Turkey holds anarchist activist on false charges

Translated and edited from Sosyal Savas with additional edits from the Black Rose/Rosa Negra Social Media Team.

Anarchist activist İshak Tayak has been arrested and accused of being a member of the Islamic, pro-capitalist Gülen movement linked to the 2016 failed coup attempt. In the pre-dawn hours of October 2, special ops police raided his Istanbul home, where they beat him before taking him into custody. İshak, a Kurdish self-identified anarchist and atheist, was later charged with downloading Bylock, a messaging app used by the movement, in 2014.

Charges denied, lack of evidence

Ishak denies the charges, as well as any ties with the Gülenists, and allegedly, the state has yet to present substantial evidence supporting its claims.

“I am an anarchist, an atheist, a person who defends the rights of nature, people, and animals,” Ishak said in a statement. Under the state of emergency, he says the rule of law has been suspended and any semblance of justice discarded: “I’m being tried as a Gülenist—despite the fact that I’m an anarchist and have no connections [to this or any organization].”

The Turkish state accuses the Gülenists, led by the US-based Muslim cleric Fetullah Gülen, of orchestrating a July 15, 2016 coup attempt and considers it a terrorist organization. In the months after the coup, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has aggressively attempted to link dissidents—left and right—to the Gülenists, an effort to both consolidate its power and justify heavy repression of the opposition. Over 50,000 people have been jailed in post-coup purges.  

Pro-government media complicity

In the days after Ishak’s arrest, pro-government media dubbed him “the most secret civil Bylock user,” making unsubstantiated claims about his alleged links to several opposition groups.

“If you look at the news, you would think he’s James Bond,” Ishak’s brother told Turkish news site OdaTV.

The press says Ishak, an anarchist, actually infiltrated the anarchist movement and spearheaded a 2012 May Day action. At the same time, it made unfounded claims about his supposed connections to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front (DHKP-C), respectively a key  political group in the freedom struggle of Rojava and a Marxist political organization. By claiming a Gülenist has infiltrated the anarchist movement—and trying to link that person to other major dissident movements—the state shows it is prepared to carry out operations against anarchists, as it has against Gülenists, PKK, DHKP-C and opposition political parties.

İshak’s actual history

But İshak’s personal history makes it equally clear he has no ties to any organization, let alone a religious one. He was imprisoned for two and a half months after the 2012 May Day action, and the case was dismissed in June for lack of evidence. As a university student, Ishak found himself constantly in conflict with pro-Gülen/religious students as a result of his atheism, according to testimony he gave during his arraignment. In 2011, he even successfully applied to have “Islam” removed from the “religion” box on his ID card.  

İshak, who works fifty-plus hour weeks as a bartender and has time for little else, says his lifestyle is incompatible with a conservative religious organization whose members tend to be the well heeled and powerful. İshak, aside from being an atheist and anti-authoritarian, has long hair and beard. He also drinks alcohol and has tattoos and multiple piercings, all prohibited by traditional Islam. As his brother told OdaTV, “All of Ishak’s beliefs and ideas are fundamentally opposed to [the Gülen movement].”

Remains in custody

Ishak is being held in Silivri Prison, a high-security facility, alongside others accused of links with the Gülenist movement. While in custody, he has been harassed by prison personnel demanding he cut his hair or else have his visitor rights revoked.

After two months of waiting—during which his lawyers were unable to see the contents of his case file or learn the exact charges against him—Ishak has been given a February 13 court date.

In a court statement, he says was not taken to the hospital for rib pain resulting from the beating he received from police.

For more background on the attempted 2015 coup in Turkey we recommend reading “The Coup in Turkey: Tyranny against tyranny does not make freedom” by a member of Black Rose/Rosa Negra and “Turkey: The Coup is the State, the Revolution is Liberty” by the Turkish Anarchist group DAF. 

Read more of our articles related to solidarity with struggles in Turkey