Feb 172018

By Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart


February 16, 2018 has been a day of judicial upheaval in the Turkish courts. In several cases that have been heard at different courts today, the indictment of an imprisoned journalist was accepted and then, he was released from prison. Other journalists have received aggravated life sentences, the wrong suspect was brought to court and accused of murdering a student, and finally, a member of parliament was accused of aiding a terrorist organization and for cooperating with journalists in revealing arms deployed to fighting parties in Syria. In addition, a secret witness’ testimony disappeared from the courthouse and finally, a photographer who was released from prison only days ago was requested to be arrested again. This all happened in the same day.



Journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been in prison for over a year in Turkey’s notorious Silivri Prison, had previously announced that he would not want to be a bargaining chip on negotiation table between Germany and Turkey. Yesterday, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, journalist Yücel has been freed. The news of his release was announced simultaneously with the acceptance of an indictment foreseeing an 18 year prison sentence. State owned Anadolu News Agency published the news of the indictment being accepted alongside journalist Yücel’s release from Silivri Prison, however, the news report did not mention the accusations against journalist Yücel.


Two other imprisoned journalists Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, brothers, about whom release decisions were given by the Constitutional Court as their “personal liberties and freedom of press and expression” have been violated through unjust imprisonment, have been given aggravated life sentences today, alongside 4 others tried in the same case. The case of the Altan brothers had been controversial as the indictment did not accuse them of solid crimes but suspicions. The Constitutional Court ruled that this is violation of their personal liberties, freedom of press and freedom of expression. However, a lower court overruled the Constitutional Court decision. Finally, the 26 Aggravated Felony Court of Istanbul has given the verdict that the journalists have attempted to disturb constitutional order, sentencing them to aggravated life imprisonment, which had replaced the death penalty in 2002.


Another court case that had a hearing today was about the murder of high school student Helin Palandöken. 17 year old student, Helin Palandöken, was shot to death with a shotgun when she came out of school by her stalker -Mustafa Yetgin- who had been threatening her. On the day of the murder, Yetgin had sent messages to Palandöken telling her to “come get her presents” and later a box was found in the suspect’s car containing rope and knives. Today, at the hearing of her trial, instead of an appearance by the prime suspect, Mustafa Yetgin, who was witnessed shooting Helin Palandöken by her classmates, another convict, Mehmet Yetkin, has been brought to court, causing absurdity in the courthouse. The hearing could not proceed due to the wrong suspect being brought to court and the hearing was postponed to a future date.


Main opposition Republican People’s Party CHP’s deputy for Istanbul, Enis Berberoğlu, has been imprisoned for charges of aiding a terrorist organisation without being a member. The accusation emerges from Berberoğlu aiding journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül of Cumhuriyet Daily in the case that revealed Turkish National Intelligence Organization MIT’s trucks deploying arms to fighting parties in Syria on May 29, 2015. Journalist, Can Dündar, was given 5 years 10 months and Erdem Gül, a 5 years prison sentence for “revealing documents that should have been kept as state secrets” and for publishing the documents. After the release of the journalists, MP Berberoğlu was accused of espionage for revealing the documents to journalists and sentenced to 25 years on June 14, 2017.


A court case against the Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP’s imprisoned former co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, was based on a secret witness testimony. An indictment called for 142 years in prison for the political leader. ‘Mercek’, the secret witness whose testimony was referred to in the indictment, supposedly given in 2009, has not been found in the trial folder. The trial has been postponed until April 11, 2018. HDP’s former co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, is currently in Edirne Prison.


Photographer Çağdaş Erdoğan, who had been arrested for membership to a terrorist organisation while taking photos around Fenerbahçe football stadium in Istanbul’s Kadıköy, was accused of taking photos of a secret National Intelligence Organization building. Erdoğan was taken into custody on September 2, 2017 and arrested at the court after a 12 day detention period. On February 13, 2018, the photographer had been released from prison, and public prosecutor in Istanbul has objected to his release, demanding re-arrest of the photographer.

Feb 142018

By Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart

Diren Coşkun has been on hunger strike since January 25

Diren Coşkun has been on hunger strike since January 25

On day 20 of trans LGBTI+ activist Diren Coşkun’s “indefinite hunger strike”, her friend and one of the organisers of Istanbul Pride Irmak Keskin had started a 3-day hunger strike and taken an oath of silence. Today is the second day of strike, and the interview conducted with her prior to her starting the strike (on February 12, 2018) is today published on dokuz8NEWS. In order not to divert attention from Diren Coşkun, Irmak Keskin has requested her images not to be shown, but instead images and illustration featuring Diren.


