Turkey: “Trial is in itself an act of intimidation”


Osman Kavala. Credit: Anadolu Kültür

Osman Kavala. Credit: Anadolu Kültür

We, the undersigned human rights and freedom of expression organisations, condemn the interim judicial decision taken in the second hearing of the Gezi Park trial. The indictment accuses 16 civil society figures and arts practitioners in Turkey of having planned to “attempt to overthrow the government” and of having financed the peaceful Gezi Park protests. If found guilty, they face a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

We share the view that “the trial is in itself an act of intimidation”, having been opened 6 years after the Gezi protests took place in 2013. We are extremely concerned that this trial may once again contribute to creating a chilling effect on the fulfillment of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression and the legitimate right to protest as enshrined in the Turkish Constitution. We call for a concerted response by the European Union and Europe Member States to put urgent, consistent and collective pressure upon the Government of Turkey to restore the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Turkey.

On 18 July 2019, the judicial panel decided to reject the requests of defence lawyers for the release of Osman Kavala from 21 months of pre-trial detention and for the lifting of judicial control measures, including the travel ban, on the other defendants. Sarah Clarke, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Europe and Central Asia, said: “This decision represents a disturbingly clear example of the continuous absence of the rule of law and lack of independence of the judiciary in Turkey.” The indictment itself shows the total lack of tangible evidence for these allegations.

We strongly object the continuing pre-trial detention of Osman Kavala, who has now been in a maximum-security prison for 631 days. Kavala said in his defence statement, “I was never asked to make any statements during my time in detention or in custody with the police in relation to the allegations against me. I was not questioned by the prosecutor at any time after I was arrested. The indictment was prepared 16 months after I was arrested and this too indicates that there was no evidence to hand.”

Grounds for Kavala’s arrest are insufficiently supported in the indictment, raising serious concerns relating to the proportionality and legitimacy of his arrest. The lengthy pre-trial detention, which started 4 years after the Gezi Park protests took place, is unwarranted and disproportionate as a legal precaution against the defendant’s absconding or posing a ‘threat to society’. The excessive length of Kavala’s pre-trial detention of 21 months, his rights to presumption of innocence, to humane treatment, to the right to a fair trial and to liberty and security have all been violated in the most unnacceptable manner.

The 16 individuals named in the ruling are: Osman Kavala, Meltem Arikan (pictured), Memet Ali Alabora, Pinar Ogun, Can Dündar, Mücella Yapıcı, Tayfun Kahraman, Hakan Altınay, Gökçe Yılmaz, Can Atalay, Çiğdem Mater Utku, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, İnanç Ekmekçi, Mine Özerden, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi. (Photo: Wikipedia)

During the second hearing, defence lawyers argued that the evidence collected between May and November 2013 in relation to the Gezi protests was “re-evaluated”. In an earlier case drawing on some of the same evidence, an Istanbul court in 2015 acquitted all 26 defendants (including two of the defendants in the current Gezi Park case, (Mücella Yapıcı and Tayfun Kahraman). In the current case, the court has failed to take into consideration that 2015 judgement.

Furthermore, the defence demonstrated the inappropriateness of the charges under Article 312 of the Turkish Criminal Code which clearly includes the reference to an “act of force or violence” in the definition of the offence. The 2013 Gezi Park protests represented a peaceful and non-violent movement. The actual excessive use of force was that used by the police against civilians including the extensive use of teargas against the crowds. The indictment, as the defence lawyers proved time and again, contains no reference to an armed organisation (as per Article 314 of the Turkish Criminal Code), which further questions the basis of the accusations.

Norwegian PEN President, Kjersti Løken Stavrum said, “We will continue to monitor this trial and to advocate for all charges to be dropped against the 16 defendants. The fact that the 657-page indictment, bereft of concrete evidence, was accepted by the judicial panel is sadly, once more a clear indication of the poor state of the rule of law in Turkey.”

The next hearing of the Gezi Park trial will take place in Silivri on 8-9 October 2019, when other defendants will be heard and plaintiffs’ requests will be evaluated by the court.

Articolo 21
Danish PEN
ECPMF (European Centre for Press and Media Freedom)
English PEN
Front Line Defenders
Index on Censorship
Norwegian PEN
OBC Transeuropa
PEN America
PEN Flanders
PEN International
PEN Netherlands
PEN Suisse Romand
PEN Turkey
RSF (Reporters Without Borders)
SEEMO (South East Europe Media Organisation)
Swedish PEN
Swiss Italian and Reto-Romanch PEN Centre
Wales PEN Cymru[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1563959006215-1e666f90-a594-0″ taxonomies=”55″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Farcical indictment shows how far Turkey has fallen


Index on Censorship condemns a criminal indictment sent to a Turkish court against 16 civil society leaders including artist Meltem Arikan, actors Memet Ali Alabora and Pinar Ogun, and journalist Can Dündar.

