Hope in Action, Despite Horror

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Novelist Aslı Erdoğan and Publisher Ragıp Zarakolu. Image provided by the author.

Novelist Aslı Erdoğan and Publisher Ragıp Zarakolu. Image provided by the author.


A round up of the consequences of the failed coup in Turkey, including media crackdowns and Tarık Günersel’s opinion on the role of Gülen and his movement.

If you wish to write a suspense script, Turkey has a lot to offer. Let me help you with collecting data about the (non)mysterious coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Theocratization of a secular country means a worse situation in terms of freedom of expression. The theocratic Ottoman regime was replaced by the secular Republic of Turkey thanks to the modernist leadership of Atatürk in 1920s and 30s. Re-theocratization has been on the agenda of various movements, including that of Fethullah Gülen, who has pretended to represent a mild version of Islam.

  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 Scale of Turkey’s Purge is Unprecedented” is the headline of an article published in The New York Times on August 2, 2016.

The article shows one side of the coin; thus readers might conclude that President Erdoğan is exaggerating the danger or misusing the right of self-defense. Yet it is impossible to be fair about the drastic and extensive measures taken by him and the AK Party government (critically supported by the opposition parties) without knowledge of the horrible coup attempt on July 15, which was only the tip of the iceberg.

If the coup had succeeded, the parliament and all the political parties would have been closed down. Hundreds of executions were planned, including not only some leading politicians but also journalists.

Before the coup attempt

Researcher Mustafa Önsel, a retired colonel, foresaw and warned against the coup by the Gülen movement in his column (Oda TV) published February 8, 2016. He wrote, “In the website Herkül.org, Gülen said, ‘Heaven is in the shadow of swords; in case of war, one has the right to make use of the sword.”

The legal charges against Fethullah Gülen and his Hizmet (“Service”) movement emphasize that their secret agenda since 1971 has been to transform the Turkish state into an Islamofascist (a term they do not use) regime. There have been two major international components: working in close contact with the U.S.A., and becoming a global force by use of “schools” in more than a hundred countries. Gülen’s Hizmet movement has pretended to represent “mild Islam,” allegedly in harmony with the global U.S. interests.

The “protagonist” Fethullah Gülen has been hosted and supported in Pennsylvania for more than 15 years. He is a miserable looking old man with awkward power and “schools” in more than 130 countries. He and his circle –- including some Americans — try to convince the world that they are a peaceful movement. It has been revealed that over the past forty years, he has issued secret agenda orders to access the Turkish state. Have you watched the critical documentary, The Gülen?

After the coup attempt

A State of Emergency was soon declared, accompanied by the announcement that human rights convention had been suspended for three months.

One of the leading figures of the ruling AK Party, Bülent Arınç, said he had been a fool to appreciate F. Gülen for decades.

Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) announced it has revoked broadcasting rights and licenses of all radio and TV organs that are “in support and relation with Gülen movement.”

The list of TV and radio channels whose licenses have been revoked is as follows: “STV, Samanyolu Haber, Samanyolu Haber Radyo, Can Erzincan TV, Kanal 124, Yumurcak TV, Hira TV, MC TV, Dünya TV, Kanal Türk, Bugün TV, Mehtap TV, Berfin FM, Kanal Türk Radyo, Burç FM, Samanyolu Haber Radyosu, Radyo Mehtap, Haber Radyo Ege, Dünya Radyo, Radyo Küre, Merkür TV, Esra Radyo, Tuna Shoping TV, Samanyolu Haber, Radyo Anadolu.”

Two weeks after the coup attempt, out of the 3.5 million public employees, sixty thousand people have been temporarily removed from office and nearly three thousand people have lost their jobs. (Apparently some lists had already been prepared beforehand and were improved after the coup attempt.) Remember: This is self-defense against an invasion, a semi-secret Islamo-fascist organization with a smiling face.

LeMan, a popular cartoon magazine, was not allowed to distribute the new issue with a critical cartoon on the cover: a pair of hands of an unknown subject were pushing forth some soldiers for an attack, while Erdoğan was pushing forth his supporters for a clash. Though LeMan has emphasized the danger of the Gülenist (Hizmet) movement for years, it also had a critical stand against Erdoğan, which might unfairly mean a pro-coup stand for some. Hence, a group of pro-government youngsters attacked the office of LeMan at 5:00 a.m. one morning. “We will re-publish our issue,” said Aknar, one of the editors of LeMan.

