Tag Archives: Bakur

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-05-05

1 – Press freedom and censorship – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has released a new report noting the strong moves against critical journalism in the country. Yavuz Baydar’s article on the CPJ website summarizes the situation, and his former newspaper, Today’s Zaman, also covers the story. Freedom House released its new report on global press freedom, ranking Turkey “not free” once again, with a worse score than last year, Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report. On the heels of such reports, it is perhaps little surprise that even AK-Party officials find it hard to claim Turkey has a free press. Writer and professor Osman Özsoy, who lost his job at the pro-government paper Yeni Şafak after he criticized the government in the wake of corruption allegations, has been detained on suspicion of terrorism. The case of journalist Sedef Kabaş, in trouble for Tweeting about the same corruption scandal, has been sent to a higher criminal court in Istanbul. Pro-government paper Star and its writer Ergun Babahan have been fined for a piece written against media mogul Aydın Doğan in 2012. Prominent journalist Cüneyt Özdemir took to Twitter to note the heavy pressure his channel, Kanal D, is under from the government. As Today’s Zaman notes, he later edited some of his tweets to less directly implicate the government. Pop singer Sevval Sam has been questioned for her participation in a video commemorating Berkin Elvan. The Carmina Burana was removed from a performance schedule in Antalya at the last minute after Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say, who has been penalized and censored for his criticism of the government, pointed out that the piece touches on topics such as sex and alcohol. Journalists marched in Istanbul for press freedom on World Press Freedom Day (May 3rd) and also held a screening of the documentary Persona Non Grata, which deals with press restrictions in Turkey.

2 – Film and festivals – The banned film Bakur (North), dealing with Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey, was also screened for the first time on May 3rd, in an invite-based event that took place at Bosphorus University. The 10th annual Labor Film Festival opened on May 2nd in four cities, and its Istanbul gala was preceded by a march against censorship. The upcoming 18th annual Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival will start in Ankara on May 8th.

3 – Erdoğan’s image – Turkey’s president has been a constant feature in the news this week, making headlines for insulting the newly elected President of the Turkish Republic of Norther Cyprus, Mustafa Akıncı, and making repeated claims and threats against the Gülen movement (here, here, and here), in the lead-up to Turkey’s June elections. Erdoğan has responded to criticism from HDP party co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who claimed that the president was abusing his office by campaigning on behalf of a particular party and doing so at taxpayers’ expense. (The president is bound by oath to be impartial.) Erdoğan claimed he has every right to hold such rallies because he won the presidential election with 52% of the vote. Meanwhile, a pro-HDP ad has responded to taunts from Erdoğan, who recently asked rhetorically of Demirtaş, “who are you?” (implying, who are you to question me?), by releasing an ad inviting Erdoğan and voters to get to know the party. The ad is here. On a related note, government channel TRT made headlines for switching from live coverage of AK-Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu to that of Erdoğan the moment the latter began to speak in a different part of Turkey. As always, the list of those detained, on trial, or penalized for insulting Erdoğan continues to grow, with developments in cases against journalist Bülent Keneş, lawer Umut Kılıç, and columnist Mümtazer Türköne. An interesting addition to this list is the case of a Turkish Armed Forces commander, M.E.A., who, under order from an AK-Party appointed regional governor, Musa Işın, became involved in an altercation with the PKK in early April. Many had speculated that this was an AK-Party tactic to increase nationalistic votes but, if so, the intended nationalist fervor did not reach great heights, in part because no Turkish soldiers were killed (some sources say this is because PKK guerrillas intentionally shot only at soldiers’ feet), and in part because HDP members intervened quickly to transport wounded soldiers to safety, an effort that was verified by the armed forces. Now, according to Taraf and reported in English by Today’s Zaman, the head of the unit that led the attack, M.E.A., is under investigation for insulting Erdoğan via social media in 2012.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 7.29.01 PMOn a somewhat lighter note, British cyclist Mark Cavendish became a social media phenomenon when he tried to leave the podium in the midst of a very long speech Erdoğan was giving after the Tour of Turkey. He was forced to return to the podium for the remainder of the speech. Finally, the story of severely botched restorations at a mosaic museum in Antakya was given a comic twist when Penguen cartoonist Selçuk Erdem tweeted an image of one of the restorations with the comment: “maybe the goal of restoration in the museum was to make it look like Erdoğan.”

