who was brought back to life, was treated in intensive care. However, Bekmezci died at about 00:50 today.
Bekmezci’s daughter Şeyma Bekmezci said: “We have just received the news of the passing of my father Yusuf Bekmezci. May Allah be pleased with all those who pray,”.
HE WAS NOT RELEASED DESPITE THE “HALT THE EXECUTION’ DECISION BY MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE
The application for the release of Bekmezci, who was not allowed to take his relatives with him in any way while he was being treated in the intensive care unit, was rejected by the Izmir 2nd High Criminal Court.
Last Friday, Medical Jurisprudence Institute decided to postpone the execution of 82-year-old seriously ill Yusuf Bekmezci. However, the İzmir 2nd High Criminal Court did not release Bekmezci despite this report. It was decided to continue the execution in the hospital.
However, the İzmir 2nd High Criminal Court did not release Bekmezci despite this report.
IN HIS FIRST STATEMENT, HE SAID, ‘I LOVE FETHULLAH GÜLEN HOCAEFENDI’
Yusuf Bekmezci, who was caught within the scope of the investigation by the Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on the charge of “managing a terrorist organization” within the scope of investigations against Hizmet Movement, was sentenced to 17 years and 4 months in prison on the charge of “managing an armed terrorist organization” in the courthouse to which he was transferred on January 23, 2020.
In a news portrait published in Kronos, the life story of Yusuf Bekmezci was told as follows:
FROM KESTANEPAZARI TO THE STEPPES OF KAZAKHSTAN: WHO IS YUSUF BEKMEZCI?
He was 82 years old. He was a prisoner. He was sick. He spent 47 days in intensive care. He was not released and emigrated from this world. So, who was Yusuf Bekmezci, who was sentenced to 17 years and 4 months in prison and dragged to death with a sense of revenge for being one of the closest names to Gulen?
1968. Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir had become the centers of student movements. It was one of the difficult days of that difficult year. A person who threw his hands behind his jacket in the twilight of the evening in front of the Izmir Higher Islamic Institute, which was opened two years ago, was pacing in front of the school, looking around in all corners, looking for someone. A little later, he noticed another large-built shadow like himself on the other side of the institute building. Did he look familiar? Who was it? He should have come closer and found out. He moved in that direction. He approached.
He also checked the stick he had attached to the back of his jacket. He wasn’t involved in a fight. But just in case, he had stashed a piece of wood that he had grabbed from a corner between his jacket and his shirt, a habit of his old nationalist days. He approached. The other person had recognized him before. “Mr. Yusuf, what are you doing here?” said. He was stuck in the psychology of guilt. The words were knotted in his throat. “I came to look for student friends.” he’d say. But couldn’t say. The other person was his age. He was respectful, he was shy. Yet he prevailed. “What are you doing here, sir?” said. The name of that man was Fethullah Gulen. In the conversation they had just a few hours ago, he had gathered and warned the tradesmen who contributed to the education of imam hatip and theology students. Student events were about to jump from other faculties to the Higher Islamic Institute. There was a debate about boycotting the school between leftist and rightist students.
Fethullah Gülen warned the tradesmen, including Yusuf Bekmezci, and asked the students not to get involved in the events, and even to be cautious when going to school for 3-5 days. Bekmezci also came to check to see if there were any students who were disobedient and left behind. He was relieved when Gulen said, ”I’ve come to take care of friends.” “I just came to check on them..” he was able to say. They greeted and left. Both of them returned to their student houses, to the youth in the dormitory.
MEETING WITH FETHULLAH GULEN AFTER YAŞAR TUNAGÜR
It had been not so much, just two years since he met Fethullah Gulen. Gulen, who worked as an imam and preacher at the Edirne Üç Şerefeli Mosque, had stayed in his hometown of Erzurum for a while after completing his military service. Then he was appointed to Izmir, to the Kestanepazarı Mosque. Yaşar Tunagür, who was the Mufti of Balıkesir and Edirne and later rose to the post of Vice-President of Religious Affairs, was the previous president of Izmir Kestanepazarı Association before Gülen. Tunagür wanted Gulen to be appointed in his place.
