According to media reports, all copies of Cemal’s book titled “Delila: Bir genç kadın gerillanın dağ günlükleri” (Delila: A young woman guerrilla fighter’s mountain diaries) and Tatari’s “Anneanne ben aslında Diyarbakır’da değildim” (Grandmother, I actually wasn’t in Diyarbakır) will be removed from store shelves across Turkey. Both books are about terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in the camps of the terrorist organization located in northern Iraq.
The Gaziantep 3rd Penal Court of Peace ordered the books to be removed from shelves due to “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization in a way that would make the organization’s methods involving force, violence and threat seem legitimate or promote them with compliments, openly provoking people to commit crime and praising the crime and criminals.” The court gave the decision based on Article 25 of Law No. 5187, the Press Law, and Article 28 of the Constitution, which regulates the freedom of press.
The decision came after the books removed from shelves were seized by police officers in an operation against suspected the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) — an umbrella group that encompasses the terrorist PKK — the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H) — an affiliate of the PKK — and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) members on Oct. 11. Detention warrants for as many as 21 people were issued as part of the operation that was authorized by the Gaziantep Public Prosecutor’s Office and carried out in various provinces that include Balıkesir, Hatay and Siirt.
One of the detainees was carrying two of Cemal’s books, including the one that was removed from shelves, and another was carrying Tatari’s book.
In addition, journalist Ahmet Şık was fined TL 4,000 for the compensation of the spiritual damages he caused the Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Binali Yıldırım by allegedly insulting him in his book titled “Paralel yürüdük biz bu yollarda” (We walked these roads in parallel).
Tatari’s lawyer Aslı Kazan Gilmore spoke to the press about the issue, saying the decision to remove the book from shelves is unlawful and that they would file an objection to it. “It is obvious that the decision was given without the book having been read. The written order doesn’t even include the name of the publishing house, although its logo was on the book’s cover. As the court didn’t order it, neither the writer nor the book’s publishing house was informed about the decision. We will file an objection against the decision and also claim the damages that stem from its removal,” Gilmore said.
The Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), for which Cemal is the chairman, reacted against the decision on its website and Twitter account, saying that they regard the removal of the books tragic for the mentality of the actors behind the decision. “The decision to remove books from shelves, which is against both domestic law and the ECHR [the European Convention on Human Rights] is the manifestation of eagerness for martial law and the desire for war and a coup. They [the government] won’t succeed in intimidating [society] by removing the books that were published years ago and have reached thousands of people,” the platform stated. He added: “The decision to remove books from shelves has shown us that the freedom of expression in Turkey has been reduced to a right that only protects the ruling party’s hate speech … As the P24 Platform for Independent Journalism, we demand from the state of the Republic of Turkey and its judiciary to stop these unlawful interventions that disregard the freedom of speech and the right to information.”
Cemal criticized on Wednesday the removal of the books from shelves in the column he wrote for the T24 news portal titled “I’m with my books and freedom” by referring to the incident as “another blow to freedom of expression”, “ban on criticism” and “censorship.”
Also speaking to the press, Tatari said she wrote the book to promote peace. “I wrote this book during the settlement process. It is a work that was done to urge people to connect with and understand one another with the intent of sustaining peace. It’s shameful to ban this book as if it’s a dangerous item,” Tatari said.
The removal of the books has brought to mind a return to military-era rule, according to a number of social media users who reacted to the ban by referring to the Sept. 12, 1980 coup, which was the bloodiest military intervention in the history of the Turkish Republic.
Zaman daily’s Copenhagen-based correspondent Hasan Cücük posted an ironic tweet on his Twitter account, saying “welcome Sept. 12!”
In June 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s rights were violated when a book he was writing titled “Kürdistan Devrim Manifestosu, Kürt Sorunu ve Demokratik Ulus Çözümü” (Manifestation of the Kurdistan Revolution, the Kurdish Question and A Democratic Nation Solution), was confiscated and destroyed in 2012.
A panel of trustees who were appointed to Kaynak Holding in a government-backed move against the faith-based Gülen movement in November has decided to have copies of all books written by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen removed from the shelves of hundreds of NT Mağazaları bookstores across the country in another explicit example of censorship.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) also passed an omnibus bill in November of last year, the 47th article of which prevented publishing houses from printing the “Risale-i Nur” collection — written by prominent Islamic scholar Bediüzzaman Said Nursi — as the publishers are not the legal heir of the author.
Now, 35 years after the coup, memories of the death, torture, pain and oppression of Sept. 12 continue to haunt the country with government-led operations against opposing media, violence stemming from reactions to terrorist attacks by the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) turning into violent attacks against Turkey’s Kurdish population and military curfews.