December 23, 2014

An outcry by intellectuals

Bülent Keneş

"Every cloud has a silver lining." Sometimes we are so focused on the negative incidents in our lives that we might fail to see the good developments that may be ushered in by those incidents. Yet, the world and life consists of darkness and light, black and white, good and evil, each intertwined and the cause or the result of each other, aren't they?

If the detention of 31 people including Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of Turkey's best-selling newspaper, and Hidayet Karaca, the general manager of the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group that includes Turkey's most popular TV channels, on frivolous charges on Dec. 14, 2014 is evil and a great act of oppression, we must also be able to see the good or positive developments this evil or cruel act has triggered. To see these positive developments, we need to have a look at this evil incident closely and from a different perspective.

First of all, we, the democrats, are still having difficulty explaining the country's anti-democratic and despotic course in recent years to our friends at home and abroad. When the police raided Turkey's best-selling newspaper's headquarters to bring its editor-in-chief, Dumanlı, into custody and kept him behind bars unlawfully and in an unfair manner, and when Karaca, the general manager of the country's popular TV network, was detained along with the scriptwriter, director and players of a soap opera and arrested unlawfully on charges of leading a terrorist organization, this revealed to everyone the current state of affairs in Turkey with crystal clarity.

Everyone clearly saw how Turkey is being dragged by a lawless despot toward an arbitrary, unlawful and anti-democratic regime. It definitely proved that the country has been distanced miles away from the democratic league by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's dictatorial regime. The latest blow to free media has made everyone in the West and East see with perfect clarity that Erdoğan and his cronies have turned into cruel despots.

Paradoxically, the Erdoğanian dictatorial regime's latest crackdown on rights and freedoms and free media has urged those who are concerned with democracy and rule of law in Turkey to raise a unified voice against it. This attack brought together people from diverse ideological camps. Turkey's leading intellectuals with different lifestyles exhibited a common position, stressing the need to uphold democracy, maintain rule of law and promote Turkey's membership in the democratic and civilized world. This voice by democratic intellectuals from left and right wings, conservative and liberal camps and the nationalist front as a result of their concern for common values has turned into a shout to be heard by everyone around the world.

First, these intellectuals placed a full-page statement on several newspapers on Dec. 17 and underlined that the police raids and detentions amount to a "coup against the freedom of the press as well as against Turkey's democratic future." Dozens of distinguished intellectuals of Turkey including Doğan Akın, Murat Aksoy, Mustafa Akyol, Mehmet Altan, Hayko Bağdat, Can Dündar, Ali Bulaç, Hasan Cemal, Yasemin Çongar, Nuray Mert, Metin Münir, Zeynep Tanbay, Pınar Türenç, Perihan Mağden, Utku Çakırözer, Cengiz Çandar, Neşe Düzel, Cafer Solgun, Derya Sazak, Atilla Sertel, Amberin Zaman and Yılmaz Odabaşı undersigned this statement, demanding that the detained journalists be freed immediately.

Noting that "this deplorable incident is the latest example of systematic attempts to pressure, prohibit and intimidate the media in Turkey," they harshly rejected all forms of interventions in the media and the freedom of thought. With their rejection of tyranny and repression and their dignified, bold and noble stance, they have etched their names in history, leaving a proud legacy behind.

On Dec. 22, others joined these respectable people, who proved they are the true representatives of Turkey's intellectual heritage at a time when unlawfulness, arbitrary rule, despotism and dictatorship have peaked. Together, they published the "Declaration from Intellectuals." With a strong voice, these intellectuals, of whom Turkey should be proud, "called on the ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP] to backpedal from the dangerous road it is treading on before it is too late for democracy in Turkey."

The signatories of the petition that went online at included many prominent intellectuals such as Ahmet Altan, Ahmet İnsel, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Altan Tan, Asaf Savaş Akat, Aslı Tunç, Ataol Behramoğlu, Aydın Engin, Ayhan Aktar, Baskın Oran, Cafer Solgun, Cemal Uşşak, Cengiz Aktar, Cengiz Çandar, Ceren Sözeri, Ceyda Karan, Cihangir İslam, Cüneyt Ülsever, Daron Acemoğlu, Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, Doğan Akın, Doğan Satmış, Doğu Ergil, Ergun Babahan, Erkam Tufan Aytav, Erkan Saka, Ertuğrul Günay, Ferhat Kentel, Gencay Gürsoy, Hadi Uluengin, Hasan Cemal, Hayko Bağdat, Herkül Milas, Hilmi Yavuz, İbrahim Betil, İştar Gözaydın, Kazım Güleçyüz, Koray Çalışkan, Kürşat Bumin, Levent Köker, Mario Levi, Maya Arakon, Mehmet Altan, Mehmet Betil, Mehveş Evin, Melis Behlil, Murat Aksoy, Murat Belge, Mustafa Erdoğan, Mustafa Yeşil, Müge Göcek, Mümtaz'er Türköne, Namık Çınar, Nazlı Ilıcak, Neşe Düzel, Nil Mutluer, Nilüfer Göle, Niyazi Öktem, Nuray Mert, Orhan Kemal Cengiz, Osman Kavala, Oya Baydar, Ömer Laçiner, Ömer Madra, Pelin Batu, Reha Çamuroğlu, Sait Çetinoğlu, Samim Akgönül, Selahattin Özel, Seyfettin Gürsel, Suat Kınıklıoğlu, Şahin Alpay, Tahir Özyurtseven, Taner Akçam, Tayfun Atay, Tuğba Tekerek, Ufuk Uras, Ümit Kardaş, Yasemin Çongar, Yasemin İnceoğlu, Yavuz Baydar, Yavuz Oğhan and Yüksel Taşkın.

The petitions undersigned by these intellectuals from diverse ideological camps and lifestyles were later backed by tens of thousands of signatories, and their support continues.

Noting that "Turkey's democracy had been regularly impeded by coups in the past, but today its vitality is suffering greatly under a civil administration,” the second petition writes: "Turkey is governed by a ruling party that sees separation of powers, judicial independence, parliamentary supervision, use of right to peaceful assembly and protest and the freedom of the press as threats or coups against itself and portray democracy's typical components such as checks and balances as obstacles to 'national will'."

It makes the following observation about the course of the country under the Erdoğanian dictatorship: "Many amendments have been made to laws in recent years that distanced the legal system miles away from universal legal norms, turning it into a vehicle of oppression against fundamental rights and freedoms. With an ever-increasing pace in growing authoritarian, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have pressurized media bosses to lay off hundreds of critical journalists and columnists and leveraged public resources to ensure that many newspapers and TV networks are acquired by pro-government businessmen.
"In its latest move on December 14, 2014, journalists, particularly including executives of Turkey's best-selling Zaman newspaper and popular Samanyolu TV network, as well as producers, actors and actresses of TV serials were taken to custody on charges of membership to a 'terrorist organization' and attempting to take over the state. The ruling party seeks to silence the critical media by using the penal laws and judicial bodies that have recently been reorganized to this end, and efforts are made to eradicate journalism as a profession."
As a democrat who will continue to live in Turkey, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to these venerable intellectuals. It is good to see you side with this stentorian voice that promotes democracy, rights and freedoms!

Published on Today's Zaman, 23 December 2014, Tuesday