The arrest of journalist Merdan Yanardağ for criticising the Turkish government has sparked calls for civil disobedience, with some echoing his exact words on social media.
Journalist Merdan Yanardağ, editor-in-chief of TELE1 TV channel, was detained on 26 June following his criticism of the government’s secretive policies regarding Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), during a live broadcast. He was arrested the following day on charges of “praising criminal activity”.
Yanardağ’s remarks sparked a national debate by shedding light on the lack of legal justification for Öcalan’s isolation and alleged negotiations involving the government. He also raised concerns about transparency and the denial of Öcalan’s rights, underscoring the non-application of regular laws.
Koray Türkay, a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), addressed Yanardağ’s arrest through social media on Friday evening, stating that it was a deliberate attempt to silence the public and discourage them from expressing similar opinions, thereby fostering an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship. In an act of defiance, Türkay reiterated Yanardağ’s words and called on everyone to participate in civil disobedience by voicing those same words.
Kurdish writer Mahmut Alınak joined the wave in a social media post, emphasising the significance of Yanardağ’s trial and the upcoming Kobanê trial as crucial opportunities to advocate for rights and freedoms. Alınak urged a strong presence at the courthouses, encouraging people to turn themselves in by stating, “If Merdan Yanardağ’s remarks about Abdullah Öcalan and isolation are a crime, then I am also committing this crime.” According to Alınak, such collective action would not only draw attention to Öcalan’s arbitrary isolation but also exert domestic and international pressure to secure Yanardağ’s release, ultimately advancing freedom of thought.
The total isolation and incommunicado conditions endured by Abdullah Öcalan, who has been imprisoned for 25 years, have now reached their 27th month. The prolonged imprisonment and extended period of isolation have sparked considerable concerns, as rights groups question Turkey’s commitment to upholding its own domestic laws. The arrest of Yanardağ is viewed as a clear warning by the Turkish government to discourage others from expressing similar criticisms.
Supporters are now echoing this plea in solidarity with Merdan Yanardağ and against the suppression of freedom of expression in Turkey. The public is urged to join this movement and speak out against the stifling of dissent.