Repression Part 3: March - November 2011
Supported by Gulen Movement, AKP Government accelerates erosion of human rights and freedom of expression in Turkey
Page created Nov 13, 2011
In two previous pages, repression in Turkey was chronicled. The first covered the period through October 2010; the second to March 10, 2011. Since then, there have been further waves of arrests of journalists, authors, human rights activists, Kurdish activists and military personnel, generally for no better reason than that they somehow stood in the way of the Gulen Movement and/or the AKP government's plan to solidify permanent control of the country. A summary of the ongoing backward slide from March to November 2011 is given here.
It is hoped that readers will bear in mind the complicity of the Gulen Movement in all these developments. Supporting the Gulen Movement cannot be decoupled from supporting Turkey's current ruling party, the AKP (the Justice and Development Party, Turkey's ruling party controlled by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.) Gulen urged his followers to vote "yes" in the September 12, 2010 constitutional referendum; as the Christian Science Monitor noted in an article that same day, "the referendum's biggest winner was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan." The indebtedness of the AKP and Erdogan to Gulen for their rise to power was noted in a Sep 20, 2011 op-ed piece in the newspaper Hurriyet by columnist Mustafa Akyol, a man known to have strong Gulenist sympathies. Akyol wrote, "In that sense, both the Gulen Movement, and the Said Nursi tradition that it sprang from, deserve credit for helping create the AKP." The highest circulation newspaper in Egypt, Al Ahram, referred in a piece in its issue of Sep 15, 2011 to "the Justice and Development Party, many of whose leading members, among them Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, were affiliated with the Fethullah Gulen movement." While the Gulen Movement claimed in the past to be "apolitical," this is clearly not true, and the following lines from a 2009 Hurriyet column by Ilhan Tanir are very revealing: "From now on, [Yuksel Alp] Aslandogan announced, the movement will side with a political party that is submissive to its demands." Aslandogan is a prominent spokesman for the Gulen Movement, and also was involved in the attempted founding of some Gulen charter schools.
Whether they admit it to themselves or not, the parents and state officials who support Gulen charter schools, the state legislators, local leaders, and journalists who go on Gulenist Turkey trips, and the apologists who provide propaganda at Gulen conferences and events are all supporting these developments in Turkey. Gulen's supporters here in the US who speak of his commitment to human rights and tolerance have offered no explanation for his public silence in the face of the violation of these principles in his native country.
March 15, 2011 Press coverage of Sener, Sik arrests continued
March 15, 2011 Der Spiegel, "Digging too Deep: Journalist Arrests a Blow for Press Freedom in Turkey" by Daniel Steinvorth: "The dubious arrests of 10 journalists in Turkey for what the authorities claim is involvement in an anti-government conspiracy has thrown further doubt on the extent of press freedoms in the EU candidate country."
"Why has the country now put 68 journalists behind bars and why do Turkey's press associations describe an atmosphere that calls to mind the era of Joseph McCarthy's Communist witch-hunts? What crimes are these journalists actually being accused of by the government?.....The most spectacular criminal case in Turkey's recent history, it [Ergenekon] has seen the arrest of more than 200 suspects, including army officers, politicians and professors. ....The existence of this ominous secret society, though, remains unproven. All three indictments contain gaping holes."
March 31, 2011 Ahmet Sik's book became available online; receives widespread attention
On March 31, Ahmet Sik's unfinished manuscript "The Imam's Army, about the Gulen Movement's infiltration of the Turkish police, was made available online. A partial English translation of this book became available on the web some months later; click here to view it. An English translation of the Epilogue can be read here.
(It is worth noting that Sik was not the first to write a book on this topic. Professor Necip Hablemitoglu was almost finished with the book "Kostebek," also about the Gulen Movement's infiltration of the Turkish police, when he was assassinated in 2002. The far greater international attention given to Sik's book is likely due to his reputation as a gifted journalist who opposed military coups and who was perceived as distant from so-called hard-line secularists. Also, the passage of time between 2002 and 2011 had given the international community more opportunity to replace their romanticized view of Erdogan and the Gulen Movement with a more realistic one.)