Can you please introduce yourself ?
Irmak is a plain person who has participated in various rights-struggles over the years. A simple person who has joined in a solidarity action for the primary subject, Diren.

What was your motivation in starting a 3-day hunger strike and taking an oath of silence?

Diren Coşkun

Diren is not the only trans-inmate in prisons. What she is going through is experienced by many LGBTI+ and vegan prisoners. In fact her resistance and outcry might seem about herself but the earnings of this struggle will open new doors for many prisoners. While there are other options outside the bars and starting hunger strike is a debatable action, but the news we receive of Diren point to her feeling forsaken. For that reason the methods and practicalities can be debatable yet this is a way of showing her that she is not alone nor forsaken. This action in truth is not just for Diren either. She is just one person who suffers this violence and the outcry holds multiple people within.

What is oath of silence? What caused you to take it?
Oath of silence is a passive resistance. It is a way of silent, non-reactive and tacit action against those staying listless seeing Diren. Homo-Sapiens’ survival possibility increases as long as they stick together; and can co-exist through communication. Especially in the modern & post-modern world, where a person feels connected to everyone and have possibility of communication with all, and when “unconnectedness” is cause for panic, it feels like standing still quietly in silence in front of the people is the best kind of answer. My oath of silence also covers all kinds of written and verbal communication, sign language and other methods of interaction.

What impact do you expect your action to have?
None of us think this process is going to cause miracles immediately, but we do expect Diren’s basic needs to be considered and answered to begin with, through raising more voices and spreading reactions in society.

What would you add as a final remark?
I wish for a process that will increase and expand the level of hope for all of us, with many earnings.

*This interview has been conducted the day before Irmak Keskin started her 3-day hunger strike and took oath of silence, on February 12, 2018.

Feb 132018

By Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart

Diren Coşkun, imprisoned trans LGBTI+ activist

Diren Coşkun, imprisoned trans LGBTI+ activist

Imprisoned trans LGBTI+ activist Diren Coşkun’s friends have started joining in hunger strike in order for Diren to be granted basic demands regarding treatment in prison. On day 20 of Diren Coşkun’s “hunger strike till death” and day 8 of Kıvılcım Arat’s hunger strike, Irmak Keskin has also joined in for a 3 day hunger strike.

Trans LGBTI+ activist Diren Coşkun had been arrested due to conclusive prison sentence for a court case that accused her of “membership to terror organisation” and “propagating terror” on August 14, 2017 at the Diyarbakır Courthouse, where she had gone for a bureaucratic procedure and got detained at random ID controls.


Diren Coşkun

Diren Coşkun’s LGBTI+ organisation Keskesor had announced that as she refused to be put in the men’s prison, she had been kept in solitary confinement cell in Diyarbakır T Type Prison. Moreover, Keskesor had also announced that while Diren had been harassed by gendarme soldiers on her way to prison, the prison guards had treated her kindly and addressed her as Ms. Diren, her name of choice, and not the one on her male-ID card.


Later when Diren was transferred to Tekirdağ Prison, she was placed in a single cell which is called “coffin-room” among inmates, her friend Kıvılcım Arat announced on January 30, 2018. Arat also added that due to denial of basic demands such as release from solitary confinement, removal of blocking an approved surgery and being allowed vegan-diet in prison, Diren Coşkun had started “hunger strike till death” as of January 25th.


On day 12 of Diren Coşkun’s hunger strike, her friend Kıvılcım Arat who is also a spokesperson for LGBTI+ movement in Istanbul, has announced that she is also starting hunger strike in support & solidarity of her imprisoned friend. Arat has announced “as long as we tolerate a life slipping away before us, we will be responsible for death” and called for extensive solidarity for meeting Diren’s demands.

Kıvılcım Arat / LGBTI+ Istanbul Spokesperson

These demands are not so big as to harm the political authority or undermine the government. She is vegan and is being denied a proper diet. For months, she was given only boiled potatoes and tomatoes. Diren is calling for a basic and humane demand. I only want people to show some sympathy. Has anyone ever starved for 15 days just to see a doctor? All should consider that. When someone goes to get a medical examination they get exhausted, and there is a person who has been starving herself to death for 15 days, just to get treatment.


Irmak Keskin, one of the organizers of Istanbul Pride has announced that on February 13, she would also start a 3-day solidarity “hunger strike in silence” to draw attention to Diren’s demands. On her social media profiles, Irmak Keskin announced “against all odds and all those remaining in silence towards this, I will renounce my existence in a way and I will take an oath of silence and have no written or verbal communication throughout my 3-day hunger strike.” Keskin also reiterated that her strike is to not only draw attention to basic needs and demands of Diren Coşkun, but also to raise awareness regarding all LGBTI+ inmates that are being treated inhumanely in prisons.


