Turkish intellectual Kavala, unlikely sworn enemy of Erodgan

Osman Kavala, sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Monday, rose from relative obscurity to become a symbol of intolerance of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s dissent following the failed coup of 2016.

Bearded, tender-voiced and emaciated, the fate of the 64-year-old intellectual changed the moment he landed in Istanbul from a trip to a German institute in southeastern Turkey in October 2017, then that he was arrested after being accused of financing a plot to overthrow the authorities.

At the time, Turkey changed the way of locking up dozens of piles of human beings whom Erdogan linked to an all-Muslim preacher based in the United States, an ally turned sworn opponent whom he accused of orchestrated the failed putsch.

Kavala, born in Paris and educated in Britain, quietly ran a cultural center involved in projects to promote democracy and restore confidence between Turkey and its nemesis Armenia.

The fact that he too was swept away in the mass arrests stunned his supporters, underscoring the seemingly indiscriminate nature of Erdogan’s revenge for the coup attempt.

“The case against Kavala is so absurd, and the international calls for his freedom are so strong, that one day he will be freed,” said Tom de Waal, a Carnegie Europe senior fellow who has sent books to Kavala that he could read in prison. , wrote days before the sentence.

“Hopefully sooner, and not later.

– ‘Stubborn leftist’-

Born in Paris in 1957, Kavala graduated from the University of Manchester after studying economics.

He took over his father’s tobacco business after his death in 1982, but spoke little in public about his work.

Instead, he seemed to spend most of his time focusing on social projects, traveling the world and winning awards for his work preserving Turkey’s cultural heritage.

His friends consider him a builder of bridges between communities in a country often fiercely divided, a humble but stubborn man, polite but direct, authoritarian but never condescending.

“I would describe him more as a colleague than a boss. Osman Bey never supported us,” Asena Gunal, director general of Anatolian culture, told AFP, using an honorary title to show her respect.

“He never boasted about his wealth but has a humble personality that feels embarrassed by everything he owns,” Gunal told the Depo arts center in Istanbul’s upscale Tophane neighborhood, a former tobacco depot. which Kavala inherited and restored.

Umit Kivanc, an author whose friendship with Kavala dates back more than 40 years, has brushed off cartoons in state media depicting him as a wealthy bourgeois.

“Rich, bourgeois, businessman? No, Osman is a stubborn leftist,” Kivanc said.

Convinced of Kavala’s innocence, human rights advocates are nonetheless struggling to understand why Erdogan has made him his private sworn enemy, after calling him an agent of Hungarian-born American billionaire George Soros.

“He is the last character to help any coup attempt and it is truly appalling to see him focused as he has been and pawned in some incomprehensible political recreations,” said Emma Sinclair -Webb of Human Rights Watch.

Comments are closed.