An April 6, 2011 article in the German paper Der Spiegel described the government's attempts to completely eradicate Ahmet Sik's manuscript. The article notes, "But the authorities were unable to stop "The Imam's Army" from being posted, in its entirety, on the Web last Thursday. By the end of its first day online alone, the book had been downloaded more than 100,000 times."
April 7, 2011 Zaman columnist Andrew Finkel had enough
On April 7 an opinion piece by Andrew Finkel ran in Turkey's leading English-language newspaper Hurriyet. A footnote says that Finkel had written this piece for the Zaman, and was let go from that newspaper because of it. The reason becomes apparent as the column contains lines such as "In short, writing a book offensive to the Gulen community is not a crime" (boldface added). As Finkel notes, Zaman newspaper is closely associated with the Gulen Movement. Apparently, the arrests of award-winning journalists Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener were a turning point for this journalist, about which he could not remain silent.
April 28, 2011 "More imprisoned journalists than any other country"
The German Marshall Fund of the US published a report by Amberin Zaman entitled "The Turkish Media: At Long Last Turkey Becomes a World Leader!" An excerpt: "Currently, Turkey has more imprisoned journalists than any other country. There are three categories of pressure towards the media in Turkey. The first comes from Turkey’s anti-terror laws, used to jail dissident voices and that date back to the 1980 coup. The second category involves alleged arm-twisting from the prime minister. The final source of pressure comes from Turkey’s largest and most powerful Islamic fraternity led by Fethullah Gulen." (boldface added)
April 28, 2011 Life in Silivri Prison: a letter from journalist Mustafa Balbay
On April 28, 2011, the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet published a letter from imprisoned journalist Mustafa Balbay. Like Sik, Sener, and a number of other journalists, authors, activists and military officials, Balbay is caught up in the highly questionable "Ergenekon" and "Balyoz" accusations. In his letter, he describes how precious the very limited visits and communication are to the inhabitants of Silivri Prison.
Balbay was a journalist for the Turkish newspaper Cumhuiryet. On February 28, 2011 he and Tuncay Ozkan were placed in solitary confinement. It is known that long-term solitary confinement can result in serious psychological damage. Those who have studied or experienced solitary confinement agree that it is a form of torture. The only conceivable justification is in cases of prisoners who are dangerously violent; Balbay, who has been arrested only for what he has said or wrote, clearly is not.
June 17, 2011 German sociologist, human rights defender found in mass grave
On June 17, Bianet reported that a mass grave had been discovered in an isolated area of southeastern Turkey with the body of German sociologist Andrea Wolf. Previously, in September 2010, the European Court of Human Rights had ruled that the Turkish government was guilty of a violation of the European Convention. The article states: "Human rights defender Andrea Wolf was working on a book related to the PKK. It was reported that she died in an armed conflict in the scope of a military operation. According to the accounts of eye-witnesses, Wolf was caught and died as the result of torture."
July 19, 2011 Merdan Yanardag, another author and Gulen critic, not faring well
Worldpress' article of July 19, 2011 entitled "Turkey's Muzzled Press Corps" covers the hard life of journalists in Turkey. The article says that in early 2011, 60 journalists were being held in prison, and Reporters without Borders ranked Turkey 138 out of 178 countries for press freedom.
Merdan Yanardag, author of the book "How Was Turkey Besieged: Behind the Curtains of the Fethullah Gulen Movement," is an example of someone who, while not presently jailed, has nevertheless paid a heavy price for expressing views that are highly critical of Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen Movement. Yanardag describes mistreatment in prison. While he was "lucky" to have been released after several days, he reports ongoing difficulty gaining employment because of "government pressure on print and television media to blacklist those professionals involved in Ergenekon."
