Armand Sağ


Leftwing journalists in Turkey

Leftwing journalists in Turkey

Today I went to a debate organized by the Turkish Institute in the Netherlands, although the institute is a fairly new institute; it has shown his inefficiency. The main reason I say this is almost solely based on the conference of today; it was about the media and censorship in Turkey. It was not very surprising to see all the leftwing journalists of Turkey being invited. Not that being left is a bad thing, surely not. It is however typical for the institute because almost all of their activities are dominated by leftwing-ideologies.

The staff members are also dominated by a leftwing ideology. Almost all of the members are from the State University of Groningen (RUG), which is known for their sympathies for left. One of the members even has organized pro-PKK (a terrorist organization in Turkey which is out to create a communist Kurdish state) activities. And I was not surprised to see a continuing line in this.

As I said before the invited speakers were Yasemin Çongar (editor-in-chief at leftwing newspaper Taraf), Kürşat Bumin (leftwing columnist at Yeni Şafak, a Islamic newspaper), Oral Çalışlar (former columnist at Cumhuriyet Newspaper, now leftwing Radikal) and the Dutch reporter Jessica Lutz. Although the discussion was about media and the closing of various newspapers, the Turkish Institute chose to invite three representatives of very small and minor newspapers. Taraf has a readers audience of only 30.000, on a country with almost 75 million inhabitants it is surely a nothing. And even with the big newspapers like Sabah, Hürriyet and Milliyet which have almost 3 million readers, Taraf is still a scarce one percent of these newspapers. Then why weren’t any of these papers or their representatives invited?

I think the question should be asked to the Turkish Institute, because it is known that Taraf is not really a leftwing newspaper. The views are all over the place, for instance Taraf is supported by radical islamists who want to cancel the ‘scarf-law’. At the other hand it is supported by radical communists, Kurds and communist Kurds, even the pro-PKK ones, because Taraf wants the Turkish State to change their Kurds-policy and maybe even create a federation-state with Turks and Kurds. And also, Taraf thinks Turkey should accept the Genocide and even pay money to the Armenians or maybe even give land to them. Now, I don’t care if you think this way or any other way, just have an opinion based on research and facts. This is the most important thing here, to think for yourself. But if you are against the policy of Turkey at every scale, from economy till society to history, you are seriously pushing it. How can Taraf have anti-Turkey views on every single point? Surely Turkey has done something right in the past years? But "no", says Kürşat Bumin.

Kürşat Bumin (a funny name for a leftwing journalist, seeing that both his name as his surname are named after mythical Turkish heroes who are now claimed by the radical rightwings) called Turkey a ‘totalitarian and authoritarian state, just like the Soviet Union’. These accusations are of course partly true, there were periods of partly censorship and some oppressing, but these were back in the sixties, seventies and eighties. But none the less even the nineties had same minor periods of oppression, this however doesn’t make Turkey a ‘totalitarian and authoritarian state’. It simply makes it a state which keeps developing itself. This however isn’t how Bumin sees it, he in fact called Turkey a ‘ideocracy with sick schools, sick teachers, sick judges and a sick society’. In saying so he was referring to the ideology in Turkey, which in his eyes was nothing more than a rigid chain of thought founded by Atatürk called Atatürkçülük or Kemalism, thus being totalitarian and authoritarian. But where does he base this on? The ideology left by Atatürk is indeed an ideology which is unique in the world and for someone who doesn’t research it in the proper way a complete mystery. Especially for people in Europe or Western it is very difficult to understand, mostly because they think from their own perspective and their absent knowledge about Turkey and the history of the Turkish society. It is also very hard for some Turks who just basically want to change the system and therefore see it tactically to disagree with everything in Turkey, especially with the current and past policy.

For instance Bumin is known to be a teacher himself, then why does he call the teachers and schools of Turkey ‘sick to the core’? This is primarily because he does not agree with the cult surrounding Atatürk and the fact that although Atatürk’s system tends to lean towards Europe, it also has unique differences which may seem to be an obstacle. But like Bumin himself stated this evening, in Turkey there is no left and right like in the rest of the world. In Turkey political parties with socialist stands can still be nationalistic as hell and pro-capitalist (read pro-America) as hell. On the other hand you have atheists who are pro-religion and some more. And there is no doubt that Bumin has got a very good point on this issue, but then… why is he trying to profile his European leftwing ideology on Turkey? Surely he must know that this can’t be applicable in Turkey.

Turkey has it’s own history and it’s own path to an open and modern society. It has a strong military, one that is unknown in Europe because it is not like the destructive armies in Europe. No, it sees itself as the protectors of the Atatürk heritage and will do anything to stop groups like the Islamic parties. The heritage of Atatürk is not totalitarian, nor authoritarian, but very humane and patriotic. For instance Atatürk gave women in Turkey equal rights and this was even before most of the European states did the same. This is why the first female fighter pilot in the world was a Turkish woman, and also why most university professors in Turkey are women. Atatürk then promoted cultural nationalism in stead of racial nationalism, and this is much different then the nationalism of Europe, in particular NSDAP-, Nazi- and/or Hitler-nationalism which is downright racial and fascist. It is however easy to get the European views on your side, especially when you are trying to enforce the European leftwing ideas on Turkey, like all the invited journalists of today including Bumin.

