THE ADVENTURES OF AHMET ALTAN

“I have been in this job for 27 years, I started from the bottom and climbed to the top. I can say that the Turkish press is coward: it comes out to hide the truth.”
~ Ahmet Altan.

Last week I criticized a recent article in the neoconservatives’ The Middle East Quarterly particularly for its claim–parroted from the paşas–that Taraf was a Fethullahçı paper. I cited the financial troubles Taraf has recently had and asked why, if Taraf were Fethullahçı, it wasn’t able to secure funds from a Fethullahçı bank.

Another reason for doubting the paşas’ and the neocons’ claim that Taraf is Fethullahçı is the fact that Taraf’s editor-in-chief is Ahmet Altan, whose father was a leftist politician. Ahmet Altan may be more familiar to Kurds for his famous article, “Atakurd”, written in 1995 and for which he was fired from Milliyet.

A month ago, it was brought to my attention that Ahmet Altan appeared to have gone missing. I chalked it up to vacation time but now it appears that Ahmet Altan has not been on vacation. After “long adventures” he has returned and here’s what he has to say on the state of affairs at Taraf:

After Long Adventures . . .

In 19th century adventure novels, there is a cliche ending that my father really loved about their heroes: “After long adventures, he returned to his home.”

It is not being mentioned what the poor novel hero went through in those “long adventures”, what he had lived through, what he had suffered for. No one cares anyway.

I also returned after “long adventures”.

I must admit I went through a lot.

All the troubles of attempting to found a real newspaper which opposes the system in a place like Turkey, where the system is poor and based on corruption, robbery, murder, and gangs, and criticizing both the political rulers and the army’s hidden rule were directly on our shoulders.

I am not even counting the fact that everyone, from the boss to the tea-deliverer, was sued.

This was expected in our country anyway.

However, wrestling with merciless financial seizures which would even be surprising to the system itself, gave us a difficult time.

We have lived through times where we came to the brink of closure.

I have talked to as many people as I have never talked before; while being proud of not asking anything from anyone, I have asked for something from almost anyone in order to let this newspaper live.

I undertook the shame of asking due to the belief that such a newspaper is a necessity; I have been through nights where I never slept until mornings, suffering and smoking.

There have been times when I was angry for seeing the burden of making a democratic newspaper that tells the truth in a country of 75 million, left on the shoulders of two young men, Başar and Savaş Arslan. There have been moments when I felt angry for not being able to do anything while seeing this heavy burden on their shoulders. There have been times when I was hurt by emotional confusion when these two young people entered my office always with a smile, even during the hardest days.

I have been through days from waking up and saying, “Damn it, just shut it down,” to “No, we will resist to the end, we will fight.”

Especially seeing those inferior publications of newspapers which are pro-coup and pro-army regarding “Ergenekon”; witnessing the nerve of those who define the capture of coup-makers and coup-instigators as the “silencing of the opposition of political government”, increased my resistance and perseverance.

Every time I read them, I believed in the necessity of this newspaper.

Not only I but also everyone at this newspaper believed that.

They worked without pay for two-and-a-half months, with great self-sacrifice.

They couldn’t take money home; they couldn’t pay their rent; there have been some whose electric meter was dismantled; and there have been times when they couldn’t find money for transportation to get to work.

Başar and Savaş encountered hardships that they have never seen in their entire lives.

Our readers shared their little bit of money with us; in order to let us live, they joined the fight.

All of them endured, all of them resisted.

Then Mehmet Betil came.

We did all our accounting.

First of all we saw that, in order to maintain a newspaper like this, an amount of money which would be equal to the two-week’s rent of a super luxury yacht would be enough for us.

Not being able to find that much cash money suffocates us.

Mehmet put more than enough fresh money.

We breathed.

We set the strategy for the next ten years.

We all know that a newspaper which brings foreigners and even enemy groups together, introducing themselves to each other, bringing them closer to each other, and making them gather under a common belief, “democracy”, is a nominee of being this country’s greatest newspaper.

Knowing this empowers us.

However, we aren’t satisfied with this.

In order to keep this newspaper strong in this country where there are revenge-seeking politicians, angry generals, slick bankers, cowardly rich, friends who break their promises, we decided to open up to the world.

We have kept in touch with the establishments which open funds for the world’s democratic newspapers. We have agreed with some of them; there are some with whom we are still talking. We came to the last stage for an agreement with Europe’s most prestigious newspaper for a publication partnership.

Finally, with the support of our readers in our most difficult time, with the confidence of being a global newspaper, we came to a point where the shaky situation in Turkey no longer affects us.

We are solid and comfortable now.

Turkey’s efendis, who say, “If I want, I create; if I want, I destroy,” can try their best now.

We will explain all the truths as we promised when we first began this publication.

Our readers long ago became our friends. We have embraced each other with unprecedented power and we will increase the number of our “friends” when we walk together.

After “long adventures” I returned.

But I’m very tired.

Now I’m at a point that I can’t bear a bird’s song let alone a human voice.

I want to be buried in absolute silence and remain there for a few days without moving, without speaking. without telling, and without listening.

One week from now I’ll be here.

We have left the pains behind but I want to live by myself the happiness and gratitude in the struggle that was given and created by the resistance of the people, our readers, newspaper staff, columnists, adminstrators, and the newspaper’s owners.

I generally try to be solid in hard times but now when I think of those people and how they struggled in the hardest time, maybe sometimes tears come to my eyes and I don’t want anyone else to witness this. After all, I am a man.

You can find more backgrounder on Ahmet Altan here and here.

Although I don’t agree with everything Taraf writes, even if I do present translations of some of the Taraf staff’s work here, I think that they would be a bit offended if I did agree with everything. I do, however, happen to agree with Altan’s assessment of Taraf as Turkey’s “greatest newspaper”. Taraf has written stuff that I never thought I would see in print in a Turkish paper and, what’s more, the journalists at Taraf have forced discussions of some of their most controversial reporting into the pages of every other Turkish daily.

Can you imagine how much more improved the state of the lapdog American media would be if there were an American Taraf that would force a discussion of its most controversial reporting through the journalistic wilderness of the US? Such an American paper might actually report the truth. Such an American paper would have taken up Sibel Edmonds on her offer to go public with everything she knows.

Besides, I’m all for feeding frenzies, especially when the paşas are the main course with the Fethullahçı as appetizer.

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