There's a yielding tone, unlike any other, that I have heard in people's voices. When hearts and minds are captured by anguish and despair, people willingly walk in any direction searching for hope. They all want the same thing. They want the madness to end.
Turkey has imprisoned more journalists and media than any other country in the world - and it has held that record for the past three years.
- 211 journalists are imprisoned
- 188 journalists are under arrest pending trial
- 167 journalists are living in exile or remain at large
- 511,000 people have been detained
The government shut down over 200 broadcast stations, newspapers, magazines and news websites after the ‘controversial’ coup attempt that took place on July 15, 2016, where 265 people were killed and 1,140 were injured.
Erdogan vows to restore the death penalty, once parliament passes legislation.
People live in abject terror as democracy hangs in abeyance above their heads - just out of reach. Erdogan looks outside his preferred window of the 1,150 roomed adiamorphic, presidential palace with his head held high and hands proudly clasped behind his back, oblivious to the fear and torment of his own people. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
There’s a cyclical and monomaniacal pattern as to how Erdogan theorized, schemed and dictated his way to political success. He governs his country with intimidation, deceit and anger. Muammar Al Qaddafi, until his final desperate day, had the same jaundiced eye and we all know what happened to him.
Since 2016, Erdogan removed more than 150,000 judges, diplomats, academia, police and civil servants from their jobs and captured 104 citizens from 21 countries in a global crackdown for alleged acts of terrorism and insults.
Erdogan is the antagonist and protagonist of his own narrative. First, he creates a problem, then he wants everyone to believe he has found a solution to the problem – and then, he becomes a hero, if only in his mind.
“There is an increase in the number of suspicious deaths in Turkey, mostly in jails and detention centers, where torture and ill-treatment is being practiced,” says Abdullah Bozkurt, President of the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), who participated in a panel at the UN Office in Geneva during the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Bozkurt suspected that Erdogan would issue a warrant for his arrest. He jumped on a flight to Sweden and thought he would stay there until the dust settled in Turkey, but it never did. The situation turned for the worse.
“It became clear very quickly that the Turkish government was also coming after family members. They arrested the wife of a Chief Editor of the National Daily Newspaper, a very close friend of mine. I knew that my family would not be safe and I managed to get them out.”
“I am quite worried about my colleagues,” said Bozkurt, as his voice quietly surrendered to his memories.
“When I look back at my situation a lot of things could have happened differently. If I didn’t leave the country when I did, we would not be talking now,” said Bozkurt.
“Emotionally, after talking with you, I feel much, much better. Knowing that there are people out there like you, who are working on very crucial issues means a lot to me.”
Bozkurt was the Ankara Bureau Chief for ‘Today's Zaman’, Turkey's best selling English newspaper and the Bureau Chief in New York City covering the United Nations. He is the President of the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), an advocacy organization created by journalists forced to live in exile. SCF promotes the rule of law, democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, and acts as a monitoring group that tracks progress and regress on these issues.
The Blame Game
In 2013, Erdogan dispatched police forces to shut down thousands of private schools that prepare students for exams. An estimated 25% were run by the Gülenist movement, which the regime considers a terrorist organization.
“In the aftermath, a major corruption investigation incriminated Erdogan, his family, political associates and his business. Erdogan branded the graft probes as a coup, blamed Gülen for orchestrating it and sacked prosecutors, judges and police investigators to hush-up the probes,” said Boskurt.
“Anger is the enemy of nonviolence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.”
Since 2016, 511,000 people have been detained including security services and government ministries as part of a political crackdown on the Gülen Movement remarked Minister Süleyman Soylu, in a report published by the state-run Andalou News Agency on March 10, 2019.
Narrowly victorious in a historic referendum on constitutional amendments in 2017, Erdogan not only changed the country’s parliamentary system to a presidential republic but also created and supported his own endorsement to stay in office until 2029.
“Fidan and Erdogan orchestrated illegal arms shipments to jihadists in Syria, helped traffic foreign fighters through Turkey, and they have committed other serious crimes that could have serious ramifications in international, legal jurisprudence,” says Bozkurt.