“This farcical indictment shows how far Turkey’s government is willing to go to silence dissent and should show the world how much freedom of expression has degraded for all of the country’s citizens,” said Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship.

The criminal court has 15 days to examine the indictment charging the 16 with attempting to overthrow the government for their part in the 2013 Gezi protests, the biggest anti-government demonstrations since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamist government came to power in 2002. Almost six years after the protests during which tens of thousands people across Turkey took the streets, the 16 named in the indictment now faced a possible lifetime behind bars without the possibility of parole, according to a report in Ahval.

Arikan was nominated for a 2014 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award in the arts category.

The other 12 individuals named in the indictment are: Osman Kavala, Mücella Yapıcı, Tayfun Kahraman, Hakan Altınay, Gökçe Yılmaz, Can Atalay, Çiğdem Mater Utku, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, İnanç Ekmekçi, Mine Özerden, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi.[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1550765322731-f7944837-909a-0″ taxonomies=”55″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Meltem Arikan: The difference between Wales and Turkey


Enough Is Enough cast members

Enough is Enough, a play formed as a gig, tells the stories of real people about sexual violence, through song and dark humour. It is written by Meltem Arikan, directed by Memet Ali Alabora, with music by Maddie Jones, and includes four female cast members who act as members of a band.

While touring Wales recently with my new play Enough Is Enough, I thought about what I experienced with my earlier work in Turkey. But which Turkey?

In the so-called “New Turkey”, everything is being surveilled by the government, from plays and books to everything you share on social media. There were no undercover Welsh police or prosecutors sitting in the audience in Newport or Pontypridd.

We designed Enough is Enough as a touring project. We went to 21 different Welsh venues in 21 different places, north, south, east and west, in less than a month. Audience members had strong positive reactions and some suggested that the production should be taken into schools. In the New Turkey even thinking about taking the play to schools would be enough to be accused of something unimaginable. If you dared sing the songs sung in Enough is Enough, you can be sure you would receive a violent reaction.

When you confront reality in a direct way, even if it is through art, governments around the world do not want to hear your voice. The New Turkey’s government is only an extreme example. When you speak truths, governments do not want you to be heard – they do not want you at all.

Yet when you show reality in a direct way, when you slap the audience with pain, the reaction becomes the same everywhere. First they are shocked, then they find you unusual, but in the end they compliment you for doing it.

During our tour of Wales, people let us into their hearts, looked after us and many venues promised to invite us again. Audience members shared their stories with us. Many wanted to work with us, others supported us unconditionally.

After every performance we had “shout it all out” sessions. We heard repeatedly how many of the issues we confront on stage – sexual violence, oppression and misogyny – are being swept under the carpet because people don’t like to discuss them.

These sessions took me back to a time before I wrote Mi Minor, the play accused of being a rehearsal for the Gezi Park protests in 2013. A time before I had to leave the country because of those accusations. A time before the innovations in the New Turkey was not as horrifyingly obvious as they are now. A time when the AKP, the ruling party of Turkey, was backed not just by the liberals in Turkey but liberals around the world. Back then I was told I was wrong about the government. It was in 2007 that I wrote a play entitled I am Breaking the Game.

That play premiered in Zurich and toured to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Istanbul and Ankara. No matter where it was performed there was a particular reaction that stuck with me: “These issues are not our issues, they belong to the East.”

I was inspired by the stories of people I know personally. I was in touch with the victims of domestic violence, honour killings, rape, incest and sexual abuse. I knew all stories were true. So I wasn’t sure why then so many didn’t see these issues as theirs. I searched and searched for this place far away from everyone and everything, where all these horrible things keep happening, called the “East”. Eventually I found myself in the West.

After graduating from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, actor Pinar Ogun felt inspired by Breaking the Game. She felt angry that the run of the play was short in Turkey and she became passionate — almost obsessed — to stage it in London. She tried to convince her instructors at LAMDA, artistic directors of various venues and theatre friends to make it happen. She even introduced me to a couple of people who showed interest, but the reaction was again the same: “Of course these issues are very important but these issues are not our issues, they belong to the East. We resolved these issues in the 1970s. Such plays, performances have been done in the past. These are very old discourses.”

