Turkey loses any independent reporting with post-coup regulations

Turkey loses any independent reporting with post-coup regulations
Photo: Reuters
Ninety-eight journalists have so far been arrested under Turkey’s State of Emergency declared on July 20, 2016, five days after the failed coup attempt of July 15. Seventy-six of those journalists were journalists who worked or wrote columns for newspapers and media outlets affiliated with the Fethullah Gülen Movement, which the Turkish government alleges is behind the coup.
The remaining 22 were from Kurdish media outlets; who have been subject to a heavy-handed treatmentby the country’s prosecutorial authorities since the State of Emergency.
State of Emergency rule, normally due to end in mid-October, was extended for another 90 days, and the government’s indiscriminate rage now seems to be directed at opposition and Kurdish news media. Most recent arrests of journalists took place not as part of the coup probe, but outside of it. For example, on 18 October, Sadık Demir, the owner of the Kurdish Radio Karacadağ and two former employees of the station, Mizgin Çay and Salih Erbekler, were arrested on charges of “terrorism propaganda” based on a program aired by the station.
Media outlets shut down
Nearly 2500 journalists have lost their jobs, 660 press cards were canceled, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines, 18 TV stations, 23 radio stations, 29 publishing houses and three news agencies have been shut down since the declaration of State of Emergency. Again, the most recent closures targeted Kurdish, left-wing and independent media. 13 of the 18 TV stations shut down were closed under cabinet decree on 30 September, nearly two months after the closure of the five stations allegedly associated with the coup. They included Kurdish, Alevi and independent radio stations. A television station for children was among them.
Those arrested outside the coup probe include Aslı Erdoğan, a celebrated writer and Necmiye Alpay, a foremost linguist. As part of the coup probe, well-known novelist Ahmet Altan was arrested along with his brother Mehmet Altan, a professor of economics. The two brothers were accused of having supported the coup, based on remarks they made on a television program, where they warned about the approaching dangers of authoritarianism. The court ruling for the  arrest of Mehmet Altan reasoned that “he must have known about the coup in the making given his educational background, social standing and economic standing,” confirming complete disregard of due diligence in gathering of evidence in the judicial proceedings. The court expressed a similar opinion for Ahmet Altan. The panel of judges argued that the two men, given their social standing, must have known the coup was coming, although the Turkish president, the undersecretary of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT), the intelligence units of the National Police Department, or the Gendarmerie Command or the General Staff had not discover any warnings of the coup plot, at least by these institutions’ own accounts.
Those who have been arrested as part of the coup are also not given access to books or writing instruments; nor are they allowed to see their lawyers for more than an hour a week. Visits from friends and others are completely banned. They are also not allowed to receive or send letters.
More than 30,000 arrested in coup probe
In another recent development, Turkey’s Press Advertising Agency (BİK) regulations were changed to punish press outlets which refuse to fire journalists who are being tried under the country’s Counter Terrorism Law (TMK). According to the changes, official advertising to any news outlet that employs a journalist who is being tried on terrorism related charges will be cut off, unless the employee is fired from the media organization within five days after the start of legal action against the employee.
Censorship of the media is also widespread. For example, news stories reporting on a recent Gmail hack of Turkey’s Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law, were blocked by the country’s Telecommunications Agency (TİB). Currenlty, 114,582 websites are blockedin Turkey. Internet blackouts and throttling are also common, especially after incidents such as terrorist attacks.
Certainly, Turkey’s post-coup crackdown doesn’t start or end with the press. As part of the wider coup investigation, more than 32,000 people have been arrested. According to government figures, over 70,000 people have been taken into custody as part of the investigation. 22,305 of those released were let go on probation, meaning they can’t travel abroad and they are required to check in with their local police station at regular intervals. More than 100,000 officials, including members of the judiciary, the police force and even school teachers, have been suspended or dismissed. At least 74,000 passports have been canceled under Cabinet Decrees, including passports held by the family members of those suspected of involvement in the coup – now a legal measure under the Turkey’s State of Emergency rule.
Free elections?
Recent developments indicate that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will likely opt for holding a referendum to introduce a presidential system in Turkey in April next year, followed by early general elections in the summer.
In the current situation in Turkey, holding a free and fair election is an impossibility. Statements and speeches from opposition leaders, particularly those from People’s Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş, are never reported in the mainstream media, most of which are directly owned by businessmen who have specifically bought media outlets to appease and remain in the good graces of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
With most critical media outlets shut down, voters will not have access to crucial information about any of the issues in a country where poverty, corruption and a military campaign against Kurds are ending lives. Credit rating agencies have downgraded Turkey’s rating to junk; although the government has dismissed these moves as a conspiracy against the country; defiantly maintaining that the economy is in good shape. The country about to be dragged into war in Iraq – not to mention the fallout from Turkish involvement in Syria –  with Turkey insisting that it be part of the operation against the Islamic State in Mosul despite Iraq’s irritation. There are other issues that will likely have longer-term effects, such as the government’s campaign to effectively finish off Turkey’s best schools, and violence against women remains rampant. Environmental issues, such as water safety, increasingly under threat by the government’s mega construction projects, also pose long-term risks to the nation’s future.
Turkey, now at a crossroads of regime change and on the brink of war has no media left to report on any of the issues. Any election that Turkey holds in the near future will not be free or fair; Turkey’s State of Emergency practices have effectively eliminated that possibility.
This article first appeared on the Media Observatory website in October 2016. 

