Özgür Ülke: the bombing of a Kurdish newspaper 16 years ago

Two offices of Özgür Ülke (Free Country), a daily independent Kurdish newspaper, was bombed 16 years ago, on December 3, 1994. Member of staff Ersin Yýldýz lost his life in Istanbul Central Office of Özgür Ülke, while the Ankara office was destroyed. A bomb-loaded truck exploded under the building leaving 23 reporters and staff members injured. On top of that 23 other journalists were arrested.

The subsequent investigation, carried out by the Turkish authorities, failed to solve the case. The attack happened just after the then Prime Minister Tansu Çiller openly talked of the need to ‘push Özgür Ülke out of the way’.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned Turkey but no one was ever found guilty or arrested for the attack.

Despite being hardly hit Özgür Ülke never stopped its publication. Thanks to the solidarity of the many, the paper was able to come out the very next day of the attack. The headline read "this fire also burns you.”

Solidarity was expressed by other members of the press, intellectuals and artists. They sold Özgür Ülke on the streets even though a confiscation order was issued by prosecutors.

Özgür Ülke is still being published although with different names like Ülkede Gündem, Demokrasi, Yedinci Gündem, Ülkede Bakýþ, Alternatif and finally Günlük. The price paid to freedom of expression has been heavy, with more than 50 staff members killed.