January 13, 2015

An open letter to readers

Ekrem Dumanlı

Dear readers. I am now writing letters, most of which are thank you ones. I would like to express my gratitude to those who have very courageously staged opposition against despotism. I would like to respond to their bravery with these letters. I wish I could finish all of these letters. Well, it is not proper to express this feeling of indebtedness and gratitude in just two sentences. So I keep writing letters.

Most recently, I wrote a brief thank you letter to the Zaman staff. I expressed my gratitude to all who work in the Zaman media group. I burst into tears because of some of the responses I got to this brief letter. They are all brave men and women. I am grateful to them.

I am aware that I should also write to you because you have made the reader-paper relationship so meaningful over the years.

Dear Zaman reader. You are the most valuable reader, the most passionate of all.

This paper has grown consistently over the past three decades thanks to you. There were times when it had not been possible to dream of such an influential paper. Even if you had had such a dream, the most optimistic estimates would have suggested that only 100,000 copies would be sold. And some would argue that our people would not like reading papers, ignoring the fact that divine will is the most important determinant in what happens in the world.

You just destroyed the clichés. Thanks to you, we became optimistic about publishing a paper that reached international standards. We saw light at the end of the tunnel and we marched towards that light; you asked for improvement all the time. You pushed us to do a better job. And you were right asking for more because two things made the quality of a community more visible: a broader horizon and tolerance. And a newspaper was the intellectual barometer whereby these two principles were represented. Pluralistic, diverse, embracive… Brave but balanced, impassioned but moderate…

The day 1 million copies of the paper were sold was the harbinger of a reality: The people who were accused of not reading papers and the media outlet that was trying to merge the reality in Turkey with international standards interacted at some point and created a center for thought nobody would have ever dreamed of before.

And the police came to the doorsteps of this paper because of an ungrounded and unacceptable allegation. Innocent people were accused of being members of a terrorist organization. How could a paper that has always reacted to terrorist incidents and attacks be made to be part of this allegation? Some media outlets were representing repression that recognized no boundaries.

Thousands of people gathered at Zaman headquarters to protest a possible raid. Despite freezing weather, mothers, holding newborn babies, came to our building to join the protest and express their support for their paper; they also created a wall of freedom of thought. And they spoke up, “Free media cannot be silenced.”

O dear, brave, reader! Of course it cannot be silenced. Who would remain silent given that you acted so bravely in this case?

Unfortunately, brutality and repression were enthroned in the justice system. A brutal monster with the shield of the state identified your paper as a target. You have waited for hours at the paper's headquarters and said prayers. You proved that obedience to Allah means that you would not submit to anybody else. Thank you for doing this. May everything in this world be witness of this here and in the afterlife.

Your company that day was meaningful to us. You put us under the protection of Allah. Yes, we felt deep in our hearts that we were protected by Him. I constantly heard your prayers in solitary confinement where we were held for 80 hours. And you were with us when we were taken to seven floors down in the earth. It was like you were telling us that Allah was with us. We felt your company during the hearing in the courtroom because it was not a newspaper or TV executive that was being tried; it was you who were being put on trial.

No matter what they did, you were not intimidated. Well, if you were not intimidated, Turkey will not be intimidated. They tested the resistance of a country through you. You showed how democratic resistance is exhibited. You did not rely on violence or destructive tendencies. You set an example for the whole of Turkey.

Now media outlets from all around the world are trying to make appointments to interview with me. And I explain what happened in those interviews. I tell them exactly what I say here in Turkey. Nothing more or less… Eventually, the discussion comes to the police raid on Dec. 14. Everybody asks about the reaction of the readers. I show them that the number of copies we sell has increased after the coup against the media. Everybody admires your bravery. Normally, they expect that readers would cease to follow a paper targeted by the government. But they do not know that this paper is the conscience of this country. And a conscience does not remain silent. Maybe sometimes people prefer praying; but it will not take a long time for those who have delicate hearts to speak up and say that our Lord is the Lord of all in the universe. And that reaction is the nightmare of the oppressors and the hope of the oppressed.

It appears that very delicate and evil plans are being made in some dark circles and that lies are being fabricated. You should rest assured however, that this state of turmoil will end and the oppressors will be remembered with the ancient sadists. Shame on those who prefer submission over struggle to have the material benefits of this world.

Dear reader! You made a legend. This is a saga of bravery, prudence and patience. I am sure that our history of democracy will open a new page for you. Media freedom will make reference to you. You deserve millions of thanks and gratitude.

Welcome Püff!

Well, you know what they say: Even words cannot describe what is happening. This is exactly the case now. There is now a group of people who present themselves as journalists, politicians and academics. These people pulled the trigger in cases of corruption and degeneration. This is a group of people who feel no shame in telling lies and fabricating untrue stories while hiding behind sacred notions and precepts. This is a shame. They, relying on their personal lust and desires, created Leviathan. If you act like them, you will be no different from those primitives. And this is where it is not possible to make sentences. People are intimidated and they feel trapped because of the instinct to protect their interests.

Because this is the case, life itself presents many people as caricatures. Sometimes you feel as if you are in a satirical novel. It is like we are dealing with an epidemic of blindness in a residential area similar to an unknown place depicted in a novel by Jose Saramago, "Blindness." Vision becomes troubling as blindness becomes the norm.

A Turkish proverb says that if speaking is silver, than silence is gold. True! You will have a limited number of options in such delicate times: to be meticulous in the choice of words and leave the decision to the people, and to combine a number of words into a single drawing, something to make people laugh at times and think at times. Sometimes it should mean self-criticism, and sometimes it should serve as a mirror. The strength of the drawing depends on the proper reading of life.

Today, we are launching a satirical magazine: Püff (Puff). The magazine, issues of which will be complimentary for Zaman readers every Monday, is a modest and sincere effort. We have been preparing for this for months. Even when the police came to take me, I told my friends to launch this magazine. And they worked very hard as if nothing happened and we were never subjected to repression. They worked tirelessly and prepared nine tests. And now they are happily sharing their product with you.

I would like to express special thanks to Abdullah Yavuz Altun, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Fevzi Yazıcı, Ali Babür Boysal and Mahmet Nedim Hazar. They opened a path for readers of Zaman. I am sure that other skilled people will contribute to this initiative and enrich it. In addition, this beautiful work will contribute to the culture of satire and make this channel more vibrant.

Certain sincere friends have raised concerns about the style. They are right. But there is no reason for concern. We will not deviate from our known path and style. This magazine will sometimes deal with lies. And sometimes it will summarize the gist of a critical incident. And the excitement will last online throughout the week.

We are new. We have just started. But we have good intentions. We are sincere. Let us put an end to the Monday syndrome and look at the incidents and daily matters from the perspective of satire. If there is no explanation, then there is satire. Well, here is a pretty and modest satire magazine. May Allah bless us in this path.

Published on Today's Zaman, 12 January 2015, Monday