Journalist-author and human rights defender Nurcan Baysal has been arrested and under investigation; and her house was raided many times. As a consequence of publishing her temoignage of the military operations in Cizre, dating 2016, she was sentenced to a 10-month prison term in 2018. Her sentence was adjourned with her conditional release for 5 years.
Nurcan Baysal was born in 1975 in Diyarbakır; she is a graduate of Ankara University Political Science Department. She received her masters’ degree on International Relations from Bilkent University and worked as an instructor there.
Between the years 1997-2007, she worked as a project coordinator for the GAP Entrepreneur Support Centers Project (GIDEM) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). She is among the founding members of the Development Center Association (Kalkınma Derneği Merkezi) in Diyarbakır, founded in 2004; and was the president of the board of directors. She mainly focused on forced migration and rural development. She is also among the founding members of the Women’s Labor and Employment Initiative Platform (KEIG) and Diyarbakır Political and Social Research Institute (DISA). Baysal is also a member of the Platform to Save Women Kidnapped by ISIS, founded in Diyarbakır in 2015, to rescue and stand in solidarity with the women kidnapped by the ISIS.
Her published pieces on national and international media outlets focus on Kurds, development and poverty. She is also the author of “O Gün“(That Day), “O Sesler” (Those Voices), “Kürdistan’da Sivil Toplum” (Civil Society in Kurdistan, co-authored with Şeyhmus Diken), and “Ezidiler: 73. Ferman“(Ezidis: 73rd Verdict).
In 2016, Nurcan Baysal took part in Özgür Gündem (newspaper) “Chief Editor on Duty Campaign”, which resulted in an investigation on the allegation that she was making “propaganda for a terrorist organization”. This investigation was dropped for the lack of grounds for legal action.
Following the operations in Cizre, Baysal penned an article on the state of the houses used by the special forces of the police. The lawsuit concerning this article ended up sentencing her to a one-year prison term on February 20, 2018 for “publicly degrading the security organizations”. The decision was first reduced to 10 months on the basis of good standing of the defendant, along with her case history and social relations. Then, it was adjourned for 5 years under supervision on the basis that she has no previous criminal record.
The title of her op-ed concrerning her temoignage in Cizre in 2016 was “Cizre’deki evlerin içinden: ‘Kızlar biz geldik siz yoktunuz’ yazıları, yerlerde sergilenen kadın çamaşırları!” (“From inside of the houses in Cizre: ‘Girls, we came here when you were not [here]’ graffiti and the underwear on display!”. Access to this op-ed was barred by the Ankara 6th Criminal Court of Peace Judge Ali Ramazan Bilgisiçok.
In her defense, Baysal stated that “I stand behind my statement in Diyarbakır. The prosecutor should have initiated an investigation from having read the content of my writing. I worked as a journalist in the region and made news of the inhumane things I have witnessed. I went to the apartment in question with a delegation from the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People (Mazlum-DER) and the Human Rights Foundation.”
Nurcan Baysal was among the thirty people arrested in Diyarbakır on January 22, 2018 under the investigation pertaining to social media posts on Afrin military operation. After formalities at the police station, she was transferred to Criminal Court of Peace by the prosecutor for the following crimes: “making propaganda for an organization” and “provoking the public to hatred, hostility or degrading“. Court conditionally released Baysal on judicial control, nevertheless a legal case against her opened for seven posts on Twitter. Diyarbakır 7th Criminal Court of First Instance concluded that she should be acquitted on April 18, 2019.
In June 2019, Baysal was arrested with the accusation of her “membership to a terrorist organization“, then released after providing her statement. Questions she had to answer in her statement were mostly related to Diyarbakir Political and Social Research Institute (DISA); and the information gathered from her email exchanges and phone tapped between the years 2010-2012, relating to the Democratic Society Congress (DTK).
Her house in Diyarbakır was raided by the police on October 29, 2019, while she was abroad, following her posts on social media.
On March 30, 2020, an investigation was launched against Nurcan Baysal on charges of “threatening the people with hatred and hostility” for sharing letters from people in prison. Journalists Without Borders (RSF), in their statement on the subject said, “An investigation was launched against journalist Nurcan Baysal, who brought up the coronavirus measures in Diyarbakır, in her articles and on Twitter. The journalist who said, ‘What should we write if we can not write this anymore?’ Will appear in the prosecution tomorrow.”
Nurcan Baysal received the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) “Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life” in 2010 and the Italian Women Journalists Association “Brave Women Journalists Award” in 2017. She received Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk in May 2018 and became a member of English PEN on December 19, 2019.