Laurie Penny was one of the only people who had a different reaction. She interviewed me nine years ago: “However much she is hounded by Turkish authorities and tutted at by European theatre goers, one thing is certain: Meltem Arikan is not about to roll over and hush. And thank goodness for that.”

When slapped in the face does it hurt less in the West than in the East?

Why is it considered a social phenomenon when women are killed in the name of honour in the East but an individual crime when women are killed in the name of passion, obsession or jealousy in the West? Child marriage in the East is seen as a nightmare. But, in the West, does calling pregnant children “teen moms” prevent their lives from turning into a nightmare?

After I was forced to leave Turkey and began living in Wales, Ogun restarted her campaign to stage I am Breaking the Game. A year ago, I finally said yes. I’ve been observing a West that has been dazzled by the light of past enlightenments, alienated from its very own issues, attached to the chains of concepts and utterly disconnected to its reality. With Ogun’s company, Be Aware Productions, we applied to Arts Council Wales for research and development funding. But even after the grant was awarded, I was afraid I would still hear the echoes of the long-dead rejection: “These issues are not our issues, they belong to the East”, “the stories of the East”, “The East…”

My rejections, my questions, my issues.

During our research process we met with Welsh sex workers, organisations that help and support women facing violence, and victims. My initial idea was to replace these new stories with the stories in the play, but then I decided to write a new play entirely.

I developed the play with stories of abuse, rape and incest from Britain, all true stories, all had actually happened in these lands. Sometimes I used the exact words of the victims, sometimes I made them more poetic, but most importantly, in order to reach the hearts of the audience, I decided to use the magic of music and that’s how the idea of making it a gig-theatre came to be.

My rejections, my questions, my issues.

When writing Enough is Enough, my intention was to become a megaphone to the people who are facing violence here, to point to the elephant in the room by talking about incest and to underline the fact that when it is about the existence of women and men, those in the West and those in the East were the same.

I dare to say this because I can see blatantly that no matter how much cultures, cuisines, languages, clothes, ethnical backgrounds have managed to differentiate each and every one of us, no matter whether we were born in the West or in the East, we’re all forced to have the life forms designed by the patriarchy and so we are all dominated by the same fears for thousands of years.

Just like the East, the West also lives in its own virtual world built on the concepts of the patriarchal culture. And the relative comfort of this world doesn’t mean a thing for the victims. Just like Turkey, just like France, just like Yemen, just like the USA, women, children and men in Britain become victims. Abuse, rape and incest endlessly continue to exist with all its savagery within society, behind closed doors. The pain and consequences of this ongoing violence continue to be ignored.  And while children become the children of fear, not the children of their parents, all around the world violence continues to beget violence. Those who face their pain empathise with victims, whereas those who escape their pain empathise with the perpetrators.

During the Wales tour, the reaction from people who were violated, who knew what violence was, who did not escape from their pain, who faced themselves, who were not in denial of their experiences, in short, the reaction from people who knew the pain of reality, was warm, open and stripped-down. We received the biggest support from women’s organisations, women, some brave men, young people and the LGBT community.

On 8 April 2017 at the Wales Millennium Centre and from the 26-29 April at Chapter Arts Centre, we will continue to say “Enough is Enough”. This time our goal is to reach promoters and artistic directors for an England tour. We want to make our voice be heard in England, and shout “Enough is Enough” together with the English audience.

I really wonder about the reaction of the audience in England. Will they be as open as the Welsh audience or will they keep repeating their apologies while saying these are the East’s problems. The irony is that this time we will be coming from the West, at least west of England.

Yet, whatever the reaction of the audience in England may be, I know for sure there won’t be any audience members who try to organise a mob against us.

Whatever the reaction of the audience in England may be, I know for sure the play would never be banned with the accusation of “disturbing the family order”.

Whatever the reaction of the audience in England may be, I know for sure that newspapers won’t run a smear campaign against the actors because of our play.

Whatever the reaction of the audience in England may be, I know for sure I won’t receive any death threats just because I dared to address violence against women. [/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

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

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Turkey is a country of blood-sucking spirits


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


Women's Voices by Meltem Arikan

Women’s Voices by Meltem Arikan

The piece of land surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…big big men are leeching children’s blood, viciously…those who know know, those who know keep quiet, those who see look away…children with dying spirits imprisoned in their own bodies endlessly bleeding within…unhappy, fearful, insecure…No one is making a sound…

The place surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…While shouting out loud “We have never been this free”, and putting writers, translators and journalists behind bars yet life goes on as if everything was normal. While lies feed each other with more lies, liars and yes-men feed off each other murderously. Denying even the smell of death leaking from prison cells, still, more deaths are being called for.