Rule of Law in Turkey Becomes Rule by Decree and Denunciation

After the failed coup attempt of July 15, Turkey increasingly looks like a dystopian state; suspects have already died in prison and most of the country’s independent media, including a Kurdish-language TV network for children, have been shut down.

The government’s initial response to the coup attempt was to declare a State of Emergency on July 20, which authorities said would help with the investigation. The government has accused a movement led by the religious cleric Fethullah Gülen to be behind the failed coup. However, many now voice concerns that the State of Emergency has turned into a witch-hunt against all critics of the country’s powerful President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

More than 32,000 people have been arrested under State of Emergency according to government statistics. Over 70,000 people have been taken into custody as part of the investigation. According to data from the pro-government Sabah daily, 22,305 of those released were let go on probation, meaning they can’t travel abroad and they are required to check in with their local police station at regular intervals. More than 100,000 officials, including members of the judiciary, the police force and even school teachers, have been suspended or dismissed, and now there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to Turkey’s post-coup purge.

Most of the arrests allegedly take place in the absence of evidence against the suspects. For example, Mehmet Altan, a professor who was arrested for appearing on a television program affiliated with the Gülen movement, was told by a court that “he must have known about the coup given his level of education and social status” in the official ruling explaining the rationale for his arrest.

At least 74,000 passports have been cancelled under Cabinet Decrees, including those held by the family members of those suspected of involvement in the coup; now legal under Turkey’s State of Emergency rule. Some family suspects have also claimed that their families were held as hostages being told openly by police that they will be released if the real suspect surrenders.

126 journalists and writers are currently in prison; excluding those who are being kept in detention centers awaiting an arraignment to decide their fate. Under State of Emergency, the initial detention period before a suspect is released or charged was extended to 30 days from 48 hours. No contact with lawyers is allowed in the first five days of this period, raising concern about maltreatment and torture. There have been reports of people being kept up to 28 days in detention centers without being charged.

These concerns have already some sound basis: A teacher who was arrested in the coup probe was found dead in his cell; with authorities blaming the death on a heart attack. A prosecutor arrested in the coup probe was found to have killed himself, although his family says he would never end his own life as a devout Muslim. Allegations of maltreatment and torture are rampant, and head of the Prisons Subcommittee of the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission Mehmet Metiner’s recent statement that “Military law is in place for the coup plotters; I will blow their heads off,” offers no indication that the rest of the world can rest assured about humane treatment of those under arrest.

State of Emergency powers are increasingly used to silence any opposition. State of Emergency regulations are used extensively outside the coup probe to persecute Kurds, leftists and Alevis; a religious minority in Turkey. In early October, the government shut down 24 television and radio stations that represented left-wing, Kurdish or Alevi segments. Many writers, including celebrated author Aslı Erdoğan, from the Kurdish press have been imprisoned since the start of State of Emergency rule.

Many websites have also been shut down under Turkey’s State of Emergency. Most recently, Turkish authorities blocked access to Google Drive and similar services where hundreds of thousands of people store their data, in response to a scandal in which the gmail account of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s Energy Minister and also President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, was hacked.

Anti-government protests are also not allowed. The government has issued a ban on any commemorative activity to be organized in the capitat to remember the victims of the Oct. 10, 2015 suicide bombing by the Islamic State that left 100 people dead on the first anniversary of the massacre. Twenty-nine protesters were detained in Bursa province on Oct. 9 in an event organized to commemorate the victims of that attack.

Dozens of teachers who belong to the left-wing union Eğitim-Sen have also been dismissed. Seven of them were put under arrest in early October on terror-related charges.

With the State of Emergency being prolonged for at least another three months and state officials adamantly stating that more arrests will be made in the following months, the darkest days for the opposition in the authoritarian country might yet still be ahead.

Evin Baris Altintas

11 Oct 2016

Turkey’s post coup coverage: “It’s the Gülenists!”

1980, Amnesty International campaign poster about human rights in Turkey.
1980, Amnesty International campaign poster about human rights in Turkey.
A month after the Turkish army failed to overthrow the country’s democratically elected president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an enormous and unprecedented witch-hunt against all potential dissenters is overrunning the country. A general atmosphere of hysteria has seized the Turkish press where most recently accounts of shady secret witnesses -called “confessionists”- are flourishing.

In the past month since the coup attempt of July 15 against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, followed by a massive crackdown on individuals believed to be affiliated with Fethullah Gülen, the US based Muslim cleric whom Turkey accuses of having masterminded the coup, as well as on the country’s Kurds and left-wing groups, pro-government newspapers and television stations mostly ignored ongoing concerns about fair trials and rights violations, but rather fixed their focus on the alleged role of the US in the coup.