Yusuf Bekmezci took great advantage of the sermons and conversations of Tunagür. When the appointment of Tunagur was raised, he said, ‘My teacher, don’t leave this place’. Tunagür Hoca pointed out a name that refreshed his heart and will mark the next 55 years of his life. ”I’ll send someone to my place in the future, you won’t need me…” he said.
Two weeks later, Fethullah Gülen was appointed as a preacher in Izmir. The Kestanepazarı community was surprised to see the young preacher. Yusuf Bekmezci explains the rest: “When a hodja is mentioned, people with old heads and beards come to mind first. We saw a young man in front of us. I was very impressed by his knowledge and the breadth of his spiritual horizons. Then there were movements like rightism, leftism. I’m a tradesmen. I am the trustee of the student training association for imam hatip schools. We are in these struggles morning and night. When I met someone from my own age group; his religious life, his way of telling religion, his integration in the subjects he told, all this had a great impact on me. As with Yasar Tunagür, we decided to tape Fethullah Gulen’s sermons with our friends. Because he had an electrification and affectation in public. We wanted this to reach everyone.”
Yusuf Bekmezci had met Gülen after his second sermon at the Kestanepazarı Mosque. This association would continue with student activities extending from Izmir to different parts of Anatolia and from there to the steppes of Kazakhstan.
FROM BEYŞEHİR ÜZÜMLÜ TO TRADESMEN IN İZMİR
Yusuf Bekmezci was born in 1939 in Üzümlü Town of Beyşehir district, Konya. After finishing primary school, his family moved to Izmir in 1951. He wanted to be a tradesman. He did his military service in Isparta. He decided to continue the trade he had learned before military service. He opened a small shop in Izmir. He improved his craftsmanship with haberdashery, kitchen supplies, and glassware. He was a tradesman of Kestanepazarı . On the one hand, they were trying to support the students coming from Uşak, Manisa, Afyon, Denizli around Izmir. Kestanepazarı Association was one of the occasions for this. With the arrival of Gulen, things have changed, the target has grown. When Gülen asked, ”Where are young people going?“ Yusuf Bekmezci answered, “To coffee shops and cinemas..” Gülen said, “Let us also go to the coffee shops and tell our people something. These people may not come to the mosque. We receive our salary. We have no right to wait for them to come and ask us. We’ll go to people’s feet and tell them what we know.”
COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATIONS…
“Doesn’t people say, what is the teacher doing in the coffee shop?” said Bekmezci. Gulen said, “We take into account what the people say, but will we not think what Allah will say? Let’s go and tell them what we know, and we’ll learn from them, too,” he insisted, and hit the road. Bekmezci was instrumental in taking the first step that started coffee conversations, by agreeing with a coffee shop on the Bornova road to pay for the tea drunk that day. Gulen’s coffee conversations after the evening prayer attracted great attention. The number of people helping students has increased. The portrait of the community has changed.
Institutions have grown with people’s charity and zakat, help and scholarships. Names such as Yusuf Bekmezci, Mustafa Ok, Cahit Erdoğan, Naci Şençekicer, Köse Mahmut, Hacı Kemal Erimez, and Ali Kervancı became the pioneers of an education movement that started from İzmir and spread first to Istanbul and then to Anatolia. Bekmezci and Hacı Kemal Erimez’s efforts were very important in the foundations of Fatih College and Yamanlar College. They also worked as builders, and as business people, they gave the biggest donations.
A TICKET TO PARIS AND GULEN’S PASSPORT
Bekmezci was a man of hard times. Kestanepazari Association had a board of trustees of 4 people. The fifth name was Fethullah Gulen. One day they were eating at the floor table. Gülen came in. He was very depressed. Mehmet Fidan, Mustafa Ok, Köse Mahmut and Yusuf Bekmezci were on the floor table. Köse Mahmut said, “We are ignorant dwarfs, my teacher. We do not know his wisdom, Allah has given us such a person, we are going after him. If we were educated, we would be arrogant of knowledge. Maybe this way is beneficial.” Gulen smiled, and said “Köse, you are talking bigger than your height. The food’s getting cold.” and he joined them.