The peninsula surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…the number of people queuing up to turn each other in never ends. The more hatred is carefully fed and made bigger, the more solutions are generated with violence…the violence of hatred and the hatred born out of violence are plunging the spirit of life into a pitch-dark void.

The slippery heaven surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where bloodsucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…while religious extremists obsessed with power are accusing one another, those applauding them are constantly switching sides. Fraud intellectuals, phoney writers, scam businessmen are crossing from one side to the other like a peg-top. Whoever gets to shout louder has their lie spread across the whole world. And sadly, it is always those who do not belong to either side that end up paying the price.

The piece of heaven here on earth surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…while the words of those who can shout out louder, who can buy more, who can be purchased more are suppressing the truth, everyone is turning a blind eye to this. Being closed down, those newspapers and news agencies which once caused innocent people to be sentenced to years in prison with the false evidence they provided are now being proclaimed as the representatives of free press around the world. Without carrying the slightest regret or shame for having destroyed other lives, without engaging in any self-criticism, not even once. As each side becomes more fanatical, truth is drowning further down in a well in which those who choose not to take sides become more and more invisible….Understanding what is happening inside the well is becoming impossible to those outside it. The stories of those who provide the money are marketed as the truth to the world.

The place I once used to live, surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies

The country surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…Those who, until not so long ago, would applaud the government in power today until their palms hurt and blame those who didn’t, for being the enemies of democracy, are today still preaching shamelessly from the same TV channels, from the same papers this time saying “we have been deceived.” Those who, until not so long ago, turned a blind eye to and even from time to time supported what today’s government did to some artists and writers are now expecting support from those whom they had, back then, turned their backs against. Those, who, until not so long ago, said “not enough but yes” (liberals used this slogan during the 2010 referendum) to pretty much all the actions taken by today’s government, and even called their critics fascists are now saying “fascism is coming, can’t you see, why are you keeping quiet?” The climate today is turning into a desert of memoryless miserables in which those, who, not so long ago, hailed the government’s policies on women as freedom are now, interestingly getting frustrated with the child rape law introduced by the same government and are clearing their consciences by saying they had previously been deceived. The hour and minute hand travel in time, but always around the same faces of people who are constantly in self-denial.

The place I once used to live, surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…with every passing day, we are becoming strangers to the places we used to belong, to our past, to our memories and even to ourselves…with every passing day, we are feeling more and more trapped in darkness…most particularly women…if you are a woman…if you have not yet given up on being a woman…

The cage surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies..the sound of seagulls have long since been replaced by religious preachers yelling through speakers. Trees have long since surrendered to concrete walls. The sun is no longer shining in the eyes of the crying children…and lies are growing fast by being fed with more lies…and fears are being ignited by hatred…and people are giving up on themselves more and more with each passing day…and the power of bloodsucking spirits puffs up.

The temple surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…your needs count for nothing and neither do your thoughts. From now on, you are nothing more than a subject that needs to obey…you need to fully understand that you are a subject and you must surrender entirely…you no longer exist as an individual, now there are only those things you have to do and those you have to believe, as determined by the authorities. You will have to bear the brunt of giving up …the more you surrender, the more you will give up on who you are. The more you give up, the more you will be expected to do it…and the more you will give in to hatred.

The stage surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…the more applauded ignorance becomes, the more crowned the lack of knowledge becomes…As opinions get judged , giving in is embraced further. Asking questions has become dangerous now, you must accept the discourse unquestionably. And so you’ll learn to see through the eyes of bloodsuckers, but not your own.

That Sodom surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…rape and abuse have become ordinary acts…a normality. Children are being sent as appetisers for men to lay them on their beds… any sort of perversion can be legitimised as long as one says “I am a believer”. Perverts protect other perverts, perverts determine the laws…As perversion becomes normalised, everywhere is turning to hell for women and children.

That hell surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…people are queuing up to be bloodsucked and the bloodsucked turns into a bloodsucker. And gradually, ruthless vampire stories are coming to life.

That hunting ground surrounded by water on three sides is turning into a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…none of these bloodsuckers cares about freedom or humanity, but they are yearning to figure out who will suck the most blood and who will rule more…

a country where blood-sucking spirits conquer people’s bodies…

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Meltem Arikan is a poet, playwright and author. Her latest play Enough is Enough, about violence against women, will start touring in Wales between Jan-Feb 2017. And her multi award-winning short film Exhibit will continue to be screened various places in Europe. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1485774621131-5d65e5b1-5cf0-4″ taxonomies=”8607″][/vc_column][/vc_row]