“We have done wrong by removing the death penalty. It offends me to feed those in prison, those who martyred 251 of our citizens, police officers and soldiers on the night of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, even though they are serving life sentences,” said Erdogan at a rally in the northern province of Zonguldak, as reported by Hurriyet Daily News on March 19th, 2019.
António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN reported that the vast majority of those detained and attacked are local journalists working in their own countries and communities, and that “most of the journalists and media workers killed, injured and detained were covering politics, crime, corruption and human rights," not conflict.
“Since 2010, the MIT, Turkey’s intelligence agency, was transformed into Erdogan’s private detective agency with his close confidante Hakan Fidan,” says Bozkurt.
“7% of the agency force was purged, some were jailed and others forced to live in exile. The agency is on a strict leash and no faction would be able to challenge Erdogan’s government when they see the country is heading down the wrong path. The leadership, including Fidan, knows well that if Erdogan goes down, they will go down as well, so they band together in sustaining the regime and eliminating oppositions,” added Bozkurt.
Kamil Maman is sought by the Turkish judiciary for violating Turkish Law no. 5651: Regulation of publications on the internet and suppression of crimes committed by means of such publications.
On June 15, 2016, the Turkish Internet Law no. 5651 was criticized for its shortcomings by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission stating that it was not in line with European norms. A report published in 2010 by a representative of the ‘Freedom of the Media’ for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Internet Law recommended that, on the basis of identified legal and procedural deficiencies, the government should bring this law in line with international standards on freedom of expression immediately or consider abolishing it altogether.
Erdogan has sued Maman 25 times for being a terrorist, writing propaganda in support of terrorist organizations and for insulting him on Twitter. The Prime Minister at the time, Ahmet Davutoğlu sued Maman 3 times. The Minister of European Union Affairs, Egemen Bagis, who is accused of receiving bribes from Reza Zarrab, an Iranian national accused of violating US sanction on Iran, sued Maman 3 times. Even Erdogan’s son, Necmettin Bilal sued Maman.
If convicted, Maman could receive 130 to 200 year sentence.
“Maman is the most persecuted journalist by President Erdogan,” said Dr. Ismail Sezgin, Director of the Centre for Hizmet Studies and political analyst for the Turkish Minute.
Kamil Maman Uncovered the Reza Zarrab Story
Maman uncovered one of the most influential news reports in Turkey involving Reza Zarrab, who was arrested in 2016 for violations against US sanctions on Iran.
97 billion Euros were transferred between 2009 and 2013…and the money transfers continued into 2015.
Maman was at the Istanbul courthouse when he met Mustafa Dogan, a lawyer who worked closely with Erdogan and who had ties to a Turkish al-Qaeda group and Yasin al-Qadi, a well-known terrorist who was listed as an al-Qaeda financier by the UN and designated as such by the US Treasury.
“He was also the lawyer for Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat
Albayrak, the Minister of Finance and Treasury," said Maman during an interview with Dr. Ismail Sezgin.
Dogan told Maman about an on-going investigation concerning money-laundering companies owned by Iran in Turkey.
“Dogan presented this information to other journalists but no one wanted the story,” said Maman.
Dogan received a legal complaint from an informant. At the time, neither Dogan nor Maman knew about Reza Zarrab or his involvement in this scandal. Maman later learned that Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader was married to Ebru Gündeş a pop-folk singer, actor and television personality.
Initially, Maman did not take this report seriously because of the absurd dollar value but the informant states in his complaint that he has documents with corroborating evidence, which were previously sent to President Erdogan, the Prime Minister, the Prime Ministry Inspection Board and the Ministry of Finance.
“When I put the pieces of the puzzle together, I understood that this was a group of organized criminals violating US sanctions on Iran,” said Kamil Maman.
