Canan Kaftancıoğlu Will Not Walk Alone

Kaftancıoğlu sentenced to 9 years

On Friday the 6th, Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the Istanbul provincial head of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP), the secular main opposition, was sentenced to nine years and eight months in jail. This was because she had “insulted” President Erdoğan and was spreading “terrorist” propaganda. She was also charged with insulting the government and civil servants as well as inciting hatred and enmity in certain tweets of hers from 2012 to 2017.

Her combined jail time results from various sentences. She received sentences for making terrorist propaganda, insulting civil servants, insulting the president and the Turkish state as well as having provoked public enmity.

One of the tweets used by prosecution dating back to 2012, condemns the Armenian Genocide (a case strongly rejected by the Turkish state) and says “The Armenian genocide began on this day in history. We are commemorating our Armenian citizens who were massacred”. Another thread condemned the murders of three Kurdish activists of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who were shot dead in Paris in 2013. One tweet read “By saying deep state in fact we add mysticism to the events and exonerate the state. The state committed those murders.”. The prosecutors said in the indictment that these tweets were considered terrorist propaganda as they helped spread the words of a PKK member while announcing her death.

In the photo: Kaftancioglu at a meeting Image credit: Sozcu TR

The Reasoning 

Kaftancıoğlu was a very influential figure during the dubious process of the Istanbul Municipality elections in obtaining the support of People’s Democratic Party (HDP), whose votes helped Imamoğlu win the mayoralty twice. According to other provincial heads of CHP, this is the underlying reason for her sentence and aims at intimidating public opposition. They also identify this clearly as “a blow against democracy and freedom of expression”.

Another significant detail, as put forward in a tweet by human rights lawyer Kerem Altıparmak, is that Kaftancıoğlu was sentenced by the very same judge that had sentenced Kurdish opposition leader Selahattin Demirtaş to 4 years and 8 months over a single allegation. This implies that the prosecution of such powerful and strong-willed opposition figures is not a simple coincidence but instead a detailed scheme. After the hearing, Kaftancıoğlu tweeted “The verdicts in cases are not decided in the courtroom but in the (president’s) palace. In this country, court decisions are not made according to the law; the laws are shaped according to the sentence (the government) wants to give”.

In the photo: Kaftancioglu reciting the poem Image Credit: Medyascope Youtube

Poetry and Justice

The judge said that her sentence was influenced by the lack of remorse Kaftancıoğlu showed, justified by her public reading of a poem by Nazım Hikmet, a Turkish poet known for his “romantic communist” and revolutionary works who, after serving many years in prison because of his political views fled to the USSR and lived there in exile until his death.

When she left the courtroom on Friday, surrounded by party members and civilians who were there to support her, Kaftancıoğlu recited another one of Hikmet’s poems called ‘Hapiste Yatacak Olana Bazı Öğütler’ (which translates as Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison). The verse she recited addresses someone who has been thrown into jail “for not giving up hope, for the world, your country, and people” and advises them to “live one more day to spite the enemy”.

Related topics: Imamoglu: A New Hope The End of Erdogan?  Deterioration of Women’s Rights in Turkey

What can be considered ironic regarding this is the fact that the current President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had been sentenced to 10 months in jail in 1997 for having recited a religious poem by Turkish nationalist poet Ziya Gökalp, infuriating the country’s secular military and civilian elite which held the power at the time. More than 20 years later, it is his government that is encouraging the prosecution of Kaftancıoğlu for reciting a poem.

In the photo: Kaftancioglu and Imamoglu Image Credit: DW

Although it currently remains unclear whether Kaftancıoğlu will serve time (her legal team has filed an appeal), Istanbul Mayor Imamoğlu announced his unconditional support towards her case and called the judge to reconsider the sentence through the impartial application of law.

“I will never give up on my thoughts and dreams,” says Kaftancıoğlu in a final tweet, urging the seculars of modern Turkey to not bow down to oppression.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of – In the cover picture: Kaftancioglu Speaking at a Meeting Image Credit: Sozcu

About the Author /

Mina is an aspiring journalist interested in current global affairs, foreign policy, Turkey and the Middle East. She is a recent King's College London graduate and is starting an MA programme at SOAS upcoming September.

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