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‘No journalist is free until we are all free’

Kurdish activists celebrate 122nd Kurdish Journalism Day

KURDISH journalists demanded the release of those held behind bars in Turkish prisons today as they paid tribute to the “honourable journey” made by those continuing to expose the truth despite great risk.

They were marking the 122nd Kurdish Journalism Day which takes place each year on the anniversary of the day the first-ever Kurdish newspaper, the Kurdistan, was published by Miqdad Midhed Bedirxan in Cairo on April 22 1898.

The first edition consisted of only four pages and it ran for 31 issues before closing in April 1902.

Its publication was seen as a turning point in the struggle for Kurdish language rights, but it came under intense pressure and struggled to survive.

Production of the paper was constantly forced to move and issues were published in Geneva, London and Folkestone, Kent, where five editions were made.

Attacks on press freedom have continued ever since.

They intensified following the 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey, following which hundreds of media outlets were closed down by decree under the state of emergency.

Turkey is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, with around 200 behind bars on trumped-up terrorism charges.

Free Press Initiative spokesman Hakki Boltan explained to the Star that it is Kurds who bear the brunt of Turkey’s attacks on journalists.

“Our commitment [as Kurdish journalists] has no limits,” he said. “Because of this principled attitude, dozens of our friends have been killed.”

Despite being jailed and tortured with the threat of being killed, Kurdish journalists continue to produce what the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) described as “the breath of Kurdistan.”

Mr Boltan, who was himself detained earlier this year and faces a court hearing on trumped-up charges, said: “We only have one world. It shrank into a cave. It is the home of us and our comrades. We have to protect it.”

Seda Taskin, who spent more than a year in prison because of her journalistic activities, told the Star that the Kurdish press has achieved “significant successes and innovations.”

“The most important of these achievements has been the legacy of the women’s struggle and the establishment of the women’s press,” she said.

“The road we take is a long, arduous but bright road. Journalists, who continue to write defiantly, despite pressure and arrests, have always existed and will continue to exist.”

Ms Taskin demanded the release of all journalists who are being held as political prisoners.

As she has previously stated: “No journalist is free until we are all free.”

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