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Visiting Turkish journalist speaks on freedom of press

Ahmet Sik speaks to students and faculty on Sept. 28. Credit: Ian Doherty | For The Lantern

Ahmet Şık speaks to students and faculty on Sept. 28. Credit: Ian Doherty | For The Lantern

Students had the opportunity to attend a speech at Ohio State on the failed July coup in Turkey and the country’s political climate Wednesday night by Turkish investigative journalist and author Ahmet Şık. His speech was translated to English through two translators.

Şık’s speaking tour includes stops in Washington D.C., and Boston, where he is set to speak at Harvard and MIT, before moving onto New York. The Turkish American Association of Central Ohio and OSU’s Middle East Studies Center sponsored the event.

He spoke critically of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and its government, particularly about the restraint they put on its citizens regarding freedom of speech.

“We cannot talk about him as a democratic leader, he is a dictator,” Şık said. “Speaking out against the government has become a serious problem within the last ten years.”

But he also spoke out against the group that the Turkish government says was behind the coup.

Şık’s book “Imam’s Army” details the life of U.S.-based imam Fetullah Güllen, the leader of the transnational religious and social movement — known as Hizmet in Turkey — blamed by the government for having a role in the coup. Despite being anti-Gullen, however, Şık’s book was seized and banned in Turkey because of his investigation into the movement.

“I believe the Gülen is one of the powers behind the coup,” Şık said.

Deniz Ay, a city and regional planning lecturer at the Knowlton School of Architecture, was a translator for Şık. She said his speech carried importance and magnitude that anyone interested in Turkey should know.

“I personally believe his insights should be shared with the rest of the world,” Ay said. “His analysis acknowledges the deep-seated problems of lack of rule of law and democratic governance in Turkey.”

Connor Flanagan, a second-year in international studies with a Turkish minor, found the event insightful.

“My professor had been talking about (the coup) this week, so it definitely peaked my interest,” Flanagan said. “He seemed pretty well balanced about his opinions. (You) could tell he wanted to respect the other side.”

Şık recounted the pandemonium when the coup first began he was with his friends and relatives.

That night I was at my friend’s. He was detained for being an editor of a newspaper. He was a member of (Reporters Without Borders),” Şık said. “I was with him that night to celebrate his freedom,” Şık said.

Şık and Flanagan both share curiosity about Turkey’s future.

“I’m curious about what the future of Turkey is, not in the short term, but the long term,” Flanagan said.

Update, Sept. 30: This story has been updated with additional comments from one of Ahmet Şık’s translators.

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