A major theme in post-coup coverage is extensive testimony delivered by former followers of Gülen who have turned into informants (called “confessionists” in Turkish) as well as testimony by some of the suspects in the coup investigation. The ex-Gülenist informants along with government-aligned strategy experts, were given maximum air time sharing sometimes what seems to be very dubious information about the Fethullah Gülen organization, such as Sabah suggesting it is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Pro-government newspapers and visual media also shared testimony from “secret witnesses” delivered during the investigation into the July 15 coup attempt, although an İzmir court ruled for a partial gag order on broadcasting and printing testimony from the investigation, even on social media.

But Turkey’s nascent and refreshingly promising alternative media — mostly online news sites and Twitter accounts — have been more cautious and critical of the aftermath of Turkey’s darkest night. The details of Turkey’s widening purge in both public and private institutions were captured in great detail by alternative media, as in Diken‘s reporting on detention warrants being issued for all businessmen who joined a standing ovation after listening to a speech by the former head of the Gülen-affiliated businessmen’s group TUSKON.

These alternative media channels have also been crucial in keeping record of ongoing rights violations, the possibility of the post-coup investigation turning into a witch-hunt and attempts to keep full records on detentions, arrests or incidents of removals from office. The only columns and opinion pieces critical of the government’s post-coup practices also came from these websites.

For example, Diken writer Levent Gültekin in an article sarcastically titled “Should we hang Gülenists or put them in gas chambers?” wrote that he had always been critical of the Gülen Movement, even at a time when its former allies — the AKP government — didn’t let anyone voice any criticism against the movement. Gültekin said he had no idea that movement was potentially as dangerous as it has proved itself to be, and asked one question addressed to the Turkish Government, “I don’t understand what the government is trying to do. Really, are you aware of what you are doing? We have a humongous problem dragging the country into ruins. But you [the government]are committing such vulgar deeds, completely devoid of justice and conscience; everything you do is working to turn the problem into a gangrene, rather than solving it. People have spouses, uncles, aunts who have links to the [Gulen] Movement in one form or another. Looking at this this way, we are talking about millions of individuals. By demonizing those people who have somehow believed and followed the Movement, by condemning them to starvation and poverty and creating even larger wounds in society, where do you think will you lead us?”

The  columnist Murat Belge, in a T24 article about the practice of removing civilian office holders or confiscating their property under decrees having the force of law, sanctioned under Turkey’s State of Emergency rules. “Please explain, how can one remove a civil servant from office based on a black list? “ Belge wrote that the policy of “sorting out” the suspects is a grave mistake, which has resulted in the removal of tens of thousands of public servants, military officers, tens of thousands of civilians, and the closure of thousands of associations, student dormitories, hospitals, schools and other facilities. He further wrote, “Initially, you should have found at most 100 people [responsible for the coup attempt], and if further action was needed, this could have been done by court orders. The others would be tied to those 100 people. I think currently hundreds of thousands are being accused [of involvement in the coup], and as such, you are fighting the entire nation!”

These websites have been the only channels where comments and opinions from opposition politicians, including the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) — Turkey’s only Kurdish party in Parliament which has been excluded from Turkey’s post-coup detenté between the government and oppositions — were given voice.

Online website Diken has been trying to keep track of all the detentions, arrests and purges under the heading “The Coup Attempt,” Jiyan and Evrensel have been reporting extensively on detentions and arrests of journalists. Kurdish newspapers, TV stations and news agencies which have also been targets of Turkey’s State of Emergency with dozens of Kurdish reporters detained, the Kurdish newspaper Gundem shuttered, and some Kurdish journalists arrested since the declaration of the State of Emergency on July 20, have also been running reports about rights violations committed under state of emergency.

Evin Baris Altintas

Originally appeared on International Boulevard – with the headline “Gülenists are everywhere!” URL http://www.internationalboulevard.com/gulenists-are-everywhere/  Aug. 22, 2016

The culprit behind everything

turkish-press21

1980, Amnesty International campaign poster about human rights in Turkey. (Both poster and caption from International Boulevard). 

A month after the Turkish army failed to overthrow the country’s democratically elected president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an enormous and unprecedented witch-hunt against all potential dissenters is overrunning the country. A general atmosphere of hysteria has seized the Turkish press where most recently accounts of shady secret witnesses -called “confessionists”- are flourishing.

In the past month since the coup attempt of July 15 against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, followed by a massive crackdown on individuals believed to be affiliated with Fethullah Gülen, the US based Muslim cleric whom Turkey accuses of having masterminded the coup, as well as on the country’s Kurds and left-wing groups, pro-government newspapers and television stations mostly ignored ongoing concerns about fair trials and rights violations, but rather fixed their focus on the alleged role of the US in the coup.

A major theme in post-coup coverage is extensive testimony delivered by former followers of Gülen who have turned into informants (called “confessionists” in Turkish) as well as testimony by some of the suspects in the coup investigation. The ex-Gülenist informants along with government-aligned strategy experts, were given maximum air time sharing sometimes what seems to be very dubious information about the Fethullah Gülen organization, such as Sabah suggesting it is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Pro-government newspapers and visual media also shared testimony from “secret witnesses” delivered during the investigation into the July 15 coup attempt, although an İzmir court ruled for a partial gag order on broadcasting and printing testimony from the investigation, even on social media.

