Is Propaganda for Slavery Acceptable?

by    /  June 3, 2016  / No comments

Journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül were arrested and charged with espionage in November 2015. Image via Pen International.

Journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül were arrested and charged with espionage in November 2015. Image provided by the author.


Turkey’s re-enlightenment movement has caused a spike in the arrests of journalists and reporters who speak out against the President’s policies.

Is propaganda for slavery acceptable? No? Then–

–first, let me share an anecdote:

Opposition (Opp.) MP: I’d like to quote Oscar Wilde.
Ruling Party MP: Who?
Opp. MP: Oscar Wilde.
Ruling Party MP: Who is he?
Opp. MP: Do some research.
Ruling Party MP: Can’t you give us an example from our own culture?
Opp. MP: Oscar Wilde said: “I could resist a material attack but I could not stand unrefined, illogical reasoning.”
Ruling Party MP: Tell us about the Oscar Awards.
Opp. MP: Oscar Wilde had nothing to do with Oscar Awards. He was a writer.

  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.

This is an abridged version of a real dialogue in a session of the Constitutional Commission, composed of delegates from the four parties represented in Parliament. MP Prof. Dr. Mithat Sancar represents the Halkların Demokratik Partisi (Peoples’ Democratic Party). Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) is the ruling party – as some readers already know. I share this to give a better idea of the cultural limits of the ruling party in Turkey, thus the milieu in which we are trying to defend our freedom of expression.

Re-Enlightenment Movement

The newly established religious schools that do not aim to educate youngsters to become imams are not needed – if the purpose is not a religiously-oriented regime. The “Re-Enlightenment Movement against Fundamentalist Reaction” demands that they should be closed down or retransformed into normal schools. The newspaper entitled Yeniden Aydınlanma (Re-Enlightment) has recently published a headline expressing that demand. Now there is a lawsuit against Yeniden Aydınlanma due to that headline.

More Journalists Under Attack

Cumhuriyet (Republic) is one of the few remaining opposition newspapers under enormous oppression:

Regarding the photos of secret arms shipment by trucks to Syria, Can Dündar and Erdem Gül have been sentenced to 5 years for “publicizing important state secrets.”

Hikmet Çetinkaya and Ms. Ceyda Karan have been sentenced to two years for sharing the cover of Charlie Hebdo – which included a cartoon that allegedly represented Prophet Muhammad.

Can Dündar was attacked by a gunman in early May. His wife Mrs. Dilek Dündar and a CHP parliamentarian managed to stop the attacker. The gunman said that he had only tried to scare Dündar so that he would stop working as a “traitor.” About a year ago, President Erdoğan threatened Can Dündar on a TV interview: “I’ll make him sorry for that publication!”

Columnist Ms. Işıl Özgentürk is in court because she emphasized the critical situation in southeast Turkey in her article upon her visit to the Kurdish region. She faces a four year sentence.

Author Hüseyin Aygün, an ex-member of Parliament (representing the social-democratic CHP, the Republican People’s Party, and the major opposition party) has been sentenced to one year for “humiliating President Erdoğan.” In our personal email correspondence, Aygün wrote: “The judge mentioned that there were 25 similar cases in front of him.” His prison sentence has been “postponed.”

Let me add that Mr. Aygün, Mr. Dündar, and Ms. Özgentürk are members of PEN Turkey Center.

Forcing his path towards an executive presidency, President Erdoğan “fired” PM Ahmet Davutoğlu. Then Yeni Yüzyıl (New Century), a pro-Davutoğlu newspaper, was closed down after PM Ahmet Davutoğlu had been ordered by Erdoğan to quit.

Presently, 13 reporters working for the Kurdish nationalist media company, DIHA (Dicle News Agency), are under arrest, including Ms. Şermin Soydan.

Erdoğan’s “Freedom of Expression”

“President” Erdoğan insulted the academics who signed the now internationally-known declaration inviting the government to stop military operations. The critique they received was that they had not mentioned the terror of the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). I personally agree with that critique. But Erdoğan went further and accused them of being traitors, despots, etc. So some of the academics opened a lawsuit against him. Erdoğan’s lawyer said that Erdoğan had used his right to “freedom of expression!”

Financial Times has drawn attention to the danger of Erdoğan’s insistence on a presidential regime.

I think, even if we can soon overcome Erdoğan’s attack against the idea of a secular democracy, it seems we will have decades of tough struggle in Turkey, which will have international consequences regardless of what happens.

And now my initial question: Is propaganda for slavery acceptable? If not, then any statement against gender equality should be considered a criminal offense. Thus probably all the videos on YouTube that were made by some Saudi clerics and ISIS members etc. should be deleted. They do not need to say that “violence is acceptable.” Their basic approach is in that direction anyway.

A female professor in Egypt declared that non-Muslim women could be raped in war as part of the struggle!

Could such a remark be accepted in terms of freedom of expression? Is there no crime in such declarations?

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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