By Theodore Shoebat
Hundreds of people in Turkey have been arrested for expressing dissenting opinions regarding the Turkish invasion of Syria. Journalists, people on social media and activists have been arrested, labeled as terrorists, and could face prison sentences. Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Marie Struthers, remarked:
“As the tanks rolled across the Syrian border, the government took the opportunity to launch a domestic campaign to eradicate dissenting opinions from media, social media and the streets. Critical discussion on issues of Kurdish rights and politics has become even further off limits
Language around the military incursion was heavily policed, and hundreds of people who expressed their dissenting opinions about Turkey’s military operation were rounded up and are facing investigations under anti-terrorism laws.”
Turkey’s official propaganda office, RTÜK, warned media outlets that “any broadcasting that may negatively impact the morale and motivation of […] soldiers or may mislead citizens through incomplete, falsified or partial information that serves the aims of terror” will not be tolerated.
Two journalists have also been detained. Hakan Demir, who worked for the daily newspaper, Birgün, tweeted on the publication’s official Twitter account, based on a report from NBC, that “Turkish warplanes have started to carry out airstrikes on civilian areas.” For this, Demir was interrogated by Turkish authorities. Another journalist, Fatih Gökhan Diler, wrote an article entitled, “SDF claim: two civilians lost their lives”. Both of these journalists were accused of “inciting enmity and hatred”. They were both released, but not without overseas travel bans pending the outcome of criminal investigations.
Activist Nurcan Baysal recounted of how her home was raided by armed officers at 5am on 19 October. She told Amnesty International: “Having my home raided and my children terrorized by 30 heavily armed, masked police officers simply for some social media posts calling for peace, shows the level of suppression of freedom of expression in Turkey.”
Journalist Özlem Oral was detained for tweets that were critical of Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring”, but the tweets were posted on a Twitter account thats not even her own. She was released the next day, also with with an overseas travel ban. She is also required to regularly report to the police, and is not even allowed to leave Istanbul where she resides.
These journalists and activists are imprisoned within Turkey and are under the continuous tyranny of a police state that is aided by the ever present power of surveillance technology. Big tech, alongside an ideology of indiscriminate obeisance towards a militarist and jingoist government, are in conjunction for the cause of a very dangerous statism.
There are numerous examples of the oppression of dissenters. To quote Amnesty International:
On 27 October, lawyer and columnist Nurcan Kaya was detained at Istanbul airport for criticizing the offensive by tweeting “We know from experience how everything you call a peace operation is a massacre”. She was released after questioning the same day,but received an international travel ban.
It is not just Turkish journalists that have been targeted. On 25 October, President Erdoğan’s lawyers announced that they filed a criminal complaint against the director and editor of French magazine Le Point, following the publication of the October 24 issue which used the cover headline “Ethnic cleansing: the Erdoğan method” in its coverage of the military offensive. The lawyers claimed the cover is insulting to the president, a crime under Turkish law.
Suing journalists is not limited to Turkey. Donald Trump has also wanted to sue authors who write against him. Trump even wanted to change the libel laws so that he could be able to sue publications and journalists. As we read from one report from MSNBC:
Trump has a long record of threatening to sue journalists who write things about him that he does not like. Just last week, Trump’s lawyers threatened to sue author Michael Wolff over his best-selling book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which was released on Friday.
Wednesday’s comments, however, marked a significant escalation of Trump’s attacks on the press over what he calls “fake news.”
“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace, and do not represent American values or American fairness,” Trump said, reading from prepared notes.
“So we’re going to take a strong look at that. We want fairness. You can’t say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account … I think what the American people want to see is fairness.”
For a civilian to sue for libel is one thing, but for a president to sue journalists for writing articles against his administration is simply a form of despotism against the press (of course the guise of “fairness”). Lets say that the president sues a journalist for libel. He would have to prove that the journalist wrote what he wrote with the full intent of defaming the president; it would also have to be proven that the author knew that he was lying. Intent would have to be proven. But, lawsuits, even if they are impossible to succeed, can be done for the purpose of exhausting and draining one’s enemies. This is what makes Trump’s words so troubling. He wants to be able to, from his executive office, to sue journalists, and even if he doesn’t succeed, he could still hurt journalists by the mere exhausting nature of a lawsuit.
The reality is, Trump and Erdogan aren’t so different. The exception is that the US president is better controlled. Trump has a liking to Erdogan and, according to Ian Bremmer, Trump was frustrated with all of the NATO leaders because they were not paying sufficiently for their defenses, but was very happy with Erdogan: “Except for Erdogan over here. He does things the right way”.
Before we point fingers at the Turks, lets first ourselves to see if the politician that we revere doesn’t himself have the same despotic motivations and aspirations. While we will mock the Muslims, we will praise people like Ben Shapiro who, in 2006, called for prosecution against dissenters of the Iraq War. Shapiro wrote:
former Vice President Al Gore spoke before the Jiddah Economic Forum. He told the mostly Saudi audience that the United States had committed “terrible atrocities” against Arabs after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He stated that Arabs had been “indiscriminately rounded up” and detained in “unforgivable conditions.” He criticized America’s new immigration policy, which more carefully scrutinizes Saudi visas, explaining, “The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake.” Finally, he concluded, “There have been terrible abuses, and it’s wrong. … I want you to know that it does not represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country.”
At some point, opposition must be considered disloyal. At some point, the American people must say “enough.” At some point, Republicans in Congress must stop delicately tiptoeing with regard to sedition and must pass legislation to prosecute such sedition.
“Freedom of speech!” the American Civil Liberties Union will protest. Before we buy into the slogan, we must remember our history. President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and allowed governmental officials to arrest Rep. Clement Vallandigham after Vallandigham called the Civil War “cruel” and “wicked,” shut down hundreds of opposition newspapers, and had members of the Maryland legislature placed in prison to prevent Maryland’s secession. The Union won the Civil War.
While Shapiro would back arresting dissenters, we will point the finger to Turkey.
Don’t throw stones at glass houses while ignoring the reality that your own idols could transform your house into glass.