Journalist Celal Başlangıç passes away

Turkish journalist and author Celal Başlangıç died at the age of 68 as a result of cancer on Friday night.


Turkish journalist and author Celal Başlangıç died on Friday night at the age of 68 as a result of cancer at Cologne University Hospital, his relatives confirmed.

Celal Başlangıç completed his journalism studies in Izmir at the end of the 1970s. He started his career in 1975 at the newspaper Ege Ekspres. After working for other local newspapers, he moved to the daily Cumhuriyet and was responsible for the Adana bureau and the domestic politics section in the years following the military coup of 12 September 1980.

In 1989, Başlangıç caused a sensation when he revealed that several inhabitants of a village near the Cizre district of Şırnak had been forced by Turkish soldiers to eat their faeces. When Cumhuriyet refused to run the story for fear of state revenge, Başlangıç threatened to quit. The newspaper then published the Cizre torture case on its front page. His insistence that the public learn about the reality of the war in Kurdistan paved the way for those responsible to be punished. Years later, he wrote the following in a text published by Bianet: "This was certainly not the first incident in which Kurdish villagers were forced by security forces to eat faeces. But it was the first time that those responsible were punished for their actions - even if this happened at the end of a lengthy process. Even though the national and international courts had no doubts about the accuracy of our reporting, it could never be ignored in the corridors of the General Staff that I was considered a 'traitor'."

In 1995, Celal Başlangıç was one of the co-founders of the Evrensel newspaper and a year later he co-founded the Radikal newspaper. 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.

In 2019, Başlangıç was sentenced to fifteen months in prison on the charge of "terror propaganda" because he showed solidarity with the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, which had been banned by emergency decree in October 2016, as a "symbolic editor-in-chief" action as part of the "standby journalism" campaign. At the time, the journalist was living in Cologne. Since 2017, he had been setting up the exile broadcaster Artı TV and the web newspaper Artı Gerçek, which he had already worked for in Turkey. In 2021, it became known that Celal Başlangıç's name was on an "execution list" of more than fifty opponents of Erdoğan.