The journal of a journalist whose friends have been jailed

The journal of a journalist whose friends have been jailed

Since 1985, 32 years ago, I have been friends with the arrested Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy and journalist Enis Berberoğlu and his wife, Oya Berberoğlu. Enis joined daily Cumhuriyet’s Ankara bureau that year, and I remember attending their wedding at Ankara’s Gençlik Park on June 7, 1985, and taking a wonderful photo with all our friends. Our friendship continued ever since and we would never have thought that one day we would be successor and predecessor to each other as daily Hürriyet’s editor-in-chief.  

When Enis Berberoğlu was arrested and sentenced to 25 years on June 14, Wednesday, I tried to contact Oya. She was at Maçka Park attending a meeting to protest the arrest of her husband. Her voice was strong; I was so glad about this. 

The life sentence, which was converted to 25 years in jail, was a total shock to them, Oya said. After the verdict was handed down, she and her husband had an opportunity to talk for a while at the police station of the courthouse. 

“Enis was very much at ease,” she said. “He made jokes. He said he entrusted our daughter to me and me to our daughter.”  

When she was to leave, he asked the police if he needed to take off his belt. “He took off his belt and gave it to me. He told me not to worry about him and that he was prepared for all kinds of conditions. Then we hugged each other, said goodbye, then the policemen took him,” she said.

“Our daughter Dilara cried at the beginning, and then she got a hold of herself. It was her job to go back home and prepare her father’s prison suitcase,” said Oya. 

Their daughter Dilara Berberoğlu is a young lawyer specializing in refugee rights and human rights. It must have been a pretty strange experience for her to prepare her father’s suitcase for prison the other evening.  
One day later, he sent a note on a small piece of paper with his lawyer. Oya read it to me: “My darling wife and beautiful daughter. This is my first letter to you from prison; thus the paper is a bit clumsy. I already miss you. For the moment, I am comfortable. I am writing to you because I know it will be good for you to hear from me. If this beautiful country is going to triumph, then this ordeal I have to go through is not important. Love.” 

Following our chat with Oya, the other day there was a lunch with other spouses of jailed journalists and administrators from daily Cumhuriyet. Kadri Gürsel’s wife, Nazire Gürsel; Güray Öz’s wife, Çağlayan Öz; Önder Çelik’s wife, Semra Çelik; Bülent Utku’s friend Hafize Sabancı and Murat Sabuncu’s wife, Eylem Sabuncu, were present. 

They issued a joint declaration calling on the Constitutional Court to review the file as soon as possible, asking it to end “these unjust arrests that have turned into a cruelty.” Their husbands and friends have been in jail for 229 days. 

In our conversations, I had the opportunity to listen to prison conditions and difficulties arising from the state of emergency regime. 

Journalist Nedim Şener, who was in Istanbul’s Silivri prison for 376 days as a victim of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), also joined the talk: “In our days of arrest, lawyers could see us any time and stay as long as they wished. Now, they have only one hour a week to see their clients. In our time, nobody supervised the talk to the lawyer; now an officer stands by. We were able to see three people we chose, other than our spouses, once a week. Now, this has been removed also.”

This all shows how much the rights of prisoners have regressed under the state of emergency. Eylem Sabuncu said, “Open visits were once a month in the past; now we can only have open visits once every two months. It used to be 10 minutes of phone rights every week; now we can talk 10 minutes once every two weeks.” 

Listening to Eylem Sabuncu, I tried to figure out the logic behind reducing the 10-minute phone call to once every two weeks. What kind of mentality is it to further restrict the phone rights of a person who has already lost his/her freedom? What kind of mercilessness is this? Which supreme extraordinary interest of the state are you serving by allowing Eylem Sabuncu to talk to her husband once every two weeks instead of every week?