4 – May Day –  Amidst reports that 351 workers in Turkey have already died in 2015, the government decided, once again, to ban demonstrations in Taksim on that day. A number of groups made plans to head there nonetheless, and pro-government paper Vahdet made headlines when it reported on a poster from one such group, the United June Movement (BHH). The poster features an image of the Beatles, but Vahdet claimed it was “Gezi activists.” When this mistake was brought to the attention of editors, they claimed to be proud not to know who the Beatles were. Both Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report on various clashes between police and protestors that took place, with a total of 339 people reportedly being detained. Numerous outlets reported on a group of shopkeepers who apparently beat activists attempting to get to Taksim and then later bragged that the police had thanked them for the help.

5 – TV developments – Turkish TV and radio regulator RTÜK granted permission for the Ismailağa sect to open a channel. Popular cleric Cubbeli Ahmet is among the most famous members of the sect in Turkey and will likely appear on the channel. Turkish TV drama Kurt Seyit and Şura, which received massive investment in Turkey but was nonetheless cancelled due to poor ratings, has started airing in Spanish on Mundo Fox TV in the US. And Oktay Alkaya writes for Radikal about the 1990s TV program Plastic Show, noting that Turkey’s situation has really changed in terms of what’s admissible on TV in the form of political satire.

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5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-04-21

Protestors pass a police TOMA on Istiklal Caddesi on 18 April as part of a march against the censorship of Bakur (North)
Protestors pass a police TOMA on Istiklal Caddesi on 18 April as part of a march against the censorship of Bakur (North)

1 – Ban on Bakur – Following last week’s ban of Bakur from the Istanbul Film Festival under direct threat from Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MOCT), cinema industry groups, other festivals, and viewers have banded together in a series of events to show solidarity with the film and to demand changes in the cinema law. The most comprehensive coverage of this multi-faceted story in English is as follows: Constanze Letsch provides a good summary of the situation overall while Yeşim Burul discusses the “certificate issue” used by the MOCT to justify its ban. Today’s Zaman covers the industry press conference in response to the ban, including a list of demands, and also notes IFF’s response to the MOCT’s attempts to place blame on the festival. Alisa Lebow offers useful context on the anti-Kurdish politics that clearly figured in the ban, while Hürriyet Daily News notes some aspects of the spread of this crisis to the Ankara International Film Festival. Beyond these it is worth noting that hundreds gathered for an anti-censorship march on Istiklal Caddesi on Saturday and then for a screening and forum on censorship in Abbasağa Park that night. The next steps may include a protest or march on the Ministry in Ankara this week or next, as part of the Ankara festival. (UPDATE: There’s also my recent piece on the issue for Variety.)

2 – Panic about Armenian past – In the lead-up to the 24 April 100th anniversary commemoration of the mass deportation and execution of Armenians by Ottomans, Turkish politicians and public personas have been in great panic about whether such events should be called “genocide.” Responding to Pope Francis’ use of the word “genocide” President Erdoğan urged the Pope not to repeat this “mistake,” PM Davutoğlu claimed the pontiff had joined a conspiracy against Turkey, and Ankara mufti Professor Mefail Hizli said that such speeches could lead to Hagia Sophia, currently a museum, being re-opened for Muslim worship. Meanwhile, the US called for a “frank” discussion of the facts surrounding the issue, while the European Parliament called the events a genocide. The latter led to Turkey’s three biggest political parties (AKP, CHP, MHP), which can agree about little else, issuing a joint statement of condemnation, and to PM Davutoğlu asking rhetorically why the US and Australia don’t recognize their own genocides of indigenous people. In the midst of this crisis Davutoğlu’s advisor, Etyen Mahçupyan, himself Armenian, said the events were a genocide, an event which coincided with his official retirement from his advisory role. Bosphorus University, in the mean time, has agreed to host a conference titled “Armenian Genocide: Concepts and Comparative Perspectives,” that was originally scheduled to be held at Bilgi University, but temporarily cancelled when the latter withdrew.

