May 21 2018

Turkey’s jailing of intellectual proof that Erdoğan sees dialogue as threat – the Observer

Turkey’s arrest of intellectual and cultural figure Osman Kavala is proof that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s degree of repression following the failed July 15 2016 coup encompasses attempts at open dialogue, columnist Kenan Malik wrote in the Observer.

Kavala, a wealthy businessman and a founder of İletişim Publications, a prominent publishing house, was heavily involved in think-tank TESEV, the Turkish branch of the Open Society Institute, and the human rights group Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly. He was arrested in October last year on accusations of trying to overthrow the government and the constitutional order, but has yet to receive an indictment.

“Yesterday, he will have been in detention for 200 days,” Malik said.

“No charges have yet been laid. There have, however, been a flood of insinuations in the press, and even in parliament, that he is an enemy of Turkey, has links with terror groups and was involved in the failed coup of 2016. The insinuations are nonsense. They are also ominous.”

The charges against Kavala are largely based on his alleged communication with organisers of a workshop of the Middle East studies wing of the U.S.-based Smithsonian Institution held between July 15 and July 17, 2016, on the island of Büyükada, off Istanbul.

Kavala is a networker and conciliator, not a polemicist or a confrontational figure, the newspaper said, and his detention is a signal of the degree of repression in Turkey since Erdoğan imposed a state of emergency following the 2016 failed coup in which more than 200 people were killed.

More than 150,000 people have been dismissed from their jobs, including almost 6,000 academics and about 4,500 judges and prosecutors, and up to 137,000 people have been detained, Malik pointed out, adding that of all journalists imprisoned worldwide, nearly a third are in Turkey.

During Erdoğan’s three-day visit to Britain last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May sympathised with the Turkish leader who she said was facing “the extraordinary pressures of a failed coup and Kurdish terrorism”, Malik said.

“In a fragmented world, in which social change is often driven more by inchoate rage than reasoned argument, a figure such as Kavala is indispensable,’’ he wrote, calling Kavala’s detention the imprisonment of hope.