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Yasemin Congar
Yasemin Congar

Yasemin Congar studied at Georgetown University. She then worked for different media, including the daily Cumhuriyet in Ankara and as Washington correspondent of daily Milliyet. Currently she is the deputy editor-in chief of the daily Taraf.

Taraf does not belong to one of the big media groups but to the owners of the bookstore chain Alkim.

"I don't remember – certainly not in my lifetime – that there has been a paper that is really truly independent from business interests, from political interests, from the government, from the military and that is also courageous enough to criticize all those centres of power equally."

With its office in Kadikoy it is the only national newspaper with the main office on Istanbul's Asian shore.

Taraf published its first edition on 15 November 2007. It has since become a leading forum for Turkish liberals, including many respected columnists such as Murat Belge, Agos's Editor-in-Chief Etyen Mahcupyan, Amberin Zaman and others. All columnists are known for their harsh stance against military intervention in politics. At the same time Taraf has made its name publishing several explosive documents suggesting, among other things, the direct involvement of the Turkish Armed Forces in activities against the current AKP government. For Congar, the AKP does not pose a danger to democracy:

"As a woman, who doesn't practice Islam and who has been educated in the West, let's say; I'm not afraid at all."

Taraf office

Taraf played a crucial role in the tumultuous public debates in 2008, publishing secret documents and setting the agenda in a way few papers ever had. Only in June Taraf published three stories that shook the country. The first was a document prepared in September 2007 by the General Staff, which set forth a strategy to denigrate critical journalists and authors and warned of the dangers of the AKP government. Second was a report about a secret meeting between the Constitutional Court Deputy President Osman Paksut with General Ilker Basbug on 4 March, which was days before a suit against the AK Party was filed at the court seeking to shut it down. And thirdly Taraf published documents proving that the Armed Forces new 9 days in advance about a PKK attack on soldiers in Daglica in the Hakkari province in October 2007 where 13 soldiers were killed and 8 kidnapped.

Yasemin Congar

This open criticism of the armed forces and leading generals is new in Turkey. In the investigation of the Ergenekon terror organization in early July 2008 for the first time in Turkey's history also former 4-star generals were arrested:

"And now we are trying to cleanse that out off the system and while we are doing it we are realizing that it's not possible to do it if you don't go after the military. I think, it will set up an example to many people in Turkey that being part of such an organisation is a crime and is punishable by law and no one is untouchable."

Taraf started with around 15,000 copies sold daily and has reached a circulation of approximately 33,000 copies daily in September 2008. During the heydays of the Ergenekon investigation the circulation jumped to 80,000 copies daily.

October 2008

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