October 30, 2015

Under occupation

Orhan Kemal Cengiz

Perhaps it would be a wiser strategy to write about different topics, ignoring everything that's happened, shifting the focus of those whose eyes are locked onto our columns, counting down the days until we get fired, too. But I've never been a wise one really, not when it comes to strategizing. I've never suppressed my real emotions when expressing myself.

Right now, I feel like someone sending off a telegram from the post office in a town under occupation. I might personally be free, but from the angle of writing, it's like I'm in prison; my letter heads out into the open world only if it gets approved.

On Thursday the Bugün daily didn't go to press; I watched on video as one of the state-appointed trustees waved the Wednesday edition of the newspaper around like a worthless rag. In the manner of a commander of an occupying army, the state-appointed trustee threatened Bugün employees in the publication office of the paper. I began writing for Bugün one year ago. I won't lie; I had some hesitations when I started. I wasn't sure how much tolerance would be shown to my thoughts, my style.

But then, over the course of the year to follow, I used my column to touch on nearly every taboo subject there was in Turkey, from the Armenian genocide to Kurdish matters, and from nationalism to religiosity to conservatism; I said it all and spared no one my criticism. And through it all, not a word of what I said was censored or changed by the newspaper. Above and beyond everything, it is our editor-in-chief, Erhan Başyurt, and our newspaper's owner, Akın Ipek, whom I'd like to thank for helping create this enormous arena of freedom in writing.

In the meantime, we've all learned that both Başyurt and the broadcast coordinator for Bugün TV, Tarık Toros, have lost their jobs. I am completely saddened by these developments. As I said earlier, I really feel as though I'm sending off a telegram from the post office in an occupied town. And I'm fully aware that this might well be my final telegram. Though it's true that no occupation, no tyranny, can last forever.

One day in Turkey, the press will be fully free. And when that day comes, these days and the great shame they've brought along with them will be recorded the way they deserve to be, in the pages of our history.

Editor’s note: This column was supposed to appear in the Bugün newspaper on Oct. 30 but was not published after the daily's management was taken over by a trustee and its editors were fired. Today's Zaman publishes this column in solidarity with Bugün.

Published on Today's Zaman, 30 October 2015, Friday