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12 min read

What frightens tyrants the most is courage

”This statement is neither a defense nor a deposition. On the contrary, it is an accusation.”
Credits Text: Amhet Şık Translation from Turkish: Group of solidarity for freedom of Ahmet Şık September 23 2017
This is a shorter version of Şık’s speech, edited by Ulla Lundström. The full version of the statement will be published at
Ahmet Şık’s statement at the hearing of the Cumhuriyet July 26 2017
I will begin with a quote from the prologue of my book “We walked together on these parallel roads” published three years ago in 2014. The introduction of this investigative research describes how the mafia-like power sharing between the AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the Gülen Sect fell apart. It reads as follows:
The alliance between AKP and the Gülen Sect, backed by their acolytes, which transformed Turkey both socially and politically, has collapsed and sewage is flowing everywhere. These two forces, driven by a Machiavellian understanding that used all possible means to establish a freak ‘New Turkey,’ have now broken up.
Neither wanted the democratization of the system or the society. Each one aimed at exerting their authority to seize the State through its institutions, and together they managed successfully to infiltrate these institutions to achieve their goal.
Each one thought that eventually, they would be the sole power in charge of the state and firmly committed to this endeavor while fighting together against their common enemy, they accumulated evidence to destroy each other.
On July 15th, 2016, a bloody insurgency took place where 250 people were killed. The government blamed the failed coup on the Gülenists, and this is what we are expected to believe. Yet there are strong indications of the government knowing about it before hand. The questions around this have not diminished but increased even though a year has passed since the uprising, and numerous investigations were opened on the matter.
The coup was averted, but all fundamental rights and freedoms have been suspended by the state of emergency. Tens of thousands have been detained charged with being part of the Gülen organization and supporting the upheaval. More than 50 thousand were arrested. Some were even tortured.
With decrees having the power of law, the government speeded up the project of Islamization of the state and the society. The only criteria that justified the purges in the public sector was “those who are with us and those who are not”. More than 110.000 (one hundred and ten thousand) civil servants were sacked. The vacant positions in the state administration such as the judiciary, security, education etc. were replaced with members of the AKP who were not chosen for their competence but their allegiance to the ruling party.
Scientists and teachers who for decades educated students were suddenly laid off accused of being terrorists. Rightfully contesting the government’s decision, those who went on a hunger strike to get their jobs back have been jailed.
The fundamental principle of separation of powers has been de facto wiped away, and a shady plebiscite voted under the prevailing conditions of the state of emergency, opened the way to a de jure situation.
The judicial independence with a few exceptions has always been a problem in Turkey. Today the judicial independence of the courts has been undermined by the judges and prosecutors forced to accommodate the wishes of the government. The violation of civil liberties has been hijacked by the terror of arrests spreading even to the country’s third largest party represented in parliament with six million votes. The co-chairpersons of the HDP (People’s Democratic Party), as well as members of parliament and elected major in office of the same party, have been sent to prison. And the main opposition party paved the way to this clamp down, fearing of being wrongly accused of “protecting terrorists.” Eventually, even a CHP (Republican People’s Party) deputy was imprisoned.
Several NGOs have been closed down, human rights activists were arrested, and hundreds of private business companies were seized and nationalized.
The coup was aborted, and while the country was chanting the triumph of democracy, in the media a significant number of newspapers, television channels and radio stations were shut down. Except for a handful of newspapers and a few journalists who are holding on in spite of interrogations, trials, arrests, threats and economic pressure, there is no one in the media or amongst the journalists who informs the public without masking the truth. With more than one hundred and fifty journalists detained, Turkey was declared once more “the world’s largest prison for journalists”. In fact, Turkey alone has more journalists in jail than the totality of the rest of the world.
If we add to the list the journalists who are not imprisoned but who are captives of censorship and self-censorship the picture becomes even more disturbing. Because of the murky shadows of censorship, in spite of the fact that the media is in the hands of different owners, the flow of information provided to the public is mono vocal.
Televisions channels are required to broadcast live images of President Erdoğan even when he is talking in his sleep and government inspectors must be present during political televised debates.
When the conventional media is in such a state, social media platforms are the only outlet for political criticism. If access to information has not been blocked, if the government has not shut down the Internet, if you have not written comments that might displease AKP’s paid staff of trolls or an anonymous and or even a public prosecutor, then you are free to use your right to criticize. However, there is no guarantee that you will not be arrested.
This is a summary of the country’s dismal image in the aftermath of the failed coup. It could be summarized in only one sentence:
In a nutshell on July 15th a coup d’état was crushed, but a junta came to power.
In the aftermath of the bloody insurgency where there is not a shadow of a doubt that the Gülen Sect, known now as FETÖ (Fethullah Terror Organization), was one of the forces behind the coup, they (Erdogan & AKP) behave as if they did not share the responsibility.
They do not want us to tell the truth or to say that they are guilty.
They are using the blood of the victims killed by the putschists as material for a cheap and shallow political discourse.
