Working in the newspaper under the shadow of guns
When I come to work, I am first greeted by a member of private security standing at the entrance of the open air car park; which is behind the Hürriyet building and its neighbor, the CNNTürk building.
Then I take the stairs to get to the level where the two buildings are situated. At the top of the stairs, there is another member of the private security.
They were always there. But there is a difference. Since the attack on the Hürriyet premises in September, they wear bullet-proof jackets and carry automatic rifles.
On Sept. 6, Daily Hürriyet’s Istanbul headquarters was pelted with stones by a group of pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters.
Around 150 protesters attacked security personnel at the outer gate before forcing their way to the glass doors, which they pelted with stones. Then came the riot police. That’s when our co-habitation as sort of “co-workers” started. Obviously we did not know this at the time.
Protesters claimed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s words earlier on a TV interview were twisted by the Hürriyet website. While the Hürriyet editor-in-chief defended the newspaper’s reporting, he made sure to say that even if there was a mistake, stoning the paper and attacking its security personal could not be justified.
At the time, Abdülrahim Boynukalın, an AKP Istanbul MP and head of the AKP’s youth organization, led the protesters who threw stones at Hürriyet’s building.
As we had heard no proper condemnation from government officials, the protesters came one more time, two days later. Then we realized that the riot police would be there with us for some time.
“Some time” has been three months!
Let me continue my journey from where I left off. After greeting the second security guard, whose automatic rifle on his chest I cannot miss, I walk through the courtyard of CNNTürk premise, where there is usually a police vehicle is parked.
Then I pass from the small garden that leads to the main entrance of Hürriyet. I come across with some of the riot police. They walk around, they chat; they look at their phones.
When I arrive at the courtyard where the main entrance is situated, I pass near an anti-riot police vehicle.
And then I get inside the building. That’s how I start the day. I come across the dozen of riot police if I take a walk outside or when I go down to the cafeteria to take my lunch.
This is not a war zone. This is not the green (high security) zone in Baghdad. We are not in Afghanistan or Pakistan, expecting a suicide attack.
But then again what should I feel about seeing the police on our premises? Should I feel safe and relieved that the government, which gave tacit consent to the attackers by its silence, is providing protection from these same attackers? Or should I feel alert and alarmed all the time that I need to be careful on what I write and what we publish.
Is the police presence a reminder of the state’s benevolent face, there to protect me; or should I see it as a stick, constantly reminding me of what can happen if I don’t behave?
When shortly after the attack an AKP MP of academic background tweeted in defense of Boynukalın, I answered him back on Twitter, expressing my astonishment on how an academic could defend a physical attack as a form of criticism. After all, men and women of science believe in the force of the pencil over that of the stone. That’s why I was not surprised by the decision of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, an academic by profession, to not nominate Boynukalın again for the Nov. 1 elections. When Boynukalın appeared next to Davutoğlu during the electoral campaign, I was utterly shocked. I said to myself Davutoğlu gave in to some pressure from above.
Now Boynukalın has been nominated as the deputy minister of sports.
It seems Davutoğlu the academic gave in to Davutoğlu the politician.
Am I going to work under the shadow of guns as long as Boynukalın maintains his position?