Fashion designer Barbaros Şansal found himself deported from Cyprus following a video he posted on social media. He underwent an attempted lynching at Atatürk Airport. He will appear before a judge on 16 March on charges of ‘Inciting popular animosity and hatred,’ with a custodial sentence of up to three years being sought. Following 56 days on remand, he was released from Silivri Prison the day before yesterday. He was held in solitary confinement in prison for two months. He did not eat any of the meals provided in jail. He says, ‘Those who would have lynched me at an international airport could also have easily poisoned me in prison.’ I met up with Şansal on the first day of his freedom.
- Did it occur to you that your post might lead to this?
If an eighty-year-old man with Alzheimer’s can be detained for his social media posts, there’s every chance it can happen to me. With things happening to everyone because of social media, there are those nothing happens to. Nothing happens to people who congregate bearing arms, rapists or molesters. The issue here is not social media. If your views carry weight in society; if there are people who like, love and follow you, the aim is to scare them. Even if justice appears a little late on the scene, I believe in the supremacy of the law.
– How did you feel when you were remanded in custody?
A user named Başkentçi tweeted, ‘Barbaros Şansal will be detained.’ So, I knew that I would be remanded. If a case is brought over the internet, the decision to remand you is also taken on the internet. They told me in court, ‘You’ve been remanded.’ Normally, under the law, your guilt has to be proven. Unfortunately, in Turkey you are obliged to prove your innocence. Nothing passed through my mind at that moment. You are not the one who is being remanded. It is your life on the outside that is being remanded.
The order went to Cyprus
– You were deported from Cyprus, a frequent haunt of yours. What’s your take on the Cyprus government’s stance?
An instruction went to Cyprus. I was deported from Cyprus in an illegal manner. There was no cabinet decision. The Interior Minister’s signature was missing. A solicitation made by a few people and events over a few hours. My portable property was seized. I was not permitted to inform my lawyers or relatives. A conspiracy like Ergenekon or Sledgehammer was put together. I was sent packing from a country where I have property, assets and money. While I was in the air, the flight and seat numbers I was taking were posted on social media. Cyprus has been my homeland since 1965. People take umbrage at people. People don’t take umbrage at land.
They could have poisoned me
– How did things go in prison?
I spent the first two days in a custody suite. The way the staff there treated me was not at all pleasant. There were those who said, ‘If you’d seen sense, they wouldn’t have kicked your head in.’ On the first night, a health functionary said, ‘Have you come to infect us with sexual diseases?’ Homophobia and antisemitism are rampant in jail. Sabancı’s assassin İsmail Akkol and vegan-anarchist Osman Evcan were my cell neighbours. When I first got there, the roof of my courtyard was open. They threw magazines, newspapers, etc. down from there. A bit later the sky was also barred over. We managed to converse through manholes that reeked of sewage. I didn’t see any people at all in the last cell because I was in solitary confinement. People didn’t pass in front of my window in solitary, either. Once, while I was on my way to a meeting with a lawyer, I met Musa Kart. He said, ‘Hello, Barbaros.’ Because I was forbidden to speak, I was only able to gesture affectionately at Musa. I was even deprived of the sight of birds and insects. I didn’t see a mere ant. The only signs of life were two mosquito corpses on my wall and a dry spider’s web in the corner of the ceiling. Only five letters made it to me for the duration of my stay. I refused to eat the prison’s meals. Those who would have lynched me at an international airport could also have easily poisoned me in prison.
I HAVE COME OUT FROM BEHIND BARS
– Did anything happen to upset you in jail?
A father hits his stepson on the head with a stick and throws him into a well and his pregnant wife. This is a snapshot of society. Are we so devoid of love? I was left upset all day long by this kind of news. Reports of child abuse at foundations moved me a lot. I was upset all of a sudden by the Wealth Fund business. As to the ‘Letters to the Inside’ part of your paper, this brought me great laughter.
My wounds are only just healing
Do you fear for your life at the moment?
I underwent a lynching when I was arrested surrounded by seven or eight policemen. When I looked out of the plane and saw the security staff assembled on the tarmac on the right-hand side, I thought something was up. But, it didn’t occur to me that this kind of thing would happen. I underwent a lynching by an international organised crime syndicate. My shoes came off. Just now, my teeth are wobbly. The wounds on my body are only just starting to heal. There was blood in my urine for a week. The TGS, Turkish Airlines and TAV companies will be held to account for this. What upsets me the most is the way that this footage was made public. I am upset, because this footage has been used all over the world to portray Turks as barbarians. The Turkish people have been insulted. In Greek courts, the military men who are saying there is torture in Turkey used the footage of me. I suffered material, physical and non-material injury. I’m bulletproof. I have come out from behind bars. I have stepped out of a cell without seeing the sun or without seeing people however many steps I took, where I was under solitary confinement. Am I likely to be afraid?
- A great many journalists, writers and intellectuals are on remand for having criticised the government. What do you think about this?
A man who was after the scalp of a party chair is at large. The man who said Atatürk does not resemble a Turk is at large. Those who said they would spill reams of blood are at large. The person who knifed pupils at a school canteen is at large. Those who abused children at Quran courses are at large. It is terrifying how certain people are seeing to it that other people are made into targets, that social engineering is practised, that others do their dirty work. This is a period. These days will pass. The most important thing is that the Republic of Turkey is not robbed of its esteem. The law is an empty sack. Whatever you fill it with is what you get back.
Turkey is regressing
– What’s your comment on the referendum?
Turkey is not embarking on regime change. To see where Turkey is headed, look at Azerbaijan. Turkey is regressing. But I don’t believe the referendum will be held. What is all this about abolishing the parliamentary system, blind and lame as it may be?
I HAVE ABANDONED FASHION
I have abandoned fashion. Turkey no longer gets dressed up. It is either stripped bare or shut down. The maturity-bringing institutions have been shut down. It is now five years since tailoring has been closed in the male sections of vocational high schools. Monkey business of some kind is conducted at foundation universities masquerading as fashion design departments. Cotton shroud cloth cannot be found in Turkey just now. People are buried like rubbish in polyester shrouds. Women are grappling with cervical cancer, no cotton underwear available for them to wear. There is no point in sewing a stitch in Turkey any more.