Maman spoke with the informant. “At the beginning of our conversation, he was hesitant to speak with me and denied he was the whistle blower...but half an hour later he called me back and wanted to meet. The evidential documents and transactions that he presented were legitimate. When I started investigating this story, it was like a Hollywood film,” said Maman.
Zarrab offered Maman one million dollars to not publish the story but Maman declined his offer.
Maman went to his sources at the Ministry of Finance and Security Forces to collect more data and then proceeded to search the internet for previously published news.
“It was right in front of our noses but we did not see it. In 2010, Russian police stopped ten people at the border each carrying many suitcases full of money,” added Maman.
Investigating the numbered companies in the records, Maman found money transfers into Reza Zarrab’s bank account at HSBC Bank. Some of the mobile phone numbers of the carriers were directly connected to Reza Zarrab’s official companies.
Maman presented his article to Erhan Basyurt, Editor-in-Chief of the Bugün Daily Newspaper. Basyurt said the claims were strong but it would be better if he could get counter opinions from respected people in the news industry.
“When the newspaper started to receive telephone calls from the ministers of the Turkish cabinet, we knew this was a really big story,” said Maman.
“They were not calling to say that Reza Zarrab is a philanthropic businessman who contributes to the Turkish economy, nor did they say that the news report is fake.” Maman knew that Zarrab was troubled of this news report being published.
Fearing reprisal, Basyurt did not publish Maman’s story.
A journalist who worked for Erdogan, caught wind of Maman’s investigative report on the Zarrab case,
Zarrab provided testimony as a witness for the prosecution stating that then-Prime Minister Erdogan personally ordered the recommencement of the plot to launder billions of dollars in Iranian oil revenue.
understood the political game at hand and altered the narrative.
The Istanbul Financial Crime Police, who were already on Zarrab's trail, entered Maman into the legal file as a witness, based on the corroborating evidence that he provided.
“Zarrab and Turkish Minister of Economic Affairs Zafer Caglayan, transferred money to Iran, created fraudulent documents, made false representation of trade, bribed politicians in state offices and colluded with bank managers in Turkey, especially with Halk Bank’s Deputy Chief Executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla,” stated Maman.
Legal action was taken against this corruption in Turkey, but not against the violation of the US sanctions on Iran. Reza Zarrab and his cohorts were also in violation of committing federal crimes against the ‘International Emergency Economic Powers’ Act, a law approved by the US.
Zarrab was accused of being a member of an international, criminal organization in the Federal District Court by a grand jury in 2016. The day after Zarrab testified, the Turkish government seized Zarrab’s assets, his family’s assets and his wife’s assets.
Indicted by a grand jury, Zarrab could serve 75 years in prison. Led by Preet Bharara, the case is being prosecuted by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York along with assistance from a trial attorney of the National Security Division's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
Zarrab offered US courts 50 million dollars for bail but it was denied. The prosecutors knew that if Zarrab could get to Turkey, the government could, and most probably would, block his return to the US.
Halkbank's Deputy Chief Executive, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, was arrested in US in March 2017 with charges of conspiring to evade US sanctions against Iran as well as other offenses. In September 2017, US charged Zafer Caglayan, then Turkish Minister of Economic Affairs and Suleyman Aslan, former General Manager of Halkbank with offenses similar to Zarrab.
Zarrab has not yet been sentenced by the US Federal Prosecutors. More charges are pending against Zarrab for bribing a prison guard who smuggled contraband.
Staggering Stats for Journalists
Renowned for his criticism of the Saudi regime, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who lived in self-imposed exile in the US, suffered a horrific demise at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2, 2018. The CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's assassination.
Khashoggi will always be remembered as a highly respected and very insightful, political columnist for The Washington Post. Time Magazine honoured Jamal Khashoggi ‘person of the year’ for his work in journalism along with other journalists who were killed or imprisoned.
- United Nations states that more than 1,000 journalists have been killed in the past ten years and in nine out of ten cases, no one was held accountable.