3 – Social research – Numerous outlets reported on the results of a recent social research project called “Politics in Turkey, freedom of Press and Internet.” Today’s Zaman highlighted aspects of the report dealing with censorship and the economy, while Hürriyet Daily News interviewed one of the reports’ authors, political science professor Ali Çarkoğlu.

4 – Trials and censorship round-up – President Erdoğan’s son, Bilal, lost a case against Cumhuriyet newspaper journalist Canan Coşkun for alleged insults, but won a case, alongside his farther, against BirGün newspaper journalist Bariş Ince on similar charges. Numerous columnists at Cumhuriyet are currently facing charges of insulting Erdoğan as well, while BirGün journalsit Zeynep Kuray was temporarily detained for alleged slander. Two reporters who have recently been critical of the AK-Party, Ali Aslan Kiliç and Uğur Telil, have been banned from parliament, though Parliament speaker Cemil Çiçek encouraged them to address the ban through legal means, noting he doesn’t want to be known as the speaker who banned the press. The main opposition CHP has filed a complaint against state TV channel TRT over censorship of a political ad, and pro-government media has continued a campaign of what its targets call hate speech, as reported by Today’s Zaman, which is part of the targeted Gülen community media. Finally, Turkey’s constitutional court has upheld a law requiring prison for those found to store what it terms “unnatural” pornography, a category that includes oral, anal, group, gay, or lesbian imagery.

5 – Erdoğan visits drama production – In a gesture marked by multiple symbolic overtones, President Erdoğan visited the set of the Ottoman TV series Filinta and sat in the director’s chair. While there, he and his wife Emine chatted with one of the show’s stars, German actress Wilma Elles. Emine reminded Elles that Erdoğan wants all women in Turkey to have three children, while Erdoğan himself encouraged the actress to become a Turkish citizen.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-04-13

1 – Mixed messages on the Kurdish situation pre-election – The AK-Party’s shifting stance on the Kurdish situation became even more confusing this weekend after a clash between the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) in the eastern province of Ağrı. Details on the reasons for the clash are unclear, as both sides have blamed the other, and the number of casualties involved is also in dispute, but at least two people (at least one of them a PKK soldier) have died and a number of Turkish soldiers were injured. President Erdoğan and PM Davutoğlu blamed the PKK and attempted to implicate the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) after the incident, but HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said the operation was staged, and pointed out that it was HDP members who went to rescue the injured soldiers, sharing links to photo and video on social media to back this claim up. The TSK released a statement thanking the civilians who helped the soldiers today, to some degree supporting Demirtaş’s claim.

This situation puts a fragile peace process in question. For the past three years, the AK-Party had been making moves towards peace, negotiating with the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan and conceding to some aspects on language rights and regional autonomy desired by many Kurds in Turkey’s southeast region, often called Kurdistan. More recently, however, President Erdoğan, who is nominally unaffiliated with a party but still overtly acts as the head of the AK-Party, reversed his stance on the so-called “Kurdish opening” simultaneous with the celebration of Newroz, the spring holiday most closely identified with Kurds. This was interpreted by many as Erdoğan’s move to coax nationalist voters, known for their anti-Kurdish stance, in the run-up to the 2015 parliamentary elections. Numerous polls show the AK-Party losing ground and the HDP moving towards the 10% threshold necessary to enter parliament as a party, and this likely has Erdoğan very worried. Up until now, HDP members have been running as independent candidates since they were not likely to pass the 10% threshold, but this situation greatly decreases their representation in parliament while simultaneously increasing that of the AK-Party. So the political calculation in Turkey currently hinges on the fate of the HDP, and the AK-Party has every incentive to prevent their passing the threshold.

Given these circumstances, the timing of the Ağrı conflict is interesting, because it is likely to damage the HDP’s political image and improve that of the AK-Party. The TSK’s statement, however, might change this calculus.

