Corruption and Censorship in Erdocracy

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President Erdoğan's decision to make Ottoman Turkish obligatory led BirGün to put this headline: If you force us, this is what will happen: THIEF (in Arabic based Ottoman alphabet). Photo provided by the author.

I’ve coined the term Erdocracy for the anti-democratic, anti-secularist regime Erdoğan is building in Turkey. He had recently demanded a law that would allow detention possible based on “reasonable suspicion.” Having secured that, he ordered a crackdown against the pro-Gülen media. Fethullah Gülen, the religious and social leader of an influential Islamic movement who has been residing in Pennsylvania, is furious. Erdoğan and Gülen were allies until a year ago.

  1. Wor(l)ds in Danger, a
column by Tarik Günersel
  2. Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
  3. Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
  4. Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
  5. Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
  6. Tarik Günersel
  7. Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

Why “Anti-Corruption Week”

It has been a year since a recording of scandalous phone call between Erdoğan and his son, Bilal Erdoğan, were publicized in late 2013. The recording revealed Erdoğan asking Bilal to dispose of millions of euros in cash. The disclosure led to a police raid against four of Erdoğan’s ministers as well as Bilal, in a week-long operation that lasted from the 17th to the 25th of last December.

Erdoğan’s government forbade the press from writing about the four ex-ministers, who were accused of abusing their positions for the sake of enormous amounts of money. The ex-ministers are: EU Minister Egemen Bağış, Environment and City Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, Minister of Domestic Affairs Muammer Güler, and Economic Minister Zafer Çağlayan.

Accusing the Gülen movement of the police attack, Erdoğan took steps to minimize the effect of the voice recordings. He claimed that the publicized voice recordings and the police raid were part of a coup planned by the Gülen circle. He ordered the removal of pro-Gülen police officers and prosecutors and judges from their posts, in addition to prohibiting any press coverage of the four ministers’ legal proceedings.

But the opposition parties and newspapers, such as Cumhuriyet, BirGün, Evrensel, Aydınlık, Sözcü, Taraf, and pro-Gülen Zaman, declared that they would refuse to obey the government.

December 17 to the 25th is now Anti-Corruption Week in Turkey. This year, the Parliament witnessed protests by the CHP, the social-democrat party and the MHP, the Turkish nationalist party, against the government.

Media under attack

Erdoğan has accused the Gülen circle of conspiracy against the elected government. Last week, on December 14th, the police raided the pro-Gülen newspaper Zaman (Time) and detained its Editor-in-Chief, Ekrem Dumanlı. Hidayet Karaca, the head of Samanyolu (Milkyway) TV station, was also detained. The former has been released with a case against him, and the latter has been arrested.

Inter/national reactions

The EU condemned the journalists’ arrests, and the United States drew attention to the need for freedom of press in Turkey. PEN International, PEN Turkey, English PEN and PEN America also criticized the detentions. Most newspapers in Turkey condemn the detention of several media members, including journalists Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık, both Turkish PEN members, who had suffered in prison for one year because of their critical attitude towards the Gülen movement. The pro-Gülen newspaper Zaman has apologized to Ahmet Şık, saying that they had failed to side with him when he was arrested as a journalist.

Pro-government newspapers, such as Yeni Şafak, support the raids. The pro-Atatürk Aydınlık newspaper and Ulusal Kanal TV, both related to Doğu Perinçek’s İşçi Partisi (Workers’ Party), are also in support. They say that the detentions are part of the necessary defense against the Gülen circle’s illegal and illegitimate preparations for an oppressive religious regime in alliance with the United States and Israel.

Twitter phenomenon @FuatAvniEnglish

With one million followers in Turkey, the identity of Fuat Avni remains unknown. For more than a year, “he,” “she,” or “they” has managed to foretell several of Erdoğan’s oppressive steps, calling him the Tiran. Fuat Avni announced that several people from the pro-Gülen newspapers Zaman and Bugün and the TV Channel Samanyolu would be detained and arrested starting the 14th of December. It came true. The government is withholding access to Fuat Avni’s Twitter account @fuatavni, which Twitter’s management has opposed. Now @fuatavnifuat is active.

Increasing Sunni-Islamist pressure threatens human rights and democracy

“Women are not equal to men!” said Erdoğan, the anti-secularist Sunni President of Turkey. He also claimed that citizenship and secularism had been like a religion for some people.

Although the Prime Minister is legally the head of government, in reality ex-PM Erdoğan is still in charge, refusing to distance himself from the ruling AK Party. In fact, Erdoğan’s consultant, Binali Yıldırım, has announced that Erdoğan will preside over the cabinet meetings. This move pushes Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, appointed by Erdoğan, into a minor role.

President Erdoğan’s Sunni sectarian AKP government has decided to get rid of the course on “Citizenship, Human Rights and Democratic Values” in schools. The Arabic based Ottoman Turkish script is has been made compulsory. Sunni Islam has become compulsory even in kindergarten.

Atatürk’s cultural revolution involved replacing the Arabic-based alphabet with a revised version of the Latin (or Etrusk) alphabet in 1928. The decision was already made by a commission in 1922. It was a choice that favored Westernization, distancing Turkey from the conservative Islam-oriented Middle East.

After 87 years, bringing the old writing back to schools as a compulsory course is part of the attempt of increasing anti-secular pressure.


After Erdoğan’s decision to make Ottoman Turkish script compulsory in schools, and pave way to a more a religion oriented education and regime, the left-wing BirGün newspaper published this headline: “If you force us to learn and use Ottoman Turkish script, then this is what will happen: ‘THIEF!’” Thief was written in Ottoman Turkish. Taking it personally, Erdoğan sued the newspaper, where I have been a columnist for ten years.

Life is faster than ever.

Perhaps both Gülen and Erdoğan will soon be taken to court, Erdoğan for helping Gülen, and allegedly ISIS, for years.

Last minute:

Nearly 70 journalists have been taken to court for having written about the four ex-ministers. Journalist Sedef Kabaş is in court because of her tweet that said we shouldn’t forget the name of the DA Hadi Salihoğlu, who decided that no legal process was necessary regarding the corruption allegations –despite evidence.

“Reasonable suspicion” is already in use for more oppression in Erdocracy.

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