Exiled journalist discusses crisis in Turkey


Date posted: February 11, 2017

Bill Sherman

Mahir Zeynalov has the distinction of being one of the first journalists kicked out of Turkey by the government of President Tayyip Erdogan in a crackdown on the media.

And he considers himself lucky; 55 journalists he worked with at Zaman, once a leading Turkish newspaper with a circulation of about a million, were later jailed in the crackdown.

Zeynalov was in Tulsa for several days this week, speaking at the University of Tulsa, Oral Roberts University and other venues about recent troubles in Turkey.

A native of Azerbaijan, he moved to Turkey when he was in his late teens, and is married to a Turkish woman. He has worked as a correspondent for newspapers in Turkey, Azerbaijan and the United States, the last seven years for Zaman, a publication associated with the Fethullah Gulen Movement in Turkey. Gulen is a Muslim cleric exiled from Turkey now living in Pennsylvania.

Zeynalov’s troubles came to a head in late 2014, he said in a Thursday interview.

He was called to a police station for questioning after writing about a scandal in the Erdogan government.

“It was quite embarrassing for Erdogan,” he said.

He was charged with inciting hatred and animosity among the public. He thought he could avoid arrest by staying in the Zaman newsroom in Istanbul, he said, but when police came to the newsroom, he fled out a back door and went into hiding, ditching all electronic devices that could be traced.

For three days, his wife did not know what had happened to him.

He finally surrendered to the airport police and was forced to leave the country, without his wife.

He went to Azerbaijan, but trumped-up charges were filed there, inspired by Turkey, he said, and he fled to the United States.

“I was newly married. …. I had a beautiful house, a good-paying job, a good life.

“Suddenly, in one night, it all ended. I had to leave overnight. I couldn’t say goodbye to my friends. I couldn’t even sell my furniture …”

Zeynalov has lived in the Washington, D.C., since then.

He worked as a correspondent for Zaman until the Turkish government shut down the newspaper last July following a coup attempt. Erdogan blamed the coup attempt on Gulen, and asked the United States to extradite him. The U.S. refused to do so, saying it lacked evidence of his involvement in the coup.

The Turkish government shut down 149 media outlets, Zeynalov said, many of them not associated with the Gulen Movement.

“Erdogan has cast his net wide,” he said.

Zeynalov worked to get his wife a visa to move to the United States, and she joined him in November.

He said the couple don’t know what their future holds, but if they return to Turkey now, they will be arrested.

“I’m here for good. I’m banned from Turkey. I can’t even go to embassy,” he said.

He said he has been offered newspaper positions, but feels the most important thing he can do now is travel around the United States educating people about the crisis in Turkey.

“Turkey is a very important country that the United States may not want to lose as a strategic ally,” he said.

“Turkey had been a democracy a decade ago, and it’s not today. There are big lessons to learn from Turkey, how leaders in democratic countries like Turkey could manipulate the media, manipulate one part of society with the populist rhetoric, and without violating any laws, can transform the country.”

Turkey is drifting away from the Western orbit, and aligning more with autocratic nations like China and Russia, he said.

As an example, one Turkish lawmaker recently called NATO a terrorist organization, he said.

He said Erdogan and the Turkish government were “euphoric” when President Donald Trump won the U.S. election, and condemned the anti-Trump protesters as being disrespectful to democracy following free elections.

Erdogan had differences with then-president Barack Obama, he said, because Obama armed the Kurds, and Turkey fears a separatist Kurdish movement.

He said Turkey is hopeful that Trump will be a better partner to work with it to fight ISIS, and will be more amenable to extraditing Gulen.


Related News on Zeynalov

Today’s Zaman journalist faces deportation [from Turkey] over critical tweets on government

Turkish paper says journalist expelled for criticizing Erdogan

With happy life left behind, hardship awaits us as exiled family

 

Source: Tulsa World , February 10, 2017


Related News

Normalization of Abduction, Torture, and Death in Erdogan’s Turkey

Abductions, forceful disappearances, tortures, and political target killings have always been among the burning human rights violations in Turkey; however, they skyrocketed during Erdogan’s rule and especially after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Chestnut Retreat Center offers a look inside their Saylorsburg facility and its mission

“CRC envisions a society in which everybody is respected for who they are, people live in peace, everybody is included, the poor and needy are taken care of, and people of different background(s) can have friendly conversations in peace,” Ak said. “CRC believes in the importance of celebrating the commonalities and respecting differences.

Massachusetts Judges Express Fears Over Arrests, Firings Of Judges In Turkey

Former Justice Robert Cordy is worried sick about the fate of the judges he helped train in Turkey and here in Boston. They have been fired, jailed, or gone missing. “It’s devastating,” he said. “I don’t think anything has ever devastated me more than seeing this happen to people that I have come to know, love, respect. It is just beyond the pale.”

Turkey to bid farewell to rule of law if president approves HSYK law

Asked about the prime minister’s claims of the existence of a “parallel state” or the Hizmet movement behind the investigation, the professor said, “These are not claims that are based on concrete information or documents.”

Journalist Dumanlı says slanders against Hizmet reminiscent of Feb. 28 era

Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Dumanlı has described slanderous remarks used by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and some members of the Justice and Development Party government against the Hizmet movement as highly reminiscent of insults directed at the country’s conservative-minded citizens during the Feb. 28, 1997 “postmodern coup” period.

Report claims government categorized schools linked to Hizmet

The Turkish government classified, categorized and monitored a number of educational institutions in some way linked to Hizmet, a faith-based movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, until 2010, a Turkish daily reported on Sunday. “After statements confirmed the document, not only did I feel shattered, I am left speechless,” Gülen said.

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

Main opposition CHP’s visit to Gülen organization a ‘unifying action’

LDP leader says received ‘indecent proposal’ from pro-gov’t paper

Turkey, The great purge – Four lives upturned by Erdogan’s ‘cleansing.’ Episode 2 – Mehmet

Erdogan’s hunt for Gülenists, at home and abroad, includes abductions, torture and disappearances

Fethullah Gülen’s Statement of Condemnation on the Bombing in Manchester, UK

Gov’t cancels Kimse Yok Mu’s previously obtained permissions

Countdown for operation against Hizmet Movement

Copyright 2023 Hizmet News