Turkey: Land Without Free Speech or Basic Human Rights
A while ago, the president of Turkey claimed that there is freedom of speech in his country and he said, “In my country, there is no problem with freedom, everyone talks the way they like, everyone lives out their faith, everyone dresses the way they want, everyone eats and drinks whatever they desire. We haven’t brought any prohibitions. My country is no more a country with prohibitions. Let’s leave the last 14 years aside, this country has never been this free, peaceful and comfortable.”
I read this statement of the president far away from his country, in Wales where I’ve been living since 2013. It was not enough for me to read it once; I couldn’t register what he was saying so I read it a couple of times. Was that country, which, according to his speech, was so peaceful, free and comfortable, the same country where people have been forced to wake up to an unknown dark future rather than the bright morning sun?
It must be me who is wrong, because I and the creative team behind my play, “Mi Minor,” have been victimized with unfair accusations since 2013. We had to leave the country, and we are still not able to go back as those accusations are ongoing and lingering.
There is no such thing as everyone in Turkey where “everyone talks the way they like.” That everyone, which the president mentions in his speech, is actually a singled-out group of people. In order to be a part of that everyone, you need to agree with the president on every issue. It is only when you obey him unquestioningly, that you may express yourself like that so-called everyone. There is one thing though, if you say anything that would make the president angry, you’re out. This means you might as well be a terrorist or a traitor; in that case, there is only one place where you can continue voicing whatever you want to say: behind bars! Being a part of that everyone is a privilege in itself in that country.
In that country, according to the president, where “people live out their faith,” women could easily be beaten up for wearing shorts in public transport, and little girls could easily be forced to marry adult men. If you are as faithful as everyone else, you can live your faith, marry little girls, rape young boys, and beat up women as you wish. Say you have a different belief system, you would automatically be an infidel, thus you wouldn’t be able to live in that country. It’s not even a matter of discussion to be a non-believer, because in order to be like everyone else, you are obliged to be a believer.
You wouldn’t be able to understand how the number of closed down organizations reached 1,125 on the website of the Turkish Ministry of Interior, because there are no prohibitions in that country. To understand why, you need to be a part of that everyone.
You wouldn’t dare question why Van Women’s Association, Anka Women’s Research Organisation, Bursa Panayir Women’s Organisation and countless others fighting for diversity, equality and freedom are among those closed down organizations. In that country where prohibitions no longer exist, according to the President, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that Progressive Lawyers’ Association is also one of those closed down organizations. You should become like everyone else and think, “because there are no prohibitions it’s fine to close down organizations at any time.”
Apparently in Turkey, which has never been freer, there are 9 MP’s, 149 journalists under arrest and 2346 academics who have been dismissed. On top of all these, there are academics and journalists who had to leave the country during these times and now cannot return. If you are not that everyone living in that country whom the President talks about, then the only place to be free is behind bars or in exile!
That country is so comfortable you can set up a foundation, rape countless children and when this information becomes public, you can easily sue the journalists who exposed this. You would know that nothing would happen to you. You would know that the journalists would be accused. You would know that the rapists would be declared innocent. It is such a comfortable country, so comfortable that you wouldn’t be interested to know that the figures for child abuse and rape have increased by 700 percent over the last 10 years.
According to the Freedom On the Net 2016 Report, that country got 61 points on internet freedom. It therefore, comfortably took its place in the list of “unfree countries,” yet carrying this information to the news cannot happen in that country. After all, in a country where everyone is free, who would need the internet?
According to the Global Sociological Gender Gap Report of the WEF, that country is 130th among 145 countries. Yet, who would need statistics, research and data specifications if you are a part of that everyone?
According to the Ministry of Family and Social Politics Research on Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, 4 out of 10 women are experiencing physical abuse from their husbands or partners. In that country where everyone lives in unity, you’d understand that women experiencing violence don’t really disturb the integrity. If you could only be like that everyone, this fact would mean nothing to you.
Once upon a time there was a country where I used to live, we believed it could be diverse, secular and free, where love could exist and women and men could be happy and peaceful. Now there is a country far, far away from me, where thieves, rapists, extremists, ignorant and heartless people are tagged as that everyone. They live freely, comfortably and peacefully. This is now a country where women, children, men and young people who do not belong to that everyone suffer even to breathe without worrying for their future.
Editor’s Notes: Photographs one and six from the archive of Stassenstriche.Net; cartoon three from the archive of Valeriy Osipov; photographs four and five by Tamara Craiu; and photograph seven by Sacha Kohlmann.