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"Cumhuriyet" newspaper dismisses writer after he criticises draft constitution, urges peaceful resolution of Kurdish conflict, on television

(BIANET/IFEX) - Journalist and writer Erdogan Aydin has been dismissed from the "Cumhuriyet" newspaper after taking part in a discussion programme on Roj television station recently.

The programme, broadcast on 23 October 2007, discussed obligatory religious education at school and the appeal of an Alevi citizen to the European Court of Human Rights. (The Alevi are an Islamic religious group that share some beliefs in common with Shi'a Muslims, but are generally much more secular than other Shi'a Muslims, for example those in power in Iran.) The programme also discussed the current attempts by the government to create a new constitution.

Also participating in the programme were several Dutch Members of Parliament, Dutch Senator Düzgün Yildirim and the President of the Alevi Pir Sultan Abdal Association, Kazim Genc.

Aydin expressed the opinion that although the draft constitution was said to strengthen civilian rule, it was not really different from the constitution put in place by the military junta in 1982. He also said that the Kurdish question could not be solved with arms, that arms needed to be put down and that stability could only be achieved with a peace policy.

The Pir Sultan Abdal Association has started a campaign to support Aydin in the face of "Cumhuriyet" management's decision. The Association issued a statement saying, "We call on all those individuals and organisations who consider themselves democrats, who support freedom of expression, who consider themselves social democrats or socialists, and who support human rights and freedoms, not to stay silent in the face of the injustice that Aydin has suffered."

Aydin told BIANET, "I know that there is no problem with the content of my articles. I would have expected the 'Cumhuriyet' newspaper to defend the right of people, particularly its own writers, to be different, to express their opinions."

The fact that Aydin had joined a programme on Roj television station, which is broadcast in Turkey from Denmark and which the Turkish government has been threatening to close, was widely reported, albeit in a distorted manner, in the Islamist press and websites.

Following this coverage, an article Aydin had written criticising French historian Francois Georges' book on Sultan Abdulhamit was not published.

Aydin said, "Freedom is not something that can be increased by double standards. Indeed, this is Turkey's greatest wound. (. . .) And I am its latest victim. Unfortunately I don't think I will be the last."

Aydin holds the "nationalist streak" at the newspaper responsible for his dismissal, adding that he was not even informed directly of his own dismissal. He believes that he was dismissed because he openly expressed his support for peace.

Aside from the dismissal, Aydin has been subject to other more subtle retaliation for expressing his opinions. At the TÜYAP book fair which took place in Istanbul during the week of 29 October, his eight books were not displayed, and his panel and book-signing day were cancelled. He says, "People asking for me were told 'He has cut contact with us.'"

Aydin, who has published his books with Cumhuriyet Publications for the last eight years and who wrote on historical themes for the "Cumhuriyet" newspaper's Saturday supplement and book critiques for the newspaper on Thursdays, was forced to display his works by himself at the fair.

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