February 3, 2016

‘Parallel’ listening in on me too

Ali Yurttagül

It's no joke. When a friend of mine warned me “I bet they're listening in on you too,” I wasn't really surprised.

asked whether he meant the police or the intelligence agency; I wondered out loud what his source was. When he replied, “Neither actually; I meant the Gülen group,” I wanted to laugh and pass it off as a tasteless joke. Ever since I began writing regularly for Zaman, lots of my friends joke with me about this. I've been called a “double green” guy, meaning I'm both an environmentalist and an Islamist. Yes, it's the truth: Being a Zaman writer when your friends are mostly leftist, environmentalist and secular people is not easy. There's always that nuanced criticism of what I'm doing in the background; people think I ought to be writing for papers like Radikal, Cumhuriyet or Taraf because after all, Zaman's from the other side of the tracks. They view it with suspicion. And the fact that there's a witch hunt under way against the Gülen group doesn't affect this view at all. The chasms created by history are deep.

Anyway, back to the bit about the phone-tapping. This friend of mine brought to the table a copy of an Akşam newspaper from late October 2015 with a headline reading “Police prepare the imam, Pennsylvania approves it,” in which my name is mentioned. It wasn't one of those made-up pro-government media stories we're all used to. A smaller headline said “Shocking details from the list of allegations in the 'Illegal wiretapping' investigation of July 22.” The details were written by the prosecutor himself. If the prosecutor says someone was taped, he or she is basing this on a document.

Still, though, this piece from Akşam certainly fitted with the reputation gained in recent years by the pro-government media. In it, we read details that range from a police officer who claims that “Gülen schools are bringing up young people and ‘entering relations' with the [Kurdistan Workers' Party] PKK” to just why it is the Gülen group members “don't go to mosque on Fridays and don't fast during Ramadan.” The only thing missing is allegations of how much wine and narcotics are being consumed in the group. Apparently, the prosecutor had obtained all sorts of information about the Gülen group; one of the allegations was that the group had been “listening in on the Wise Men.” It was in this part that my name was mentioned.

Here is the outtake: “The head of the ‘Wise Men' group Dr. Yakup Levent Korkut, its Marmara head and deputy Prof. Dr. Mithat Sancar, former [National Intelligence Organization] MİT Deputy Undersecretary Cevat Öneş, [Human Rights Watch] HRW senior Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb, former Turkey Representative for the European Commission Marc Pierini and European Parliament Green Party Group consultant Ali Yurttagül.....”

None of these names are unfamiliar to me. What I have in common with the rest of these people, most of whom I know, is a shared interest in human rights and connections with international institutions such as the European Parliament and the European Commission. None of our work or even our relations were secret; at least, not the main aspects of them. But we knew that most likely, the police were following us closely and scrutinizing our activities. I am interested in the details of this. It wouldn't be bad to be informed by the prosecutor about this.

During the years when I worked in the European Parliament, I would use my Turkcell number only when traveling in Turkey but would shut it off after arriving in Brussels. Technically speaking, listening in on this number in Turkey would be easy. But all of my “sensitive” or “classified” conversations anyway took place on my parliament line. Is it possible they taped that line? If it is, the topic is one that should concern not only the Turkish prosecutor in this case but various EU institutions as well.

Anyway, I'm relaxed about this now. I parted ways with the European Parliament in May 2014 and no longer are there any “parallel police” in the security forces who are accustomed to taping calls. These idiots taped my calls despite the fact that I wrote for Zaman for years. Now, though, I can sleep easy. I had thought that writing a column for Zaman, I fell under the scope of the witch hunt against the Gülen group. However, I was quite naive in this because it turns out that the tapers were themselves “parallel”! After all, could our security forces, with their deep respect for human rights, really be expected to engage in phone-tapping? And with the independence of the justice system held to be as sacred as it is in our country, they would never find a judge willing to allow my phone to be taped anyway. Right?

At this point, all I can do is say: People! Are you not aware that with this whole cacophony about “parallel,” not to mention your prosecutors and your pro-government media, you've done nothing but reveal your true selves? What a shame for this country; what a shame.

Published on Today's Zaman, 3 February 2016, Wednesday