Oğuz Güven is editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper’s website. He is not a defendant in the trial of Cumhuriyet employees and managers whose second hearing will be held on 11 September. But, he, too, was detained in a way that makes one think “All Cumhuriyet people or journalists will taste prison.” On account of a Tweet. Moreover, on account of a Tweet that was deleted 55 seconds later. He can still count himself lucky. He spent a total of one month in jail. Over that one-month period in Silivri, he never met the twelve Cumhuriyet employees in the same prison. But, following his release, there was a fresh development. The Turkish Journalists Association was given the right to visit detainees. And Güven, as an association administrator, began to make visits. Thanks to these visits, he is now able to see the colleagues he was unable to see while in detention. Güven had the following to say about his prison story:
I am a socialist and I was detained in connection with FETO: I was detained on different grounds from my friends, but if you regard the event as a newspaper trial you will be misled. The truth is that this is a political trial, not a Cumhuriyet newspaper trial. It is perfectly clear that these detentions have been made to silence and cow the opposition and spread fear in society. I was waiting for my turn to come but, as I have had no other business apart from journalism for 35 years, I was wondering what kind of grounds they would come up with. After a frenetic search, informed by the “reading of intentions” which has absolutely no counterpart in the law, they detained a socialist individual like me for “making FETO propaganda.”
We resort to humour to stay sane: When former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said, “Not a single mortal is in jail for a Tweet,” I made a post stating, “There is me for example, who, despite there being absolutely no criminal component and even though I deleted it in 52 seconds for being inadequately phrased, spent 32 days in detention and whose court proceedings still continue. It is impossible for the Justice Minister to be uninformed of this but he is telling a bare-faced lie. According to official figures, by the end of 2016 (excluding 2017) 1656 people had been detained on account of Tweets. Investigations have been launched into 10,000 people.” This courted great interest and was retweeted hundreds of times. Atilla Taş also responded to this from prison in his own style, saying, “Am I not a mortal?” We resort to a bit of humour in the endeavour to preserve our sanity in the face of such lies.
The judge cannot look you in the face while ordering your detention: It is incorrect to compare the Diyarbakır Prison of 12 September with prisons now, but certain conditions were better than now. You cannot write and receive letters. You cannot pass on notes you have jotted down and poems you have written to your lawyer or your child. Total solitary confinement is applied. As to the courts, they were better at the time of 12 September. The military judges listened with pricked ears to your defence. Now, your defence seems to be meaningless. Nowadays, the judge does not even look you in the face while ordering your detention, or is unable to do so.
I was unable to see the colleagues: Over my one month in detention, I just once saw dear Emre İper while heading out for a lawyer’s visit. We greeted one another from a distance. Ahmet Şık had a visit from his wife and daughter in the room next door every Thursday but we did not run into one another once. I mean, we were in this much solitary confinement.
I could feel no joy at my release: When the prison officers passed on news of my release, the television was on and the breaking news that Enis Berberoğlu had been sentenced to 25 years and taken into detention was on the screen. I was even unable to feel joy at my release. The mixture of joy and sorrow at leaving my colleagues who were staying inside was a very odd feeling.
Your standing: In prison, you better understand the value of your friendships and acquaintanceships that you forget in the daily bustle, your loved ones, your having swank and standing and your supporting a team. I felt myself to be even more invigorated by having such friends.
My anger peaked: My anger peaked at the moment when, on entering the unknown at Silivri, they x-rayed me after having looked at me in my initial search in which they stripped me to my underpants. And when a prison officer took and read at the cell door a note concerning my defence that I was going to take to the lawyer. I got pretty mad.
We will pick them all up on 11 September: Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Ahmet Şık, Kadri Gürsel and Emre İper are all my very close workmates. I call out to them now saying, “We have missed you greatly and we will pick you all up from there on 11 September. We still have tons of work left to do.”
Role reversal: We, the administration of the Turkish Journalists Association, only managed to get approval on the ninth application. I have been to Silivri twice as a visitor. It was a very different feeling this time to pass along those corridors accompanied by officers as a free individual and to sit on the opposite side of the table to the detainee’s chair. A momentary sighting through the iron bars while awaiting the colleagues between sessions. A prison officer recognised me and asked, “Weren’t you inside?” I said, “Yes, I escaped. Don’t let on.” I laughed, but he didn’t, of course. Our colleagues were happy after months to see a face apart from that of the lawyers and their families and to speak to somebody else. They are all standing tall with the pride of being innocent and vindicated and having demolished the indictment, and are waiting for 11 September.
Mendacious news: My stomach turns at the way newspaper scribes and reporters and people chattering away on television are acting as hatchet men and constantly creating mendacious news. What gets my goat most are the actions of those who appear to be middle-of-the-road media and conceal the news, do not write the truth and assume a penguin-like role. I cannot tolerate it. They are doing Turkey a huge disservice.
Making ourselves feel good: Everybody in Turkey is saying, “Where are we headed?” but stays silent and grins and bears it. The millions are unaware of their strength. The answer is in courageously not remaining silent in the face of injustices and constantly shouting the demand for justice. For example, in supporting the struggles for Nuriye and Semih not to die and for their rights to be restored. It will make you feel good.
I missed my grandson most
My two-and-a-half-year-old grandson: Let my one and only beloved daughter not take this to heart, but I missed my grandson Aren the most. Everyone understood why I had been detained, but it choked me up that I was unable to get across to my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson for whom I feel a very special love why he was unable to see his granddad.
I said I was getting out: As the judge in the court was announcing the detention order, the first thing to come to mind was the comment, “They will let you lot rot in jail” by a lawyer I met at one of my relative’s funerals three months earlier. You know, it got me worried for a moment, what with being detained on such a strange charge, thinking, “What if the man’s right?” However, there was a not a single moment in jail when I was without hope. I let myself be guided by Nâzım Hikmet’s words: “As long as the jewel on the left side of your chest doesn’t lose its lustre.” I said that at the most they would hold me for 6-7 months. I braced myself for this. It may sound like a joke, but I used to rib my mates in the yard saying, “I won’t stay long. I’ll be off in a month.” Later Oğuz Usluer, who always used to greet this joke of mine with a laugh, ribbed me when I visited him in Silivri saying, “Brother, how about we send a positive message to the universe like you.”
I cried with pride in my cell
Photographs and letters: The most moving moments, on the other hand, came with seeing the photograph that my friends came together to have taken for my birthday in the papers and my daughter Demet’s letter. I shut myself off in the cell for two hours, read it countless times and cried with pride.
My ear was on the sound of the lock: I can say that one of the best moments for me was the morning count every morning at 08.15 and the opening of the heavy iron door onto the yard. After a night spent alone in a tiny cell, this was like a door opening onto a tiny freedom every morning. I awaited that sound of the lock with excitement. I waited for the moments when I would see my two mates in the yard and we would immediately chat as we paced and would then have breakfast and read the papers together.
My canteen right cannot be blocked
Action in prison: Being in possession of this rebellious spirit in the face of injustices, was it possible for me not to contemplate action? In fact, I did engage in action. I was having bother with cigarettes. They said, “They will come in a week.” At this, I wrote on a piece of paper, “My canteen right cannot be blocked.” I taped it to a window in the area of the yard where the prison officers were. The prison officers came in a fluster and said, “This is not on.” Nobody showed up and I repeated the same action three times. The problem was sorted out two days later, actually.
I am put out by being well known: I started work on the next day after I got out. It just hasn’t been good for me in terms of being recognised. I am unable to get even into a verbal dispute on the metrobus or at the match. I feel as if my freedom has been constrained for worrying “What will they say now?”