September 16, 2015

Attacking the Journalists and Writers Foundation (reloaded)

İhsan Yılmaz

In May 2015, I published a column with this same title: Attacking the Journalists and Writers Foundation.

This was before the June 7 election and what I have described about the country's political turmoil has not changed for the better, despite the election. This is what I wrote early in May: “The AKP [the Justice and Development Party] is planning to rig the elections by using state power. It is also trying to distort the real election agenda. The Hizmet movement is a multi-task, multi-purpose tool for the AKP in this regard. The AKP only wants its voters to talk about ideological issues, not economic problems. Thus, it persists with its attacks on the Hizmet movement. Every day police officers attack offices of the movement's civil society organizations. … To create the most impact, to steer the public away from talking about the opposition's projects, the AKP may arrest hundreds of Hizmet volunteers, journalists, professors and civil activists of the Hizmet movement under terrorism and possibly even spying charges.”

Can we say that anything has changed on that front? Of course not! It is now even worse. Now we have Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorism and Hizmet has been accused of supporting and cooperating with these terrorists. The AKP's only evidence is the fact that people like me support the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party's (HDP) democratic stance with hope that it will facilitate the Kurdish problem's solution through democratic means, and not by terrorist attacks or dark intelligence negotiations.

Before the June 7 election, there were concerted efforts in the Erdoğanist media against one of the Hizmet's flagship organizations: The Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV). Its president, Mustafa Yeşil, has been falsely accused of all sorts of unbelievable crimes. Therefore, he is in self-imposed exile, away from his family. On Tuesday, another prominent member of the GYV had a problem. The secretary-general of the GYV Medialog Platform, Tercan Baştürk, was denied entry to Turkey. We had been at the GYV board meeting in Brussels, which Yeşil also attended. On our arrival to İstanbul, police officers told Mr. Baştürk that he was a clear and present danger to Turkish national security, and therefore cannot re-enter Turkey.

Since Baştürk holds Austrian citizenship, the Turkish government finds it easy to deny him entry. Baştürk was a Turkish national but since the Austrian government granted him the right to dual nationality, he preferred to give up his Turkish citizenship. For decades the Turkish state has supported its citizens becoming EU citizens. As a result, it gives its former citizens a “Blue ID Card” which basically extends their Turkish citizenship. There are hundreds of thousands of people like this. They live in Turkey as if they are Turkish citizens. Baştürk has a home and a job in Turkey. He did not need a visa to enter and live in Turkey.

I have heard similar cases from some other friends who are Hizmet volunteers in the EU. The AKP government does not like these people defending the rights of Hizmet volunteers. Mr. Baştürk is an influential figure, championing press rights in Turkey. He has organized countless seminars, press briefings, international trips and organizations to improve press freedoms in Turkey. It is obvious that this is something the AKP does not like. In May, I also wrote, “I will not be surprised if hundreds of police officers raid the foundations' offices. I am also one of the foundation's board members. And being in their top list of columnists alongside my boss, Bülent Keneş, I am a little concerned (but not afraid) that the AKP may try to imprison all of the foundation's members. We shall see.”

I have dual nationality: Turkish and British. So, I was able to enter Turkey on Tuesday. But very soon the AKP regime may start claiming that people with dual nationality are also a threat to Turkish national security. I am now waiting for when they will decide to deport me. We will see!

Published on Today's Zaman, 16 September 2015, Wednesday