- Three Turkish journalists, Mehmet Altan (aged 65), Ahmet Altan (aged 68) and Nazli Ilicak (aged 74), were sentenced in February 2018 to life imprisonment under the severest form of isolation with no possibility of temporary release or pardon, on charges of aiding the plotters of a failed military coup in 2016 and links to the Gülen Movement.
- 28 media journalists and reporters have been detained in Saudi Arabia under King Salman or his predecessor, King Abdullah.
- Adem Yavuz Arslan, a Turkish journalist based in Washington, DC, states that from 2016 to 2018, 28 people have died in Turkish prisons. As of March 2019, there are 126 cases of suspicious deaths and suicides.
- According to the International Federation of Journalists, nine journalists and media workers have been killed in 2019.
- 98% of jailed journalists are imprisoned by their own governments.
- Beijing has been accused of mass surveillance, the issuing of lists of approved news outlets and the disbarred lawyers who defended jailed journalists, and the detention of up to a million people without trial.
- World Press Freedom (WPF) states that at least 10 non-professional journalists are in danger of dying in Chinese prisons including: Ilham Tohti, a 2016 Sakharov Prize nominee, who is serving a life sentence, and Huang Qi, a recipient of the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2004, who has been held without trial for more than two years.
“Your work reminds us that truth never dies and that our attachment to the fundamental right that is freedom of expressions must also never die… Informing is not a crime.”
Secretary-General of the United Nations
"After the July 15th coup, journalists from Anjana Jodidar of the Jamanak newspaper to the left wing Kurdish journalists who were critical of Erdogan’s regime were accused of being members of a terrorist organization and prosecuted,” said Maman.
“Taner Kilic, The Honorary Chair of Amnesty Turkey International, spent fourteen months behind bars on the same charges.”
In July 2016, Erdogan sought the extradition of Mr. Fethullah Gülen, founder of the Gülen Movement, to face trial but the US said it would need to see evidence of his involvement first. Erdogan did not respond.
On February 25, 2019, President Erdogan sentenced Mustafa Akkus, a former member of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals to 10 years of imprisonment on charges of membership in the faith-based Gülen movement and plotting the failed coup in 2016.
Ironically, Akkus was tried by the same court where he once served. He is presently in pre-trial detention where he will remain until he is allowed to appeal the verdict.
In Honour of Zeki Güven
Zeki Güven, former Intelligence Staff Section Chief in Ankara, who gained notoriety for being instrumental in leading operations against Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and Ergenekon, was found deceased in his cell at Sincan Prison of an apparent heart attack just days before his hearing
was scheduled. Güven did not have a known medical condition prior to entering prison; rather he seemed in good health.
“Zeki Guven was killed because he knew too much as the head of the Intel department for the police - the main law enforcement agency in Ankara, Turkey,” says Bozkurt.
On February 25th, 2015, Güven sent out a final message: “…yesterday our jobs, today our freedom is taken away from us, and only our lives are remaining.”
Journalists, teachers, doctors, dentists, chancellors, colonels, brigadier generals, police officers, engineers....have died in prison. In all cases, post mortems are not performed and causes of death never established.
“There are hundreds of constables and members of the judiciary committee who are incarcerated in Sincan and Silivri prisons. The Erdogan regime has been torturing people and forcing them to be informants by signing ready-made testimonies. The courthouse is full of these testimonies,” states Adem Yavuz Arslan, a journalist based in Washington, DC.
The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court sought the arrest and extradition of veteran Turkish journalist, Adem Yavuz Arslan, charging him with terrorist activity and the involvement of the death of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was shot on January 19, 2007.
These men are Anything but presidential
While Trump continues to act boorishly bombastic and bellicose toward journalists reporting on his administration, he remains true to himself - morally bankrupt, politically ignorant and mentally ill-equipped to preside over his diminishing and fatuous administration.
Since his election, there has been a very serious escalation of journalists and media facing bogus charges around the world. “This increase comes amid heightened global rhetoric about “fake news,” of which U.S. President Donald Trump is the leading voice,” states the Committee to Protect Journalists.
