Mainstream media, trending topics on Twitter and the military salutes that were flashed by popular figures might suggest the Turkish public largely supports Ankara’s recent operation in Northern Syria, regardless of condemnations from the international community.
The majority of the country does indeed endorse military action against the PKK. Since the SDF are seen as an offshoot of the PKK, the Turks fear a Kurdish statelet will be carved out at the Turkish border. And as a general rule, when military action is carried either within Turkey or outside its borders, critical voices are further muzzled.
One must not forget the governmental alliance between the Justice and Development party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement party (MHP) was brokered on the grounds of relinquishing the Kurdish peace-process in 2015. Heavy clashes between the Turkish armed forces and the PKK as well as the bombing of Kurdish cities kicked off right after the general elections of June 2015, when the People’s Democratic party (HDP) became the third largest party in terms of number of seats in parliament, gaining 13% of the votes. A curfew was imposed in major Kurdish cities and according to the Ankara-based NGO Human Rights Association (İHD), at least 170 civilians were killed. By then, the press had already endured a great deal of censorship from the government. In my case, my reporting on the clashes in Kurdish cities for the Milliyet daily ended in my dismissal by the paper’s administration.
Later, the coup attempt of July 2016, attributed to the Gülenist movement, was followed by a widespread crackdown on dissident voices which targeted every layer of society. And of course, the media.
Since then, President Erdoğan’s Justice and Development party (AKP) and the far-right Nationalist Action party (MHP) have continuously criminalized and targeted the People’s Democratic party (HDP) and people who dare to call for peace. Thousands of academics, dubbed the “Academics for Peace”, who issued a call in 2016 to end the fighting and resume the peace-process were investigated on charges of “terrorist propaganda” and stood trial.
Besides, the Republican People’s party (CHP), Turkey’s main opposition force, has partly supported the government in this process, when it wasn’t indolent. Back in 2016, it was thanks to the CHP’s support the AKP was able to lift the immunity of parliamentarians. This decision led to the jailing of many HDP MP’s, including the party’s co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, who are still in prison.
Later still, thousands of HDP members were charged, tried and imprisoned, the government appointing trustees to municipalities formerly held by the HDP. Each election that followed the coup attempt was controversial. And if Erdoğan succeeded in realizing his dream of adopting a presidential system, the AKP-MHP alliance became fraught.
In the local elections of March 2019, the opposition gained major cities while the HDP again won in many Kurdish cities. Vowing to take back these HDP-held cities, Erdoğan appointed trustee mayors in Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin. Timewise, the military operation launched in Northern Syria coincided perfectly with such a move. In total, 12 municipalities are now ruled by trustees. Along with Diyarbakır’s former co-mayor Selçuk Mızraklı, the co-mayors of Kayapinar, Kocakoy and Ercis were arrested with charges of terror.
Even prior to the March elections, Erdoğan had made it clear he wouldn’t let opposition mayors ‘do their jobs’. In this war setting in which the archenemy is the Kurdish political movement, no criticism is tolerated and every citizen must be united behind the ‘right cause’. With Trump’s blessing, ‘Operation Peace Spring’ was a great opportunity to exert yet more pressure on the opposition.
As tanks and heavy artillery were being deployed in border towns, the Turkish parliament ratified a military operation motion, extending the state’s authority to launch cross-border military operations in Northern Iraq and Syria for another year. Except for the HDP, all political parties backed the “Operation Peace Spring”. “It’s tearing our hearts but we do give our approval so our soldiers don’t get hurt,” said the CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
Two days later, the Chief Public Prosecutor Office of Istanbul and the Security General Directorate issued a statement. It warned that any news, analysis or social media comments “targeting the Turkish army and its operation, attempting to destroy public peace and unity”, would be investigated under Turkey’s Penalty Code and Anti Terror Law. As of October 19th, repressive “social media operations” continued. 186 people were taken under custody, 28 of them were imprisoned.
