Jailed journalist Alpay: Those who remain silent, must know that we have been wronged

Şahin Alpay

Dr. Şahin Alpay, one of the 280 journalists currently imprisoned in Turkey, has thanked to those politicians, local and foreign colleagues who have objected to the unfair arrest and imprisonment of journalists and writers in his first letter he could sent from his prison ward while he has expressed his disappointment with those who refrain from showing solidarity. “But, they must know that we are wronged, that’s enough…” written Şahin Alpay.

Political scientist and journalist Dr. Şahin Alpay was among the veteran columnists of Zaman and Today’s Zaman dailies, which were illegally seized on March 4, 2016 and then closed after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 by the Turkish government under the rule of Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Şahin Alpay has written in his letter that “I owe my gratitude to the politicians, local and foreign colleagues who have objected to the unfair arrest and imprisonment of us, journalists and writers. Thank them! On the other hand, despite that they know that we are being wronged, I am disappointed with those who refrain from showing solidarity. But they must know that we are wronged, that’s enough…”

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 280 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of September 30, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 255 are arrested pending trial, only 25 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 134 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

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

The full text of Şahin Alpay’s letter from Silivri Prison is as follow:

“I’m writing this letter with the thought that my friends and readers are wondering about my life in prison. During 14 months we had no right to write or receive letters until we came to court. This is the first one.

First of all, as you have read in my statement we have given to the court, there is no doubt that I will be acquitted at the end of this case, which I have been judged for three aggravated life sentences plus 15 years imprisonment, since there is no guilt. But I do not know how long my imprisonment will continue.

I supported the AKP government as long as it carried the country to the EU; I began to criticize when it went towards the one-man regime. I’m here because I wrote critical articles against the government. In 1982, since I began writing in the newspapers, It has not been subject to prosecution of any of my article or speech. I had believed that the freedom of expression in Turkey is under the assurance of the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. I was wrong.

At the age of 73, as a victim of a couple of chronic illnesses in prison for 14 months; far away from my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my relatives and friends; it is not easy to live an isolated life in a 3-men ward. Not easy without knowing how long I’ll be kept here also. My consolation; writing and speaking in favor of liberal democracy and the state comes at a price.

My sadness is that, notwithstanding I have taken a stand on the side of democracy and the state of law with all good intentions, this treatment was deemed just and proper for me by the state I am a citizen of. My sadness is that, with me, tens of thousands of citizens have been imprisoned, being fired from their jobs and being subjected to unjust treatments. I curse the July 15 coup attempt. Throughout my life, I have been against the coups, the coup attempts, the militarism. If anyone is involved in this coup attempt, they must be punished with a fair trial; but those who are not in touch by the coup attempt are victims of an unforeseen injustice in Turkey’s history. Justice must be restored in the country.

I am staying in one of the most modern prisons in Turkey, a high-security section 9 in Silivri prison, where the people accused of terrorism are imprisoned. I’m with two prisoners I’ve never known before, who never knew each other before. Due to the rule of emergency (OHAL), I can talk on the phone one hour a week, one hour after the glass pane only with my sister, my wife, my daughter, my son and my grandchildren. Every two months, I can meet them face to face for an hour. I was able to meet my lawyers once a week, one hour, with a guardian and a camera until the first hearing.

Silivri Prison is quite well organized. Lunch and evening meals are served in the wards. We can buy what we want from the canteen. It is possible to visit the infirmary and the doctor within the bounds of possibility; we are able to be prescribed medication. We express our requests to the administration by a petition. Most of the prison guardians are respectful to me. We are handcuffed when we are taken out of the 9th division, for instance, to the prison hospital; one or two gendarmes give their arms to me. We can buy authorized newspapers and watch around 25 television channels.

In the first few months, the book was prohibited other than the prison library but then it was released as controlled. The prison library has been enriched with donations made. I can ask for a book from my family. Fortunately, there are no shortage of books.

I try to protect my body health by walking 1 hour every day, doing regular gymnastics despite a dozen chronic illnesses, and take medicines with no skip.

I evaluates the days in jail efficiently. I was very curious about literature in high school, and being a novelist was my dream. Then almost I got bored reading novels. Second time I fell in love with literature in prison. I am improving my shameful deficiencies. But without neglecting philosophy and social sciences, of course.

Since I almost forgot to write by hand and the computer is forbidden, I spend less time in writing. Nevertheless, I have made preparations for 6-7 books. If I am free, I hope to complete them if my life last long enough. I know that many of my readers and friends are waiting for my memories. I want to fulfill my promise before dying.

I got things better in jail. One of these is religion and what it means to be particularly religious. I had understood theoretically, but now I see it in practice. Religious beliefs are indispensable for mankind in order to cope with the disasters it faces. By living in religious people I also understand that religiosity is as much worship as faith.

I could see the danger of elitism, namely exclusivity, in terms of democracy and the rule of law, but we are learning while living that the populism, that is, the people’s flattery, is equally dangerous.

I owe my gratitude to the politicians, local and foreign colleagues who have objected to the unfair arrest and imprisonment of us, journalists and writers. Thank them!

On the other hand, despite that they know that we are being wronged, I am disappointed with those who refrain from showing such solidarity.

But they must know that we are wronged, that’s enough..

I conclude my letter with the last lines of the Turkish first liberal thinker Halide Edip Adıvar’s book with title “The Turkish Ordeal” containing the memoirs of the Liberation War: ‘The thing that is called Hürriyet is something that should be regained every day, just like love …’

With all my heartfelt love and greetings to you all.

Şahin Alpay (Prisoner)

Silivri Closed Penal Execution Institution,

Section 9 C3 Block, Room 17,

October 2017″

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