Turkey’s main opposition leader warns “Erdogan is a dictator”

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the main opposition the Republican People’s Party (CHP), warns that Turkey is on course for a deeper economic and social disaster and reiterated his call for a snap election.

“At present Turkey is ruled by a dictator. All Erdogan’s features are in keeping with the definition of a dictator by any political textbook”, said Kilicdaroglu who supports a reinforced role for parliament in the constitution.  

According to Birkan Bulut’s report for Evrensel Daily, Kilicdaroglu has said that despite all the negativity he is not pessimistic since he believes that “Turkey will surpass the current problems with its own internal dynamics and democracy.”

Kilicdaroglu also said that Turkey must implement the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) final judgment which orders immediate release of prominent Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas. “Constitution obliges the implementation of the ECHR decision. It will take a heavy toll if they won’t implement it. Though it would not be surprising. (…) This will result in breaking ties with the European Union.”

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The case of Olay TV – A new low in Turkish Broadcasting History

Privately owned Olay TV has been subject to intense questioning by pro-government circles over its nonpartisan coverage of news stories and has been shut down after just 26 days on air on National TV. 

Suleyman Sarilar, Chief Editor of the channel said that Cavit Caglar (the channel’s owner) claimed he is under “great pressure from government and can not continue with this broadcasting team.” On the other hand Caglar also said he deemed the station’s editorial line was too pro-Kurdish and has personally decided to shut the channel down. 

Caglar, a controversial business figure and also a former Turkish government minister in 1990s, said “I have been active in centre-right politics and served this country. I was unsettled by the broadcasts of Olay TV’s editorial team”. 

In terms of media freedom we are already witnessing one of the most difficult periods in Turkey. Media ownership is concentrated in the hands of a few companies which are allied with Islamist AKP and has overlapping ownership in almost every sector in the country. 

Numerous independent TV channels, including Hayat TV and IMC TV were closed down in the last 5 years on the pretext of terrorism charges. As part of this ongoing suppression campaign, closure of Olay TV due to the hidden pressure mechanisms of the AKP regime, reflects a new low in Turkish broadcasting history. 

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Notorious Judge Gurlek Sentences Exiled Journalist Can Dundar to 27 years in Jail

Can Dundar, a prominent journalist in exile since 2016, has been sentenced to 27 years in prison. This sentence is considered a continuation of the imprisonment of journalists through the use of arbitrary terrorism charges, as well as persistent harassment and suppression of media freedom by Turkey’s ruling AKP.

The sentence issued to Dundar relates to the publication of a news story evidencing the complicity of the National Intelligence Organisation of Turkey (MIT) in providing arms to ISIS in Syria. The story exposed the AKP government’s lies at the time. At the time some representatives of the government said that the arms were being transported to “Turkmen”, while others said that this was a transfer of “humanitarian aid.” In response to the news story, President Erdogan labelled Dundar as “the enemy of the state” and threatened that Dundar would “pay a heavy price”. Subsequently in 2016 Dundar, was sentenced to five years in prison and later released pending appeal.

In March 2018, the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed Dundar’s conviction for disclosing classified documents, saying that he should have been charged with espionage. A retrial began later the same year to which the current sentence relates.

Following outcry by journalists, political parties and democracy campaigners all over the world against Dundar’s latest sentence, President Erdogan’s communications director claimed that Dundar’s sentence does not violate freedom of expression and said that Turkey expects Germany to accept the court’s decision and extradite Can Dundar.

Meanwhile the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas responded to the extradition demand of exiled journalist by calling the verdict “a hard blow against independent journalistic work in Turkey.”

There has also been fierce reaction against the presiding judge in the sentencing of Dundar, who cited charges including “political espionage” and “aiding a terrorist organisation” in his decision to hand down a 27 year sentence. Few months ago the same judge also ordered the seizure of Dundar’s properties in Turkey as well as bank accounts in his name.

The judge, Akın Gurlek, is notoriously known for the heavy prison sentences in politically motivated lawsuits, and is frequently chosen to lead high-profile cases closely followed by the public. His history is full of rulings reflecting Erdogan’s significant control over the decisions of the judiciary. 

Notably, Gurlek’s list includes the trials of Selahattin Demirtas – former co-leader of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selcuk Kozagacli, – the Chair of Progressive Lawyers Association, and Canan Kaftancioglu – Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul Chair.

Gurlek was also the judge in the trial of Academics for Peace and behind the prison sentence issued to Sebnem Korur Fincanci, a prominent medical human rights expert and current Chair of Turkish Medical Association (TTB).  He also refused to implement the Constitutional Court’s “rights violation” decision regarding Enis Berberoglu, former MP from CHP.