But Turkey’s nascent and refreshingly promising alternative media — mostly online news sites and Twitter accounts — have been more cautious and critical of the aftermath of Turkey’s darkest night. The details of Turkey’s widening purge in both public and private institutions were captured in great detail by alternative media, as in Diken‘s reporting on detention warrants being issued for all businessmen who joined a standing ovation after listening to a speech by the former head of the Gülen-affiliated businessmen’s group TUSKON.

These alternative media channels have also been crucial in keeping record of ongoing rights violations, the possibility of the post-coup investigation turning into a witch-hunt and attempts to keep full records on detentions, arrests or incidents of removals from office. The only columns and opinion pieces critical of the government’s post-coup practices also came from these websites.

For example, Diken writer Levent Gültekin in an article sarcastically titled “Should we hang Gülenists or put them in gas chambers?” wrote that he had always been critical of the Gülen Movement, even at a time when its former allies — the AKP government — didn’t let anyone voice any criticism against the movement. Gültekin said he had no idea that movement was potentially as dangerous as it has proved itself to be, and asked one question addressed to the Turkish Government, “I don’t understand what the government is trying to do. Really, are you aware of what you are doing? We have a humongous problem dragging the country into ruins. But you [the government]are committing such vulgar deeds, completely devoid of justice and conscience; everything you do is working to turn the problem into a gangrene, rather than solving it. People have spouses, uncles, aunts who have links to the [Gulen] Movement in one form or another. Looking at this this way, we are talking about millions of individuals. By demonizing those people who have somehow believed and followed the Movement, by condemning them to starvation and poverty and creating even larger wounds in society, where do you think will you lead us?”

The columnist Murat Belge, in a T24 article about the practice of removing civilian office holders or confiscating their property under decrees having the force of law, sanctioned under Turkey’s State of Emergency rules. “Please explain, how can one remove a civil servant from office based on a black list? “ Belge wrote that the policy of “sorting out” the suspects is a grave mistake, which has resulted in the removal of tens of thousands of public servants, military officers, tens of thousands of civilians, and the closure of thousands of associations, student dormitories, hospitals, schools and other facilities. He further wrote, “Initially, you should have found at most 100 people [responsible for the coup attempt], and if further action was needed, this could have been done by court orders. The others would be tied to those 100 people. I think currently hundreds of thousands are being accused [of involvement in the coup], and as such, you are fighting the entire nation!”

These websites have been the only channels where comments and opinions from opposition politicians, including the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) — Turkey’s only Kurdish party in Parliament which has been excluded from Turkey’s post-coup detenté between the government and oppositions — were given voice.

Online website Diken has been trying to keep track of all the detentions, arrests and purges under the heading “The Coup Attempt,” Jiyan and Evrensel have been reporting extensively on detentions and arrests of journalists. Kurdish newspapers, TV stations and news agencies which have also been targets of Turkey’s State of Emergency with dozens of Kurdish reporters detained, the Kurdish newspaper Gundem shuttered, and some Kurdish journalists arrested since the declaration of the State of Emergency on July 20, have also been running reports about rights violations committed under state of emergency.

Evin Baris Altintas

Originally published on International Boulevard at http://www.internationalboulevard.com/gulenists-are-everywhere/

Turkey loses any independent reporting with post-coup regulations

Turkey’s coup probe being used to crush independent media

Photo: former Zaman columnist Şahin Alpay (72), who was arrested in the coup probe under a highly questionable court decision

The entire world has been watching Turkey closely since the night of 15 July, the night of a heinous coup attempt that left hundreds, both civilians and police officers, dead and thousands wounded. To investigate the networks and people behind the failed coup, on July 23 the country declared a Sate of Emergency, which will last at least 90 days. Few weeks after the coup, it looks increasingly likely that the authorities will abuse the Sate of Emergency conditions in place.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as other government officials have accused Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric in self-exile in the US, and his wide network of followers in Turkey to be behind the coup attempt.

So far 42 journalists have been arrested as part of the investigation into the coup attempt. Almost all of them have worked or wrote for Zaman, the flagship of the Gülen movement.

The government’s accusations against its former allies seem to have a reasonably sound basis and foreign dignitaries are also starting to acknowledge this possibility. However, the Turkish president’s long-standing and increasing authoritarianism and his low credibility levels have created the image that State of Emergency was declared only to serve the government’s own purpose of purging critics.

The detentions and arrests of journalists that came after the failed coup might indeed mean that the State of Emergency conditions are not just for investigating the failed coup, but also for intimidating critics into silence. It appears that the authorities are disregarding basic principles of law such as due process and the presumption of innocence, but instead, rounding up people to try and gather evidence against them.

Concerns about journalists

Among the 42 journalists arrested so far in the investigation are Şahin Alpay and Lale Kemal, two former Zaman columnists, who had no links to the Fethullah Gülen movement.

