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Turkish NGO head feared death after spat over ‘anti-Kurdish’ remarks

The head of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD) has expressed a feeling that she could be killed after being insulted and threatened for speaking out against “anti-Kurdish” remarks by a journalist on a TV program, Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Monday.

Eren Keskin told Bircan Degirmenci from Gazete Duvar that journalist Nedim Sener’s comments on Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria during a TV program on October 12 “mechanical and disturbing anti-Kurdish remarks that ignore the value of human life.”

Ankara launched the military offensive with a declared objective to carve out a “safe zone” along its border with Syria by fighting the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it sees as a terrorist organization due to their links to Kurdish separatists in Turkey.

“He was saying over and over that we should have cleared the area [from Syrian Kurdish militants] sooner. We watch such debate shows as IHD because we have a commission against racism and discrimination,” Keskin said.

Soon after those comments of Sener, Keskin reportedly tweeted: “Nedim Sener, you are such an enemy against the Kurds.”

“A few minutes after my tweet, he called my name on-air and started insulting me, saying that I was a vile enemy of the Turks and a [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK supporter,” she explained.

The PKK is a group of armed Kurdish militants who have waged a separatist insurgency in Turkey. The organization is designated as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government.

“Eren Keskin, you are such a vile abettor of the PKK, which also slaughters the Kurds,” Sener replied in a tweet soon afterward.

Keskin further told Gazete Duvar that she then thought of Tahir Elci, a prominent Kurdish lawyer and human rights activist who was shot dead in 2015, during a press conference in Turkey’s southeast, where he had urged for an end of violence between the Turkish government and the PKK.

“I had a feeling that I’m going to be killed, it was a strange feeling. … I was facing [potential] threats from millions of people. I could not sleep that night,” Keskin elaborated.

She filed a criminal complaint against Sener the next day, to which the journalist reacted in a tweet: “I’m very pleased, I cannot wait to say the same once more, to your face.”

A week after the incident, the house of the IHD head’s mother was raided by counterterrorism police.

“I’m a lawyer who is at the courthouse nearly every day. They could call and ask me to come and give a statement. What is the reason for them to raid a house around 9.30 pm?” Keskin questioned.

Although she was released after giving her statement to a prosecutor in the aftermath of the raid, Keskin said that she cannot feel happy about it given the state of things in the country.

“We don’t have to think like the government. I think that not obeying [to the government] creates a personal comfort. … Refusing to obey gives strength to a person. I think what protects us the most is courage. The more you fear them, the more they come upon you,” Keskin outlined.

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