Too many unanswered questions

Interview with Mustafa E. Yilmaz, editorialist of "Zaman", the most-read national paper. Freedom at risk, latent tensions. Elections ahead

Who did it? Why? What hides behind the cruellest attack in Turkey against pace activists in Ankara, past October 10? Turkey is in a state of choc: the two suicide-bombers at the Ankara station during a peace rally caused the death of 128 people and over 500 casualties, many of them in critical conditions. But the suffering is greater when questions remain unanswered. The Country is under choc. Many are afraid to speak. For the Turkish government Daesh is responsible for the attack, self-proclaimed “Islamic State” that intends to destabilize the Country. But the common opinion of many Turkish citizens – not necessarily lay and left-winged – ascribed to the “underground realms” of the State – made up of secret services, right-winged extremists, policemen, magistrates, governmental environments – the responsibility of the attack. Mustafa Edib Yilmaz is columnist and head of the foreign desk of “Zaman”, the most widely read newspaper in Turkey. A few days ago, a court in Istanbul issued an arrest warrant for Bulent Kenes, chief editor of the English edition of the newspaper on charges of insulting Erdogan on Twitter. It is not the first time that the paper ends up as a target of the judges. But the atmosphere in Turkey is fully charged and there are only three weeks ahead of the crucial early parliamentary elections, scheduled for November 1. What is the atmosphere in Turkey after the attack: anger, tensions, yearning for the truth? “Everyone wants answers to the many questions raised, not least regarding those responsible for the attacks. How could an attack take place in the centre of the capital? Who is responsible for this security flaw? Why has no one resigned? Why did the authorities impose a secrecy clause on the investigation? What are they trying to hide from the rest of the population? What are the guarantees that such an attack will not happen again in Ankara or elsewhere in the country? Is it significant that the attack occurred shortly before the election? And so on … People are obviously shocked by the escalation of attacks and the number of victims, but also for the authorities’ inability to provide answers to their questions. That is the reason for the many protests throughout the country and that’s why these protests are now forbidden”. A Court in Istanbul issued an arrest warrant for Bulent Kenes for having insulted Erdogan on Twitter. What’s the situation now? “Our colleague was imprisoned on Saturday. He told us through his lawyer that the conditions are horrible. He is not even allowed to keep personal belongings, like a toothbrush, shampoo or clean underwear. His lawyer presented a petition opposing his arrest on Monday and authorities have three days to admit the request of release. We fear that he could be stripped of his freedom for a long period of time”. Attacks against freedom of the press are ongoing. Are you worried? “The press, or at least a part of it, has remained the sole institution in the Country capable of asking questions to the government and voice the people’s claims in effective and peaceful ways. As authorities have no answers to give, view with hostility whoever asks questions and try to put them to silence. It’s like saying that the arrest of one should stand as an example for others. It’s the tactic of intimidation. As simple as that!”. What is the road for the future of Turkey? Is the relationship between Turkey and Europe still possible? “I see no glimpse of a bright future between Turkey and the EU until an unreliable, irresponsible and corrupt government sits in Ankara. Cooperation between Turkey and the EU will be limited, in the most optimistic scenario, to the preservation of a minimum degree of security. But there will be obstacles along the way”.

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