Turkey: Crackdown intensifies against media and opposition

November 3, 2016
Arrested Diyarbakır (Amed) Co-Mayors Fırat Anlı and Gültan Kışanak.

The crackdown by the Turkish regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against the democratic and left-wing opposition, independent media and the Kurdish population has intensified. On October 25, co-mayors of the the Diyarbakır (Amed) Metropolitan Municipality, Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı, members of the Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), were arrested.

Free Women’s Congress (KJA) spokesperson Ayla Akat Ata was detained at a protest calling for Kışanak and Anlı's release and is now facing terrorism charges alongside them.

Diyarbakır, the largest city in Bakur (Turkish Kurdistan), was put under administration by the government with appointed trustees replacing elected co-mayors. Numerous city officials have been arrested. The Erdoğan government had previously placed 27 DBP-led municipalities under administration.

At least 2500 members of the DBP have been jailed in the past year.

The crackdown has also targeted the left-wing Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), with 55 out of 58 HDP MPs facing terrorism charges. On November 2, HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ had a 10 month prison sentence confirmed for attending the funeral of Yasemin Çiftçi, a member of the banned Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in 2012.

The other HDP co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, made the following speech to crowds outside the Diyarbakır Municipality offices on October 27:

“On behalf of my party I thank all of you for supporting the municipality since the first moment this unlawful practice began. There is no internet connection in any city in Northern Kurdistan for two days. The opposition televisions have been seized and confiscated. Press members are covering the news but the centres they are affiliated to will not publish those news for fear from the Palace.

“Still, we will visit every house and every citizen one by one, and tell what is going on. We will take care of each other without accepting these happenings like ordinary incidents.

“Nobody has the right to commit a crime before justice, whether it is an ordinary citizen or a president. None of us has a freedom to commit a crime but there needs to be fair trial for us to accept to be tried. What we oppose is not trial. There is nothing left as judiciary. Why would the [ruling party] AKP’s law commission try us? Do we have to give a statement to such a prosecutor? We are just against the prosecutors that act in line with the perspective of the Palace.

“If our mayors happen to engage in theft, we will be the first to punish them. Let me state this clearly again: Our co-mayors, Kışanak and Anlı in the first place, have always mobilised their means for peace. Nobody can accuse our municipalities of supporting terror and violence.

“If you are in search of people that support terror, look at Ankara and Istanbul first. Look at Topbaş and Gökçek to see who supports terror. Look at those who gave half of Istanbul and Ankara to the Gülen community. If the allegations are true, then they should prove one penny being spent by our municipality for this purpose. This is an utter lie. There is no such a thing.

“We have always faced with early elections so far, but this will not be the case from now on as we will resist until our municipalities are returned to us.

“They shall give us everything they have stolen and confiscated from us. We demand the return of our co-mayors to their positions, and the return of the people’s will. We will not accept any other option. We will not bow down and we will continue standing up.

“Everyone will take to the streets and take no steps back until we attain a result. Those resorting to violence should know that the people are not sheep to sacrifice. We will bring freedom and we will achieve this by not surrendering but resisting.”

During the events in Diyarbakır, the internet was shut down in Bakur for six days. Its restoration was accompanied by the closure of 15 media outlets on October 29: Dicle News Agency (DİHA), Jinha Women’s News (JINHA), Özgür Gündem Daily (İstanbul), Azadiya Welat Newspaper (Diyarbakır), Yüksekova Haber Gazetesi (Hakkari), Batman Çağdaş Newspaper (Batman), Cizre Postası Newspaper (Şırnak), İdil Haber Newspaper (Şırnak), Güney Expres Newspaper (Şırnak), Prestij Haber Newspaper (Van), Urfanatik Newspaper (Urfa), Kızıltepe'nin Sesi Gazetesi (Voice of Kızıltepe Newspaper in Mardin), Tîroj Magazine (İstanbul), Evrensel Kültür Magazine (İstanbul) and Özgürlük Dünyası Magazine (İstanbul).

The JINHA news centre said the following day: “JINHA, which has been shut down … under the state of emergency, was launched without thinking 'what men will say' as its slogan declared. Now, it will continue without thinking 'what men decree.'”

Since the attempted coup on July 15, 170 media outlets have been shut down, hundreds of journalists arrested and hundreds of others have had their accreditation removed.

The regime also announced the sacking of 10,000 civil servants, including academics, teachers, health workers, prison guards and forensics experts, bringing the number of civil servants sacked since July 15 to about 100,000.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union’s 135th Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland on 23-27 October, condemned the crackdown on elected politicians. The crackdown on the media has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders.

On October 29, legendary Palestinian freedom fighter, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Politburo member Leila Khaled made the following statement in solidarity Gültan Kışanak:

“To put women in prisons for being activists in their struggle for their people’s freedom creates anger and denunciation for all progressive forces all over the globe. I, Leila Khaled, condemn the detention of our comrade Gültan and her colleague, call upon all women to support the release of Gültan and all political prisoners in Turkish prisons. We, as Palestinians, feel the sufferings of prisoners especially in Israeli prisons as well as prisoners in Turkish ones.

“When the oppressors cannot stop people struggling for their freedom they use their viscous authorities by detaining activists. I, here, call for popular actions to support the comrades in prisons and to raise voices against the policy of detention. In the name of my people in Palestine and in diaspora we call the Turkish government to release our comrade Gültan and all prisoners from Turkish prisons. Our struggle will continue for the freedom of our peoples. Together we can achieve victory against our oppressors. Long live people's freedom struggle.”

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