July 28, 2011 Imprisoned journalists start their own newspaper
A Reuters article of July 28 reported on the establishment of the "Tutuklu Gazete" ("Imprisoned Newspaper") with a special edition expressing their concerns about media freedom in Turkey - and their own jailing. The article mentions concerns expressed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her Istanbul visit, and proceeds to mention that "A report by the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental pan-European human rights body, has called for urgent measures to address a 'particularly worrying' situation for media freedom."
July 29, 2011 German MP not allowed to visit jailed Turkish journalists
Expatica reported on July 29 that German Member of Parliament Claudia Roth sought to visit prominent journalists Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, both jailed at Istanbul's Silivri Prison, but was not given permission by the government. From the article: "The massive Ergenekon probe, which landed Sik and Sener in jail, was initially hailed as a success in a country where the army has unseated four governments since 1960. But its credibility waned as police began arresting intellectuals and journalists. Critics say it has degenerated into a campaign to bully AKP opponents."
August 26, 2011 Formal charges made against Nedim Sener, Ahmet Sik, others
The New York Times briefly reported: "After more than five months in jail, 12 suspects, including 2 prominent journalists, were formally charged Friday with supporting a terrorist network accused of plotting a coup, the semiofficial Anatolian news agency reported. ....Media freedom advocates have protested the detentions, which they said were aimed at silencing government opponents, an allegation the governing party denied." Note that detaining individuals for long periods of time before they even know the charges against them is generally not considered acceptable in free, democratic societies.
Aug 29, 2011 Gareth Jenkins' comprehensive review of Ergenekon and Balyoz cases, involvement of Gulen Movement
On August 29, the GLORIA center published a thorough and very illuminating review of the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) cases by Turkey analyst Gareth Jenkins. This is highly recommended reading for anyone needing background to understand the real story behind these alleged investigations. Readers are especially directed to the lines referring to the involvement of the FGM, that is, the Fethullah Gulen Movement:
"there is no question that elements from within the FGM community are heavily involved. Gulen sympathizers now dominate large swathes of the judiciary and the police force, particularly the intelligence branches, which have been providing most of the evidence for the investigations. Since the outset, the FGM’s media outlets have sought to shape domestic and international public opinion about the cases by running vigorous disinformation campaigns, including inaccuracies, distortions and outright untruths. They have also mobilized their resources to launch vicious defamation campaigns against anyone who criticizes or questions the investigations.
"Nor is it possible to ignore the regularity with which, particularly since 2009, the Ergenekon investigation has targeted the FGM’s critics and rivals. Through early 2011, there were increasing signs that, even in a country as awash with conspiracy theories as Turkey, the public was finally beginning to question the plausibility of the outlandish claims made for Ergenekon and Sledgehammer. Similarly, the frenzied coverage of the investigations in the FGM media and the consistency with which they targeted the movement’s rivals and opponents for arrest and imprisonment was increasingly looking like a coincidence too far."
It is mentioned in passing that an additional excellent source of detailed information about falsification of Ergenekon/Sledgehammer evidence and lies printed in Gulenist media (notably Zaman newspaper) is the blog of prominent economist Dani Rodrik and his wife Pinar Dogan. While some may say that their views may be affected by the fact that Dogan's father, Cetin Dogan, is a Sledgehammer defendant, the fact is that they lay out the information in a way that anyone can verify independently. Follow the links, read the original documents, and see for yourself.
Sep 7, 2011 Reporters without Borders is appalled
A September 7 article in Eurasia Review stated that "Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the way the Turkish authorities continue to treat two of the country’s leading investigative journalists, Ahmet Sik (Ahmet Şık) and Nedim Sener (Nedim Şener), who have just completed their sixth month in prison on trumped-up terrorism charges. 'These two journalists have already been detained without any justification for six months and the trial has not even started,' Reporters Without Borders said. 'Each day they spend in prison is an outrage that sullies the image of Turkish democracy...' ...The full text of the 134-page indictment is not yet available but the details that have already emerged suggest that there has been no change in the paranoid rhetoric used by the prosecutor-general’s office during the initial interrogations."