Those that are in power have only one goal. To maintain their absolute authority at all costs.
And for this they will do all sorts of evil; they will get rid of anyone. Their long history of governance is packed with people with whom they had started off together and then left aside one by one. When someone has served the purpose, when they are no longer needed, they leave them behind. They have abandoned supporters, accomplices and partners in crime. They even discarded friends who shared their cause. Obviously, those that are still with them and those who have recently joined them will suffer the same fate.
Most of the media outlets are now beating the drums for the government, and the remaining few who insist on disclosing the wrongdoings and the bad intentions of those in power, are sent to prison to keep them silent.
At a time when everybody was afraid, when you could not mention Gülen's name and compliance to the Sect was prevailing, the name of my book was The Imam's Army (Imamin Ordusu).
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was then Prime Minister and he used to say ”Some books are more dangerous than bombs”. Referring to the journalists in prison he declared like he often does even now: “They are not journalists, they are terrorists.” Not that we have any expectations, but had Erdoğan gone beyond his perception of books, writers and journalists as criminals, and instead read, listened, tried to understand most of us would probably not be here today. Moreover, had Erdoğan been someone that reads, he would be aware of what Salvator Allende told the fascists Junta in Chile: "History is on our side and it is those who are right that write history.”
Yes, once again history is on our side. So you will not be able to create an illegal organization from the Cumhuriyet newspaper or make terrorists out of us.
At this stage, you must have understood this from what I've told you so far. Mine is neither a defense nor a deposition. On the contrary, it is an accusation. Because;
The fact that the Indictment is stated in the heading of what is a political operation does not go beyond a shameful joke. And bearing the title of “judge or prosecutor” does not make jurists out of the members of this political operation.
This operation engaged against us is nothing but a pogrom targeting freedom of thought and expression and freedom of the press. And some members of the judiciary have assumed the task of being the lynch mob of this pogrom.
In advanced democracies, the norms of the rule of law prevail and justice is regulated accordingly. In Turkey, some members of the judiciary have become the gravediggers of justice. We witness a dictatorial aspiration to institutionalize a system that undermines the rule of law, where the intellectual and political squalor of the judiciary is not surprising.
The Turkish judiciary has been presently stripped of all principles of human rights, justice, conscience and merit. We are therefore aware that you are deaf to calls for humanity, rights, justice or legality. Therefore, I have no requests. I will limit myself by saying that the gowns you are wearing as a protective shield are held together by human lives and freedom.
The organization you are attempting to find in the Cumhuriyet newspaper is the one ruling the country disguised as a political party. The media that is “His master’s voice” is serving lies as truth to the public. They spread the organization's propaganda by covering up and making crimes commonplace.
We are faced with a well-known truth: crime is the most powerful glue in the world.
This glue is binding the political power, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the plundering financial capital and "His master's voice" the media.
Those who assume that this dynasty of crime, this dirty system will last forever are mistaken. All dictatorships darken the pages of history with greed and hate, while preparing their own end. They pave roads that lead to their own damnation and at the end nothing will remain of their arrogance or their conceit.
There is no doubt that the siege established by this organization will collapse. Because in this country:
• Despite the enemies of democracy, there are those who fight for a sustainable and expansive democracy.
• Despite those who crush justice, there are those who defend the supremacy of law.
• Despite those who glorify war and death to preserve their profits, there are those who struggle to make peace and life indispensable.
• Despite child murderers and protectors of pedophilia, there are those who work to turn children’s dreams into reality.
• And despite those who want to stifle the truth, there are those who still work as journalists.
I have nothing more to say with regards to an organization which aims to criminalize my journalistic activities. I will repeat that in no way this is to be considered a defense. I would think this assumption to be an insult to the ethics of my profession.
Journalism is not a crime. Totalitarian regimes have in common the criminalization of journalistic activities. Thus, in every period and under every government I managed to be the offender of the law. I am proud to leave this legacy to my daughter.
I am aware that this government and its judiciary have issues with me. The reason is that unlike what is now prevailing in Turkey, as a journalist I believe in the power of reporting the truth and acting independently.
In countries like Turkey where the ties to democracy are weak, and where the government is increasingly moving towards a totalitarian regime, to be a journalist is to cross the line. But journalism cannot be exercised by following orders. And those who do cannot be called journalists.
So as a journalist yesterday, I am still one today and will remain as such even tomorrow. Therefore, the uncompromising conflict between us and those who want to suppress the truth will continue.
This is why in these days of darkness what we need is more truth, not less. And I will continue to work resolutely for that purpose.
A price to pay is inevitable. But do not assume that this frightens us. Neither my admirable colleagues of “Journalists Outside” (Dışardaki Gazeteciler) nor are afraid of any one of you. Because we know that what frightens tyrants the most is courage.
Oppressors should be aware that no brutality can prevent the progress of history.
Down with tyranny long live liberty!

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