The international media was shaken by the October 31 police raids in Turkey, on both the Cumhuriyet daily newspaper and on the homes of its editors and writers.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) declared that it is "appalled by the accelerating extinction of media pluralism in Turkey," and referred to Cumhuriyet ("The Republic") as "the latest victim of 'never-ending purge' of Turkish media."
One of the Cumhuriyet journalists who was arrested on October 31 addresses supporters and the media after his release, on November 4. (Image source: Ruptly video screenshot)
Raids on Cumhuriyet's offices and the arrests of its journalists are attacks on freedom of speech. More tragic is that Cumhuriyet was established in 1924 as a result of the victimization of the Armenians in Turkey.
Cumhuriyet, originally an Armenian business -- the "Matosyan Printing House" -- was seized in 1924 from Vahan Matosyan, an Armenian businessman who had to leave Turkey for Switzerland because he did not feel safe in the face of the Turkish government's genocide against its Christian population.
Cumhuriyet's founder, Yunus Nadi, also a lifelong writer for the newspaper, had before that written for Rumeli, a publication of the Ottoman Turkish Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the group that committed the 1915 Armenian genocide.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey and a close friend of Nadi, supported his effort to establish a new newspaper in Constantinople (Istanbul) to propagate and defend the principles and policies of the republic. The newspaper was named Cumhuriyet by Ataturk himself.
The physical annihilation of Armenians was followed by the seizure of their properties.
"A series of laws and decrees, known as the Abandoned Properties Laws, were issued in the Ottoman and Turkish republican periods concerning the administration of the belongings left behind by the Ottoman Armenians who were deported in 1915," according to the Turkish scholar, Umit Kurt.
"Genocide not only means physical annihilation... what is important is the complete erasure of the traces of the Armenians from their ancient homeland.
"Between 1895 and 1922, Ottoman Armenians suffered massive loss of life and property as a result of pogroms, massacres, and other forms of mass violence....
"It consisted of a series of genocidal strategies: the mass executions of elites, categorical deportations, forced assimilation, destruction of material culture, and collective dispossession....
"The expropriation and plunder of deported Armenians' movable and immovable properties was an essential component of the destruction process of Armenians."
"The newly-established republican regime was based on the suffering of Armenians, their stolen property, and their rights and possessions," wrote the journalist Alin Ozinian. "The law on abandoned properties was an excuse to seize other people's property, and Armenian assets in particular became the main basis of the republican regime. The property of the murdered Armenians was Turkified, along with Greek and Jewish properties."
The Censorship of Cumhuriyet
Even after Armenian and other Christian citizens of the Ottoman Empire were exterminated or forcibly deported, the young Republic of Turkey never showed much tolerance toward differing political opinions.
The Republican People's Party (CHP), which founded the Turkish republic in 1923 and ruled it until 1950 without free elections, closed down or censored several newspapers, magazines and journals with different political inclinations. It also banned many foreign newspapers and other publications. Many journalists were arrested and then executed by "independence tribunals" -- an act which terrorized dissident media representatives and authors in Anatolia.
During Ataturk's rule as Turkey's first president from 1923 to 1938, at least 130 newspapers, magazines and books were forbidden. During the rule of Prime Minister Adnan Menderes (1950-1960) of the Democrat Party, 161 were banned.
Cumhuriyet was also subjected to the censorship during the first government of Turkey.
Ayse Elif Emre Kaya, a scholar, wrote a comprehensive article about the many other closures of Cumhuriyet:
"The newspaper was closed down with the decision of the cabinet council, for reporting in contradiction to the general policies of the state, for the first time on October 29, 1934 for 10 days, as the government was disturbed by the attitudes of Cumhuriyet at a period when foreign policy became a sensitive issue. Due to the same reason, the newspaper was closed down again in 1940 for three months. On July 12, 1941, it was closed down for two days and in December of the same year, it was closed down for one day, for reporting in contradiction to the foreign policy of the state."
The newspaper was also exposed to closures and censorship many other times, as well -- particularly after the Turkish coup d'état of September 12, 1980.
"Cumhuriyet was closed down for 41 days, four times, and was exposed to investigations 28 times, from the first day of the coup to March 12, 1984."
Continued Denial of Historical Truths
The Republic of Turkey, founded in 1923, did not provide all peoples in Anatolia with equal rights. Between 1913 and 1923, it carried out the genocide against Armenians, Anatolian Greeks and Assyrians, and seized their properties.
The Turkish regime has never tolerated a free exchange of ideas or dissident opinions, and has often exerted censorship on people and publications that dare to think differently.
Today, under the Islamic government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Cumhuriyet is exposed to pressures once again.
It is high time that the more "secular" Turks -- the "dissidents" who claim to oppose the oppression of the current Turkish government -- faced up to the history of extreme oppression by the founding government of Turkey, which happens to be the political party they still support, the CHP.
It seems that throughout Turkish history, the Turks have not been able to take single step without committing crimes against the non-Muslim citizens of their country.
Robert Jones, an expert on Turkey, is currently based in the UK.