…and just like a herd mentality, other world leaders have that same feckless and egotistical characteristic that dispenses a constant craving for control, unwarranted adulation, bravado and greed. These men are fear mongers, thugs and con artists. And they know it.
These inglorious men in these presidential positions have no regard for truth, justice or accountability. They don’t get it. And what’s more, they don’t want to get it. Don’t look for common sense or common ground. You won’t find it. It’s not about you; it’s about them and their myopic, misguided perception of a monolithic legacy.
We are all citizens of this majestic earth. This is our home, even as it trembles and quavers beneath our feet. People who govern the highest offices with fear, anger and blame are the creators of the most serious issues we face today - the rise of hatred and intolerance.
Journalists write the truth. They put their lives on the line to tell us stories we need to hear. They walk where we dare not tread so that everyone is accountable, recognized and not forgotten. When history rears its ugly head if only to remind us what we survived from, it still has this unbelievable capacity to steal much more than we are ever prepared to lose.
500,000 People Killed during Idi Amin’s Regime
Idi Amin, the president of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, was notorious for his brutality, corruption, ethnic persecution and rampant human rights abuses against religious leaders, journalists, artists, senior bureaucrats, judges, lawyers, students, intellectuals and foreign nationals. Amnesty International reported that around 500,000 people were killed during Amin’s regime.
On February 2, 1971, one week after the coup, Amin declared himself President of
Uganda, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Army Chief of Staff and Chief of Air Staff. He suspended provisions of the Ugandan constitution and instituted an Advisory Defence Council composed of military officers, which he headed as chairman. Amin placed military tribunals above civil law, appointed soldiers to elite government posts and parastatal agencies, and censured the newly inducted civilian cabinet ministers to military discipline.
Amin renamed the presidential lodge in Kampala from’ Government House’ to ‘The Command Post’. He disbanded the General Service Unit (GSU); an intelligence agency created by the previous government, and replaced it with the State Research Bureau headquarters at the Kampala suburb of Nakasero, which became the designated location of torture and executions for many years.
The Soldier’s Prayer
At a rally held in the city of Siirt, Erdogan, then mayor of Istanbul, recited a poem called, "Soldier's Prayer" written by Turkish nationalist, Ziya Gökalb. He added a verse that was not part of the original poem (bolded below) and used it in many speeches prior to 1997 claiming to boost enthusiasm and morale.
The secular military leaders and elite civilians who viewed Erdogan as an Islamist-leaning mayor accused him of inciting religious hatred and conflict among the Turkish people by reciting this verse.
Erdogan was jailed for four months and when he was released, two things happened – he became very popular and he started to enforce a political Islam in Turkey.
“The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the believers our soldiers.”
Turkey is on a Financial Slippery Slope
Turkey’s national debt in relation to GDP is 28%, a good figure showing a very healthy economy compared to Canada’s debt rate at 77% and the US debt rate at 76.4%, but the currency of Turkey keeps declining causing an escalating financial crisis in the country.
Turkey has lost 40% of its value against the US dollar in 2018 and world traders are more than justifiably concerned about the quality of Turkish bonds as a safe place to store money.
“Almost half of the country’s debt is written in other currencies and the cost of interest will remove a larger portion of the government’s budget, reducing the money available for social support and public investment,” states Commodity.com.
Banks and other private sector businesses must repay $146 billion of its external debt, which is due now.
Commodity.com states, “If foreign lenders refuse to extend or renew their loans to Turkish banks and businesses, the government and the country’s banks will need to find that amount in the right foreign currencies. If the holders of the currencies that Turkey needs are
unwilling to exchange their hard currency for the printed Lira, the country will be unable to meet its obligations and thus fall bankrupt.”
“Turkey is heading for a crash. The Turkish economy relies heavily on outside investments and trade, both of which are on decline given the terrible state of rule, unlawful asset seizures and Erdogan’s jailing of over half a million innocent people since 2016,” says Bozkurt.
