Gag order imposed on news reports about suicide of university student

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A Turkish court has imposed a gag order on news reports covering the death by suicide of a university student who left a video message in which he complained about being subjected to mobbing in a student apartment managed by an Islamic cult, the Birgün daily reported.

The video message left by medical student Enes Kara and his suicide led to outrage in Turkey, with many questioning the role of Islamic cults in the society as well as the effects of parental pressure on children.

Video footage of the student, which he released on social media before allegedly throwing himself off the roof of the building, shows him complaining about the oppressive methods used by the managers of the apartment, where he was staying due to pressure from his parents.

“My family forced me to stay here. … My father told me not to break the rules here, to perform prayers and read the books [the managers want me to read]. … You’re at school all day long and then when you do all these things against your will, you feel like your freedom has been taken away from you,” Kara said in the video.

It is common for religious groups in Turkey to rent apartments for university students where they promote their values and beliefs. Students are supposed to obey the rules in these apartments set by the group and are expected to perform religious rituals, sometimes against their will.

A court in the İskenderun district of Hatay province imposed the gag order on news reports about Kara’s death upon a complaint filed by his father, Mehmet, who claimed that the reports violated his personal rights.

The father told the media following the death of his son that he had been in the religious cult for 25 years and had not witnessed any acts of wrongdoing on their part and thought his son would get used to being among cult members and performing their rituals over time.

In the meantime, a local journalist in the eastern province of Elazığ who first reported on the tragedy has been fired, according to the Gerçek Gündem news website. Faik Akgün, from the local Günışığı newspaper, was fired as managing editor by the daily’s owner Nafiz Koca. The news report, titled “He could not stand the cult pressure and committed suicide,” was also removed from the newspaper’s website.

The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) relations with religious cults have been a subject of debate in Turkey, especially after the July 15, 2016 attempted coup, for which the government blamed the Gülen movement, inspired by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch.

The AKP government is currently being criticized for not distancing itself from Islamist groups and letting cults fill the gap in state institutions that opened after widespread dismissals of alleged members of the Gülen movement.

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