Imprisoned journalist Ener’s book on human rights violations prohibited in Turkish prisons

After the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) jailed co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş’s recently published book “Seher — Dawn”, Yeni Asya daily’s jailed editor Naciye Nur Ener‘s newly released book over human rights violations in Turkey in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 was also prohibited in Turkish prisons.

A selection of short stories written by Demirtaş was also banned by Diyarbakır Prison administration for allegedly “including encrypted messages.” A storybook titled “Seher (Dawn)”, which has been written by Demitaş in Edirne Prison, was published on September 16. According to a report by pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), İhsan Uğur, imprisoned co-mayor of Hizan district of Bitlis province, was transferred from Elazığ Prison to Diyarbakir D Type Prison on October 2. The Diyarbakır Prison’s administration has reportedly confiscated Ugur’s books, which included Demirtaş’s “Seher.”

The book titled “Üç Dal Papatya — Three Sprigs of Daisies”, which was published by the Yeni Asya Publications, compiled the letters from the victims who were dismissed from their duties, detained and jailed over their alleged links to the Gülen movement following July 15 coup attempt.

In order to make the voice of the victims of Turkish government’s massive human rights violations heard, journalist Naciye Nur Ener began to compile the letters to publish as a book. However journalist Eren was also detained by Turkish government on March 5, 2017 over her alleged use of ByLock mobile phone messaging application and later jailed over the same accusation. Her colleagues have completed the unfinished book and published as she is still in prison.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and homemakers, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

As a victim of Turkish government’s persecution, journalist Naciye Nur Ener had to got married in Bakırköy Prison with a 10-minute wedding ceremony without any attendance from the members of the couple’s families on April 27, 2017. Ener had had her wedding scheduled for an earlier time but she failed to make it through due to her arrest. A new date was booked by her fiancé Recep Kılınç only with a change in the venue.

The “Three Sprigs of Daisies” that gave the name of the book is one of the letters coming to the newspaper that told a child whose a bunch of daisies was confiscated while taking it to his father in prison.

According to a report by online news outlet Gazete Duvar, after the July 15 coup attempt, tens of thousands of people were dismissed from their jobs by the government decrees under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 over their alleged membership to the Gülen movement. The reasons for detentions and imprisonments are sometimes an anonymous notice letter, sometimes allegedly using ByLock mobile phone messaging application or a membership of an association or a union.

The majority of the victims have been the members of the conservative segment of Turkish society, and these people could not make their voices heard much because they were inexperienced while leftists struggling for their rights for a couple of decades. Even some human rights associations which were deviated from their aims due to pressure of the government, closed their doors to these people. For these victims of the human rights violations, some outlets like Yeni Asya daily became a venue to convey their sufferings to the public.

Journalist Ener began to compile the letters of victims after reading with the thought of making them a book. However, this effort was interrupted after she was also arrested on the grounds that she was an alleged member of the Gülen movement with a notice given in March 2017. The other editors of the Yeni Asya daily have completed Ener’s work and published the book.

Kazım Güleçyüz, editor-in-chief of Yeni Asya daily has stated in his speech at the presentation of the book that journalist Naciye Nur Ener, who was in Bakırköy Women Closed Prison, said that her book was not given herself and her newspapers were not taken in.

“Three Sprigs of Daisies” consist of the letters written by hundreds of people who think that they have been unlawfully dismissed from their jobs, arrested and marginalized. The book consists of the letters from dismissed and jailed teachers, police officers, civil servants, students and etc… The common point of all of them is they are ordinary people who are living with a monthly salary and they are not at the top of the bureaucracy. Some of them were have been dismissed from their duties and later jailed just because of they opened accounts in Bank Asya, some were only registered to an associations and some of them because of anonymous notice letters.

One of the letters written by a teacher has explained unjust treatments he faces in a list: Lifetime disqualification from the profession; cancellation of the diploma; prohibition of working in any kind of private sector with insurance; recognition as a member of terrorist organization and declared as a terrorist before the 79 million people; people look at me with an evil eye; extrajudicial execution… The teacher has also mentioned that, like thousands of people who were dismissed from their jobs with the government decrees, he does not know why he was dismissed and no reason was told him. In this case, his defense is also automatically blocked.

The letters in the book are all stories at the same time. Like every story, there are tragic ones as well as comedic ones. After being detained for 79 days, a teacher who was accused of being a member of the Gülen movement pursued the questions asked during detention. She was asked why she was a member of the Protection of Science Schools and Students Society. The teacher who said that she did not know about such a society to the police officer questioning herself. After she was released, she started to pursue this society. But her colleagues around her also said that they did not hear about such a society.

She applied to the Association Desk of Kastamonu Police Department, where she was detained. To the teacher who said that one of the reasons for the dismissal of the profession is that she is a member of this society, the police officers advised that she should apply to the Association Desk in Ankara by saying that there is no such society in Kastamonu. After her application, the written answer coming from the capital made the situation even more complicated. In the article “it was replied in Annex-1” was written but there was no Annex-1 attached to the letter.

In the letter the teacher explains that how she struggled with huge effort to find the society, which is the reason of being member of the Gülen movement. However, she learns the aftermath of the society when she talks to her friend who has been a director in a science school. Her friend gave the answer “I established it.” The school principal established the society with a group of teachers in 2005 and he made them members of the society without informing them due to close friendship. Afterwards they terminated the society due to lack of activity soon after. The reason why the school has a relation with the Gülen movement is, of course, a mystery. Unfortunately finding the society did not make her return to the profession.

The ones who were dismissed from the work are not just government officers. When a municipal worker victimized with a government decree, objected to the commission established in the governorship, the official complained “I think there are petitions that have come out of one hand” as if it is an organized strategy. The worker who has to look after his mother, father and his three children said that “I checked in internet, what I could write. While giving a petition to the governorship, the attention of the applicants is that the petitioners also tell each other what is written on the same site. People do not know what to do in when they are confused,” he says.

In the letters in the book, especially women victims say that they live in a similar situation during the February 28 post-modern coup process which started in 1997. A woman (who is a hafız who memorized Qur’an) working for the Directorate of Religious Affairs on February 28 explains why she couldn’t study because of the scarf she uses: “From the year of 2011 that I started my career until July 20, 2016 that I was suspended, I went to the mountain villages at -30 degrees in Erzurum. I explained the God, taught the book, because it was my duty. Maybe all the people around were the first time they saw a woman teacher in a formal institution and listened to the conversation and they were happy to see that the state also valued them.”

In the book, it is clearly seen that the largest group among the people who were suspended with the government decrees is teachers. The most important reason for this is the fact that these teachers were members of Aktif-Sen Union. The membership to the union has been deemed by Turkish government sufficient for dismissal from the profession.

A teacher, who said that it was because of being a member of the union, expressed his dilemma in the following quote: “I want you to investigate me. I became a member for the sake of friendship with my colleagues who work for 14 years in the same school. Now they say I should have complained to the prosecutor to say that I was made a member by mobbing. In this way they say I can return to my job…  I did not witness these people’s evil. What will I say to the prosecutor? They are good people, like angels, never hurt anyone… Because of they are good people so I am suing them? Or should I say that they fooled me and threw me into slander? Which one is appropriate for you?”

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Centre for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 257 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of October 20, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 232 are arrested pending trial, only 25 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 133 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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