“The last quarter confirmed the economy is in recession and as such the revenues will continue to decline especially with so many private companies going bankrupt. The debt stock is quite high in contrast to state debt. In any case, this won't be sustainable and the economy will hit the wall,” added Bozkurt.
April 2019 Election Results – Major Political Setback for Erdogan
Erdogan, who dominated Turkish politics since he was the Prime Minister in 2003, suffered a major political setback by losing control of Ankara and Istanbul. While Erdogan admits to losing Ankara, he is not willing to concede Istanbul. Boskurt says, “All indications suggest that Erdogan will try to control Turkey’s largest province through his usual means of control and deceit within the judicial system.”
Istanbul - 48.8% CHP, 48.5% AKP
Ankara - 50.9% CHP, 47% AKP
Izmir - 58% CHP, 38.6% AKP (previously controlled by the opposition before the elections)
Vision 2023 Marks the 100th Anniversary of the Republic of Turkey
Vision 2023 represents the Turkish Government’s ambitious plans for their economic and social development.
Their intent is to join the European Union, provide a secure energy conduit from the Caucasus and Middle East to Europe, and serve as a transportation corridor to Asia and the Middle East.
Erdogan wants to restore the death penalty in Turkey and join the European Union? Could this skewed and tyrannical approach come from the same man who proudly professed democracy for his country and people?
In 2018, Turkey has dropped from 99th to 157th in ‘Reporters without Borders’ annual ranking of press freedom.
Maman wrote two historical books: ‘Kara Defter’ (The Black Notebook) published in 2014 is about the early republican period and the memories of founding figures of the Republican Party, namely
Ihsan Eryavuz, a Turkish career officer, government minister and politician who served in the Ottoman Army, and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who was the head of martial law court. The other book, ‘Demokratlar’ (Democrats), is about the history of the founding members of the Democratic Party.
What caused me to submit to Kamil’s story is not the remarkable and irrefutable fact that he lost his father and mother - and his country; it’s that they no longer mean anything to him.
Kamil recalled when he was young and on his own, without a home or money in his pocket. Feeling anxious, desperate and lost, he raised the palms of hands to the sky and prayed to God to help him.
“I lived through many bad situations and had many bad experiences. Without my belief in God, I don’t know where I would be today. I don’t know if I would have survived,” said Kamil.
“Strong, confident people are prepared to take big risks. I didn’t have a choice.”
Kamil Maman continues to investigate and analyze the political arena and broadcasts his news reports with Turkish and social media. He understands the risks but enjoys the intrigue.
While Canada and Turkey have had a long standing, diplomatic relationship, Canada does not have an ‘Extradition Treaty’ with Turkey.
Welcome to Canada Kamil !
For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following websites:
Turkey: Journalists – Country Information and Guide – prepared by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration – Government of UK
Ismail Sezgin - Executive Director of the Centre for Hizmet Studies and honorary fellow of the Centre for Governance, Leadership and Responsibility. Research interests include Hizmet Movement, Fethullah Gülen, ethics, Islam, Political Islam, Sufism and Turkish Politics.
Reporters Without Borders - is an independent NGO that defends and promotes journalistic freedom and independence worldwide.
Stockholm Center for Freedom - SCF is an advocacy organization that promotes the rule of law, democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms.
SCF has compiled cases of suspicious death and suicides in Turkey in the following list in a searchable database format. It also issued a comprehensive report, which can be accessed here (http://stockholmcf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Suspicious-Deaths-And-Suicides-In-Turkey_22.03.2017.pdf)
Latest statistics from the International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Stockholm Center for Freedom, Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.
Xindex: The Voice of Free Expression – Global Journalist Abdullah Bozkurt This is a highly detailed story about Abdullah Bozkurt’s Turkish newspaper, ‘Today’s Zaman’ that was raided and seized by the Turkish police in March 2016.
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Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following videos:
YouTube video of Maman, Investigative Journalist interviewed by Ismail Sezgin, political analyst for the Turkish Times (translated into English)
Introduction to Kamil Maman – video created by Dr. Ismail Sezgin
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