The price of saying “no” to war in Turkey
It was just after midnight. I was watching TV as my sons played nearby. My younger son was playing with Lego as my older son played on his phone. My husband and another friend were also with us. A normal Sunday night. All of a sudden, I heard a terrible noise. At first, I thought it was an earthquake. I then figured out that the sound was coming from the front door. With war as a not so distant memory, I thought perhaps our house was under attack, being bombed and shot at.
I shouted to my children to stay where they were, to not come close. We soon understood that the men on the other side of the door were police, trying to knock down our door. Our door was too strong, and so the walls began to crumble around it. When they couldn’t enter through the front door, they came through the garden and entered our home through the kitchen.
Approximately 20 Police Special Operation officers with Kalashnikovs and other military tools in hand stormed our home. With all guns pointed at me, the head of the squad asked if I was Nurcan Baysal. After I said “yes” he said that they had a warrant to search my home. I asked if they also had a warrant to break down my door. He confirmed that yes; the prosecutors also gave permission to break down my door. I told him that this was against the law and asked for the name of the prosecutor. They did not answer.
Briefly, this is how I was detained. They entered my home; a home they knew had two small children inside.
It was not until the second day of my detention that I learned that I had been detained because of five tweets I had made against “the war in Afrin”. They said:
- What are coming from tanks are not olive branches, they are bombs. When they drop, people are dying. Ahmet is dying, Hasan is dying, Rodi is dying, Mızgin is dying…. Lives are ending…
- To give the name of “olive branch” to war, to death. This is Turkey!
- The leftists, the rightists, the nationalists and the Islamists are all united together in hate against the Kurdish people.
- Where do you think that you are going to conquer? Which religion, which belief supports war and death? (I wrote this tweet after the Turkish religious authority called for ‘conquest’ in a sermon supporting the military)
- (Retweet of another journalist’s photo of a dead kid in Afrin) I wrote, “Those who want war, look at this picture, a child died”.
It is because of these tweets that I was accused of terrorist propaganda, and calling for provocative action. As you can see, these tweets do not contain any terrorist propaganda and I did not, nor am I calling for provocative action or violence. These tweets demonstrate that I am against war and death, and yes, I criticised the policies of the Turkish government.
I grew up with war in the city of Diyarbakır. I really do not know what a normal life looks like. I have spent my last 20 years struggling for peace, democracy, justice and freedom. I have established institutions, civil society organisations for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. Even in the darkest days of 2015, during the bombardment in the heart of the Sur district of Diyarbakır, I was working towards opening a dialogue between the government and the Kurdish movement.
I organised a number of meetings in my office, bringing members of the ruling party, the Kurdish movement and intellectuals together, trying to stop the deaths in the region. As a peace and human rights activist, my life has been spent dealing with forced migration, village guards, victims of mine accidents, poverty, women abducted by Islamic State, disarmament, dealing with dead bodies left in the streets, reporting war crimes and crimes against humanity.
After three days in the anti-terror department, I was released on bail, but I also received a travel ban. In the last week, an additional 311 people have been detained just for saying “no” to war in Afrin. The state is trying to silence the voices against the war. They want all sectors of society, including the media to support their war.
As writers, activists, intellectuals and journalists, our responsibility is not to the state. We are responsible to our people, to humanity, to history, to life, to the Turkish and Kurdish youth who are now dying now, to their mothers.
Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened the public, saying those who attend protests against the war will pay a heavy price.
Yes, President, we are paying a heavy price. But believe me, this price is worth it. Perhaps there can be life and peace in the end. This country deserves life and peace.