These cases are all cited as evidence of the lack of independence of the judiciary in Turkey and how through hand picked judicial appointments President Erdogan exercises direct control over the actions of the judiciary. 

As SPOT we stand in solidarity with Can Dundar and all journalists who are facing oppression and imprisonment under the Erdogan regime.


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Journalist Özcan Yaman fined for criticising President’s son

Özcan Yaman, an Evrensel journalist in Turkey has been fined 10 thousand lira for an article in which he criticises the Turkish President Erdogan’s son. The article concerned the 2014 telephone calls between the President and his son, Bilal Erdogan, which were leaked to the press. The phone calls revealed the bribes and corrupt way that Erdogan and his family made fortunes worth millions of dollars and euros. In the phone calls Erdogan calls his son to discuss how they can rescue the money, revealing money laundering activity. 

Yaman wrote an article on the subject on 4 April 2014 using a photograph taken by a photographer colleague. This article became the subject of legal action by the Erdogan family against Yaman. The case was heard in the court on 23 December as a result of which Yaman was fined 10 thousand lira. 

The lack of independent judiciary and the routine bowing of judges to the wishes of Erdogan means that no journalist in Turkey is offered a fair trial – both in the criminal and civil courts. It appears that this ruling, like many others in Turkey, is a further example of President Erdogan undermining the rule of law and stifling the freedom of the press. 

On the other hand, despite evidence of corruption and money laundering, no legal action has been taken against Erdogan, his family and or his close circle. 

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European Human Rights Court orders immediate release of Selahattin Demirtas

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Turkey to immediately release from prison the prominent opposition politician Selahattin Demirtas (former co-chair of Peoples’ Democratic Party – HDP). 

The grand chamber ruling found that Demirtaş has had his freedom of expression, liberty and right to free elections breached, stating that his detention had “the ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate”. 

Demirtas has been imprisoned since 2016, accused of more than 100 separate charges (including being the leader of a terrorist organisation and insulting the president). He faces a total of 142 years.

In today’s binding judgment the Court stated that they did not see any evidence that established a link between Demirtas and the alleged offences. Demirtas is a leading figure and highly respected opposition politician, and it is widely acknowledged that his imprisonment is motivated by President Erdogan’s wish to entrench a one-man regime and stifle all democratic opposition.

The grand chamber judgment also states that the prolonged detention of Selahattin Demirtaş is contrary to “the very core of the concept of a democratic society” (…) and sends “a dangerous message to the entire population.”

SPOT calls for the immediate release of Selahattin Demirtas and all opposition politicians who have been arbitrarily detained in Turkey. 

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SPOT calls for Freedom for Leyla Guven

Leyla Guven, former Peoples’ Democratic Party MP (HDP) and co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), has been sentenced to 22 years and 3 months in prison under the pretext of “establishing and leading a terrorist organisation.”

The ruling AKP accuse all progressive democratic opposition of terrorism as a means of silencing and suppressing growing dissent, and the imprisonment of Leyla Guven, prominent female politician is unacceptable. There has been an outcry by progressive organisations, political parties and democracy campaigners against the sentence and detention of Guven in Turkey. As SPOT we call for Leyla Guven’s immediate release.

Leyla is known for her hunger strike over 200 days, calling for an end to the isolation of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. She ended the strike in May 2019, following Ocalan’s meeting with his lawyers.

She was arrested in 2009 as part of a large crack-down against Kurdish politicians and was released in 2014. She was also imprisoned for a year in 2018 for calling the Turkish military operation against  Syrian Kurdish militia an “invasion.”

She was stripped of parliamentary immunity June this year due to another prison sentence she had received. Yesterday, while police were taking her into custody from her home in Diyarbakır, Guven said that “If I were to escape, you won’t even notice whatsoever. I am not going anywhere. Whether inside or outside, I will continue to do politics.”

In a statement, HDP said:

“Leyla Guven is the will of the people. Her resistance and struggle have been an inspiration to the people of the world. (…) This hostile decision is not only against Leyla Guven, not only against the DTK, but also against all the Kurds and the entire opposition. (…) Neither Leyla Guven nor we will give up the struggle because of punishments and arrests.”

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Scores of women detainees reveal prevalence of torture and degrading treatment

Recently the declarations of an increasing number of woman detained on terrorism charges show that Turkish security forces are using strip searches systematically to enforce fear and to humiliate.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, MP from Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who brought up the claims regarding strip searching of female detainees across Turkey, said that in some cases detainees were asked to undress in front of several police officers and squat multiple times while naked.