Sep 7, 2011 Prestigious scientific journal Nature concerned about Turkish government moves to limit academic freedom, threats to democracy
In a rare move, one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals, Nature, issued en editorial expressing concern for the government takeover of Turkey's equivalent of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as broader concerns about Erdogan's government:
"Scientists around the world should protest efforts by the government of Turkey to erode academic autonomy. And the wider world should note the threat to democracy. On the eve of a week-long holiday to celebrate the end of the fasting period of Ramadan, the Turkish government executed an extraordinary scientific coup. On 27 August, it issued a decree with immediate effect, giving itself tighter control of Turkey's two main scientific organizations: the funding agency TUBITAK and the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TUBA), the governance of which is now so altered that it can no longer be considered an academy at all. ... The move has startled and appalled Turkish scientists. It should also sound an alarm bell throughout Turkish society."
Concerns about this development in the American scientific community were also voiced at the PhysOrg website and in Science Insider.
Sep 12, 2011 "There is no such crime in any of the world’s democratic countries."
Mehmet Y Yilmaz, writing in Hurriyet, notes that jailing individuals for their writings is not considered legitimate in any democracy.
Sep 18, 2011 Turkish journalists march in Istanbul to protest their colleagues' arrests
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on Sep 18: "On the 200th day since journalists Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener were arrested Turkish journalists march in protest on Sunday in Istanbul’s central Taksim district. ... 'It is not Ahmet and Nedim who are on trial in this case, it is journalism itself that is on trial, press freedom and freedom of expression are sitting in the felon’s dock,' journalists said."
September 20, 2011 German sociologists who came to investigate mass grave arrested
Bianet report from September 22: "Sociologist Martin Dolzer and Martin Glasenapp were taken into police custody on Tuesday evening (20 September). The German citizens are part of a delegation of 41 people who travelled from Germany to the Kurdish-majority city of Van in south-eastern Turkey. The delegation came to investigate a mass grave that supposedly contained the body of German sociologist Andrea Wolf.....Human rights activists from Switzerland, Germany and El Salvador were part of the delegation."
The charges against these two German citizens, which relate to "propaganda for a terrorist organization," are of course highly improbable, and provide another example of how anti-terror laws are abused in Turkey to target individuals merely for being a bother to the government.
Sep 29, 2011 Transcripts of over 266 private phone calls by Nedim Sener made public
A Hurriyet editorial about how transcripts of numerous personal calls made by Sener to friends and colleagues are now public information because of the case against Turkish media outlet OdaTV gives insight into the degree to which Turkey is a surveillance society. The editorial notes that one of the transcripts shows clearly that Sener was aware that he was being wiretapped. The editorial raises serious concerns about privacy and personal freedom in Turkey.
Oct 6-9, 2011 Meanwhile, back in the US....
The Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival was held in Southern California. Since many students from Magnolia Science Academy and other Gulen charter schools were offered the choice of going on a field trip to attend this festival or staying at their school to do schoolwork, it is hardly surprising that a large number of them attended. In a further move aimed no doubt at bettering its chances of brainwashing American youth, the Pacifica Institute announced that admission would be free to students. The Festival included a lecture series lineup of propaganda on Fethullah Gulen, Turkish "democracy" etc, all designed (combined with the food) to leave attendees with warm, reassuring feelings about Gulen and the current Turkish government.
October 6, 2011 "Who is next?" - Yet more arrests
Bianet reported on more arrests of journalists. "The platform [Platform for Solidarity with Arrested Journalists] expressed their concern about the latest developments. 'The supposed list in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's pocket with 1,400 persons to be arrested becomes reality', the statement read."
October 7, 2011 Massive arrests in connection with increased tensions in Kurdish areas
In response to renewed violence in Kurdish areas of southeastern Turkey, the government began a major crackdown on the Kurdish community. Human rights observers are concerned that many civilians with no connection to violence or terrorism are being caught in the dragnet.
From Bianet: "7748 people were taken into custody and 3895 persons were arrested in the scope of KCK [Koma Civaken Kurdistan political party] operations during the past six months, the Peace and Democracy Party announced. Dozens of BDP [Peace and Democracy Party, Kurdish political party] executives and employees are still in prison."
