Dutch Kurdish woman flees Turkey to escape trial

A Kurdish woman with Dutch citizenship and her 5-month-old daughter have fled Turkey to the Netherlands illegally to escape a trial.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Kurdish woman with Dutch citizenship and her 5-month-old daughter have fled Turkey to the Netherlands illegally to escape a trial, Dutch media reported on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old woman, identified as Rojda A. from the city of Rotterdam, was on a trip to Istanbul with her daughter and was arrested after she wanted to return to the Netherlands from Turkey in April.

Read More: Dutch Kurdish woman, 5-month-old daughter jailed in Turkey

She was released in July on condition she would stay in Turkey and report weekly to the Turkish police.

According to a report by the Algemeen Dagblad, Rojda’s lawyers said she was unwilling to wait for her trial that was scheduled to begin on Thursday and had left Turkey illegally.

She did not leave “because she wants to hide…but because of the situation she was facing,” her lawyers were quoted as saying.

The Dutch newspaper also said Rojda’s family does not understand why she was arrested in Turkey since she previously visited the country at least four times in 2016 without any incident.

Authorities in Turkey accuse Rojda of being the co-chair of the Council of Communities from Kurdistan (DEMNED). According to the Turkish prosecution, the Dutch-Kurdish organization is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey.

The PKK is fighting an insurgency against Ankara over Kurdish rights and self-rule.

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The woman has denied ties with the PKK and claims the organization is involved in cultural activities.

Rojda is not the only Dutch citizen who was arrested in Turkey. At least 19 other Dutch nationals cannot leave the country pending trial.

Most of them are being prosecuted for being critical of the government or being involved with Kurdish politics.

Murat Memis, a local politician of the Socialist Party (SP), was acquitted in July on alleged “terrorism” charges and returned to the Netherlands.

Some in the Dutch-Kurdish community practice self-censorship because of fears they will be arrested.

“Kurds are afraid to freely express their opinions and criticize [the state],” Serpil Ates, a member of The Hague city council for the GroenLinks party, told Kurdistan 24.

Meanwhile, Memis said Dutch Kurds even remove their Facebook and other social media accounts before going on vacation to their homeland.

“Parents tell youth not to bring their phone and remove their Facebook. The youth is afraid to go on vacation in their home country,” he told Kurdistan 24.

Kurds in the Netherlands also avoid Kurdish festivals, Kurdish organizations, and stop following Kurdish news on social media.

“This culture of fear is spread all over Europe,” Memis said.

Moreover, some Dutch Kurds also believe the government does not support its citizens when they are arrested in Turkey.

In May, the Dutch Foreign Ministry updated its travel advice, and warned Dutch citizens that the Turkish government could prosecute Dutch citizens for “statements made outside of Turkey, including on social media.”

“I realize that if I [were] not a politician, I would still be in jail,” Memis told Kurdistan 24.

“I’m also upset by this. The Dutch government should support anyone, no matter if they are a people’s representative, a farmer, or a normal employee. You are a Dutch citizen.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany