Bombing of Özgür Ülke Newspaper burns everyone today

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  • 10:34 2 December 2020
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İSTANBUL -  26 years have passed since Özgür Ülke Newspaper was bombed. Zekine Türkeri, one of the reporters of the newspaper, said that the headline "This fire will burn you" after the bombing has found its place today.

Özgür Ülke  started its publishing life on April 28, 1994, after Halk Gerçeği, Yeni Halk Gerçeği, Yeni Ülke, Özgür Gündem, Welat and Özgür Gündem under threats of censorship and attacks. The free press, which published 6 newspapers in a short period of 4 years, appeared before the readers with the name "Özgür Ülke" after the newspapers they published were closed. Unlike other newspapers with the same tradition, 239 days after it started its publication life, it was bombed on December 3, 1994. The 3 offices of the newspaper, two offices in İstanbul and one in Ankara was bombed simultaneously. While Ersin Yıldız, the newspaper's transport officer, died in the attack, 23 newspaper workers were injured. While nothing was done to find the perpetrators of the bombing, those injured in the attacks was detained by the police after being treated at the hospital. There were no results in the investigation into the attack.
The newspaper that was published the next day despite the bombing was published with the headline 'This fire will burn you too', reponding to the planners of the attack. In the same issue, it was emphasized that the decision to silence the newspaper was made in the National Security Council (MGK) by the most authoritative officials of the state and the results of the decision was revealed 3 days later with the bombing of the newspaper.
After the bombing of the newspaper, support came from everywhere. While some intellectuals showed their reactions to the attack with articles they wrote in the columns of the Özgür Ülke, a group of intellectuals, including writers Orhan Pamuk, Ahmet Altan, Latife Tekin, Murathan Mungan and Lale Mansur, took to the street and distributed the newspaper themselves, saying 'Support your newspaper'.
The decision to bomb the newspaper was made at the National Security Council just 3 days before the attack. The newspaper was targeted at the meeting, saying it was 'divisive' and it should be 'silenced'. The document labeled "Secret", signed by the then Prime Minister Tansu Çiller, who made statements with "death lists" and "to be eliminated" lists in the rallies was published by the bombed newspaper less than 15 days after the attack. The document was directly mentioning the name of the newspaper.
Making a statement on the bombing of the newspaper, the government spokesperson of the time, Yıldırım Aktuna, said: "We think they bombed themselves to implicate Turkey and put Turkey in a tight spot."
With the statement legitimizing the bombing, the newspaper was closed with a decision taken on February 2, 1995. 220 of the 247 issues published by the newspaper was banned since the time it started its publication life. 35 more newspapers were published after Özgür Ülke. Some of them were closed within a day while some of them lasted for a few weeks. But the free press tradition still continues.
Journalist Zekine Türkeri who was a reporter at that time, told what had happened back then. Türkeri said Turkey always had a militarist approach towards the Kurdish and it always aimed to annihilate the Kurds since the foundation of the republic. Türkeri said: "The Turkish State was an enemy with the Kurds. The decision to bomb the newspaper was taken at the National Security Council. Tansu Çiller ordered the bombing. Because they couldn't handle the journalists one by one. The newspaper had almost 100 employees back then and one fourth of it was slaughtered. No one was able to work for 6 months straight at that time. Those who did work for 6 months was murdered. Many of our friends had to go into exile."
"We couldn't follow news in Kurdistan back then. And in İstanbul, there were always men right behind us with black masks and long barrelled guns so we had to go out in teams. They followed us everywhere. This is how we worked as a journalist. But we must have done it right, because the state, and the government of the time were very disturbed with us. No one other than us gave any information or any news about the Kurds. Özgür Ülke was targeted because it told the truth", said Türkeri.
Türkeri continued: "Was Turkish state able to achieve their goal? No. Anyway, they aimed to hurt us, maybe kill a few young Kurds. Because they knew that even if we all died there, another group of young Kurds would come and continue in another building, with another name. So they were comtent with killing a few of us. They were looking for daily solutions. They didn't think about tomorrow."
Underlining the fact that they knew the bombers would not be punished, Türkeri said: "Killing Kurds in this country do not consist a crime. They bombed a building with 20 people inside in broad day light. They didn't care. They knew no one was going to be punished for it. Sad as it is, it is still the same."
Stating that they published the newspaper with the headline 'This fire will burn you too', Türkeri said that that fire today is now burning everyone in Turkey in the form of decay. Türkeri said: "Turkey decayed postponing to solve the Kurdish question. That fire burned Turkey this way; it ondemned everyone to a fascist power like the AKP. Is there a worse fire than this?"  
Stating that Atılım Newspaper opened their doors for them after the bombing, Türkeri said: "The headline 'This fire will burn you too' was written there. We slept at the Atılım office for days. We slept on the ground laying blankets on the floor. We worked under these conditions. I am not saying these to complain. Because our friends died, they could have hurt us more. But there is one thing this government, the Turkish state must understand. Not one single person said they were scared and they were walking away after that bombing. We published other newspapers in time, they were censored too. But that newspaper and its successors are still being published today. There are thousands of Kurdish journalists. Therefore, those who detonated the bomb could not achieve their goals in any way."
MA / Ferhat Çelik 

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