Ayşe Buğra appeared as a guest on BBC Radio
On 24 October 2021, Prof. Ayşe Buğra appeared as a guest at BBC's Newshour program presented by James Coomarasamy.
You can access the recording of the program at the BBC Sounds website till 22 November 2021. The transcription of the interview is available below.
Ayşe Buğra: After the sudden death of his father in 1982, Osman had to quit his graduate studies at the New School for Social Research in New York and he had to take over the management of the family business. But since the early 2000s, he has begun to be more engaged in civil society activities. He has founded the Anadolu Kültür, which is an organization that supports local cultural initiatives by strengthening national and international collaborations and also emphasizing cultural diversity to create a culture of peace in the country.
James Coomarasamy: Now, as far as his case is concerned and his imprisonment, he had been a critic of the government, had he?
AB: Well, like many other intellectuals who wish to contribute to the democratization of the country and the strengthening of the foundations of the rule of law, he has expressed his views on these matters and at times criticized certain policies. But he has never been affiliated with any political party, organization, and movement. And his critical position has never been radical or hostile to the government.
JC: And as far as the original case against him was concerned what was he charged with, what was the result?
AB: He was detained in October 2017. 2 weeks after his detention, he was arrested with two quite fantastic charges: attempting to overthrow the government and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order. The first charge was related to the nationwide protests of 2013, which are known as Gezi protests involving over 3 million people. He was alleged to be the organizer and financier of these protests.
JC: Did he participate in them? Was he involved in them?
AB: Well, his office is very close to the Gezi Park, where the protest began. And so, yes, he'd visited the park, he talked with people. But organizing and financing these protests which involve over 3.5 million people is as I said a bit fantastic. He had nothing to do with the organization and financing of course.
JC: And he was acquitted of those charges, wasn't he?
AB: Yes. Before he was acquitted, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that his detention constituted a violation of several articles of the European Convention of Human Rights and called for his immediate release. Then the trial ended with an acquittal decision, but he was not released but charged with another crime: espionage. In the period followed, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe took several decisions and resolutions asking the Turkish government to comply with the decision of the European Court and take the necessary steps to assure his immediate release. During its last meeting this fall, the Committee announced that they will start the infringement procedures against Turkey if he is not released before the Committee's next meeting at the end of this November.
JC: So just to be clear -- these espionage charges are related to the failed coup of 2016. Has he ever been in contact with Fethullah Gülen or his organization whom the authorities accused of instigating that attempt?
AB: No. He had nothing to do with the Fethullah Gülen organization. In fact, he has been quite critical of this organization's increasing influence on the bureaucracy and the judiciary and openly so.
JC: Let's turn to this letter then from the 10 ambassadors. Were you aware in advance that that was going to be sent?
AB: No. I was not aware of it.
JC: Do you welcome it?
AB: Well, I tend to interpret it as a very well-intentioned attempt to prevent the start of the infringement procedures against Turkey.
JC: From your point of view, is all of this do you think more likely to help get your husband's release?
AB: I don't know. At this point, I mean, we have been going through a very strange, very long, very complicated judiciary process. And now I have very little faith that this could at some point reach just end. I just don't know how to change this situation and what would be harmful to it. So, I just have no idea about what will happen now after having been subjected to this process which lasted for 4 years.
JC: Just briefly on your husband himself, what can you tell us about his condition at the moment, how he’s holding out, what circumstances he’s being held in?
AB: Well, he is staying at a high-security prison and the material conditions are not so bad. But especially with the pandemic now, the visits have become very rare and we can only talk to each other by telephone with a glass panel in between. So all this is extremely difficult but he’s holding out peace and he’s strong.
JC: And briefly do you worry that -- with he the way is this – he is becoming something of a political football in a broader geopolitical struggle between the government in Turkey and Western countries at the moment?
AB: I think that his case has become a symbol and of course, it makes things complicated, but he is a symbol of the serious problems of the way the judiciary functions in Turkey. I don't think that it has anything to do with secularism, Western interests, or whatever. But it is a case which has acquired a symbolic significance as far as the serious problems of the way the judiciary functions in Turkey.
JC: And that was Ayşe Buğra, the wife of Osman Kavala.