It’s precisely opposition journalists who have been criticized by colleagues who until recently worked for the newspapers of U.S.-based Fethullah Gulen. These colleagues accuse the opposition journalists of betraying freedom of expression. One of them is Sevgi Akarcesme who was editor-in-chief of the Turkish English-language daily Today’s Zaman. There is a great deal of truth in Akarcesme’s claims. But who today would dare defend journalists identified with Gulen?
In 2006, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Turkish citizen Osman Murat Ulke, who refused to perform compulsory military service as an act of civil disobedience, had been subjected to “civil death” due to the numerous prosecutions he faced after his original jail sentence. Ulke’s expulsion from his profession and the prospect of an interminable series of convictions, which forced him into hiding, constituted a “disproportionate” punishment, the court said.
Two months after responding to a coup attempt by declaring a state of emergency, the Turkish government continues to target journalists, pluralism and freedom of information. RSF is today publishing a reportthat details the many abuses and urges the government to return to democratic principles.
Members of the European Parliament (EP) discussed developments following the July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey at a session on Tuesday and stressed the need for the fair trial of suspects who have been arrested on coup charges.
A 28-year-old man of Turkish origin has been handed down a prison sentence of eight months and a fine of 23,000 euros by a French court after he attacked several institutions affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement in the country.
According to a video posted by Mehmet Cerit, the editor of Zaman Vandaag, an overseas subsidiary of the government-seized Turkish daily Zaman, a man is seen turning away the people whom he considered Hizmet members, just before the Friday prayer in a mosque in Germany.
Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher has leveled sharp criticism against Turkey over ongoing purges that have followed a failed coup attempt in July and said arrests and firings over alleged links to the Gülen movement have now turned into a wide-ranging witch-hunt. He said arrest and detentions, which are based on no evidence, are bound to inflict damage to the notions of rule of law and freedom of expression.
Erdoğan’s government is by no means the first to compel Turkish citizens to hide their preferences and beliefs. Under the secular governments that ruled Turkey from the 1920s to 1950, and to some extent until 2002, pious Turks seeking advancement in government, the military, and even commerce had to downplay their religiosity and avoid signaling approval of political Islam.
This selective application of democratic rights by Turkey’s intelligentsia only helps Mr. Erdogan consolidate his power. In their double standards, he finds tacit approval for his purges. Turkey lacks not only sturdy institutions that guarantee a system of checks and balances and the rule of law, but also a critical mass of citizens with the courage and integrity to demand them.
Prominent Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, Orhan Pamuk, has criticized the government’s large-scale crackdown in the aftermath of the failed July 15 coup, warning that Turkey is heading toward “a regime of terror.” “In Turkey, we are dramatically putting behind bars all those who struggle for freedom of expression, and criticize the government even slightly,” Pamuk said on Sunday.
“We are stressing to the Turks that they have to present clear evidence, be able to separate those who were clearly behind the coup and those who have been in some way or another connected to or working for this so-called Gülen network,” Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, told Reuters.
Where will Turkey go from here? I spend many sleepless nights, feeling just as I did when I first read George Orwell’s “1984.” Just like Orwell’s dystopian society – a society with oppressive controls – the current Turkish state and the government are, it seems, out to silence all people capable of producing new and independent thinking and research in Turkey. As most of such minds are concentrated in Turkish academia, they will all be destroyed unless they turn into obedient and pious consumers.