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Turkey Arrests Journalist, 50 Others

Revelers gather to take part in the Kurdish celebration of Nowruz, the New Year of the Persian calendar, in Istanbul, Turkey, March 17, 2024. Some 50 people, including an AFP journalist, were detained on the sidelines of the event. Copyright: @AFP

ISTANBUL — Around 50 people including an AFP journalist were detained by police Sunday in Istanbul on the sidelines of the Kurdish New Year celebrations, witnesses said.

AFP video journalist Eylul Yasar was preparing to film the celebrations of the Kurdish New Year when she was arrested at a checkpoint, journalists and lawyers at the scene reported.

She was released after being handcuffed and held by police for more than six hours, along with another 14 people locked up in the same van.

Yasar said she had been arrested and taken away in a police van after objecting to an "intrusive" and "brutal" body search.

She and the others being held in her van were insulted by police, she said, who called them "pig droppings, terrorists, traitors."

Two journalists from the Bianet news site who were filming the arrests said they were beaten and thrown to the ground by police.

A statement from Agence France-Presse said: "AFP deplores the detention of our journalist Eylul Yasar who was just doing her job.

"While it welcomes her release, AFP calls on the Turkish authorities to respect the rights of journalists and to treat them with respect."

Erol Onderoglu, correspondent with media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in Turkey, denounced Yasar's "arbitrary arrest, which prevented her from doing her job."

He had earlier said that around 50 people who came to attend the celebrations, which normally include traditional dances and a large bonfire, were also arrested at the site.

An AFP photographer said the bonfire had been canceled.

Many Kurds, who make up about a fifth of Turkey's estimated 85 million people, say they face significant discrimination in the country.

The former leading figure of the main pro-Kurdish party, Selahattin Demirtas, was imprisoned in 2016 for "terrorist propaganda," while more than a hundred mayors of Kurdish localities saw elections canceled in the last municipal vote in 2019.

Turkey has repeatedly insisted that it does not discriminate against Kurds as a minority but rather opposes the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an organization banned by Ankara and its Western allies as a terrorist organization.

According to the RSF, Turkey last year ranked in 164th place out of 180 countries on its index of press freedom.

That marks a drop of 16 places from 2022.

@2024 VOA


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