Criticism Under Fire

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Reminder from arrested Turkish journalist Can Dündar, reading "On March 25th, we will NOT be on trial; we will be accusing THEM! So we will be waiting for you at Çağlayan Justice Palace at 10.00 am on that day." Image provided by the author.

Reminder from arrested Turkish journalist Can Dündar, reading “On March 25th, we will NOT be on trial; we will be accusing THEM! So we will be waiting for you at Çağlayan Justice Palace at 10.00 am on that day.” Image provided by the author.

The secular democratic media and left-wing arts and cultural scene continues to be persecuted under President Erdogan’s policies.

Kurdish PEN

Due to the lack of necessary freedom in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, the Kurdish PEN Centre was established in Germany in 1990. In 2012 a colleague from Diyarbakır (“Amed” in Kurdish culture) was elected as their new President.

  1. Wor(l)ds in Danger, a column by Tarik Günersel
  2. Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
  3. Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
  4. Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
  5. Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
  6. Tarik Günersel
  7. Poet, playwright, actor, and director Tarık Günersel worked at Istanbul City Theater as a dramaturg.
  8. His works include Breaths of Infinity (a mosaic of poems) and My 300th Birthday Speech (short stories). His Becoming consists of his aphorisms and various ideas from world wisdom.
  9. His plays include Billennium, Nero and Agrippina, Sociology of Shit, Threat and Virtually Yours. He has written four libretti for the composer Selman Ada: Ali Baba & 40, Blue Dot, Forbidden Love, and Another Planet. His translations into Turkish include works by Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Savyon Liebrecht. His presentation of World Poetry Day to PEN International in 1997 led to its adoption by UNESCO. As the former president of PEN Turkey Center he was elected to PEN International Board in Tokyo from 2010 to 2012. In 2013 he initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the collaboration of several intellectuals from around the planet.

The Kurdish PEN Centre has members from all four Kurdish regions (or the parts of the cultural historic area traditionally called Kurdistan) in the Middle East. Some members of PEN Turkey Centre are also members of the Kurdish PEN. In fact, if you are a member of a PEN Centre, you are a member of all PEN centers, a member of a global institution in which writing Earthlings meet, discuss, and work for the freedom of literature and languages.

In early February, a few days after a visit to Diyarbakır to meet friends and observe what was going on, I was struck by the sad news that a Kurdish cultural and historic building there was broken into, possibly by security forces. The photos sent by my Kurdish friends show that the first floor was set on fire and damaged. The main office of the Kurdish PEN Centre was also considerably damaged.

The PEN Turkey Centre naturally joined the international protests against the attack.

According to the values and principles of PEN, terror is not excusable whether it is committed by an individual, an organization, or a state, no matter how great the declared cause may be.

Media Under Fire
Or even worse: On fire!
That is, secular democratic media in Turkey.

If convicted, the journalists in charge of Cumhuriyet (“Republic”) daily–Mr. Can Dündar and Mr. Erdem Gül–will have to be reborn a few times in order to serve their several life sentences.

The first trial will be held on March 25. Dündar and Gül are accused of high treason for revealing “a state secret” by publishing photos of trucks allegedly carrying weapons to ISIS.

Dündar invites us, concerned citizens of Turkey and the world, to the court on that day. From his handwritten message (above), we learn that he and his friend will accuse the accusers rather than defending themselves.

BirGün (“OneDay”) is a Turkish socialist daily, for which I have been a weekly columnist for more than ten years. Numerous court cases have put a lot of financial pressure on the newspaper. Resistance needs support. So now there is a campaign inviting readers to contribute financially.

In Turkish, “Aydınlıkmeans Light, an opposition to Darkness. The Turkish nationalist Aydınlık daily has also been under attack, just as the related Ulusal (National) TV Channel. A similar campaign has been launched, with success.

Music group “Yorum” detained

The left wing music group called “Yorum” (which means “interpretation” and “comment” in Turkish) visited Izmir for a concert. The governor banned the concert and all seven musicians were detained in addition to nearly 20 citizens in order to be interrogated by the counter-terror branch of the police force. They were visited by Atila Sertel, a member of parliament from The Republican People’s Party (CHP), the leading social democratic party. Sertel protested against the detention and accusation.

Alevis under Attack
Alevis practice a particular branch of Islam in Turkey. They do not go to mosques. Instead, they have their own gathering and praying places called “cemevi” (jem-evee, meaning “house for meeting”). Male and female Alevis dance as they pray, which fanatic Sunni Muslims do not like.

A “cemevi” in Adana was attacked by a group of young fanatics who shouted that such rituals were incompatible with Islam. There are more than 10 million Alevis in Turkey.