In an interview on Euronews, Ozlem Zengin, vice chair of ruling lslamist AKP parliamentary group, denied the allegations by saying “I, by no means, believe that there are strip searches in Turkey.” She also accused Gergerlioglu of “terrorising the parliament” with these allegations. She even claimed that “the conditions in Turkey’s prisons are incomparably better than the rest of the world.”

Zengin’s denial stirred a debate on the social media. Even though the issue is still a taboo in Turkish culture, scores of woman detainees have found the courage to speak out, exposing their torture experiences under the hashtag “ÇıplakAramaya SessizKalma” (Don’t stay silent to strip searches).

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Academic calls universities brothels

Known for his closeness to AKP, Sakarya University Faculty Member Prof. Dr. Ebubekir Sofuoğlu targeted young people by saying ‘Universities are brothels’

In the program named “Derin Kutu”, presented by Sabri Balaman on Akit TV (a mouthpiece for AKP and Erdogan’s propaganda), Prof. Dr. Ebubekir Sofuoğlu, speaking about the generation Z, said that participation in university classes is low.

Sofuoğlu, who had previously been shortlisted to run as an AKP MP, continued by saying “Our President has also stressed this. They are almost brothels”. When guests on the show challenged the remarks, Sofuoğlu offered to show them around adding that this was common place. 

Sakarya University Rector Prof. Dr. Fatih Savaşan made a statement on the subject on his social media account. Rector Savaşan said, “It is by no means possible to accept and tolerate the statements made by Prof. Dr. Ebubekir Sofuoğlu, a faculty member of our university, on a national channel.” 

Istanbul Prosecutors are investigating Sofuoğlu following his remarks and Sakarya University has also announced that it will launch an internal investigation into Sofuoğlu for degrading treatment based on social class, race, religion, denomination, sex or geography.  

Students, including the youth wing of Turkey’s Labour Party (Emek Genclik), have called for Sofuoğlu’s academic titles to be withdrawn and for him to be dismissed from the university. 

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Erdogan directs judiciary to keep Demirtas and Kavala behind bars

Turkey’s President Erdogan has given a clear instruction to the judiciary to keep the jailed former co-leader of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas, and the human rights campaigner, Osman Kavala, behind bars.

When asked to comment on the unjust ongoing detention of Kavala and Demirtas, Erdogan said “Demirtas is a terrorist” and the “judiciary will not protect a terrorist like him.” In a statement, which is clearly aimed at warning the judiciary, he said “It is not for me to intervene in the business of the judiciary but we are not going to protect the so-called rights of a terrorist like Selahattin Demirtas. (…) I believe that our judiciary won’t provide an opportunity for a terrorist like him. We will never pave the way for his release.” 

These words show Erdogan’s intention to continue to deny justice to thousands activists, journalists and politicians (including those from the HDP) who remain behind bars.

It is well evidenced that Erdogan exercises significant control over the decisions of the judiciary and statements such as these result in the continued denial of justice for those already detained or in the criminalisation of individuals and groups he publicly targets. 

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AKP registers all rainbow themed products 18+


Recently colours of the rainbow have become a political issue in Turkey.

A few months ago Egitim-Sen, the Teachers’ Trade Union in Turkey announced that school principals were receiving orders from local education directorates raising concerns about rainbow drawings. According to the Union’s statement, the Ministry of National Education has ordered teachers not to allow students to draw rainbows during the COVID-19 pandemic, amid fears that the drawings will “turn children gay.” 

The Ministry of Trade has also ordered the mandatory registration of rainbow coloured goods as “+18 label required products.” 

Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, yet this attempt of the ministry is based on the decision of the “Board of Advertisement”- to ban the patterns that resemble LGBT colours with the aim of “saving the kids” from the “sexual inversion”. 

Under the rule of Erdogan’s Islamist party, Turkey has become more and more conservative in recent years. Lately hate speech towards the LGBT community has become a permanent fixture of the AKP’s conservative political rhetoric. This +18 age warning on rainbow themed products is the latest example of the government’s attempts to suppress Turkey’s secular public. 

In addition to these homophobic regulations and political narratives of the AKP, other controversial changes which have sparked anger amongst the public include religion oriented new education curriculums and restrictive regulations on the sale of alcoholic beverages.

These overwhelming examples reflect the reality of living under the AKP regime, which has made significant moves away from being a secular state.

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