Swedish academics, journalists appeal for journalist Şahin Alpay’s release

Jailed veteran journalist Şahin Alpay.

A group of Swedish academics and journalists have signed a letter addressing Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ to call for the release of columnist Şahin Alpay, one of the more than 200 journalists currently imprisoned in Turkey.

According to a report by P24, the signatories, many of whom were Alpay’s fellow students and colleagues from his years in Sweden in the 1970s and early 1980s, described Alpay as a person of “uncompromising commitment to democracy” who has “constantly worked for the improvement of mutual understanding between Turkey and Europe,” and said the claim that he was a supporter of the failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 was “incredible and absurd.”

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 failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 by the despotic Erdoğan regime.

The letter was signed by Jan Hallenberg, professor (ret) of political science and international politics, Stockholm University and the Swedish Defence College, fellow doctoral student with Şahin Alpay; Tomas Hammar, professor (ret) of political science, Stockholm University, dissertation advisor to Şahin Alpay; Bitte Hammargren, Middle East analyst and editor, Swedish Institute of International Affairs; Anders Lidström, professor of political science, Umea University, president of the Swedish Political Science Association, where 188 members have signed an appeal for the release of Şahin Alpay;  Anders Mellbourn, PhD, former editor-in-chief, Dagens Nyheter, and former director, Swedish Institute of International Affairs, fellow doctoral student with Şahin Alpay; Michele Micheletti, Lars Johan Hierta Professor in political science, Stockholm University, fellow doctoral student with Şahin Alpay; Olof Petersson, professor (ret) of political science, Uppsala University; and Annika Ström Melin, correspondent on European affairs, Dagens Nyheter.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 2016 which killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the AKP government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, 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.

According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention.

On Saturday Turkey attracted the attention of international journalism organizations after 21 journalists who had been in pre-trial detention for eight months and were to be released pending trial in İstanbul on Friday were arrested again early on Saturday without ever having been freed.

The number of journalists jailed in Turkey has reached 228, a new world record, as the massive crackdown on the free, independent and critical media by the authoritarian regime of Erdoğan shows no sign of abating any time soon, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a Stockholm-based monitoring and rights advocacy group, reported on Saturday.

Here is the full text of the letter:

“As friends and colleagues of professor Şahin Alpay since his years in Sweden in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, we were shocked and frightened by his detention in July last year.
 
From our years together as students and later fellow professionals in academia and journalism, we know Dr. Alpay as a person of high integrity and independence in views and analyses. His uncompromising commitment to democracy is unflinching and self-evident. In his assessment of Turkish developments he has consistently through the years criticized and refuted the powerful role of the military in Turkish government. To claim, or even imply, that he would have been a supporter of the failed military coup in Turkey last summer is an assertion that we find incredible and absurd.
 
It is well-known to the interested public and academia generally that Şahin Alpay has been a dissenting and analytically critical voice in the secular and intellectual circles of Istanbul, to which he himself belongs. For a long time, he maintained that the AKP party, with its popular base among Muslim believers and the growing small business in Anatolia, was better suited than the failing social democracy and the old elites for creating a democratic Turkey. When he found reason to criticize contemporary Turkish politics, his point of departure was always a staunch defense of the fundamental principles of a democratic society. He repeatedly called for a world where democracy, secularism (in the sense of freedom of religion and conscience for all), human rights and rule of law prevail.
 
In his writings in English for an international (primarily European) audience, he emphasized Turkey’s place in Europe and advocated Turkey’s further integration into the EU. At the same time, he has been very critical of the ignorant and schematic views of Turkey constantly found in western countries. He despises and orientalism that looks down on and scorns the peoples of the rest of the world in general and Muslims in particular. In his admiration for European integration and its principles he has never been oblivious to the fact that colonialism, racism, aggressive nationalism, secular fundamentalism, totalitarianism and anti-Semitism are also European products.
 
Şahin Alpay came to Sweden as a political refugee and stayed with us for several years. He quickly learned to master the Swedish language and was accepted into the doctoral program in political science at Stockholm University. His dissertation on Turks in Stockholm was published in 1980. His study was part of a larger research program focusing on the political re-socialization of immigrants. Şahin Alpay was able to show how the Turkish immigrants were joined together by an intricate network of contacts but also how they interacted with Swedish society. He acquired detailed knowledge about how Turks view Swedes and how Swedes view Turks.
 
For 40 years now, Şahin Alpay has remained a bridge-builder between Turkey and Sweden. He has constantly been working to improve the mutual understanding between Turkey and Europe.
 
We plead for the immediate release of professor Şahin Alpay!”

April 3, 2017

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