#7 2013

Democracy in disguise

"While I was writing this article, almost a thousand convicts from various prisons all over the country were on a hunger strike for various demands including the right to defense in one’s mother tongue."

Turkey has recently carried out several reforms rendering the country more democratic. At the same time, the same government imprisons increasing numbers of writers and opponents of the regime. How does this go together? The journalist and author Muhsin Kızılkaya depicts Turkey’s winding road toward greater openness—and points out the main problem: a constant deficit in democracy.

John Ralston Saul: “It must end”

PEN International has directed its spotlight on the situation in Turkey, which has been afflicted with serious throwbacks in the field of freedom of speech. Reforms aimed at opening up the society have been rolled back and an atmosphere of fear and

Film director and daughter of a guerrilla leader

Mizgin Müjde Arslan is viewed as one of Turkey’s most exciting young filmmakers. In the below, she describes her encounter with the limits of freedom of speech and what happened when she wanted to make a movie about her

Emel Gülcan: “Elimination through detention”

In the late 90s, several Turkish media outlets decided to build a common network, “Bianet,” to help each other meet the numerous threats facing the freedom of speech at the time. The 1990s were a dark period, with the

Writing letters on water

Trials without end, shady evidence, and fabricated documents are a reality in today’s Turkish judicial system. Translator Petek Demir was tired of seeing his writer and journalist colleagues imprisoned, so he began to work

Father died in front of the forbidden tv channel

“Roj TV” has often been accused of being the mouthpiece of the Kurdish armed movement, PKK. The programs are broadcast in Kurdish from Denmark and Belgium and the Turkish government has repeatedly tried to have the channel closed down, referring to

A bomb of a book, a Molotov cocktail of a news story

Journalist İrfan Aktan knows how to avoid time in prison: through self-censorship. More than a hundred journalists are presently being held in Turkey for either their own news reports or the political standpoints of the

Kamber Ates, how are you?

Gülsum Cengiz is one of the most acclaimed poets in Turkey. She wrote this poem during the 90s when Kurdish was a forbidden language in the prisons. In order to talk to her imprisoned son, a Kurdish woman learns one

Forbidden chirping

“Humor is the foremost weapon of the weak,” said Turkish author Aziz Nesin. In this short play, the artist and poet Yeşim Ağaoğlu uses humor to show what is unrolling in her native country. Ağaoğlu belongs to the new

Language is your innermost line of defense

The right to use the Kurdish language has been one of the major issues of controversy in Turkey during the republic’s entire existence. In recent years, the situation has been dedramatized and it is now possible to

What is happening to the freedom of expression in Turkey?

On Christmas Eve three years ago the Turkish-Kurdish writer and lawyer Muharrem Erbey was arrested in his home on a suspicion of ‘terrorism.’ Three years later he is still in prison. The court proceedings held with him and his fellow defendants are continuously being interrupted since they are demanding defence in their own language Kurdish. Erbey is far from alone in this respect—Turkey has now passed Iran as the country that has the most journalists and writers imprisoned.

Only a few years ago the situation in Turkey was quite different. Turkey was busy negotiating with the EU for a closer relationship and a future membership and the AKP government passed several reforms that opened up society. Kurdish, for example, was allowed in schools and in television broadcasts. Some people even meant that Turkey was in the process of shaking off the remainders of the dictatorial regime that had been the result of the coup in the 80s.

But since this time of change, the EU has been weakened by an economic crisis and Turkey’s role in the region has shifted due to the vicious war in the neighbouring Syria. However, neither the one nor the other is an excuse to imprison more and more opponents of the regime and other oppositional writers in the country.