Kurdish journalist stranded in Swiss airport, facing deportation

Kurdish journalist stranded in Swiss airport, facing deportation _ iThe Region

mustafa Mamay, a Kurdish journalist from Turkey who fled to Switzerland due to political persecution, was sentenced to 30 days in jail before his application for asylum could be reviewed.

Mamay faced a six-year prison sentence in Turkey for participating in a press conference held by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP). Upon the Turkish court’s approval of the verdict, he fled to Northern Syria, where he continued to work as a journalist.

Mamay eventually left Syria for Switzerland, hoping to apply for asylum there. He and several other asylum seekers, including other Kurds from Turkey, have been stranded in the Zurich Airport for nearly two months. Authorities in Switzerland have detained 28 persons, including 21 Kurds. Thirteen of them could soon be deported to South Africa.

They have been in detention in Zürich Airport since Sept. 9. Mamay told The Region his lawyer would try to object the deportation in court.

“Because I arrived in Switzerland with a forged passport, they gave me 30 days of imprisonment. The lawyer says this is the first time such a decision is taken,” Mamay told The Region.

“They want to deport me to South Africa now but my life safety there is not guaranteed.”

According to Mamay, there are many reports that South Africa is not safe for refugees. There is also a risk that they will deport them to Turkey. Mamay states that strong political and economic relations between South Africa and Turkey pose a huge threat to Mamay.

Reporters Without Borders and European Federation of Journalists wrote a letter to Swiss authorities for Mamay. But there is no development in his situation yet.

Turkey currently imprisons more journalists and media workers than any other country in the world. Kurdish journalists are specifically at risk, with entire Kurdish-language outlets closed down and Kurdish reporters charged with “terrorism” or “terror propaganda” simply for doing their jobs.

David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, said that government crackdowns have “decimated” Kurdish media in Turkey. “The apparent decimation of all forms of media in the southeast, particularly Kurdish media, [leads] to massive lack of access to information,” he claimed in a 2016 UN statement.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 7, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

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