June 2, 2017
In Turkey, a suspected terrorist continues to operate a bookstore, as hundreds of journalists, authors, and publishers are rounded up
by Simon Reichley
Since the failed coup against him in September 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken dramatic measures to consolidate his power: hunting down members of the opposition, calling for changes to the Turkish constitution, and harassing and arresting journalists, novelists, and publishers throughout the country. From the beginning, figures in the Turkish literary scene have been outspoken about the ongoing crackdown.
Now, according to a report from the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), testimony from a “secret witness” in an ongoing investigation into ISIL activity in the region suggests that the Turkish government has been turning a blind eye while a suspected associate of ISIL operates a bookstore in the Turkish province of Gaziantep, where ISIL launched a deadly attack against the police in 2016.
This secret witness claims that one of the suspects of the attack, Cuma Şahin, is the owner and operator of Mekke Bookstore in the city of Gaziantep. Allegedly, the store is somehow affiliated with ISIL, serving as a distribution hub for propaganda material and other documents.
This testimony is uncorroborated at the moment, and seems somewhat surprising, given the zeal with which Erdoğan’s government has hunted down publishers and journalists over the last several months. According to ongoing reporting by the SCF, there are currently 241 Turkish journalists under arrest, twenty-three already convicted of crimes, and 103 on outstanding warrants.
Simon Reichley is the rights and operations manager at Melville House.