Ms. Nuray Mert of the Daily Cumhuriyet wrote on July 29, 2016, “It is one thing to take somebody to court and quite another thing to make that person suffer under detention.”

We were relieved when he was released the next day. A man of letters, the minister played a positive role. Why was Hilmi Yavuz detained for more than twenty-four hours? He had been a columnist for the pro-Gülen daily Zaman for several years.

Erdoğan wants to improve (or rather, to build) his ties with the opposition: he has withdrawn nearly 4,000 court cases against his critics. Since the attacks of the PKK last summer, he has put a distance between himself and the Kurdish oriented HDP. So the lawsuits against the HDP members stand.

The coup attempt was not only against Erdogan and the present government but also — probably primarily — against the Turkish army, the prestige of which has been severely damaged. I’m glad the coup attempt has failed.

The new issue of the satirical magazine LeMan has been blocked by the police. It is (was) about the coup attempt. Attached is its cover: “Somebody” tries to use young soldiers, and “somebody else” (who, we understand, is Erdogan) says “And here are the 50 percent of the people on my side, whom I kept at home till now.”

It is known that the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” (FETÖ) has been trying to invade the state apparatus and universities, the police and the army for decades. The United States trusted F. Gülen and wanted to use him and his influence in Turkey.

If the U.S. government allows Gülen to move to Canada, that means the United States is really behind the terrible coup attempt — like it was in the 1980 military coup d’etat.

Erdoğan needs alliances since the bloody coup attempt on July 15. On the other hand, there are lots of worries which are justifiable.

Please read the two pages about Turkey in Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations published in 1996. It reads, “Turkey should get rid of Atatürk’s secular legacy, forget about becoming a part of the West and become a part of the Middle East with an Islamic regime. A strong leader is needed for that.”

And the U.S. government (“deep state”) supported Erdogan (then Mayor of Istanbul) and his neo-Ottomanism so that Turkey would cooperate in the Greater Middle East Project, which included in dividing some of the countries establishing more states.
Fethullah Gülen was selected as an ally for further global dominance.

The U.S. strategy of re-theocratization of Turkey has not been to the advantage of the West. Unless the United States and the other “traditional Western allies” question the Gülenist movement (probably supported by the CIA), more and more people in Turkey will be upset and angry –- questioning the present feasibility of NATO and distrusting the U.S.A. more than ever.

Fethullah” means “God’s conquer” in Arabic and “Gülen” means “one who is laughing” in Turkish.

One who laughs last laughs best. But who is to judge which one is the last? Hardly anybody is in a position to laugh seriously. We in Turkey will have to be content with occasional smiles for decades to come –- unless worse things happen such as a multifaceted civil war.

At present the almost limitless counter-attempts of the government, some of which are unconstitutional and can be reversed (such as the decision of closing down the military schools) force the delicate cooperation between parties.

As for the remaining sympathizers of Gülen in public institutions, those who did not play important roles will be allowed to work in lower positions.

At least two CIA specialists were in Turkey: Graham Fuller and Henri Barkey. They left after the failure, on the July 17. AKP spokesperson Orhan Deligöz said that Fuller was on the helicopter that fled to Greece with eight Gülenist soldiers.

Former DA Zekeriya Öz was waiting in Georgia, by the border, waiting to come back to Turkey once the coup attempt has succeeded.

Some unrelated people have also begun to suffer: On August 1, seven actors from Istanbul Metropolitan Theater were officially told that they had been withdrawn from their positions. Having worked with all of them, I know that the government and their related circles now try to use the chance to get rid of outspoken artists known to have been critical of Erdoğan and the AK Party governments.

Let’s hope that re-secularization and democratization can prevail. Hope is necessary but not sufficient. “Hope in action,” should be the motto of the good guys all over the world.

Currently in Germany, Can Dündar has withdrawn from the position of the editor-in-chief of the daily Cumhuriyet. He announced that the judiciary in Turkey could not be trusted during the state of emergency. Dündar added that he would work as a columnist.

The daily Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda) has been shut down “due to its supportive publications in favor of the PKK terrorist organization.” In addition to several reporters and columnists, the editors of the newspaper have been detained. The novelist Aslı Erdoğan is among them because of her presence on the advisory board.

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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