October 1, 2010

Recent days have seen the tightening of the Islamic yoke of oppression on liberties and freedoms in Turkey. A famous journalist, who is a harsh critic of the Islamist AKP government and its autocratic leader Tayyip Erdoğan, has been fired from the newspaper where he used to regularly write op-ed columns. Bekir Coşkun, whose employment at Habertürk has been terminated as of September 20th, is known for his “edged satire” style. In April 2010, Prime Minister and chairman of the Islamist AK Party had demanded  that publishers fire columnists who cause “chaos and disorder,” in other words, those who criticize his government (see our post at

Bekir Coşkun appears to be the first high-profile case of newspaper editors heeding the call of Erdoğan and eliminating dissenting journalists from their staff. Fatih Altaylı, who is editor-of-chief at Habertürk, is criticized for not standing up against pressure from the owner of the newspaper to fire Bekir Coşkun. Beyond being a disgrace for freedom of press in Turkey, Altaylı’s succumbing amounts to active participation in AK Party’s effort to silence the voice of opposition and will be marked as a shameful stain on history of democracy in Turkey. Commentators agree that firing of Coskun will likely prompt self-censorship amongst columnists and discourage critics from expressing opposition to government policies.

On another highly publicized occasion, a whistleblower in the national police force has been jailed on charges of aiding and abetting a leftist terror group. Hanefi Avcı, a high-level police officer who previously led groundbreaking investigations against leftist terror organizations and pioneered establishment of electronic surveillance systems in the Turkish Police, had recently published an exposé about the infiltration of the Turkish state by a surreptitious extremist Islamic sect, the Gülen movement. The religious group has grown in the last two decades from a small cadre of disciples to an empire with thousands of followers commanding hundreds of schools, economic interests measured in billions of dollars, and countless “cultural” organizations spread across the world. The leader of the sect, Fethullah Gülen, is based in a farm in rural Pennsylvania and lives under the protection of the U.S. authorities.

Gülen is known as the Khomeini of Turkey, as he advocates a silent revolution to abolish the secular regime and establish an Islamic republic in the country. He has been caught on tape advising his followers to go “deep and silent” until they take over positions of power in the Turkish state so as to remain undetected and achieve their goal of Islamic dominance. In his book titled “Haliçte Yaşayan Simonlar” in Turkish, Hanefi Avcı reveals in detail how Gülen’s followers were able to creep into the Turkish police, bureaucracy and judiciary, launch investigations and press charges based on manufactured evidence and illegal wiretapping to suppress secular opposition. Those who have been targeted with false accusations and jailed include dozens of journalists, intellectuals, academicians, former and current army officers, researchers, and many other opponents of the AK Party government. After his book’s publication, Avcı stated that he expected to soon be the target of the Islamic sect and his premonition materialized on September 29th through his arrest by the police on dubious charges of “aiding a communist terror organization,” the likes of which Avcı personally prosecuted throughout his career. The very “manufactured evidence” paradigm that Avcı brought to public attention seems to be in full swing in his own case.

Lastly, religious zealots armed with steel bars, broken bottles, and pepper sprays attacked three art galleries in an up-and-coming Istanbul neighborhood, destroying the facilities and beating dozens of art fans. Based on eyewitness reports, a crowd of forty or fifty men showed up during the opening of the new season at the art galleries, which were full with visitors, and asked the attendees to stop drinking alcohol and leave the neighborhood. Then they started to shout “Allah Akbar” and viciously assaulted the visitors by dousing their faces with pepper spray, smashing glass bottles on their heads, and repeatedly striking them with metal rods. Despite repeated calls to the emergency number, police showed up only after forty minutes. The attackers continued their assault even in the presence of the police, which made seven arrests who were later released by the public prosecutor for lack of evidence. Several art fans were hospitalized with serious injuries and the galleries have been destroyed. The governor of Istanbul Hüseyin Avni Mutlu, a pawn of the Islamofascist AK Party government and an Islamic zealot himself, dismissed the allegations that the attack was religiously motivated and claimed that it was a “commonplace dispute” that arose because visitors overflowed outside the galleries and hampered the pedestrian traffic, which caused a rift between them and neighborhood residents.

Despite seemingly rapid economic development in Turkey, democracy and civil liberties are being swiftly eradicated by the AKP government. The democracies of the Western world are turning a blind eye toward these violations and shamelessly look on as this country, which is key for the security of the West, slips into the hands of Islamic autocracy. However, today’s passive spectators are destined to face grim consequences of their apathy and hypocrisy tomorrow.


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