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During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, a Trump supporter (background here) was photographed wearing a t-shirt that read: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”

Perhaps the t-shirt’s message was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but the message landed with a dull thud. Free speech and a free press are pillars of the U.S. Bill of Rights, even if those freedoms are abused by certain quarters. There is little room to joke about such matters.

And such matters as a free press become more poignant in light of international attacks on a free press, particularly in Turkey.

There, in the wake of a coup attempt to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, mass arrests of journalists have been undertaken, media outlets closed, and many other civil and military purges undertaken.

To humanize the situation in Turkey, simply follow the stories (here and here) of Turkish novelist Asli Erdogan (no relation to the Turkish president).

Arrested in August of 2016 for “supporting terrorism,” Erdogan was subsequently imprisoned due to her association with a Kurdish movement that is now deemed a “terrorist group.” She was incarcerated for six months – at times in solitary confinement, her apartment was ransacked by authorities during her absence,  and, in a The New York Times story:

“According to Hurriyet Daily News, which quoted the Daily Cumhuriyet newspaper, Asli has described her experience in prison via her lawyer, saying officials are ‘treating me in a way that will leave permanent damage on my body,’ and that she has ‘experienced problems in my intestines for 10 years.  My pancreas and digestive system doesn’t work properly, but my medicine has not been given to me for 5 days.  I am diabetic and I need special nutrition. But in jail I am only able to eat yogurt … even though I suffer from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, I have not been allowed access to open air since entering prison.'”

As always, fear is the justification for the crackdown:

“In a way, the attempted coup is Turkey’s September 11, uniting the public while being used to justify internal security measures.”

The media crackdown in Turkey took an ominous turn with Asli Erdogan’s arrest:

“Unlike in most prior arrests and detentions targeting supporters or members of the Gulen movement (of which she is not a known supporter), Erdogan is known as a supporter of the Kurdish people and as a human rights activist. Though Turkey is indeed at war with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Eastern provinces of the country, the Kurds have not been accused of participation in the attempted coup. There had been an understanding that the Kurdish war and the attempted coup are unrelated matters — until Erdogan’s arrest.” (emphases added)

Human rights activists are watching the legal developments around Erdogan’s arrest with a wary eye, as more activists – who may peacefully disagree with Turkish government policies – will be targeted along with those who actively participated in the coup.

Freedom of speech is under siege.

As a result of this conflation, Asli Erdogan faces up to life in prison, not for her work as a novelist, but for her role as an advisor for the Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem.

Erdogan’s personal telling of her story can be found here.

A free press and free speech are no laughing matters. They are deadly important issues in the United States, and they are simply deadly in other countries around the world.

 

The only novel of Asli Erdogan’s that has been translated into English thus far is “The City in Crimson Cloak.” Buy it, if for no other reason than as a show of remote support.

 

Addendum

While President Erdogan may have held the legal capacity to address the post-coup crisis in Turkey, there’s little doubt he overreached when he pursued journalists, newspapers, and the opposition. This accomplished little, other than providing Western media with more ammunition with which to frame Erdogan as out-of-control, with the implicit message being “worthy of ouster.”

He seems to have leveraged the situation to include the Kurds, although no evidence ever emerged of a Kurdish link to the coup.

In President Erdogan’s defense, the coup holds more than a passing similarity to the civil violence that emerged in 2011 Syria. Erdogan was already on the outs with the EU before the coup, and one has to wonder if the EU was interested in seeing another president in Turkey. Consider this from a 2015 October 16 article in The Economist :

“the EU had contemptuously stalled Turkey’s EU accession process even -before- Mr Erdogan lurched towards authoritarianism.” (emphasis added).

Since Erdogan and the EU locked horns, Erdogan placed one foot in Russia’s camp as a counterbalance. Wise? Perhaps, but Russia understands how to maintain its own pressure on Erdogan as well.

While I cannot state with any authority that Fethullah Gülen was involved in the coup, the parallels to Bassar el-Assad’s situation in Syria cannot helped but be noticed (see the post “Syria’s Chemical Attack, and Fake News“).

Erdogan is walking a tightrope with the globalists.

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