Pro-Kurdish Newspaper “Özgür Gündem” Violently Shut-Down in Istanbul

Pro-Kurdish Newspaper “Özgür Gündem” Violently Shut-Down in Istanbul




The images say it all. Journalists handcuffed, shirts torn. Beaten. A lot of the other images are blurred or from a distance. The short video released is filled with voices raised. Shouting. What is it about police forces world-wide that more often than not they are the messengers of violence rather than the guardians of the peace? Are we so trapped in insecurity and fear that the standard action is reaction? Shoot first and engage in dialogue later?  Make war not love?

These images come from the closure by Turkey’s Security Police of the newspaper Özgür Gündem, the pro-kurdish Istanbul paper that was raided on Tuesday, 17th August, supported by a court order and following the ongoing crackdown in response to the attempted military coup in July this year.

Though this is not the first time the Turkish state has attacked the paper.

Özgür Gündem has been in existence since May 1992 (though forced to operate under a number of titles in the intervening years) and has a daily circulation of around 7,500. Its support for the  Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), obviously proving a thorn in the side of President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s government since it declared war on the PKK in south eastern Turkey after ending the peace process there in July 2015.

 A message I received alerting me to the raid on the newspaper said: “Please do not stay silent: an attack on Ozgur Gundem is an attack on us all…

And truly, freedom of speech is something those of us that have lived ‘in better times’ take for granted. But there are too many examples that this is foolishness. If the ‘first casualty of war is the truth’ and if we look near and far, it seems as if we are in an endless low intensity war where the line between the good guys and the bad guys is hard to distinguish. And all freedoms precarious.

Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s Turkey though seems to be making it (that is, the drawing of lines) a lot easier and it would appear that the coup is proving to be a golden opportunity for what was already a growing contempt for human rights and freedoms to become an epidemic. Since the coup it is estimated at least 150 media outlets have been closed down. There has been a sustained attack on critics of the almost genocidal war that the Turkish Security apparatus, under orders, is perpetuating on the innocent people of Northern Kurdistan in Turkey’s south eastern region.

And now – the assault on freedom of speech. posted a picture of the names of the 23 journalists arrested – on its twitter account. Other writers and activists connected to the paper were also being targeted in police raids and arrested. This morning, Wednesday 17th,  Kurdistan Report posted that author Asli Erdo?an a member of the paper’s advisory board was detained by the Turkish police. On Tuesday 16th,  the home of human rights lawyer and former Editor in Chief for Özgür Gündem, Eren Keskin was raided, traumatising her 85 year old mother,

Her response was an indictment of what is going on at the moment in Turkey:

“When homes are raided because of thoughts, you can only talk about fascism, not democracy.”


Despite these attacks she went on to say:

“Another coup against all of the opposition is in progress under the guise of stopping a coup. Even though the government had declared it wouldn’t be as such, we were expecting attacks against the opposition and that has started.”

Keskin stressed that “these attacks will target those who stay silent today as well, and that everybody should voice democratic demands louder before it’s too late.”

Despite the court order, police raids, the detention of over 23 writers and the building being sealed off by the municipality, the newspaper released a 4 page issue today with the headline:



Later on Wednesday a number of (not shut-down) newspapers in Turkey came out in support of Özgür Gündem. The Kurdish news organisation based in Amsterdam, Firat News Agency, carried reports from a number of prominent Turkish Journalists:



Yurt editor in chief Sibel Köklü said, “Journalists produce news for the public interest. Media is the fourth power in democracies, but it has been losing that characteristic in Turkey, a government-approved degree of journalism is expected. But journalism is not a crime. Closing newspapers and arresting journalists doesn’t solve problems, ideas can’t be destroyed this way.”



Evrensel editor in chief Fatih Polat…said, “Appointing trustees to DBP municipalities, arresting DBP and HDP administrators, HDP MPs facing arrest and closing Özgür Gündem are complimentary developments. But despite all this, Apê Musa’s children have proven that they are stronger than those who create this oppression with publishing the paper with the headline “We will not bow down” after such a heavy blow.”

Polat called for solidarity from all journalists by saying “Today is the day to stand together, shoulder to shoulder.”



Cumhuriyet editor in chief Aydin Engin said, “We are headed towards a direction where all opposition media will be silenced,” and continued: “I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that Özgür Gündem goes first. AKP government will obviously turn to the Kurdish political movement after they are done with the Cemaat, which seems to be soon. HDP being insistently excluded from all parliamentary efforts is enough evidence for this. The alliance, which can even be called a coalition, with Turkish nationalists and militarist nationalists is another piece of evidence. We have to be ready for extremely tough days to come. We must stand together more in the face of oppression.”



BirGün editor in chief ?brahim Varli defined the closing of Özgür Gündem as a result of “national consensus fascism”. Varli said, “Fighting against the national consensus is a duty today for all left-socialist and opposition groups. In this sense, it is our duty to be in solidarity with Özgür Gündem.”

The People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has also just released a statement calling for solidarity in the face of this naked aggression against the right to freedom of speech:

Hisyar Ozsoy, Vice Co-chair of HDP Responsible for Foreign Affairs and Deputy for Bingol:

“With this understanding and sense of urgency, we call upon all democratic countries, EU authorities, international organizations, activists, intellectuals, and particularly international media and press institutions to act now, speak out, and keep in strong solidarity with Özgür Gündem.”

And again, yes.

So I have decided to pass on the message that alerted me here to what others are suffering in places where the limited respect for human rights we experience is being reduced, curtailed and removed:

@orsola23 5h5 hours ago:

“Please do not stay silent: an attack on Ozgur Gundem is an attack on us all…”


séamas carraher




ANF News (Firat News Agency) Coverage:


Short Video of police operation:

(“Police also seized the camera of IMC TV which broadcast the raid live.”)




Eren Keskin

Özgür Gündem was the newspaper of Apê Musa, Ferhat Tepe, Hüseyin Deniz and that “Özgür Gündem has made them a promise. Like in the past, Özgür Gündem won’t be silent today.”



Musa Anter (1920 in Nusaybin – September 20, 1992 in Diyarbak?r), also known as ‘Ape Musa’ (Kurdish: Apê Musa?, literally “Uncle Musa”), was a Kurdish dissident writer and activist. He was a prominent Kurdish writer, journalist and intellectual and was assassinated by Turkish JITEM (police) in September 1992.”


Urgent Call for Solidarity on the Closure and Storming of the Daily Özgür Gündem:

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