Long term human rights defender, former chairperson of Human Rights Association Istanbul Branch, Eren Keskin has visited Diren Coşkun in prison and stated that she had started hunger strike as a final resort, as she has been denied her basic demands and even her right to be transferred to an open-prison. Lawyer Keskin quotes Diren saying “I do not trust this system, I have lost all faith in the system and thus started a hunger strike till death.” Lawyer Keskin also adds that Diren has been utterly disturbed by male prison guards searching her, especially when they touch her.

Lawyer Keskin also notes that she has tried to convince Diren against starting such a hunger strike, yet Diren continues living on water and sugar only. Lawyer Keskin observes Diren’s condition being psychologically and physically weakened but dedicated, wishing to see social solidarity. Lawyer Keskin finally notes that Human Rights Association’s Commission against Racism & Discrimination will closely monitor Diren’s condition.

Feb 082018

By Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart

Hrant Dink Commemoration, January 19, AGOS

Hrant Dink Commemoration, January 19, AGOS

Armenian-Turkish journalist, founder and chief editor of AGOS, Hrant Dink had been murdered 11 years ago, on January 19, 2007. There is an ongoing struggle to get the instigators to answer to justice. However, in the last 11 years, press freedom in Turkey has been suffering a systematic decline. Currently Turkey is still the country with most number of journalists in prison, numerous media organisations have been shut down, and thousands of journalists are disemployed, while even social media activities are considered within the framework of terror crimes.

“Justice for Hrant” initiative has been intertwined with calls for press freedom and free expression in Turkey over the past decade. Director İmre Azem has followed the commemoration for Hrant Dink on its 11th anniversary, and followed the traces of press freedom in Turkey for dokuz8NEWS.

AGOS Chief Editor, Yetvart Danzikyan 

“Hrant Dink is definitely not the first journalist murdered. Uğur Mumcu, Çetin Emeç, Abdi İpekçi and such names have also been murdered. Hrant Dink’s case is different in following aspect; the other names I have just mentioned always make us consider that a faction within the state might be involved. When we look at the 11 years of this case and the hearings, we see that all factions of the state have been involved in Hrant Dink murder. For that reason, Hrant’s murder as an Armenian journalist, an Armenian intellectual says a lot about the dark pages of this country’s history. And regarding journalism… There are still journalists in prison, on trial. Some had to flee from the country.”

Journalist Tunca Öğreten

(Stayed in prison for 323 days, for writing news report on the leaked e-mails of Minister of Energy, Berat Albayrak. Öğreten still has 23 ongoing trials against him.)

“Previously they used to murder journalists to neutralise them. They made them unable to write. They used to scare others by killing journalists. Now the methods seem to have changed. In what I like to call the second generation now, they are imprisoning journalists and writers to get them unable to write news, declare their opinion.”

Academic, Yaman Akdeniz

“Journalists are laid off due to pressure. Especially accusations are being directed at journalists with reference to ‘membership to terror organisation’ or ‘propagating terrorism’. Or any article on the President might be considered as ‘insult to President’ and the writer gets detained, arrested, persecuted. When you write on social media, your Twitter account might be blocked. When you write on online news platforms such as Diken, your page can be blocked. Or when you write on Kurdish or critical news platforms, or on Sendika.org for example, your website might be blocked for 62 consecutive times. Social media users should also be added to this. One of the most significant aspects of this is the internet trolls who are threatening journalists, especially female journalists. There are threats of rape or death.

Over 120.000 websites blocked!

Law numbered 5651 which regulates publications online, has caused blocking access to more than 120.000 websites; over 100.000 news and social media accounts are also blocked. [Source: Yaman Akdeniz]

Investigation started into 1.138 social media accounts in a week

Ministry of Interior announced that on the third week of January between 11-22 January, an investigation has been run covering 1.138 social media accounts and 364 people have been subjected to legal processes.

122 journalists have welcomed new year in prison

Independent Communications Network Media Monitor 2018 report stated that 122 journalists have welcomed the new year in prison. The report also states that under the State of Emergency Rule, nearly 200 media organisations have been shut down with emergency decrees.

There are still thousands of journalists trying to operate under severe conditions despite censorship, pressure and threats.

