Turkey: “The worst time is when the ruler and the evil of the people are united”
11 Jan 2017

Turkey Uncensored is an Index on Censorship project to publish a series of articles from censored Turkish writers, artists and translators.

This article is written by a human rights activist who has requested anonymity.

I am about to make a life changing move and leave Turkey. This decision did not come easy. I still do not feel very comfortable about leaving my family, friends and the struggle behind. However, this is a must-do move in order to keep my soul, spirit and mind intact.

I am an activist, a human rights defender, a dissident, and currently I feel like a lab rat trapped in a maze, trying to find the exit to freedom. And worse still, I can hear countless fellow mice doing the same! This is extremely disempowering.

In Turkey, we are losing all our legitimate grounds and means to scrutinise, criticise, oppose power and express our ideas and thoughts in the media, the streets, associations, social media….

There are almost no independent mainstream media left that dare write what is newsworthy if it touches the government or big business interests close to power. The outlets that do so face countless sanctions ranging from prosecution and arrest to total closure. Journalism was already under huge pressure but the failed 15 July coup provided a big opportunity to the government to further silence all opposition. As of today, there are 145 journalists in jail, 157 media outlets have been closed and approximately 9,000 journalists are jobless. Thousands of websites are either banned or blocked. If I cannot make my voice heard to influence public opinion, how can I be effective in my work to promote human rights, peace and justice?

Media is not the only medium that’s been hijacked; since 20 July, the government closed about 500 non-governmental organisations under emergency decrees. Some of these NGOs were very effective service organizations. Authorities confiscated all their equipment, bank accounts and documents — a violation of their clients’ right to privacy. And very recently, an investigation was initiated into four prominent human rights organisations — ok, listen to this — for reporting on human rights violations that occurred in cities that were under curfew. In other words, they are accused of their raison d’être!

The shrinking space for freedom

Social media was the only space left for us to communicate, inform and be informed. However, for a long while we are under attack for using this medium, too. Just a couple days ago, the deputy prime minister warned everyone to “behave on social media or face the consequences”. Actually, many have already faced it. There are hundreds of prosecutions with charges of terrorist propaganda and even more of insulting the president (based on Article 299 of the penal code, which became the new 301). Saying “I wouldn’t serve tea to the president” or “I don’t like the president” are now considered insulting.

The message is clear: Do not speak out, do not criticise, do not expose corruption, nepotism, abuse of power, lies or violations committed by the government. If you insist, you will be rendered jobless like thousands of journalists, academics, teachers and doctors, or you will be prosecuted and jailed.

We hear their message. We hear it again and again, every time a friend is put behind the bars, any time trolls target us on social media. We hear it when we are attacked by pepper gas and batons for protesting on the streets.

I know that this is an intimidation strategy. I also know that it will not deter me or my friends from doing what we do. Yet, the climate of fear dominating the country makes me feel trapped, cornered, inefficient and useless. I am at the verge of falling into a state of learned helplessness, if not depression.

I don’t want to self-censor what I am to say, yet I don’t want fall victim to their repressive policies just because of the non-violent things I say and do. Increasingly, I am turning into a lesser version of myself – less productive, less confident and losing faith.

It is true that the people of Turkey have never enjoyed a full democracy. Rights defenders and the opposition have always been targeted and criminalised as traitors, branded as terrorists and disloyal enemies for exposing the truth.

But for the first time in my life I feel so besieged and under threat. It is not just about the authoritarian regime, people find ways to bypass the restrictions and find other means to continue working. What slammed me to the ground and drained my hope and sapped my energy is the pure evil that has burgeoned in society. As the columnist Ahmet Insel quoted from Ibn al Muqaffa in his writing, “The worst time is when the ruler and the evil of the people are united.”

I couldn’t cope with it. I am choosing to retreat, only to come back stronger, wiser and more equipped.

5 responses to “Turkey: “The worst time is when the ruler and the evil of the people are united””

  1. Busra says:

    If you make lie news about your own country, if you try to misrepresent your own country to other countries and if you betray your own country sure you’ll be arrested. That’s what happens in Turkey. That’s why our journalists have been arrested. They’re lying journalists selling their own country. This website designed to mislead people.

  2. Martha says:

    Thank you for writing this article and updating the world on what is happening inside of Turkey. And smart you for recognizing what this is doing to you personally and doing something about it. We are part of a world community and these views need to be up and outed (without punishment). I wish for you peace – and let the fire and goodwill within you continue to bring positive outcomes.

  3. Elinor Munday says:

    I fear RTE is not only attempting complete dominance of Turkey but the whole of the Middle East in order to establish an Islamic Caliphate. He is aided and abetted by Putin and between them I believe they intend to dominate the area, perhaps looking to bring African and Asian countries into the Caliphate. Then the world? The Kurds are a thorn in the side and no doubt the tribal mentality predominantly Shiita and Sunni will clash violently. Not an health future for the world, in my opinion.

  4. Pete says:

    I feel so sorry for normal Turks who don’t support fascism, or genocide, or ISIS. Turkey today is like Germany in the 1930s, Erdogan is our generation’s Hitler, and war against Turkey is coming – of that there can be no doubt.

  5. harry dardanel says:

    True in all ! Where words cannot describe reality !