Fundamental rights are suspended; political opponents, intellectuals are jailed; media is censored. Same old same old in Turkey. The pervasive sense of fear, apprehension and the threat to fundamental rights including the right to life in the emergency rule under the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regime are far higher than that. Yet there are still a few names who refuse to bow to Turkey’s increasingly one-man regime and its ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
A group of deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) recently paid a visit to İstanbul’s infamous Silivri Prison, where more than 100 journalists are currently incarcerated.
They spoke with Turkish intellectuals who have largely opposed Erdoğan and prepared a comprehensive report about a wide range of issues, from their medical conditions to comments about post-coup Turkey.
Here are extracts from the statements of Ahmet Altan, Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Mehmet Altan and Murat Aksoy:
Ahmet Altan: We are not under arrest. We have been taken captive. They are not looking for any evidence to put you in jail. We face a partnership between coup makers and thieves. AKP and CHP supporters do not understand us. We are alone here. The CHP is offended because of the Ergenekon and Balyoz cases. And AKP people hate us because we call them dictators. Everybody hates. But we fully understand AKP and CHP supporters. I am here because I put up a fight against tyranny. Therefore, I will not complain. The same heinous things they [AKP] did to the Cumhuriyet daily and Can Dündar will be done to the CHP, too. Erdoğan sees Atatürk as his greatest rival. He replaces Atatürk’s photos and statues with his own.
Altan was arrested by an İstanbul court on Sept. 23 for allegedly “attempting a coup” and “being a member the Gülen movement. Altan is a novelist and former editor-in-chief of the Taraf newspaper. The daily ran headlines that led to the Ergenekon and Balyoz coup plot investigations, which helped the AKP government subdue the role of the military in Turkish politics. After quitting Taraf, Altan resumed writing harsh critical columns against the increasingly authoritarian AKP government and President Erdoğan.
Ali Bulaç: When I learned on TV that I was wanted, I immediately turned myself in. They have not accused me of anything yet. They told me they arrested me because I wrote for the Zaman daily. We are not even allowed to pray in here. Everybody knows I will not flee. They can release me pending trial. I had served as an advisor to Erdoğan for three years. It is time to remember the Constitution of Medina. Leftists, atheists, conservatives, communists, Muslims… They all need to come together one more time. They all need to come together under the roof of morality, justice and freedom. This is the only way out.
Sixty-five-year-old Turkish theologian Ali Bulaç has been in Silivri Prison since July 28 on coup charges. Bulaç was among 47 journalists on a list that included former executives and columnists from the Zaman and Today’s Zaman dailies for whom detention orders were issued on July 28 for alleged links to a July 15 failed military coup attempt.
Şahin Alpay: I am 72 years old, and being a prisoner is extremely difficult at this age. They cuff me before taking me to the hospital and humiliate me on the way. After the 2011 elections, the regime in Turkey began to turn in to a dictatorship. And in time I turned into an opponent. Until then I had supported Erdoğan and the AKP. But today I regret the support I gave to the AKP. I failed to see their dark side. They accuse me of being a member of a terror organization. I have never had any ties to any movement. The CHP is Turkey’s honor. They [CHP] came to power when they objected to the March 12 coup. Today, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu can do the same thing. He can bring the CHP to power by opposing tyranny.
Alpay, a veteran political expert and a former columnist for both Zaman and Today’s Zaman before they were seized by the government, was arrested on July 27.
Murat Aksoy: If they are looking for any terrorist organization, they can go and take a good look at their own columnists and papers. Because there is no single person who has not praised Fethullah Gülen in the past. I am not afraid to be prosecuted. But I have never had any connection with that organization [the Gülen movement].
Columnist Murat Aksoy, who once served as an advisor to CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was arrested and put in Silivri Prison on Sept. 3.
Mehmet Altan: With the same kind of accusations, they [AKP] can easily put anybody behind bars. If the Gülen movement manages to take over this state, then this is not a state at all. I have never written for the Zaman daily. I have never used a smart-phone in my life. No Bylock, no Eagle, no other applications. The only accusation they came up with is that I was paid my university salary through Bank Asya five years ago.
Mehmet Altan faces several charges including “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey and prevent its functioning” and “membership in a terrorist organization.”
Both Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan, who were detained on Sept.10, were accused of sending “subliminal” messages regarding a failed coup attempt on July 15 on a TV show a day before the putsch.
Mehmet Altan, a professor of economics at İstanbul University, is also a columnist known for his liberal views and criticism of the government amid increasing and unprecedented pressure on the media and dissidents.