Production+editing: İmre Azem / dokuz8NEWS

Jan 312018

By Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart

Just a Dictator, actor Barış Atay

Just a Dictator, actor Barış Atay

Actor Barış Atay’s one-man play “Just a Dictator” had been banned prior to its staging in Artvin on January 9, and across Turkey on January 24. Despite the increasing pressure, Acting Union, actors, theatre-houses are reclaiming the play, and conducting live-reading in numerous locations.


The one-man theatrical play “Just a Dictator” was written by Onur Orhan, and staged by actor Barış Atay. The play has been staged since 2015, mostly in Istanbul’s Kadıköy and received joyous support from viewers who were energised after the play. Play asks the question “who is going to win in the end” and brings the question of social criticism forward.

‘Just a Dictator’ Poster

On January 9th 2018, the play was deemed as “undesirable” by the provincial governorship of Artvin, a city on the Northeastern Turkey. Only a couple of days after the initial cancellation of permits and later banishment of the play in Artvin, the home-stage of the play in Istanbul’s Kadıköy has been visited by police.

Theatre houses in Istanbul’s Kadıköy criticised the police visits stating that they are being pressured not to stage the play on January 12th. Three days later, main opposition Republican People’s Party CHP’s Istanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu filed a parliamentary question asking if actor Barış Atay’s one-man show “Just a Dictator” had been banned with governing Justice & Development Party AKP’s orders.

Before this question was answered, the home-stage of the play, Emek (Labour) Theatre House was surrounded by police forces, to prevent illegal and unpermitted staging of the play. Actor Atay reacted against the police siege around the theatre house and also criticised the next door pizzeria for filing complaint to the police that the stage has a back-door which might be used for bringing in viewers and actors.

Acting Union came forth and criticised the banishment of the play across Turkey, with a written statement which reiterated that actors are faced with an “all-out-censorship” that targets all kinds of cultural activities, on January 24.

On January 26, a call had been made for live-reading of the play “Just a Dictator” in numerous locations, on the evening of January 29th at 8.30 local time. ‘Do not Touch my Theatre Platform’ which is the organising committee of the civil disobedience action as live-reading of a banned play, has announced that they have received more than 2.000 requests for the script, which caused their e-mail servers to collapse, and they have uploaded the text online.

On the evening of the live-reading, several online radio stations have live-broadcasted the readings from several locations, while many actors have been present in various locations reading for their audience.

Actor Barış Atay’s twitter account has been suspended by Twitter during a live-streaming of his banned one-man show “Just a Dictator” and no further explanation has been announced yet.

Jan 262018

By Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart

Hülya Emeç

Journalist Hülya Emeç – a member of International Federation of Journalists – has applied for asylum in Switzerland’s Zurich Airport, and is currently being kept there with expectations to be sent back to Brazil where she arrived to Zurich from. Swiss authorities consider Brazil as a safe country for journalists, although Emeç had only been there for 3 days. Emeç stated that she had been harassed in Brazil and feels traumatized after having been imprisoned in Turkey.

Journalist Hülya Emeç talked to dokuz8NEWS regarding the situation of her asylum application in Switzerland. Formerly a reporter for Dicle News Agency and Van TV which had been shut down with a decree ruling of the State of Emergency Rule, journalist Emeç later worked freelance for platforms such as Fırat News Agency, Gazete Karınca, Libertarian Democracy Daily. A trial which had been opened in 2009 has sentenced Emeç to 7 years, 6 months in prison, as a result of which Emeç fled to Brazil and then to Switzerland to apply for asylum.

On January 2018, journalist Emeç applied for asylum at Zurich Airport but her application was denied with a statement “your entry country Brazil is a safe country for journalists”. Emeç has only received her mobile device today after her application was rejected by Swiss authorities.

“They want to send me to Brazil because it is considered a safe country for journalists. Yet for me Brazil is not a safe country at all, if it was I would have applied for asylum there. I am a journalist and there I was not even able to take out my camera as it did not look safe.”

Hülya Emeç, Journalist


Emeç also states that according to regular procedure, she would have 5 days to object to rejection of her asylum application but that Swiss authorities insist on an immediate final decision. Emeç says “I have already spent time in prison in Turkey and the conditions I am in right now are causing a psychological decay on me. There is already an approved prison sentence for 7 years and 6 months. I come from a country where I do not feel safe.”


Journalist Hülya Emeç stated that she is under practical-custody in Switzerland at the airport in international flights section in a room without access to her camera, computer, press card and passport. Emeç has only managed to access her mobile phone after her asylum application was rejected today.

Emeç took a selfie-video in the room she is being kept at the Zurich Airport, in Switzerland, calling for journalism unions and institutions to act for her.

dokuz8/Nalin Öztekin