This anti-strong-government leftwing movement is for instance also present in the Netherlands with the Socialist Party (SP) which wants to annihilate the Dutch Kingdom and replace it by a republic with a chosen headsman. Just like these political parties, which are always against something, the editor-in-chief Yasemin Çongar is following the same path. She is against almost every Turkish policy, just so she will be supported by left orientated organizations in other countries. Leftwing organizations like Turkish Institue or Röportaj Institute are the first to help, by inviting her to the Netherlands and letting her talk about incidents like they are very common in Turkey. Now off course every incident is one too many and I praise the work of Yasmin Çongar and Taraf, but not when she is trying to promote her own work as something bigger and more important then it is. A great example of this is Röportaj Institute which is “founded to protect the journalists in Turkey from the government”. But the list they give of journalists killed in Turkey in fact start in 1909, when there was no Turkey but an Ottoman Empire. This off course does not take away the pain and suffering from journalists, but let us not make it bigger than it is. Especially Uğur Mumcu and Hrant Dink are journalists which I admired a lot, but it must be said that these fine and very talented journalists were killed by people of the ultra nationalistic Grey Wolves-circles and not the government. This however is what is implied by Röportaj, the founder Mehmet Ülger as writer of the book “Grey Wolves” should have known better. Furthermore the term “Turkey”, which was used a lot in today’s debate was very unclear.

Oral Çalışlar spoke of a tirade of Taraf against the chief of staff of the military and the prime minister, and that he and the minister of culture did everything in their power to protect Taraf and their editor-in-chief Yasemin Çongar. Then who or what do they mean when they speak of “Turkey”? Because the minister of culture and the prime minister are both from the same political party AKP, so do they mean the military in Turkey then? But like the answer following Dutch journalist Henk Boom's informative question (who just happened to be in the audience) stated, the chief of staff tried to sue Taraf and Yasemin Çongar but got in trouble himself by opening this lawsuit. So I ask again, who or what is this oppressing “Turkey”? If there is a government apparatus which is oppressing journalists then why are some members being sued themselves? This topic was not discussed at all.

What was discussed however were the ideas of Taraf and Yasemin Çongar to introduce a new system in Turkey. One with a federal system for the Kurds and Turks, this is very important because with this idea she shows her lack of knowledge of Turkey. How can you divide a country in two when it is mixed and multicultural? Kurds live in almost every province in Turkey, but they do not constitute a majority in any province. Most of the Kurds live in İstanbul, estimated a couple of million. But in İstanbul the total population is 15 million so even there they do not constitute a majority. So where should these federal states be created? In East-Anatolia? But although there are certainly Kurds living in those provinces, there are also even more Turks living there. So if Taraf and Yasemin Çongar should have thought it through, they would have seen that creating these federal states would have caused ethnic cleaning and motives for a new bloody conflict, just like in İsrael where we can see where historical claims can lead to. Especially when you try to ethnically clean the new state from their local inhabitants, and let us not forget that the Turks are living in those lands since 1071.

This, quite frankly stupid, idea is said to be supported by a lot of people but in fact only members of the bloody terrorist organization of PKK, from which there even were people in the conference room during the debate, support it. PKK is already responsible for bloody massacres among Turks for the sake of ethnically cleansing the lands from Turks and making the Kurds a majority.

Europe however is choosing not to see these massacres and to support the PKK, just like EU-representative Joost Lagendijk said that the reforms in Turkey are mostly caused by pressure from the European Union. In saying this Lagendijk is minimizing the progress and development of a whole country and in fact saying that Turkey is only modernizing because the  European Union ‘is letting them progress’. This is absurd and egomania.

Now besides minimalizing the progress Turkey is making on their own, and trying to see the Turkish government as the guilty party in almost every single incident while the perpetrators are relatively small groups or even crazy individuals, this is also very common in the Netherlands where Pim Fortuyn, Theo van Gogh and Louis Seveke were shot and killed. So it must be said that Turkey had a period of almost ten years when no journalist was shot, until the unfortunate death and evil hit on Hrant Dink accured. It however must be said as well that the killer was a seventeen years old boy who was used by ultranationalists, probably a fraction within the Grey Wolves which operated independent of the rest or even incidental. Although the speakers stated that “Turkey killed Hrant Dink”, it isn’t quite clear who or what “Turkey” is. Because weren’t it the Turks who demonstrated against the killing of Dink with hundreds of thousands shouting “We are all Armenian, we are all Hrant Dink”. So it wasn’t something supported by the Turkish population nor the government. Than why is it told like this was the case?