Scandal: Erdoğan in Ecuador
On his Latin American tour, Erdoğan gave a speech at the National Research Institute in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Three women activists stood up and protested against him, shouting “Murderer! Murderer!” Erdoğan’s bodyguards attacked them. Then they harmed the parliamentarian Diego Vintimilla, who tweeted later on. The scandal was recorded by Ecuavisa TV. Lawyer and women’s rights activist Annabell Guerrero described the scandal, adding that it was a pity that the police had not intervened to stop the visiting bodyguards’ violence. Ecuador officially protested against this violence saying, in effect: We have freedom of expression. If Erdoğan and his bodyguards behave like this where they are guests, let’s try to imagine how they behave in their own country!

Beware: You’ll be “protected”!
“Our state is responsible for protecting our citizens against terrorists. Likewise, it is our duty to protect our nation against tobacco and alcohol, which cause addiction just like poetry, novels and movies. Big financial circles are behind all such addictions. Social pressures against harmful addictions are necessary.”
– “President” R.T. Erdoğan
(Cumhuriyet, February 10, 2016)

Though I am in favor of banning tobacco consumption in public places including private vehicles in which there are children, I am among those appalled. A recent festival in Adana was attacked by some young fanatics who were angry at alcohol consumption. Due to Erdoğan’s open call to social pressure and intervention, you may expect more bloody interventions against peaceful and responsible consumption of alcohol.

“Harmony of Powers”
Instead of the current separation of the Legislation, Government, and Judiciary powers, in Turkey, President Erdoğan is demanding a “harmony” among them. His insistence on a “strong presidency” is all the more alarming when paired with this desire for “harmony.”

Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Turkish medical doctor, author and film director Mustafa Altıoklar is in court because of his statement that “Erdoğan has narcissistic personality disorder.” He is one of nearly a thousand people in court accused of insulting the president.

There is no jury in the Turkish court system. Instead, there are three judges. Here are excerpts from his statement, addressing the judges:

“Instead of defending myself, I shall simply draw attention to the 27th article of our constitution: “Every citizen has the right to learn and teach science and to publicize comments related to it.” In 1984, I diagnosed patients and wrote reports that helped judges with their verdicts. A medical term for a mental disorder is not an insult. NPD is not an insult but a diagnosis. I share the statement of the group of doctors who expressed their worry and concern due to the problematic emotional instability, which may seriously affect our society and country.

A narcissist believes he has been chosen by a supreme power. He believes he has the right to do anything. He tries to use the weak points of other people in order to achieve his goals. He needs to be approved by others all the time. A narcissist feels offended when criticized.”

Dr. Altioklar added that President Erdoğan should be present in the next trial with a group of doctors who will have a chance to observe him.

Altioklar was sentenced to 10 months of imprisonment on December 28. His fine was changed to six thousand Turkish liras (two thousand dollars). Financially it may not be a big deal, but such cases intensify the atmosphere of oppression.

Theocratization of Turkey
A theocratic state is on the way, highly sponsored by Saudi Arabia. Unless secular circles join hands, not only the people of Turkey will suffer but also Europe and the Americas. I am glad that the Western media have begun to criticize Erdoğan’s despotism. But he makes use of the refugee crisis to solidify his illegitimate power game in Turkey.

Having mentioned the refugee crisis, the heartless cartoon published in Charlie Hebdo should not be forgotten: Remember the 3-year-old Kurdish boy from Syria, whose dead body was found on the western shore of Turkey? Charlie Hebdo asks, “What kind of a person would he have become if he had not died?” The cartoon displays the image of a nasty man chasing a woman!

Shame on you, Charlie! After saying “Je suis Charlie” after the terrorist Islamist attack, I now have the right to say, “Je ne suis PAS Charlie!”

About the Author

Poet, playwright, actor, and director Tarık Günersel worked at Istanbul City Theater as a dramaturg. His works include Breaths of Infinity (a mosaic of poems) and My 300th Birthday Speech (short stories). His Becoming consists of his aphorisms and various ideas from world wisdom. His plays include Billennium, Nero and Agrippina, Sociology of Shit, Threat and Virtually Yours. He has written four libretti for the composer Selman Ada: Ali Baba & 40, Blue Dot, Forbidden Love, and Another Planet. His translations into Turkish include works by Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Savyon Liebrecht. His presentation of World Poetry Day to PEN International in 1997 led to its adoption by UNESCO. As the former president of PEN Turkey Center he was elected to PEN International Board in Tokyo from 2010 to 2012. In 2013 he initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the collaboration of several intellectuals from around the planet.

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