While it is unclear what these people were tweeting about, the government refers to it as “black propaganda”. The Interior Ministry proudly announced that “cyber units” now patrolled the social media 7/24. Meanwhile, politicians like CHP MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a renowned human rights advocate, is now being investigated because he declared that “this is a war against Kurdish people”. Cem Yilmaz, Turkey’s most popular comedian was singled out because he did not openly support the operation.
It is perhaps no surprise that a host of public figures including football player, TV hosts, artists and even opposition politicians stated their support for the intervention of Northern Syria. In what became a popular way of showing support, many such figures have flashed a military salute, especially after the Turkish team did so after its national games with Albania and France.
As notable media icons such as TV host Ece Üner followed suit with the military salute, another journalist went as far as posing brandishing an antique double-edged sword and a battle axe. The chairman of the Turkish Bar Association Metin Feyzioğlu also announced live on TV that “if terrorist organisations are using civilians as shields, the government is immune from its responsibility to protect them”.
Not every journalist and civil society member joined the choir. yet those voices urging peace and pointing out that military intervention will destabilize the country can only be heard in alternative digital media. A meeting in Istanbul organised by the Union for Democracy (DIB) in support of the deposed HDP mayors was banned, as was another meeting in Ankara that had been organized by the HDP.
One might wonder whether the vast majority of Turkish society really is opposed to the prospect of a peaceful solution and a more democratic society. When asked in public, many would refrain to express their opinion freely. Except for the ruling elite, everyone in Turkey is getting poorer every day with inflation and unemployment rates skyrocketing – even discussing such facts has become problematic.
Does society feel more empowered and unified by increased militarization? More than anything else, it is an effective and proven way to ensure one-man rule.
Some medical experts in Turkey argue that the hospitals which were previously emptied by the AKP government, can easily be ransformed into functioning hospitals with minimal spending to treat COVID-19 patients. One might wonder why they were closed in the first place.
Turkey has one of the world’s fastest growing coronavirus outbreaks, confirmed cases double every three days. The statistics, combined with the capacity of the health system and nature of the restrictions raise great concerns. Doctors are forced to apologize for their critical remarks, health workers are banned from making press releases on their conditions. Aside […]
The last time President Erdoğan, who is 66 years-old, physically took part in a meeting was a week ago. Nobody asks whether the President and his close circle have been tested for coronavirus. And of course, no one dares to ask what happens if he gets sick, and what the Turkish Presidential System would bring.
The Covid-19 will inevitably affect a much wider population, and Turkey’s limited testing is dramatic. Scientists, doctors unanimously urge for a radical testing procedure. In Istanbul, a city of 16 million, there are only four hospitals conducting tests. Meanwhile, states of emergency, strict restrictions and bans are anything but new in Turkey!
As he traveled back to Turkey from Azerbaijan, Erdoğan ominously announced a new wave of repression. A few days later, Osman Kavala was re-arrested, the mayor of Diyarbakır Selçuk Mızraklı was sentenced to more than 9 years in jail and 7 journalists were arrested.
Again we see them on the news, migrants flocking to the borders and the human traffickers going about their “business” in front of the cameras. As thousands of migrants seek to cross the border from Turkey to Greece and Bulgaria- some getting injured and dying whilst doing so - authorities talk of them as if they are cheap tokens. Not only in Turkey but in the EU countries as well.
The pro-governmental media in Turkey, which usually targets well-known individuals or critics, targets ordinary people as well. But what’s perhaps more worth talking about is how the life of the poor living in cities has changed — and how they are perceived. They, too, want to live a good life. Or just to be a part of it, even for a few seconds. And they, too, want to show off.
Just as Kavala was preparing for his release after 840 days spent in the Silivri Prison, the prosecutor’s office announced the philanthropist would be questioned on “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order." This proves how partial, arbitrary and politically involved the Turkish judiciary is. Yet the dynamics of this process remain unclear.
It’s hard to voice opposition to war when the coffins of slain soldiers are being sent back from Syria and when the nationalist mood is in full swing. However HDP deputy and former journalist Ahmet Şık, who has been jailed twice and is still tried on the Cumhuriyet case, says that they have the responsibility to question why so many young people are dying for.