This wasn’t the only wrong information given this evening; Froukje Santing and Hans Verploeg (both journalists) told a long story about the killings of journalists in the world and they called 2008 “a very bloody year”. Because the debate was over journalism in Turkey, almost everybody thought the killings took place in Turkey, but then someone asked “were all those hundreds of killings in Turkey?”. Hans then replied “ehm no, mostly Sri Lanka and Pakistan”. Then why are you telling this? The asker of the above question went on asking questions: “was anybody (and by that he meant journalists) killed in Turkey in the last year?”. Hans was once again forced to answer “No, no journalist was killed or harmed in Turkey in the last year or so…”. Again my question, why are you telling this then? But to the rescue came Froukje Santing who said “… not yet at least”, and by this she made her intentions very clear. Although we pierced through the first piece of propaganda that evening, it certainly wasn’t the last.

It was stated that over 1200 websites were closed in Turkey, and that this was a great example of the state-organized-censorship in Turkey. They however neglected to mention that most of the sites, if not all, were closed due to content concerning how to kill yourself, others, make bombs, make your own drugs, get high with kitchen cleaning stuff and some more. This is not in contrast with the very open situation in Turkey, it is possible for a old ambassador to say that “Turkey has to apologize for the Armenian issue”. I would like to remember to everybody that saying the Armenian genocide wasn’t technically or juridical a “genocide” is forbidden by law in France, Swiss and maybe even in the Netherlands if the Christian Union Party-members get their way. So there goes the freedom of speech in Europe, I would say… This certainly isn’t the case in Turkey. I am however forced to say that although almost 50 Turks (among others professor Baskın Oran) started a website to indeed, like former ambassador Volkan Vural said, apologize to the Armenians, some were sued. Like always some ultranationalists started a lawsuit, almost all were member of the nationalistic organization of former prosecutor Kemal Kerinçsiz. He has been sued and arrested himself now due to the Ergenekon lawsuit.

It is interesting to see that the ones who say there is great freedom in Turkey for journalists are the foreign journalists like Jessica Lutz and Henk Boom. The laughable examples of Yasemin Çongar that freedom of speech is oppressed in Turkey consist of bombings of PKK-printhouses back in 1994. She was supported by a PKK-member from the audience who stated that Turkey has closed down 27 newspapers in the last month. It however were newspapers published by the terrorists of the PKK and were loaded with pro-terrorist articles. Turks were shown as people who deserved to die, it is perfectly normal that these kinds of newspapers are closed. This being said, it were in fact only 6 newspapers who first got fined 27 times before being closed for a period of no more then a month.

The most fanatic journalists of Turkey, with Yasemin Çongar and Kürşat Bumin on top, are ‘captured’ by leftwing ideologies which are present in Europe and think they can make the same ideology work in Turkey. This can certainly not happen, this is why their examples are ludicrous. Çongar says that 95% of the Turkish newspapers are extremely nationalist, by saying this you can get the support of any West-European nation. This is because they have very bad experiences with nationalism, not knowing that the nationalism in Turkey is not racial like the ones in Europe, mostly based on German Nazi-nationalism. Çongar then continues to say that all of the flags and posters of Atatürk on the front page of the major newspapers on holidays are illustrative for this. But her lack of international geography, mostly due to the fact that she has only seen Turkey and maybe America, makes it almost funny because this is common everywhere. Even in the Netherlands royal weddings, the queens birthday, soccer matches and many other (Christian) holidays are promoted with flags or national symbols and colours on the front pages of newspapers. Most newspapers in the world have these aspects. She was then helped by Bumin who stated that “Turkey has political and religious newspapers which aren’t always objective.” The Netherlands however also have their fanatical Christian newspapers which are very biased and extreme.

The statement of Yasemin Çongar that Turkey only has “a few good men” in their government is very prejudice, biased and full of generalization caused by hate against the Turkish government, probably caused by her ideology (a socialist ideology) or some happenings in her past (problems with the Turkish law or government?) and she is trying to form a big coalition against Turkey. That is why she is pro-PKK on one hand and pro-headscarf on universities on the other hand and again pro-Armenian-lobby, in doing so she is uniting all the “enemies” of Turkey. Her ultimate goal is to create a new Republic of Turkey, one with a strictly European system in stead of a system created by Turks for Turks like the humane ideology of Atatürk in which he combines the best of all worlds. It is very shameful that an organization like Turkish Institute or Röportaj let themselves be used for this kind of propaganda. Maybe it is because they want to paint a ‘bad’ picture of Turkey, but let it be said that although Turkey has a couple of very bad and corrupt police officers, judges and public officials etcetera, there is a big majority of people that is protesting against this small group of corrupt Turks. And to make it seem if this small group is representing ‘Turkey’ is a big mistake. The use of the words “oppressing Turkey” is very wrong, because there simply is no ‘oppressing by Turkey’ but only ‘oppressing by individuals’, not by the state nor the government.


Armand Sağ

January 11, 2009

© Armand Sağ 2009
Debate: January 9, 2009
Article: January 9-11, 2009


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