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Belgian-Turkish journalist: ‘I am so much more than my Turkish passport’

Belgian-Turkish journalist: 'I am so much more than my Turkish passport'

Over the previous years, features resembling press freedom and freedom of speech have deteriorated in Turkey. As a consequence of all that has occurred in Turkey and her relationship to Belgium, Aylin Koksal, a 23-year-old Belgian Turkish journalist determined to surrender her second nationality.

By the top of final yr, over 100 journalists and different media staff have been imprisoned in Turkey after the failed coup in 2016. Many have been arrested, held for a very long time in awaiting for his or her trial or have been ultimately prosecuted. A current instance is the arrest of Zeynep Kuray, simply two weeks in the past, who’s being detained over a Fb publish by which she expressed herself essential approach in the direction of Turkey. Though that is a person case, many situations are associated to greater occasions that set off mass arrests.

One of many occasions that sparked mayor protests and backlash to president Erdogan, even earlier than the coup befell, was the plan to demolish the Taksim Gezi park in Istanbul again in Might 2013. When the plans to chop down the parks timber and destroy every thing round it have been introduced by authorities, activists, together with each right- and left wing people, organised a sit-in protest within the park itself, making an attempt to stop the federal government from taking motion. This ultimately result in a brutal eviction of the park and its environment which have been adopted by violent counter protests. Subsequently, inflicting more sub-protests and strikes all throughout Turkey expressing the priority about freedom of speech, press and meeting.

Out of Turkey’s inhabitants of 80 million, an estimated three and a half million individuals have actively taken half in 5.000 demonstrations everywhere in the nation, which have been indirectly related to the unique Gezi protests. Because of these occasions, 11 individuals have been killed and over eight.000 injured, of whom many have been left in crucial situation.

Protests on the 2013 Gezi park. Reskaros (CC BY-NC-ND

Aylin Koksal grew up in Brussels after which moved to Borgloon, which is near Hasselt, Belgium. Aylin has Turkish roots. Her grandparents got here to Belgium across the 1950s to work within the coal mines. Aylin’s story is that of a robust and motivated younger lady, who stands up for what she believes in and who solely disagrees with the course Turkey is heading to at this time. Although she describes Turkey as her second house, she says ‘I am so opposed to what is happening in this beautiful country that I want to take distance from my Turkish passport. It is a lot of paperwork and I am still working hard on it. However, Turkey could very likely refuse my application to give up my Turkish nationality. But it is worth a try.’

There have been individuals singing and defending the timber on the one aspect, and on the opposite aspect there was Erdogan, going utterly loopy.

Aylin: ‘I grew up watching both, Belgian and Turkish television. My parents were very liberal and progressive, yet, Turkish television always gave me strong negative feelings about Kurdish people and the PKK. I was literally thinking what everyone was saying.’ The turning level for Aylin have been the Gezi park protests in 2013: ‘I still remember waking up that day. While sitting in front of the television, I started crying because I couldn’t perceive how this might occur to Turkey. There have been individuals singing and defending the timber on the one aspect, and on the opposite aspect there was Erdogan, going utterly loopy.’’

After Gezi park 2013
After the Gezi park incident, Aylin began questioning the Turkish regime. She realized that Turkey is a rustic with many flaws and commenced to know the critics of Erdogan. ‘I used to be having an enormous id disaster. Earlier than 2013, I used to be all the time very pleased with the place I got here from as a result of Turkey is a rustic that has so much to supply. It’s a very numerous nation, very lovely, with nice meals. It was a perfect getaway for me as a child. I felt very Belgian, however my roots have been robust and that was a fantastic feeling. After 2013, I used to be ashamed. I assumed that none will assume I am fairly now or will need to exit with me as a result of I am Turkish. This disaster nonetheless has a huge impact on me these days.

Perhaps 2013 was a few park with timber, however in the long run, it was actually about freedom of speech, free media, the suitable to protest.

The protests didn’t solely spark an id disaster for Aylin, however additionally they began her striving to grow to be a journalist. ‘I became more critical about the importance of journalism, politics, the rights of minorities, etc. I realized that I shouldn’t be pleased with a rustic the place minorities are always bashed. As a result of perhaps 2013 was a few park with timber, however in the long run, it was actually about freedom of speech, free media, the suitable to protest.’

When Aylin began learning journalism, the state of affairs in Turkey received actually dangerous. Many Turkish top-quality journalists have been imprisoned. ‘They are all in jail,’ says Aylin. ‘And I don’t assume they deserve it. It’s an injustice. That’s once I determined that I needed to speak and write about it.’ Therefore, after graduating in 2017, Aylin began to work for Knack, which is a weekly journal masking native information, politics, sports activities, and others.

Not a black and white state of affairs
Nevertheless, Aylin needs to make one factor very clear: ‘It is very important to write that this is not a black and white story. I am not okay with anything Erdogan does. But since terrorist attacks have increased and Muslim hate has taken over in the Western world, since politics have started to use that issue, since more conservative parties – which are extremely anti-Muslim or anti-Turkish –  are rising, the lives of Turkish communities have become more difficult. The fact that there is so much negative stuff about them makes them feel left out and turn to a strong leader that gives them back their feeling of pride.’