From PEN International: "The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is highly concerned over reports that writer, academic and translator Deniz Zarakolu was arrested on 7 October 2011 under anti-terror legislation. Although no charges have been formally declared, it is believed that he is being held as the result of his peaceful exercise of the right to free expression. ...It is believed that he was arrested under anti-terror legislation after giving a lecture at the Political Science Academy of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy (BDP) opposition party."
October 11, 2011 More repression of the Kurdish community
In an article entitled "Turkey: Sing a Song, Go to Jail," Yigal Schleifer writes "At a time when the Kurdish issue in Turkey is progressively heating up, the Bianet website brings the story of a Kurdish activist who is facing jail time for simply singing two songs."
Additional lines from this article show that the euphoria of several years ago regarding the supposed progress of the AKP government on the Kurdish issue was misplaced: "On a related note, the Turkish today reported that seven members of a group of members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), who returned to Turkey in 2009 as part of the government's 'democratic opening' -- an initiative aimed to solve the Kurdish problem -- were recently sentenced to jail for spreading 'propaganda' on behalf of the PKK."
Nov 2, 2011 International outcry over arrest of free-speech advocate Ragip Zarakolu, professor Busra Ersanli
From UK newspaper The Guardian: "The international literary community is demanding the immediate release of Turkish publisher and free speech activist Ragip Zarakolu, who has been arrested and imprisoned in Turkey under the country's anti-terrorism laws.
"Zarakolu, director of Belge Publishing House, a member of Turkish PEN and chair of Turkey's Freedom to Publish Committee, is one of more than 40 activists who were detained in Istanbul on Friday, according to PEN and the International Publishers Association. The arrests are part of a crackdown against Kurdish political parties which has seen more than 1,800 supporters of the banned Koma Civakên Kurdistan party jailed since 2009."
From International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH):
"The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention of Mr. Ragip Zarakolu, Honorary Board Member and Founder of the Human Rights Association (IHD), Director of the Belge Publishing House and Chairman of the Publishers Association Freedom to Publish Committee of Turkey, and Ms. Busra Ersanli, lecturer at the Marmara University Faculty of Political Sciences and International Relations in Istanbul, in the framework of a wide ranged anti-terrorist operation intended to dismantle an alleged terrorist network - the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) - that in fact targets peaceful activists from the Kurdish community who are not related to any terrorist activities."
Nov 7, 2011 Activist Ragip Zarakolu sent to high-security cell, normally used for violent criminals
Hurriyet: "Zarakolu will be incarcerated at an F-type prison that hosts 'dangerous convicts and prisoners' in the northwestern province of Kocaeli, alongside 17 other suspects who were also arrested for their alleged links to the KCK."
Nov 9, 2011 "Turkey: Ankara Intimidating Academics, Restricting Free Speech"
An informative piece by Dorian Jones on repression of free speech in Turkey, particularly in academia, mentions the arrests of Ragip Zarakolu and Busra Ersanli.
"As part of the state’s KCK investigation, nearly 8,000 people have been detained since early 2009, including Kurdish mayors, trade unionists, human rights workers as well as academics and students, human rights advocates say. ...
"The government these days appears to be paying special attention to what’s being said on university campuses. Officials have demonstrated particular intolerance of criticism from those in academia. ...
"According to official data, the government is tapping the telephones of nearly 100,000 people in connection with the ongoing anti-terror investigation."
November 11, 2011 Le Monde: ""Democracy in Turkey in danger"
The prominent French newspaper Le Monde ran an opinion piece by columnist and sociologist Ali Bayramoglu, in which he directly addresses Prime Minister Erdogan's claim that there have been no concessions on democracy, human rights and freedoms in Turkey during the recent crackdowns. "Is it really so, Mr. Prime Minister," Bayramoglu asks. The arrests of Ragip Zarakolu and Busra Ersanli are mentioned.
Question: Is this what our publicly-funded charter school system should be supporting?