Turkey must end harassment of Kurdish journalist, PEN says

Turkey must end its ongoing harassment of the Kurdish journalist Nurcan Baysal, the writers’ association English PEN said. 

Baysal, a columnist for Ahval and a former writer-in-residence with English PEN, has been accused of “inciting hatred and enmity among the public” by the Turkish authorities after two separate investigations were launched against her within three weeks.  

“We urge the Turkish authorities to put an end to the ongoing harassment of Nurcan Baysal and to ensure that she and other writers and human rights defenders are able to express themselves freely without the constant threat of investigations and imprisonment,” the statement by English PEN said.  

On March 30, Baysal was summoned to the police station in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır regarding comments she had made criticising the Turkish government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Kurdish-majority cities.

On April 20, Baysal was again summoned to the police station in Diyarbakır, which she attended with a lawyer. She was told that a new investigation had been opened regarding two messages she had posted on Twitter. 

The first message, tweeted in February 2018 and pinned to her Twitter profile, reads: “We started rebuilding our demolished house in Sur. Come on, shake off pessimism and despair! Send a card to the ones in prison, show solidarity with their families left behind, Sur, Cizre, Şırnak … be with the ones whose houses are destroyed. Look at the sky, the stars are still there.”

The second tweet, from October 2019 was in response to a post regarding the Turkish military offensive in Syria.  

PEN said that, in addition to this judicial harassment, Baysal and her family had also been subject to other forms of intimidation. In October 2019, while Baysal was in Britain for her residency with English PEN, armed police raided her home in the early hours of the morning, leaving her two sons terrified. Baysal was also detained in 2018 and 2019.

“I am from (Diyarbakır), I’m writing about the human rights violations from here. I think this is the problem,” Baysal said in a podcast with Ahval. “And because I speak loudly. They want me to shut up.”

Baysal’s article on the coronavirus pandemic in her hometown Diyarbakır, the biggest predominantly Kurdish province in Turkey, included testimony from a prisoner’s wife, in which she said the overcrowded prisons lacked basic sanitation measures such as soap or hot water.

Baysal, the author of four books, worked for many years on poverty, development and migration in Kurdish areas for the United Nations Development Programme, and she is active in a number of peace initiatives. She is a member of English PEN and PEN Turkey, and is an advisor to a number of non-profit organisations. 

In 2017, Baysal was awarded the “Brave Women Journalists Award” presented by the Italian Women Journalists Association and in 2018, she was named Global Laureate for Human Rights Defenders at Risk by the organisation Front Line Defenders. 


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