Aylin, as many others, could be very involved about the way forward for Turkey. ‘Should you put all Muslims in a single bag and attempt to bash them, they may by no means speak once more, they may shut up. Lots of people comprehend it has occurred prior to now, like, for instance, with the Jewish group. We will see the polarization however we should always attempt to flip the wheel round and take into consideration the longer term and the previous. And I am speaking about genocides. I do know, this seems like an exaggeration, however it may possibly occur if we proceed to foster such an “us versus them” mind-set. Media and politics have a really massive affect on these developments.’

Intervention to Might Day occasion in Gezi Park, 12 detained. Sasha Maksymenko (CC BY

Rising hatred from Belgians
As a journalist, Aylin tries to stability out the tales which might be informed about Turkey and Turkish individuals. She tries to point out each side. ‘Turkey is fucked up. I have interviewed people such as Doğan Özgüden, a Turkish journalist that has been banned from Turkey in the 70s and hasn’t seen his nation since. On the similar time, there’s a rising anger from Belgian individuals in the direction of Turkish. I attempt to present that they don’t seem to be all Muslims. They don’t seem to be all pro-Erdogan. In any case, we’re speaking about 35 – 40 million individuals who have voted towards Erdogan. 35 – 40 million, however we nonetheless put all of them in the identical bag.’

‘I feel it as a journalist as well,’ continues Aylin. ‘They’re all the time making an attempt to place me in a field as a result of I look Turkish. They ask me “do you eat pigs meat? Do you drink alcohol?”. However these are all stereotypes. If I used to be white, they might have seen me in another way, they might have seen the skills that I’ve personally. Now, I am simply the Turkish journalist that all the time talks concerning the Turks. However I am so much more than that.’ That is what Aylin is making an attempt to do as a journalist.

I attempt to present Belgium that the individuals I interview are people. They’re more than their ethnicity. They’ve very numerous pursuits, hobbies, concepts.

Aylin’s household could be very divided regarding their view of the Turkish president. When election time got here, her aunt, who resides in Belgium, went to Brussels to vote for Erdogan. Later, she went to Turkey and voted a second time, once more in favor of the president. Aylin: ‘As if this wasn’t silly sufficient, she additionally posted this on fb. Lots of people turned very indignant as a result of Turkey is in a nasty state of affairs, not solely regarding freedom, but in addition economically. However she, who was dwelling in Belgium, claimed the correct to vote. Twice.’

Widespread help for Erdogan
The truth that there’s such a widespread help for Erdogan in Belgium explains Aylin when it comes to failed integration and that Erdogan is perceived as a robust chief amongst Turkish individuals. ‘It is a huge issue in Europe. The first and second Turkish generations here are not even a little bit integrated. Turkey already had a lot of problems until Erdogan came. He did a lot for the people like building roads and bridges and making sure people, also those living in smaller towns which had been ignored before, had a better quality of life. He basically blinded them. By opposing himself to the Western leaders, Erdogan gave Turkish people a sense of identity and pride. And Turkish people are very proud people.’

We don’t know something concerning the Belgian prime minister. However we all know which socks Erdogan is sporting.

Aylin: ‘We, as a third generation of Turkish immigrants, should be completely integrated. However, this is not the case. When the Turkish generations came to Belgium, they lived in a bubble. We are privileged here in Belgium, that’s a reality. But, we don’t know something concerning the Belgian prime minister. However we all know which socks Erdogan is sporting.’

However the story of Erdogan’s supporters has two sides. Aylin: ‘European countries also made a big mistake because back then. They didn’t work sufficient on together with Turkish immigrants into society. What is occurring now’s a results of fixed neglection. And since proper wing events began to talk out, the state of affairs has turn into even worse. They make it appear as if being racist is a traditional factor. In fact, everybody ought to be capable of criticise, that’s what media and freedom of press is about, however that is about Belgian politics bashing Muslims each fucking day. Not everyone seems to be considering critically, that’s why journalism, and I imply good journalism, not fox information, is so essential. To criticise so long as it’s respectful and balanced.’

When Aylin speaks about her nation, she refers to Belgium. ‘You should move on, integrate. I am Belgian. But that’s okay as a result of everybody has overseas ancestors. Everybody principally is an immigrant.’ Aylin has various hobbies. She studied dramatic arts till she was 18, she danced, she likes to sing, learn, go to live shows, play the piano and do sports activities. She is inquisitive about ladies’s rights, particularly in writing about robust ladies, she speaks six languages and is into images and films. But, Aylin continuously has to show all this stuff to others. ‘Once people get to know me, it’s nice, however I continually have to interrupt by way of obstacles. When individuals confer with “those Turks”, I say “but I am Turkish as well” they usually reply “yes, but you are a good one”. I need to clarify that’s as a result of you understand me, however you can’t generalize like that. This isn’t the way it works, you’ll be able to’t say that. It’s fucking 2018.’

Aylin used to go to Turkey each summer time for one or two months. This has modified now due to her important publications concerning the state of affairs. ‘If I go, they might imprison me. Especially because I still have my Turkish identity card.’ Whereas speaking to Aylin, you’ll be able to actually really feel her ardour about this matter. But, she was all the time cautious to not generalize or to discriminate anybody, which is why she highlights that ‘I am summarizing everything here. The situation is of course much more complex.’

Textual content: Sanne Moonemans and Alena Bieling, footage ©Emiel Chung, Sasha Maksymenko (CC BY and reskaros (CC BY-NC-ND