Another time Bekmezci was out of town. Fethullah Gulen had prepared his passport, even bought a flight ticket to France. Bekmezci had gone to visit the association building where Gülen lived before his house. Everyone was silent. “What’s going on?” he asked. He got the answer, “Our teacher will go on a journey, we ordered a taxi, we are waiting for it”. He was shocked. He chased those around him. He went out to Gulen. “My teacher, friends are talking about a trip, what is that?” he asked. When Gulen confirmed the trip. “Teacher, give me your passport so I can check it out,” he took it away from him. He disappeared as soon as he got the passport. Bekmezci went to his house and said to his wife, ‘Here, keep this passport, do not tell anyone, including me, where you hid it.” Thus, Bekmezci blocked Gulen’s possible trip to Europe, in which he would have completely broken away from Izmir.
Fethullah Gülen was arrested on May 3, 1971 after the 12 March Memorandum and stayed in prison for 6 months. When he came out, some people he expected loyalty said to him, “Don’t get me involved in these things anymore!” Three or five people were close witnesses of this sad state of Gulen. When Gülen asked “Will these services be interrupted?”, Yusuf Bekmezci jumped up, punched himself in the chest, and said: “My teacher, may my soul be sacrificed for your way.”
THE FIRST TRIP TO THE STEPPES OF KAZAKHSTAN
The 1970s and 80s were also difficult years. On both March 12 and September 12, Fethullah Gulen and his entourage were targeted. Yusuf Bekmezci, with his courage, valor, and sacrifice, was always there for Gulen in those years. By the 1990s, one of the steel bastions of the bipolar world had fallen. The Soviet Union was dissolved. Inspired by Gülen, the student services provided by names such as Yusuf Bekmezci, Hacı Kemal Erimez spread throughout Turkey. A new horizon has been drawn. This time the trip was to be made to Central Asia. Anatolian youth, teachers, tradesman, all wanted to return to their ancestral homeland and pay off their loyalty debt. Among the first names to set out was Yusuf Bekmezci again.
Yusuf Bekmezci tells the following in a TV program “Traces of the Past” broadcasted on Irmak TV, which was first seized and a trustee was appointed and closed with a statutory decree after July 15, 2016: “In a sermon in 1977, the Hocaefendi said that Russia will collapse in 10 years. It was the 1990s, and it happened.” While the Central Asian Republics were declaring their independence one by one, he also encouraged educators and tradesmen to go these countries. Hayati Yavuz and Yusuf Bekmezci, two tradesmen of Izmir, also went to Kazakhstan in 1991.
9TH SCHOOL AND THE EDUCATION STARTED ON THE SECOND FLOORS OF FIZMAT
In the newly independent Kazakhstan, both the opening of Turkish schools and commercial cooperation were considered. They knocked on the door of the Ministry of National Education of Kazakhstan. Permission to open a school was not given. But the offer of Bekmezci and his friends to take a group of students and teachers from the Kazakh authorities on a trip to Turkey to visit educational institutions was accepted. They visited Turkey. An educational delegation from Kazakhstan came to visit Turkey. When they visited both public schools and private schools affiliated to the Ministry of Education, the view and opinion of the Kazakh authorities had changed. Upon returning from the visit, the doors of Fizmat and 9th School, which were serving side by side in Almaty, were opened. On the second floor of both schools, teachers coming from Anatolia began to teach Kazakh students. These studies were carried out with coeducation under the name of Kazakh Special Education Foundation, which was established in the first period. The Director of Fiz-Mat, Adam Beg (sir) and the Director of the 9th School, Nurguze Apay, helped Bekmezci and the educators realize the co-education project, which was the first project that would pave the way for educators. The Fiz-Mat school was one of the 7 best schools of that geography during the Soviet era. Later, it became a place that the late President Özal visited frequently.