Human rights activist and lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz, who also wrote for Zaman, together with some other Gülen-affiliated journalists, was briefly detained, questioned and released on an international travel ban. Additionally, officials have so far failed to produce convincing evidence that any of the other journalists who might have been associated with the movement in the past knew of the coup plot.

Holding people in prison without any solid evidence and based only on affiliation with the movement is unacceptable. Even the country’s president, whom the coup apparently sought to overthrow, has said he supported “this structure with good intentions” in the past. He has asked for forgiveness from God for contributing to Gülen-network’s members’ ascent inside the state and society.

In what was an unabashed display of riding roughshod over basic principles of law, the judges who ruled for the arrest of Şahin Alpay and six other journalists stated among the reasons for such ruling the fact that Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, has left the country. The court further “reasoned” that the columnists should have known about the coup plot, citing a prior investigation and charges against Dumanlı. P24 has also heard of unconfirmed allegations from lawyers that they are being pressured into abandoning their arrested clients.

P24 has been keeping detailed logs of the detentions and arrests of journalists that came as part of the coup probe. Hundreds of media organizations have also been shut down since the coup attempt. Outside the coup probe, Kurdish journalists have been arrested under State of Emergency conditions.

There are also reports of seemingly arbitrary cancellations of passports, deportations of foreign journalists and even harassment of the relatives of some of the people who have been detained in the organization.

Pressure on families

Another worrying development has been serious allegations of harassment of suspects’ families. Earlier, Tarik Korocu, the son of former Zaman columnist Bülent Korucu – who is wanted in the investigation –  had claimed that police had detained his mother hostage. Korucu’s wife Hacer Korucu was put under arrest on 9 August, and authorities have been mum on the charges against her. Tarık Korucu said she had been arrested for attending activities organized by the Fethullah Gülen community in the past. He has also claimed that the family was told openly that she would be released if Bülent Korucu turns himself in.

Daughter of Şahin Alpay, Elvan Alpay, recently announced her passport was confiscated at the Atatürk Airport, with officials offering no formal explanation; another troubling sign that there might be systematic intimidation policies targeting journalist families.

Detentions and arrests of Kurdish journalists

Outside the coup probe, many Kurdish journalists have been detained or arrested since the start of State of Emergency conditions.

On 10 August, Şermin Soydan, a reporter for the Kurdish DİHA news agency, appeared before a court facing life in prison for reporting on a secret operation by security forces. Soydan was taken into police custody on 14 May, before the State of Emergency, in Hakkari. The court delayed her hearing to a later time in September, and she will remain arrested until then.

There are currently 76 journalists in prison in Turkey,  pending trial or convicted for their journalism. There are dozens who are behind bars, waiting for an arraignment, and at least 40 others for whom detention warrants have been issued.

Even without looking at specific cases, there is significant grounds for extreme concern regarding detentions of journalist under State of Emergency rules: detainees aren’t allowed to see their lawyers in the first five days of their detention, which also means keeping the door open for maltreatment and torture. Under the State of Emergency, detention period has been extended to an unacceptable 30 days. For example, an editor for Haberdar, an online news portal, who was detained on 24 July  still hasn’t been referred to court.

Media and human rights groups are also gravely concerned about the health situation of older columnists and some younger journalists who are known to have serious health conditions.

If Turkey opts to use the coup probe as an opportunity to further crack down on free speech, instead of conducting a proper and serious investigation to international standards of fair trial and justice, it will undermine the investigation. Turkey should stop the practice of jailing journalists without due process if it wants to reverse the trend of declining media freedom and if it truly wants to ensure that a coup attempt never happens again.

//

This article first appeared on the Media Observatory website on August 11 2016. 

İdil Güneyi: Taşlardan yeni bir hayat kuracaktı

Aydınlık ve tertemiz odanın ortasındaki yuvarlak mermer masanın üzerinde, kâğıt kaplı bir kutu… İçinde çiviler, misina parçaları, kilitler, çengeller, zincirler, iğneler, kurdeleler, püsküller, hafif paslanmış bir tenekeci makası, şeritler halinde kesilmiş keçeler. Biraz ötede üzerinde allı pullu desenler olan başka bir kutu. Bu kutunun içinden taşan parıltılar masanın yüzeyine yayılıyor: çeşit çeşit onlarca taş… Turkuazlar, koyu yeşil malahitler, leylak rengi turmalinler, kızıla çalan kehribarlar, iri parlak kıpkırmızı mercanlar, gökcismi misali beyzi laller, yanar döner kaplangözleri, gök mavisi safirler, benekli güneş rengi piritler.

Masada oturuyor İdil. Bir elinde kargaburun, diğerinde matlaşmakla parlamak arasında kararsız kalmış altın sarısı kalınca bir zincir. Yüzünden hiç eksik olmayan gülümsemesi şimdi belli belirsiz; kaşları — elindeki işe yoğunlaşmasından olacak — hafif çatık yakın gözlüklerinin ardında, önündeki taşlara sevgiyle karışık bir sorumlulukla bakıyor. Göğsü tümüyle kapatacak bu kolye ve ona takım olacak bu bir çift küpeyi bitirince, her zaman yaptığı gibi resmini çekecek ve resmin altına “Mercan ve aventurinle bir çalışma” yazacak. “Kalbi güçlendirdiğine” inanılan mercan ve “yumuşak ve açık yürekli olmayı sağladığı” söylenen yıldız taşıyla.

