Women journalists in Turkey are preparing to celebrate the 123rd Kurdish Journalism Day on 22 April.
The Kurdish press has been the voice of not just the Kurds, but different communities in Turkey who are oppressed. Since Mikdad Bedirxan published a newspaper in Arabic entitled “Kurdistan” in Cairo on 22 April (almost 123 years ago), Kurdish Journalism Day has been celebrated on that day by journalists and activists in the Middle East and around the world.
“The Kurdish press report from different areas where the national press prefers not to go, and I have witnessed that the Kurdish media is sensitive to the slightest violations of human rights, which the mass media fails to cover”, said Büşra Taşkıran, a reporter for the Doğru Haber Ankara newspaper.
Taşkıran stated that women are more visible in the Kurdish media compared to other media organs in the country. ”There is a regular crowd of male journalists in the press releases. I have met with a few female friends from the Kurdish media. This is really important. It is important to break that taboo. It is very nice and valuable for women to show that they can do all kinds of work in this field”, Taşkıran said. “Women are also becoming more visible, and this is also something we owe to the Kurdish media. There is no female cameraperson in any other media”.
Burcu Yıldırım, a reporter for Yeni1Mecra Ankara newspaper observes that all journalists in Turkey are experiencing a hard time with serious restrictions on freedom of the media and expression, but reporting from the Kurdish majority cities in Turkey, mainly by the Kurdish journalists, is even harder.
”We are faced with many difficulties in following the news in Ankara, yet working conditions here are easier than our colleagues working in the provinces of the region”, Yıldırım said. “We learn from our Kurdish journalist friends who write without fear despite the pressures they face. We always listen to the voices of women, children and disadvantaged groups from the friends working in the [Kurdish] region. This effort is not only very valuable for people of the region, but also for Turkey’s democratisation”.
Yıldırım points to the detention of Mesopotamia Agency and Jin News reporters due to their reports on the torture of two Kurdish villagers who were thrown from a military helicopter. ”The incident was subject to an attempted cover-up, it was as if it were normal to be thrown out of helicopters. At this point, it is necessary to appreciate the efforts and ongoing struggles of Kurdish journalist friends”, Yıldırım said.
Nurcan Bilge Gökdemir, the Ankara correspondent of the daily BirGün newspaper, described Kurdish journalists as “real journalists. Women journalists in the Kurdish media in particular have made a great contribution to the media: they add great awareness to this profession with their enthusiasm, but most importantly, with their courage”.
“We are under heavy pressure: detentions, economic penalties and censorship as journalists in Turkey”, Gökdemir added. “But the experience of the Kurdish press is the summary of all possible violations of rights the journalists suffer from”.
“It is very important to have a newspaper that speaks about peace in an environment where there is often war-mongering in the mainstream”, said Derya Okatan, an Artı TV reporter. Okatan described the presence of the Kurdish press as vitally important in terms of “peace journalism” in Turkey.
”There is intense pressure against Kurdish journalists. Many Kurdish journalists are in prison today. Every colleague in prison is very important to us”, Okatan said.
As a woman journalist, she observes the lack of women in the top management positions in the media organs in Turkey. ”The absence of women in management positions is reflected in the language of the press. The presence of women journalists actually can guarantee against sexism in the media”, Okatan added. “However, we are still fighting against sexist language in the media. The presence of women in the Kurdish press contributes to this struggle”.