The last refuge of losers: deporting a journalist

Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz
Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz


Date posted: February 7, 2014

İHSAN YILMAZ

I am sure most of our readers know my Today’s Zaman colleague Mahir Zeynalov better than they know me. He is a very accomplished Twitter user. His Turkish twitter account has 57,000 followers and the English one has 87,000 followers. Last year, he was chosen as one of the 10 most effective twitter users in Turkey. His Today’s Zaman blog posts are well-read and widely shared.

Mahir, who is of Azerbaijani origin, is a very bright journalist. Before coming to Turkey to accept a job offer from Today’s Zaman, he was settled in the US and worked for the Los Angeles Times for a while. What Mahir did by leaving the US and coming to Turkey was actually a sacrifice that he made for a country that he loves in addition to his own Azerbaijan. He was educated in Hizmet schools in Azerbaijan and is now married to a Turkish woman. All of these connect him to Turkey.

Yet, despite all this, the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that is becoming increasingly authoritarian and even totalitarian, decided to deport him because of critical tweets. Erdoğan has already filed a criminal complaint against him. Yet, instead of waiting for the outcome of the judicial proceedings, Erdoğan gave his own verdict and has denied Mahir the ability to live in what has now become his own country.

Among so many other things, this one is telling enough, in the sense that Erdoğan does not respect the judiciary anymore and wants to punish his critics with his own bare hands. As I have written in previous columns here, Erdoğan and his oligarchic clique continue to label independent civil society groups such as the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSIAD) and the Hizmet movement as traitors and puppets of international dark forces. Mahir is a newcomer to this group of traitors. Though as a matter of fact, being originally from another country automatically makes him a member of an international dark force in the eyes of the corrupt politicians who have resorted to all sorts of help to get away with their alleged crimes. In the last week, they have tried to get support from several crazy conspiracy theories, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leaders such as Abdullah Öcalan and Cemil Bayık, and Ergenekon and Balyoz convicts. What a group!

Mahir is actually lucky, since at least he will not be jailed. Now, it is becoming clearer that Erdoğan wants a spying-terrorism-coup lawsuit to be opened against Hizmet volunteers. It has been alleged that last summer he told Turkey’s ambassadors that if the Hizmet movement continued to upset him he would arrange for a prosecutor, two police officers and fake report to present the Hizmet movement as a terrorist organization. Since August 2013, the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) has repeatedly mentioned this allegation without naming Erdoğan, but so far, no one has denied or condemned this allegation. Events, Erdoğan’s speeches and the writings of columnists who are very close to both Erdoğan and Erdoğan’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), such as the Yeni Şafak daily’s Cem Küçük, suggest that a lawsuit is already underway. For instance, Küçük wrote last week that academics such as myself and Savaş Genç are part of a coup plot against the Erdoğan government and that these academics deserve what happened to a colonel, Talat Aydemir, who failed in a coup attempt in early 1960s and was hanged.

Make no mistake, all of these are part of a psychological warfare campaign designed to consolidate Erdoğan’s votes. Make no mistake, this is not against the Hizmet movement, which is only a figurehead that is being used and abused by corrupt scenario writers. All that they seek is to make sure that the public does not talk about the alleged government corruption and that the executive is able to subdue the judiciary. They threaten everyone who questions and criticizes their moves.

Make no mistake either that Mahir’s deportation is a clear signal to other foreign journalists. Nevertheless, what Erdoğan did not anticipate is the fact that Mahir has already become a hero journalist. You may call it wishful thinking, but those of us who survive will see in the very near future that Mahir will be awarded several international journalism prizes.

Let me finish with what I said in my last piece: I am afraid and very concerned that their ethical and moral standards will allow them to rig the local elections, since this is, as confessed by Erdoğan last week in Berlin, an existential referendum for the AK Party.

Source: Todays Zaman , February 7, 2014


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