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Hayatı kısa kesilmeseydi, emekli olunca kardeşi Fırat ve yeğenleriyle Fethiye’ye yerleşip her zaman ilgi duyduğu, son dönemde biraz uzaklaşmış da olsa, çok sevdiği ama “2003’e kadar kendim yapabileceğimi aklıma bile getiremezdim” dediği takı tasarımıyla uğraşacaktı İdil Güneyi.

3 Ekim 1964’te Bursa’da avukat Tahir Güneyi ve eşi Belgin Hanım’ın ilk çocuğu olarak dünyaya geldi. Büyükbabası, Osmanlı Ordusu’nda görev yaptığı 1908 – 1929 yıllarında geçen anılarını “Başımdan Geçenlerden Aklımda Kalanlar: Balkan Harbi, Cihan Harbi, Yunan İşgali ve Doğu Hizmetleri” başlığıyla yazıya dökmüş olan veteriner Kemal Güneyi’ydi. İdil, hayatının son yıllarında ailenin tek cilt halinde bastırmak istediği bu kitabın editörlük işleriyle uğraşacak, fakat zamansız ölümüyle bu çalışma yarım kalacaktı.

Siyasetin konuşulduğu, kitapların tartışıldığı, Türkiye’de o yıllarda az sayıda kız çocuğuna nasip olacak eşitlikçi bir iklimin olduğu bir ailede büyüdü. Ailenin ilk çocuğu olarak her ne kadar Tahir Bey ve Belgin Hanım’ın hayatını kökünden dönüştürse de ev halkı 1967 yılında kardeşi Fırat’ın doğumuyla tamamlandığını hissetti.

İdil, 1. Murat İlköğretim Okulu’nu, Bursa’da bitirdi. Sonrasında da Bursa Cumhuriyet Lisesi’ni. Liseden mezun olduğunda, ülkede darbe sonrası yeni bir dönem başlıyordu.

1984’te kazandığı Hacettepe Üniversitesi Fizik Mühendisliği bölümüne girmesiyle, hayatının sonuna kadar sürecek olan Ankara günleri de başlamış oldu. 1988’de üniversiteden mezun olduktan sonra, aynı senenin mayısında, yirmi yedi yıl sonra hayatının son bulacağı Ankara Garı’nda, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryolları’nda (TCDD), mühendis olarak işe başladı. Ne var ki, TCDD’deki memuriyeti, İdil’in hayatında üniversiteden sonra gerçekleşen en büyük yenilik değildi. Mezuniyetten kısa sıra süre sonra, gene Hacettepe Fizik bölümünde öğrenciliği sırasında tanıştığı Ergün’le evlenmişti. 1991 yılında bebeği Barış dünyaya geldi. Yetmişli yılların şiddetini henüz unutamamış olan doksanlar Türkiyesi’ndeyse, faili meçhullerin ardının arkasının kesilmediği karanlık bir yeni dönem başlıyordu.

Tüm fotoğraflarında içi gülen yeşil gözleri, İdil’in kalbinin yumuşaklığını ele veriyor. Her zaman başkalarının acılarına karşı çok duyarlı olmasıyla bilinirdi. Memleketin ücra köşelerindeki okullara yardım toplarken, daha isteksiz olan kişileri olanca nezaketiyle “zorlamasıyla”, gülümseyerek “pamuk eller cebe” demesiyle… Başlangıçta biraz gönülsüz, sonrasında hevesle onun düzenlediği bir yardım etkinliğine katılan bir iş yeri sahibi “İdil bize unuttuğumuz şeyleri hatırlattı” demişti. Ankara’da yaşadığı süre boyunca maddi imkânı olmayan bir iki öğrencinin eğitimine katkı sağladığını ailesi, o aramızdan ayrıldıktan sonra, evde buldukları bir defterdeki notlarından öğrenecekti. Kimsenin aklına bile gelmeyen uzak diyarlardaki okullar için yardım toplar; tüm düzenlemeleri kendisi üstlenir ve öğrencilere kol kanat gererdi. Ama yalnızca yardımsever bir yurttaş değildi. Ankara’daki yaşamı, tıpkı tasarladığı takılar gibi, birçok farklı tanenin uyum içinde bir araya gelmesiyle aydınlık olmuştu.

