Kurdish journalist from Turkey given ‘Human Rights Defenders at Risk’ award in Dublin

Irish human rights organization Front Line Defenders has named Turkey’s Kurdish journalist Nurcan Baysal its Global Laureate for Human Rights Defenders at Risk for 2018, the Ahval news website reported.

UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore presented Baysal with the award during a ceremony at Dublin’s City Hall on Friday.

Baysal has been documenting the human cost of the return to conflict in Turkey’s Southeast and has endured threats, intimidation, violent raids on her home and detention, but still has not stopped writing, said Ahval.

“The human rights defenders we’re honoring today work in some of the most dangerous areas of the world, sacrificing their own security to peacefully demand justice and human rights for their communities,” Andrew Anderson, executive director of Front Line Defenders, said at the awards ceremony.

In addition to her writing Baysal has been involved in the founding of several NGOs, set up a camp for Yazidi women who have escaped the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and has been a strong voice for peace in the region.

“As governments and corporations work to delegitimize and defame human rights defenders’ peaceful work, activists around the world tell us that international visibility and recognition is a critical protection tool,” Anderson said.

“The award demonstrates that these defenders have the support of the international community, that their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed and that we stand in solidarity with their unrelenting bravery.”

Journalist Baysal gave a speech after accepting the award, arguing that the international community did very little to help the Kurdish people, who have been confronted with violence.

“Today in Turkey, academics, students, journalists, teachers, doctors, even wedding singers, who criticize government policies, who demand peace and human rights, can easily be declared terrorists. We are being killed, put in prison and forced to leave the country. Demanding peace is seen as a crime of terrorism in Turkey. People like me who demand peace and human rights are declared terrorists. Do I look like a terrorist?” Baysal said.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday. If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 253 journalists and media workers were in jail as of May 11, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 192 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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