A picture I tweeted of a group of Kurdish youths at the Kobani border crossing, holding PKK and Öcalan flags. The front page of my Facebook account. A photo I took of Salih Muslim when I met him last month at a conference in Brussels, where we both spoke. Parts of columns I wrote for Diken.com.tr. Any fifteen-year-old could have compiled the file that the anti-terrorism squad made about me in half an hour: just print out some random stuff I wrote, tweeted and put on FB, staple it together, ready.
It was an overwhelming experience to find an anti-terrorism team (TEM) of 8 or 9 people banging on my door, searching my house and detaining me for several hours. I was totally flabbergasted and later very fucked up and angry. The house search and detention are an obvious attack on press freedom, and can’t be condemned too strongly.
However overwhelming it was, the experience doesn’t unbalance me. I carry out my work consciously and meticulously and I know I live up to journalistic standards. As long as I can look in the mirror and not feel ashamed of myself, I am fine. This trust in myself cannot be broken by an anti terrorism squad.
And I cannot change the way I work. Some friends have recommended that I do so. One said: ‘Maybe, you know, write a bit more carefully?’ and another advised: ‘Don’t be too blunt in your tweets from now on’.
Sorry, I wouldn’t consider it for one second. How could I change my work in order to protect myself from a decision of the prosecutor and visits from the anti-terrorism squad? Which tweet would they consider acceptable, which one not? The picture that I tweeted of the PKK youths with the flags ended up in my file, but would a tweet of a picture of an Öcalan flag at a HDP congress too? We cannot be sure, just as Kurds can’t be sure when a PKK flag is tolerated by the state or when it is reason to teargas them. It’s random, and that is exactly the problem with the ways the excessively broad terrorism laws of this country are used, and of which I too have now become a victim. How can I adjust myself to randomness?
The only adjustment I could make is to quit journalism altogether. That’s not an option for me. I love journalism, it’s my life, it’s who I am. I constantly think about how I carry out my profession. I am explicit and opinionated when I write columns, but in my other reporting I stick to facts, I write in a balanced and fair way.
Some people think a journalist shouldn’t express opinions the way I do and even consider me not a journalist because of it. I couldn’t disagree more. I know my subject, I am the only foreign journalist who looks at the Kurdish issue from the Diyarbakir perspective, so who else would be better equipped than me to share opinions about this matter? I love column writing, and stopping it didn’t cross my mind for one second.
No, I am not scared. The state cannot shut me up, not even if they prosecute me, throw me in jail or throw me out of the country. I feel strong and decisive about that. Also, I feel lucky. That may sound weird, but I really do. The Dutch foreign minister immediately stood up for me, and I have my home country to return to if I feel the need to do so. Turkish and Kurdish journalists don’t have that luxury, they have no choice but to live in their country, which is not supporting their rights but violating them by getting them fired, prosecuting them and locking them up. I hope my case, which is drawing so much international attention now, will help draw attention to their cases, which are way more important than mine.