(Written by Ayla Albayrak, see boxed text)
Thursday morning I was yawning and making coffee, as usual.
And as usual, Turkish news channel NTV was on. The presenter was telling that the police was searching 11 homes in Istanbul and Ankara. Those news are frequent since 2007, when the Ergenekon operations and the first trial began, so I just continued with my morning preparations.
But then I heard a familiar name: Ahmet Şık. Ahmet! How come!?
Ahmet is a friend and a colleague who hardly fits the usual Ergenekon suspect profile. He is not a hardline kemalist or an ultranationalist. I cannot imagine Ahmet helping the plotters of a military coup, or even secretly supporting them.
As far as I know him, he is a liberal, pacifist, anti-militarist guy, who has even made sacrifices because of his controversial work and worldview.
He could have nothing to do with Ergenekon – unless he was leading a double life that could make a Hollywood movie.
Ahmet was working for Nokta magazine which was closed down after publishing texts form diaries of admiral Özden Örnek. Those texts revealed the alleged military coup plans, much before the beginning of Ergenekon trial. So in a way, Ahmet lost his steady job due to Ergenekon.
Since then he has been teaching journalism, freelancing and writing books, lately writing a book about the islamic Fethullah Gulen movement within the police force. I don’t know any more details of that project.
We have traveled in the Kurdish Southeast together, and even in Iraqi Kurdistan, for stories on Kurds. I never saw a trace of ultranationalism in him. All along our Northern Iraq journey, he listened to Yashar Kurt’s songs on iPod – Yashar Kurt is an antimilitarist Turkish musician.
Years ago he opened a photograph exhibition on civilians handicapped by mines in Eastern Turkey.
Anyway, Ahmet Shik was arrested together with six others that day. He is suspected of belonging to the Ergenekon network, which allegedly planned to prepare grounds for a military coup in Turkey, and “promoting hatred” among the people.
His arrest awakened many of us who thus far had only moaned and groaned about Ergenekon procedures, but never really taken a stand. Many of us had not approved of these early morning house searches and arrests in front the tv-cameras, or superlong detention periods. (Journalist Mustafa Balbay has been detained for almost 32 months now, but I had not felt as much sympathy for him, as he is a hardline kemalist. “The snake that doesn’t touch me can continue living for a thousand years”, as a Turkish proverb goes.)
Today, Friday, several thousand people in Ankara and Istanbul gathered to protest the journalist arrests. Many of us were joining an anti-Ergenekon protest for the first time. This is not what we had expected from trials which promised to reveal the dealings of coup-plotters and punish them, bringing an end to the history of military coups in Turkey.
We were a strange sight on Istanbul’s Istiklal Boulevard. In the front were the liberals, the left-leaning or leftist demonstrators, followed by the flag-carrying nationalists, chanting pro-military slogans. It was kind of embarrassing.
We were all walking for the same cause, but with a different interpretation and different slogans. I hope the government got the message, though I doubt it. Journalists, supposed to be the fourth power of democracy, are still the weakest actors in Turkish society.
I wonder what kind of a role journalists have in Mr Erdogan’s project called ileri demokrasi, advanced democracy.
(The first guest blog post was written by Stratos Moraitis. Click here to read it.)