Bekmezci, in an interview in 2014, when describing the years of Kazakhstan from his own mouth, said the following:
“I left in 1991. I stayed in Kazakhstan for 15 years. I’ve been to 28 school openings. We were 4 uneducated when we left. There were a few of us who had graduated from university. We have applied to the Kazakh Ministry of Education because we want to open a school. At first it was not accepted. We brought teachers and students to Turkey, and showed them samples. We said this is a private school, this is a public school. We said that within the framework of the curriculum of our Ministry of National Education, we will also tell Kazakh history in Kazakh and Russian. We opened the schools. I left in 1991. In 1992, schools began to operate. We see the people who grew up in this school. We are proud to have our flag planted in front of each of the establishments we have opened. Those who study here, those who send their children to these schools, are praying, not us.”
‘OPEN A SCHOOL FOR OUR GIRLS TOO’
One day, a Kazakh female teacher asked Bekmezci, “Can there be peace in a house where people with different beliefs and thoughts live?” ”If there is love and respect, then yes,” replied Bekmezci. The teacher did not find this answer sufficient. Girls should have joined this journey. That’s what happened. The opening of the girls’ colleges became the agenda and took place on the occasion of the conversation between these two names.
THE ELDER PATTIN ON THE BACK OF NAZARBAYEV
Yusuf Bekmezci stayed in Kazakhstan for 15 years. After the first five years, he started trading as a tradesman. By promoting the Izmir Young Businessmen’s Association, he was instrumental in one of the country’s first investments after the declaration of independence. He planned projects to open pasta and biscuit factories in a region where grain quality is above world standards. In 1998, a biscuit factory was established under the name of Hamle. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first elected President of Kazakhstan, personally opened it. There is also a pleasant souvenir in the memory of Enes Cansever, a journalist who closely followed the ceremony. Yusuf Bekmezci, who was with Nazarbayev throughout the opening ceremony, reached out and patted Nazarbayev on the back a few times while the president was speaking and explaining the incentives for cooperation, thanking him. The guards and the protocol managers were alarmed. They asked Cansever for help as an interpreter, and said, “Whoever this elder is, don’t touch our president, don’t pat his back.” Although Cansever mediated, Bekmezci continued his natural behavior due to his sincerity. When the matter came to Nazarbayev, he also confirmed Bekmezci’s sincerity. A new friendship has begun. Bekmezci brought everything from the production line to the experience of BIFA, which was put under pressure and on the verge of bankruptcy during the 28 February period. Today, the factories taken over by the Ülker group in Kazakhstan are still in operation.
Yusuf Bekmezci had lived a full life that would not fit into these short portraits. After July 15, he was arrested as part of the trials against Hizmet Movement. The release calls of his family and deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu were ignored. Bekmezci had Alzheimer’s disease, as well as blood pressure and osteolysis disorders. His son-in-law and daughter had also been arrested. Bekmezci’s assets were confiscated illegally. Yusuf Bekmezci, although he had been in intensive care for about two months, was not being released.
Yusuf Bekmezci, who has been unconsciously under treatment in the intensive care unit since January 4, passed away the previous day at the age of 83. Bekmezci was hospitalized after his heart stopped during cataract surgery. He was not allowed to take his relatives or even his wife with him. Applications for release was rejected bu İzmir 2nd High Criminal Court. Bekmezci, who has Alzheimer’s disease, said in his first statement in court after his arrest, “I love Gülen Hocaefendi. I can’t call him a terrorist,”.
Yusuf Pekmezci (first on the right) together with Hayati Yavuz (second from the right) and Hacı Kemal Erimez (third from the right) Nurgize Apay (sixth from the right), the Principal of the 9th Schools, the first college opened in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Adambek Bey (fourth from the right), the Principal of the Fiz-Mat Schools. (Photo: Enes Cansever)
Together with Nursaltan Nazarbayev at the opening ceremony of the biscuit factory established in Kasgelen, close to Kazakhstan’s capital Almaty, under the name of Hamle.
The patient, prisoner Yusuf Bekmeci, died.
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