Potentially linked to these events is the Istanbul Film Festival’s choice, under direct pressure from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s Cinema Directorate, to cancel the screening of a documentary filmed in the PKK camps. Bakur (North) was scheduled to be shown on 12 April but, hours before the screening, the IFF announced its cancellation. Numerous Turkish filmmakers involved in the festival held an impromptu meeting after this and decided to withdraw their films from the festival, calling into question whether key competitions will continue. Specifically, 7 out of 9 films in the national feature and 9 our of 13 films in the national documentary competitions signed a statement withdrawing their films.

2 – Media wars – Pre-election tensions are also playing out in mainstream media as pro-government media sources have made a number of moves to attack non-aligned media. Perhaps most notably, state run (and theoretically impartial) broadcaster TRT has refused to run commercials for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), giving as rationale the fact that the commercials criticize the ruling government. At the same time, pro-AK-Party media outlets Yeni Şafak and ATV have both published claims against the Doğan Media Group, charging it with support of terrorism in line with similar statements by Erdoğan. Doğan has filed slander charges against Yeni Şafak in response. Yeni Şafak also filed a story claiming that Turkey’s second President, Ismet İnönü, was responsible for having Mustafal Kemal Atatürk killed with poison. These claims and their alleged documentation have been the source of ridicule in other media, and columnist Mustafa Akyol commented on why such claims would come out now.

3 – Social media bans and reactions – Reactions to last week’s government ban of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have begun to mount. Early in the week there was a threat to block Google as well, but this has not yet been executed, and the social media sites are now back online. These bans have not gone unanswered, as Today’s Zaman reports:

Two Turkish academics on Tuesday appealed a court order that allowed authorities to block access to Twitter and YouTube for several hours this week, a crackdown they say reflects Ankara’s growing authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, Hürriyet Daily News reports on international critique of the ban:

Bans on social media networks are “not appropriate” according to basic democratic standards, said European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who held meetings with a number of senior officials in Turkey, adding that he expected “meaningful answers” from Ankara on the issue.

Despite such reactions, threats against social media may actually be on the rise, as Today’s Zaman reports:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has a tendency to put everything he sees as a threat against his authority in the country’s “National Security Strategy Concept Paper” (MGSB) — often referred to as the “Red Book” — may soon be adding social media platforms, according to a story in the Cumhuriyet daily on Thursday.

4 – Censorship, trials, and lawsuits – The weekly round-up of lawsuits and trials for those deemed to have insulted the AK-Party continues, as Hürriyet Daily News reports,

A local court in Ankara has ordered main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to pay 10,000 Turkish Liras in compensation to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for “insulting” him.

Erdoğan was not alone in his actions this week, as Today’s Zaman reports,

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has filed a new legal complaint against Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş over a blog post, saying the piece, an English version of which was published as a Today’s Zaman column, insulted him.

Some of the charges are more serious than insults against individuals, as Today’s Zaman reports,

Turkish prosecutors seek up to four and a half years in prison for two columnists, Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Çetinkaya, who write for the Turkish Cumhuriyet daily, over featuring a front cover of Charlie Hebdo magazine which depicted Prophet Muhammad in their pieces.

5 – AK-Party’s Neo-Ottoman overtures – Finally, the AK-Party continues to employ Ottoman pageantry in political appearances. As Hürriyet Daily News notes, this week’s ceremonies involved both PM Davutoğlu,

Continuing the new trend of cosplay started at Turkey’s new presidential palace where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resides, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan were welcomed by policemen dressed in Ottoman-era costumes on April 10 in Ankara.

and President Erdoğan,

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was welcomed during a ceremony on April 10 with the “New Turkey Anthem” performed by an Ottoman military band, which praised him as “Our Leader.”

Though quite visible, such overtures are not necessarily a way to success with the public, as the same paper noted in covering the fate of a number of “candidates for candidacy” who had vied for position on the AK-Party candidate list, which was decided this week:

Several candidates had launched Ottoman-themed campaigns to be nominated for the AKP. However, none of the “Ottomans” were able to break the glass ceiling of modern politics when the ruling party announced its candidates for the June 7 general elections on April 7.