The watchmen will not operate under a specific law or the constitution but under the government’s direct orders. Opposition parties thus warn of a “parallel police force” that enjoys unprecedented powers. At night, the watchmen could well turn into the state’s moral police.
Although the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled for his immediate release on Dec. 10, 2019, Osman Kavala remains as the only defendant under detention at the Gezi trial. So the question is whether the Council of Europe (CoE) and member states will stand up. If they will not do that, what is the function of the ECHR and why should other states bother to follow its rules?
Well-known economists have questioned how Kanal Istanbul will be financed, but they haven’t yet received any answers. Prof. Dr. Haluk Levent from Bilgi University believes that Kanal Istanbul is a Ponzi scheme, but with a difference: in a Ponzi Scheme, everything must be on the record, but this is not the case for Kanal Istanbul. The scheme is changing the town planning and zoning.
The media almost totally neglects or misinterprets cases related to July 15 in fear of being targeted themselves. On the other hand, high-ranking Gülenists, who have long fled the country, are in fact using the cases and prison sentences for their own PR.
Despite the government's pledge to combat femicide and domestic abuse, 474 women were murdered by men in 2019 in Turkey. Women’s rights advocates have repeatedly said the system is too weak to protect women.
Data from the last two years in Turkey points to a steady decrease in almost every aspect of a functioning, healthy democracy, such as freedom of speech, quality of education, gender and income equality, and the rule of law. It’s no surprise that society has become unhappier compared to 2017. Surely the AKP-MHP alliance is responsible for this great social, economic and political collapse.
Two days ago I went to the forth hearing of the Gezi trial in Silivri, where Kavala is the only imprisoned suspect among 16 civil society activists accused with ‘organizing and financing Gezi protests to overthrow the AKP government’ back in 2013. These trials are top examples of how rule of law is undermined and how human rights abuses are executed.
Kanal Istanbul is not only critical for Erdoğan financially. It also represents a political battlefield in which he wishes to beat his opponents, in this case the new opposition Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu.
General elections appear to be on the agenda in 2023. That is what statements from President Erdoğan and his alliance partner, the MHP leader Bahçeli, suggest. Yet, the prospect of snap elections also looms. Many politicians, economists and journalists claim snap elections will be held in 2020. While snap elections may not seem logical, logics don’t apply to Turkish politics.
The severe violations of sick prisoners rights are against the law and contradict with international agreements Turkey partakes in. Human right advocates accuse the government of being unwilling to address these problems and point to the The European Council, which remains silent.
Just a few hours before police teargassed women in the streets of Istanbul, Emine Erdoğan, wife of President Tayyip Erdoğan, was giving a speech that denounced violence against women on the occasion of the International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women. However, Mrs. Erdoğan has also stated that the rise in violence against women is just a perception and that today, thanks to the AKP, women can ask for their rights.
As a journalist, I find it to be embarrassing and paradoxical that President Trump, not known to be a supporter of the free press, mocked the Turkish press.
Yet his words, “You sure you’re a reporter? You don’t work for Turkey with that question?” reflect the truth regarding the group of people Erdoğan took along with him to Washington. These words sum up the status of the Turkish mainstream media.
Turkey generally does not rank high in suicide rates. One reason is religion; in Islam suicide is a sin. Culture and family ties also are among strong reasons why people refrain from taking their lives according to experts. However figures show that there is a rise in suicide rates in Turkey. The society does not only suffer from economical crisis and neo-liberalism, but also a harsh transformation from a hybrid democracy to a more authoritarian state.
Last week, another bunch of journalists were sacked from daily Hürriyet newspaper, which is still considered as the “flagship” of the mainstream media. In fact, Hürriyet lost its prestige long while ago. It doesn’t really matter who the editor in chief is now. Or why and how journalists were sacked. It is the final nail in the coffin. The mainstream media resembles the living death.
Associate Professor Şık was the deputy director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University. Then, due to his scientific research, he became an enemy of the state.