Journalist Celal Başlangıç laid to rest in Cologne

Journalist Celal Başlangıç was laid to rest in Cologne. Many people from his family and circle of friends, from the media, politics and civil society bid him farewell for the last time.


Journalist and author Celal Başlangıç was laid to rest in Cologne on Friday. Around 200 people from his family and circle of friends, the media, politics and civil society gathered at the North Cemetery in the morning to bid Başlangıç a final farewell. Among the mourners were journalists Banu Güven, Can Dündar and Hasan Cemal.

The speeches honoured Başlangıç as a "democrat and fearless journalist" who never flattered the powerful, stood up for the oppressed and brought unpleasant truths to light. There were also many anecdotes about him. As a long-time employee of the secular newspaper "Cumhuriyet", for which he often reported from the country's Kurdish provinces, Başlangıç caused a sensation in 1989 when the paper published the torture scandal of Cizre, Şırnak on the front page under his pressure; several residents had been forced by Turkish soldiers to eat their excrement. Başlangıç was a style-defining figure for several generations of critical media professionals. He died on 3 May at the age of 68 as a result of cancer at Cologne University Hospital.

Başlangıç was born in Istanbul and studied in Izmir. He worked at Cumhuriyet from 1981 to 1994 and held various positions: bureau chief for the Çukurova region, head of the domestic policy department and editor-in-chief, which suffered numerous attempts at state control and repression, particularly under Can Dündar's editorship from 2015 onwards. In 1995, Başlangıç was one of the co-founders of the newspaper "Evrensel" and a year later he helped to set up the newspaper "Radikal". He wrote columns for T24, Gazete Duvar, Bianet and Haberdar and was the author of several books, including "Kanlı Bilmece" (Bloody Riddle) about the war in Kurdistan. In the mid-2010s, he regularly travelled to the Kurdish provinces. "It's about solidarity with the people," he said. It was the time of the curfews and military siege that followed the proclamation of self-government, which was a democratic alternative to the totalitarian "presidential system" proposed by the AKP.

Başlangıç has lived in Cologne since 2016 after leaving Turkey due to legal persecution by the Erdoğan regime. There, he set up the exile broadcaster Artı TV and the web newspaper Artı Gerçek and became head of the newsroom. In 2019, a court in Turkey sentenced him in absentia to fifteen months in prison on charges of "terror propaganda". As a "symbolic editor-in-chief", Başlangıç had shown solidarity with the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper "Özgür Gündem" as part of the "journalism on duty" campaign, which was banned by emergency decree in October 2016, shortly after the alleged pseudo-coup in July. In 2021, it became known that Celal Başlangıç's name was on an "execution list" of more than fifty opponents of Erdoğan.