Türkiye’nin birçok yöresine işyeri arkadaşları ve yakın çevresini de dahil ederek düzenlediği gezilerle vurgulanan seyahat tutkusu, çok da iyi olmayan Sony marka fotoğraf makinesiyle, onu gülümseyerek hatırlayan birçok kişiye göre de oldukça amatörce olan fotoğraf çekme merakı, TCDD çalışanları için Şehir Tiyatroları’na uygun fiyatlı biletler alarak düzenlediği akşamlar, huzurlu evi için geliştirdiği ”kendin-yap” projeleri, enerjiyle peşinden koştuğu onlarca etkinlik… Bunların hiçbiri yalnızca kendi hayatına ışık tutmuyor, çevresindekilere de yansıyordu. Bütün bunlardan önce, çok güçlü bir eylemciydi. Morali her zaman yüksekti; rakı masalarında yenilgilerine üzülen romantik devrimciler gibi ütopik düşünceleri yoktu. Demokrasi ve emeğe saygı istiyordu; bunların gerçekleşmesi için de elinden geleni yapıyordu. Yetiştiği topluma ve birlikte yaşadığı insanlara karşı bilinçli bir sorumluluk duygusuyla hareket ediyordu. 10 Kasım’larda sosyal medyada Atatürk fotoğrafları paylaşırdı. Barış Mitingine katılacağını da aynı heyecanla duyurmuştu. Katliamın kurbanlarının pek bahsini etmeyen hükümet yanlısı gazeteler bile onun ölümünü haberleştirerek, “Facebook sayfasındaki son paylaşımında, ‘Gözyaşlarımızın Rengi Aynıdır… 10 Ekim’de Ankara’dayız’ demişti” diye yazdı.

Fotoğraflarda açık kumral saçları, uzun boyu ve elinde pankartıyla göründüğü birçok eylemin devamında, akşam üzeri Cumhurbaşkanlığı Senfoni Orkestrası (CSO) konserine katılabiliyordu. Ümitsizliğin en karanlık ânında insana cesaret verdiği söylenen kantaşı gibiydi. AKP’nin yükseldiği ve giderek artan baskının tüm muhalif kesimler üzerinde bir cendereye dönüştüğü yıllarda yaşamdan aldığı keyiften hiç taviz vermeden sendikacılık da yaptı.

Bir dönem Eğitim ve Örgütlenme Sekreterliğini ve son olarak da Ankara Şubenin Kadın Sekreterliğini üstlendiği Birleşik Taşımacılık Sendikası’na (BTS) katıldı. Hem TCDD için hem sendika için her zaman gülümseyen yüzü, ihtiyacı olanlara verdiği destek ve zarif espri yeteneğiyle enerji saçan biriydi. Ankara katliamında on dört yoldaşını kaybederek zaten çok ağır bir darbe alacak olan BTS için İdil’in yokluğuyla baş edebilmek hiç kolay olmayacaktı.

BTS’nin düzenlediği hiçbir etkinliği kaçırmazdı. Bir keresinde, son anda sendikalı bir dostunun unuttuğu bir eylemi hatırlatmak için Gar’daki odasına çıkmış, kravat takmamasıyla bilinen arkadaşını koştur koştur aşağı indikten sonra da eline “Kadına Şiddete Son” pankartını tutuşturmuştu.

2014’ün 8 Mart’ında, Mersin’in Arslanköy’ünden gelen kadın ve çocukların oynadığı “Ozon Tabakası” adlı oyunun sergilenmesini sağlamış; seyirciyle buluşması büyük başarıyla sonuçlanan oyundan sonra kendi emeğinden bahsetmeyip, destek olan herkese teşekkür etmişti. Okullara ve ihtiyaç duyanlara yardım toplamaya sendikada da devam etmiş, her zaman olduğu gibi herkesin de desteğini alabilmişti.

Dostlarla çıkılan gezilerde keyifle yudumlanan Kalecik Karaları, bölgeyi anlatan rehbere yöneltilen meraklı sorular, İstanbul’daki kardeşine ve yeğenlerine duyduğu özlemle daha da zorlaşan Ankara’nın oldum olası hüzünlü günbatımları, akşamları izlenen tiyatro oyunları, operalar, konserler… Günün yorgunluğunu atamadan elde kitapla uyuyakalınan erken akşamlar, çocukların okulu üzerine dertleşmeler… Artık başmühendis olduğu TCDD’nin Gar’daki ofisinde koşuşturmaca, meslektaşlarla yudumlanan çaylar, haftasonları gezilerinde yapılan tatlı yürüyüşler…

Ankara’da hayat dopdolu geçse de, çok sevdiği ailesinden uzak olmak zor gelmeye başlamıştı İdil’e. Bu durum, 2008 yılında hep “çok özlüyorum” dediği yeğenlerinden ilkinin, Fırat’ın kızı Eylül’ün doğmasıyla daha da belirginleşmişti. Anne babasını her gün telefonla arayan İdil, son dönemde uzaklaştığı takı tasarımına geri dönmenin, ailesiyle daha çok vakit geçirebileceği bir emekliliğin planlarını artık ciddi bir şekilde yapıyordu. Son dönemde sendikada yönetime girmeyi çok istememiş ama bir süre daha yönetimde kalmayı kabul etmişti. İstediği, artık emekli olup güneye taşınmaktı.

Geleceği ondan çalınsa da, katillerinin ve onları kollayanların dokunamayacağı hatıralar kaldı İdil Güneyi’den. Yaptığı her işte, tasarımlarında kullandığı her taşta, dostlarla yediği her yemekte, katıldığı her gezide, destek olduğu her çocukta, yeşillikler içinde yaptığı her yürüyüşte, soluk aldığı her saniyede gerçekten önemli olan ve varoluşuna anlam katan şeyleri yaptı. Onun katledilmesine zemin hazırlayanlara pişmanlıkla yaşadıkları hayatı sorgulatabilecek olan mevki, para, statü, rant, iktidar ve daha fazla iktidar gibi boş hevesler peşinde koşmadı.

