Since a shopkeeper recently said, “This is Kurdistan” to the opposition Good Party leader Meral Akşenir during her visit to Siirt, the topic has become a heated debate in Turkish politics, and penalties are being meted out to those who share the word “Kurdistan” on social media.
Hifzullah Kutum, a research assistant in the Department of Finance in the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences at Fırat University, in the eastern province of Elazığ (Elaziz), was formally arrested by the court for writing “Long Live Kurdistan” on his Twitter account.
— Hifzullah Kutum (@hifzullah_kutum) September 14, 2021
On the 14th of September Kutum wrote on his social media account “Şoreşa Îlonê hemû Kurdan pîroz be, Bijî Kurdistan” (Happy September Revolution to all Kurds. Long live Kurdistan). The dean’s office at the university launched an inquiry into Kutum and he was suspended by the university.
“I was suspended because of political concerns, not for legal reasons,” wrote Kutum on his Twitter.
But he was subjected to endless threats and an investigation was launched against him. On 5 November he was detained by the police.
Kutum was sent from the police station to Elazığ Public Prosecutor’s Office, and referred from there to Elazığ 2nd Peace Court of Criminal Jurisdiction with a request for formal arrest. He was remanded in custody by the court for ‘spreading [terrorist] organisation propaganda,’ MA reports.
Reacting to the arrest, Kutum’s lawyer Mehdi Özdemir said that the word “Kurdistan”, used by his client, is within the scope of freedom of thought and expression.
“The word ‘Kurdistan’ is both a geographical term and a historical and socio-political concept. The investigation and subsequent arrest for using the word Kurdistan are unlawful. Recently, there has been increasing polarisation in Turkey around the concept of Kurdistan. The oppressive political atmosphere, divisive language and discriminatory treatment in society against the Kurdish identity and the concept of Kurdistan are increasing. It is unlawful to arrest my client for statements that have no legal legitimacy and do not constitute a crime.” he stated.
Hifzullah Kutum’s arrest created public outrage on social media as many people protested the arrest by sharing the word ‘Kurdistan’ on Twitter.
Mehmet Emin Aktar, former President of the Diyarbakir (Amed) Bar Association said, “Can someone be arrested for a tweet? They shouldn’t be. But if you write ‘Kurdistan’, you’ll be arrested. Hifzullah Kutum, an academic at Fırat University, was arrested for a tweet. There’s only one thing to say: ‘Kurdistan’, again and again.”
Emma Sinclair-Webb, Associate Director of Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia, also criticised the arrest of Kutum and wrote that he should be released immediately.
Academic in eastern city of Elazığ has been placed in pretrial detention for tweeting in Kurdish “long live Kurdistan”. Detention followed death threats & the university rector removing him from his position. @hifzullah_kutum should be freed & reinstated immediately https://t.co/PBX0DZ0ANN
— Emma Sinclair-Webb (@esinclairwebb) November 7, 2021