Journalists in PrisonPress Freedom

Nedim Türfent’s new year letter: Our faces and hearts are turned towards the sun and light 

Journalist Nedim Türfent, who was detained and arrested in May 2016 after having reported on rights violations in the Yüksekova district of Hakkâri, was sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” in 2017, the sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in October 2019. January 7 marked the day that he has spent 1700 days behind bars. He sent a New Year’s message on that occasion.

We are sharing the letter that Türfent sent through his colleague İdris Yılmaz:

Though not in the reach of my eyes, I am holding my pen next to that deep-blue lake of the monosyllabic city [of Van] whose dark waters are filled with a bottomless injustice. I dared to use the adjective “bottomless” since the injustice, taking shape under the weight of the buttocks of the so-called law of the powerful, does not deserve another name, another description.

It is tragicomic that as I am writing these lines, someone is yet again firing off “reform” salvos – not discourses. Through the testimonies of history’s centuries-long and my five-year imprisonment, we have empirically learned that as they emphasize reform, authoritarian regimes which prolong their life via the semiotic relationship of crisis-creating policies and repression practices, oppress democracy and opposition groups even more. This is proven by each of our experiences.

Before they even complete their sentences that start with reform, one operation after the other is conducted, and the door of the Kurd is introduced to the battering ram at dawn. If she/he has not met with it before, of course! Indeed, since this self-evident reform salvo became a showcase, the country has been turned into a dungeon again.

Remembering may be boring but what is happening, and what is ending, makes it obligatory to remember. I wrote the news “You will see the power of Turks”, but instead of an investigation of the law enforcement personnel, I was sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison. My colleagues Nazan Sala, Şehriban Abi, Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur reported on the allegations of two citizens being thrown out of a helicopter. Although the law enforcement officials should have been investigated, it was the journalists who were arrested in record time.

In another case, our journalist friend Abdurrahman Gök photographed the moment of Kemal Kurkut’s shooting scene by scene. The perpetrator, with the armor of impunity, was acquitted while a lawsuit was filed against our journalist colleague. There are many similar instances. However, let’s contend ourselves with three. Let’s take a good look at that snapshot: This is the Kurdish picture of the state. It’s as easy as ABC to understand this picture through these samples, that when it comes to state practices in Kurdish provinces, impunity has been a monstrosity.

If it would only be impunity, that would be “good” (!), because the journalists who announce these [crimes] to the public, are the ones that are and always have been punished. In some way, perpetrators are strengthened, even voluntarily! With this understanding and approach, besides the beyond-measure rights violations, journalists are atrophied in the pit and cage of injustice.

However, they are very wrong. Because those who walk in the light and footsteps of Apé Musa and Metin Göktepe have never been cowards. They wrote at the risk of all possible costs and punishments. They write and they will write. Let’s say it with the consciousness of pioneers: Those who turn their back, and not their face, to the sun, are doomed to walk in the shade. We turn both our faces and our hearts towards the sun and light.

In this moment when the injustices of the country cut into the night and the dark, our hope is our legacy, our hope is the truth of our struggle and the legitimacy of our fight. Even if some are scared to death, we will bring freedom and democracy to this country. Whether it will be sooner or later will be determined by the solemnity of our ability to stand together. Let’s enter into this and the following years together. Let’s succeed together.