A prominent Turkish journalist, columnist, documentarian and the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper Can Dündar on Monday penned a column for Washington Post, “How Turkey pursues dissident exiles like me all over the world”.
Dündar, a leading figure in the Turkish media, was arrested in November 2015 after Cumhuriyet published footage showing the Turkish intelligence (MİT) sending weapons to Syrian Islamist fighters, and has been in exile in Germany ever since.
The column focuses on the Turkish Ministry of the Interior’s “Terrorist Wanted” list, where Dündar’s name has now appeared.
A summary of the column is as follows:
On the last day of 2022, at the age of 61, I found my own name and photo on such a display: The “Terrorist Wanted” list on the website of the Turkish Ministry of the Interior.
Like an Old West poster, it offered a reward: Up to 500,000 Turkish lira — approximately $27,000 — for information that would lead to my capture.
For the past six years I’ve lived in Germany, working as an independent journalist online and on the radio. A note below my name linked me to Fethullah Gulen, a religious cleric residing in Pennsylvania, who is accused of masterminding a coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016. I’ve never set eyes on the man.
Here’s the real reason I assume I was on the list. In 2015, when I was editor in chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper in Istanbul, we published a report, including photographs and video, on the Turkish intelligence agency, MIT, illegally shipping weapons to Islamist militants in Syria. Erdogan said the reports revealed a “state secret” and told state-run TV, “The person who wrote this story will pay a heavy price for it; I won’t let him go unpunished.”
Give him credit: He kept his word. I was arrested six months after that article appeared and kept in pretrial detention for 92 days. Freed by the constitutional court pending a trial, I was able to leave Turkey — and after an attempted military coup in 2016, I decided not to go back. A few years later, a Turkish court sentenced me, in absentia, to more than 27 years in prison for obtaining and publishing state secrets. Meanwhile, the government confiscated everything I owned.
This is what has been happening to exiled opponents of the Turkish regime all over the world. Erdogan is attempting to either kidnap them and bring them back to Turkey, or punish them where they live, to which ends he deploys his intelligence agency, thugs operating illegally outside the country — or even diplomacy.
We will see what happens.
For now, it is clear that Turkey’s “Wanted” list is far too long to fit on a poster nailed to a sheriff’s wall. And it will continue to grow as long as the world gives into the bullying and blackmail by Erdogan.