Can Dündar

Portrait Can Dündar
Photo: Esra Rotthoff

Can Dündar is one of Turkey’s best-known critical journalists. He was imprisoned and now lives in exile in Berlin. He anticipates an imminent end to Erdoğan’s rule.

While you were in prison – for allegedly disclosing state secrets – an 80-year-old journalist, a colleague of yours, arrived with a chair one day…
Mete Akyol. Unfortunately, he’s since passed away. He took the chair, put it in front of the prison entrance and sat down on it. Nothing more. Little by little more and more people came, with and without chairs, to show their support for me. It was fantastic.  

Were there also friends who turned their backs on you while you were in prison?
Prison is a big test as well. Friendships are created, friendships break apart.

Did you also react in the same way before?
Perhaps. People were in prison, we did a lot to get them released but maybe it wasn’t enough. When I was in prison, I noticed how important every letter that I received was and how desperately I waited for answers. That wasn’t obvious to me before. A friend went into exile in Paris. I didn’t call him. I thought, he’ll be doing fine in freedom. But when he died of a heart attack, I realized how alone and unhappy he was in Paris. No one there to hug him. It pains me that I didn’t even call him. But that’s life. We learn from our experiences.

You cannot live in Turkey…
Oh yes, I can. Just in prison though. That option is open to me anytime.

But that says something about the state of the country.
Turkey has turned into a prison for journalists. If they write the truth, they have to prepare themselves for the worst. And prison, I also have to say, is not the worst.  

Erdoğan was elected and he still has many followers today.
He’s been in power for 18 years. At the beginning he acted as if he was a Muslim Democrat, like there’s Christian Democrats in Europe. I think he was pretending. Moreover, the power corrupted him. When he noticed that his power began to falter during the Gezi Park protests in 2013, he decided to take a harsher approach.

How long will Erdoğan retain his power?
Two years. We’re experiencing the final convulsions of the dictatorship right now. In the polls Erdoğan’s party is only at 30 percent. That’s a disaster for him. He’s lost Istanbul, his fortress. The economy is on its knees. He’s about to lose two supporters in the West: Trump and Merkel. He’s always been under her protection within the European Union.
But how will he leave? By resigning and saying goodbye? Probably not.
In June 2023 the next presidential and parliamentary elections will take place. He will be forced to resign before the elections. By the protesters on the streets, by the opposition, by his fellow party members. No one knows. Turkey is a Kinder Surprise egg.

Interview: Arno Widmann

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