Belgian Kurd spent 40 days in Turkish prison over Facebook posts

Belgian Kurdish student Gulsum Cetinkaya (27), spent 40 days in prison in Turkey for posting on Facebook about Kurds in that country four years ago, local Belgian media reported.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Belgian Kurdish student Gulsum Cetinkaya (27), spent 40 days in prison in Turkey for posting on Facebook about Kurds in that country four years ago, local Belgian media reported.

The post-graduate student’s family told the Belgian news website Nieuwsblad that they feared she would not be released if Belgian authorities failed to interfere. 

Cetinkaya was born in Antwerp and for the first time visited Turkey in September last year. For 2019, the law student went on vacation with her parents in July, but was immediately arrested at the border with Bulgaria. 

Her uncle, Bülent Özturk, is a famous Kurdish movie director. He told Nieuwsblad that Cetinkaya was arrested for criticizing Turkish policy towards the Kurds four or five years ago.

“My cousin shared some articles at that time from alternative media channels,” he said.

A few days ago, Cetinkaya was released from prison and is staying with her parents in the village of Halfeti. She was jailed in Edirne.

“It’s unbelievable,” Bülent lamented. “Turks have kept posts made by my niece. Even posts she didn’t write herself or remembers.”

Cetinkaya and her family are now reportedly “afraid to talk to the media,” fearing revenge from the Turkish authorities.

“My sister begged me to do something,” said Bülent. “But I am powerless. We hope the Belgian authorities will take care of my niece’s fate. But in Turkey, she is one of the few thousands who are being prosecuted. Who will be concerned there for the dreams of a young woman?”

Several Kurds of various EU nationalities traveling to Turkey over summer holidays have been arrested for their social media posts.

Often, they are accused of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting a decades-long insurgency against Ankara.

For instance, more than 100 Germans with Turkish nationality are in jail in Turkey or await trial, reported Bild.

Similarly, 19 Dutch citizens are not permitted to leave Turkey due to ongoing trials.

However, Murat Memis, the faction leader of the Socialist Party (SP) for the Eindhoven city council, was acquitted in July and is now free to go back to the Netherlands.

He was also accused of being a PKK member for being outspoken over Turkey’s invasion of Afrin and expressing his support for the Syrian Kurds.

The Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reportedly looking into the case of Gulsum Cetinkaya. Belgium considers citizens with dual nationality as Belgian if they get trouble in their second home country.

The family of Cetinkaya has shared their frustration since it is difficult to get rid of the Turkish nationality as the Turkish state has final say on it.

Zuhal Demir, a Belgian Kurd and the Secretary of State for Poverty Reduction in the Brussels government, in a tweet said Belgium should not ignore the case of Cetinkaya, who is being prosecuted for supporting human rights.

“The fact that she has a dual nationality should be no excuse. Turkey makes it nearly impossible to renounce it.”

Editing by Nadia Riva