Turkish parliament passed a new law this week, which makes spreading ‘fake news’ punishable. What the term ‘fake news’ entails is of course not meticulously described, it’s up to the state’s courts to decide on that. It’s not very hard though, to define what fake news is in the eyes of the state, especially when you write about Kurdistan. In order for me not to get in trouble with the Turkish authorities any more than I already am (there are still court cases ongoing between me and the state and I’m still not allowed into the country) and not trigger yet another prosecution against me, let me point out what the most important recent fake news was.
Since there is a whole lot of ‘fake news’ going around, let me focus on what is described in Article 29 of the law false information about Turkey’s security to “create fear and disturb public order”. Spreading such news can get you behind bars for one to three years! So, let me be wise and point out the blatant lies you should not believe.
The Turkish state, in cooperation with KDP, sabotaged the return to her ancestral village of Nagihan Akarsel, after having murdered the academic, activist and journalist in Sulaymanya. Eventually the convoy bringing her home to Konya was let through and she was laid to rest in the presence of many. Local police detained two local journalists before the funeral and released them afterwards, so they couldn’t cover the event.
This news, if it became broadly known, would create fear among the public, so it’s not true.
Related to this, and also not true because it would make citizens fear the state even more, is the fact that the murderer was caught as he tried to pass a check point from PUK into KDP area, and that there is footage of him that was reportedly removed from VOA’s website under heavy Turkish pressure. The suspect spoke only Turkish and was reportedly sent to the Kurdistan Region in Iraq three months ago, with the assignment to kill.
In Yüksekova, Hakkari Province, the police are taking fingerprints from children, allegedly to find them easier when they get lost. I’ve been thinking about how having children’s fingerprints helps finding children back when they get lost, but I can’t think of any logical way. Since kids get lost everywhere in the country and not just in the Kurdish province that is bordering (Kurdistan in) Iran and Iraq, we may assume this practice is merely yet another example of keeping Kurds under control.
The police confirmed the fingerprints campaign but isn’t honest about it. It’s gaslighting the population. That’s very scary and instills fear in the population, so it must be ‘fake news’.
In Afrin, northwest-Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is busy taking over control from what calls itself the ‘Syrian National Army’ (SNA). Turkey lets it happen so is fine with it. If the public knew that, for example, kidnappings, rape, torture, destruction of cultural and religious heritage, murder and looting are happening on a large scale already under SNA rule and that with HTS barging in the human rights situation deteriorates even further, and that Turkey is absolutely fine with that, surely that would disturb the public order.
In order not to get in trouble with the law, we need to consider this news to be ‘fake’.
One of the biggest stories that we can most definitely consider to be ‘fake news’, is the number of Turkish soldiers being killed in the war against the PKK in the mountains of Kurdistan. The number of fallen soldiers is routinely under-reported. Many people wonder how the army could cover up many deaths, but that’s not very difficult. In the 1990s, part of the fighting was done by conscript soldiers, whose death could not easily be concealed and whose families you couldn’t easily shut up. Nowadays, it’s special forces fighting the PKK. They get a very good salary, and their families are taken care of very well financially in case they die in combat – on the condition that their death may not be made public.
Imagine the upheaval it would cause if this was widely known by the Turkish public. The ‘disturbance of public order’, I mean. Fake news!
What’s also absolutely fake news, even though it happened on live TV: the Turkish flag tumbled over, right on Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu’s head, who was speaking in Amed (Diyarbakır). Nice symbolism, with the flag of the occupying state not able to withstand some wind, but dropping right on the head of a fascist, whose days in Kurdistan are numbered. No brainwashed Turk would look at it that way but only the ridicule and mockery that you could make of this moment, could be insulting for Soylu and therefore disturb the public order.
Apparently, live TV can be ‘fake’ too!
Needless to say, this news is all true, of course. If the public in Turkey was well informed, if the public in Turkey would let it sink in that they have been fooled by state-produced actual fake news for decades, for even a century, would that instill fear and disturb public order? Definitely, but fear is what the state thrives on. What they are actually afraid of, is not that it instills fear, but that it breaks the fear. Just as the murder of Jina Mahsa Amini by the ‘morality police’ in Iran broke the fear of women and girls in Rojhilat (Kurdistan in Iran) and Iran, causing them to rise up against the dictatorship’s public order.
The more press freedom is suppressed, the scarier those in power are. Their public order is clearly weakening.
Fréderike Geerdink is an independent journalist. Follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her acclaimed weekly newsletter Expert Kurdistan.