Not: Bu yazıda, İsmail Özdemir ve Onar Kuruoğlu başta olmak üzere İdil Güneyi’nin TCDD ve BTS’deki yakın çalışma arkadaşları ile yapılan söyleşiler ve kardeşi Fırat Güneyi’nin anlattıkları esas alınmıştır.

Bu yazı 101015ankara.org adresindeki Barış Portreleri web sitesinde yayınlanmıştır. Asıl bağlantısı şöyledir: http://101015ankara.org/idil-guneyi-keyfiyle-mucadelesiyle-umit-veren-bir-hayat/

Why Turkey’s press ban on Ankara bombings won’t work

This article was first published on  the Media Observatory website in October 2015.

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Turkey is still in the shock of having lost 102 people on Saturday, 10 October, who were killed by twin suicide bombers as they had gathered for a Peace Rally in the capital.

In the initial aftermath of the attack, it became evident that there were too many security flaws that led to the attack.  Preliminary findings indicated that attack was clearly staged by ISIS. Some even claimed that the violence was partially state-sponsored, as a disaster of such a scale cannot possibly be planned and executed without the knowledge of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT). This is not too surprising, as many allegations in the past few years have been directed at the Turkish government, ruled by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) might have assisted ISIS in some of its operations, or even supplied arms, in an effort to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime, which the AKP sees as its enemy in Syria.

These claims weren’t wholly unsupported. There were reports that the suicide bombers had been on the security forces’ radar for a long time. Many security experts and some former members of Turkey’s spy agency, MİT, agreed that there were too many security and intelligence flaws. The fact that voice recordings, that allegedly featured the voice of one of the suicide bombers bidding his brother goodbye, was among the evidence that supported allegations of intelligence flaws, even negligence.

The Turkish government responded to these allegations not with resignations or explanations, but instead, by issuing a comprehensive gag order on covering the bombings. A public prosecutor demanded a gag order on “news reports, interviews, criticism and similar publications regarding the investigation in print media, on television, on social media and the Internet.” A court later issued the ban.

This, however, hasn’t surprised anyone either. The default response of the Turkish government to any terror attack, accident, natural disaster, or controversial operation run by its military has for a long timebeen issuing gag orders to help it avoid discussion on the government’s responsibility.

Media can take the abuse
For the Turkish press, which by now has been divided into two camps as pro-government and the rest, the ban in practice doesn’t mean much. Most of the free newspapers have decried the ban, vowing that they will continue to cover news related to the bombings. Independent newspapers, the left-wing press, the Kurdish media and any publication or internet website that doesn’t fall under the government’s sphere of influence by now has become used to oppression.
Indeed, violations of press freedoms under Turkey’s increasingly autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have become the norm. Even Hürriyet, ironically a newspaper which has historically been criticized for being too mainstream and always on the side of those in power, has received its share of these attacks. Unfortunately, one of these attacks has been physical and Ahmet Hakan, a columnist for Hürriyet had to be hospitalized after a group of assailants beat him. The government has actively, and successfully, pressured digital TV platforms to take opposition networks, most notably Samanyolu TV and Bugün TV, that all have close links to the allied-turned-foe movement of the US based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, off the air. Recently, Bülent Keneş, the editor-in-chief of Today’s Zaman, had to spend four nights in jail for posting a tweet in which he allegedly “insulted and defamed Erdoğan.” Most recently, Turksat, Turkey’s satellite-TV provider, announced that it will be taking several anti-government stations off its network. The Kurdish and left-wing press, which have also been targets of systematic government oppression, even before Turkey’s decidedly authoritarian turn, are also undoubtedly well-trained in dealing with state harassment.
‘We know the killer’
Gag order or not, with or without press bans, sadly, all is out in the open. “We know the killer,” is what many banners held by people attending the protests after the Ankara bombings read. The freedom of the media in this case, as almost always, has serious consequences: it also amounts to violations of the right to know, the right to protest, the right to debate and the public’s right to hold the government accountable.
PHOTO: Protestors on the street with the text “We know the killer” on the banners
What the international community under these circumstances should do is to see the Erdoğan regime for what it is: an autocratic juggernaut riding roughshod on media and other freedoms. There have already been calls in this direction, Turkish journalist Yavuz Baydar and others have recently questioned the motives behind Angela Merkel’s visit to Turkey on Sunday. A group of world’s academic superstars, including such names as Judith Butler, Immanuel  Wallerstein, Slavoj Zizek and Angela Davis, announced support for a signature campaign for the Turkish government to be held accountable for its role in failing to prevent the Ankara bombings, which also called on world governments to leave the Turkish government in isolation.
The truth is, however, regardless of the government’s reaction, that there will always be people in Turkey who will be ready to risk their freedoms, even lives, to report on the harrowing Ankara bombings and other events. This is why the gag orders will never work.