Could you briefly introduce yourself? What brings you to work at Jin News? What does this mean for you?
First of all, we would like to thank you very much for including us in your project in 2021 and allowing our agency to reach a larger audience. And also, for the opportunity of expressing ourselves via this interview.
I have been working as an editor at Jin News for about four years. Before that, I worked as a reporter for different agencies and newspapers. I’d been practicing journalism to make the labour of women and their struggle more visible. And at the same time to throw light on the violence and oppression with which they are targeted.
As a woman, a Kurd and a journalist, I find myself discriminated against on all three levels. That is why freedom, more than anything, is important to me. I wanted to participate more actively in the women’s struggle that’s what brought me to Jin News. It enabled me to both know myself and to contribute to the expanding women’s struggle through my profession.
Could you tell us more about the organizational structure of Jin News? Could you elaborate on your network of correspondents and the news topics you are mainly interested in?
A total of 36 people work in our agency. But this goes up to 70 if we take into account our network of volunteer correspondents. We publish in two dialects of Kurdish (Kurmanji and Kirmancki), Turkish and English. Our employees, including our video team, reporters, social media and IT team, even our lawyers and accountants, are all women. Our head office is in Diyarbakır, but we have branches in Ankara, Istanbul and Van.
Apart from this, we have correspondents in 10 cities of Turkey and 4 cities in North East Syria. In places such as the Black Sea region where we do not have any correspondents, so local journalists express solidarity and send us news. In some cities, we have volunteer female employees who follow events for us and send us information.
The subject of our news is women, that is to say, life itself. Our aim is to make news on topics around women and with women, such as labour, the economy, society, life, politics, culture and the arts, science and sports. We report not only the violence, massacre and oppression suffered by women, but also stories of women’s lives and struggles. We amplify their success stories to other women. We ask women about their opinions on general issues such as the economic crisis, freedom of expression and power, and we give voice to their demands.
You report on a variety of news from a woman’s perspective, why is this important for Turkey and for the world at large?
Once the content and language of the news reaches society, a certain change, a transformation takes place within the people. News about gender equality, coexistence, if presented from the perspective of women with a more peaceful outlook, do make a significant impact on raising awareness and ensuring equality in society. Providing greater visibility for women and allowing them to have their say in every field brings along an important change for Turkey and the world. I also believe that Jin News makes an important contribution in giving the women’s struggle an international dimension and provides a solid ground to unite our voices.
How do you decide which stories to prioritise?
The first question we ask before we publish a story is “who will benefit from the story?” We prioritize women, children, refugees, and nature. We also prioritize ethnic communities and people of different faiths who face discrimination and inequality of opportunity. In a way, women-oriented journalism is actually destined to be rights-oriented journalism. You take a side in favour of women, society, nature and animals. As to the content, we take an approach that not only points at the problems in society and the wider world but also seeks solutions to them. In my opinion, an important aspect that differentiates Jin News from other publications is that we identify the problem and present the solution.
What kind of relationship do you have with your readers?
Our readers see this news agency as their own. We even have readers who correct spelling errors in a news article and send it in by email. Some women suggest news topics for us. Not only women, but also our male readers stay in close contact with us. If they have any questions about an article they can reach out to us via the social media or our phone line, and open up a discussion. We have a friendship with our readers. From time to time, we organize meetings with our readers in different cities. We listen to their suggestions and criticisms.
We established our news agency with the aim of reaching as many women as we could. We aimed to get into touch with many women, primarily Kurdish and Middle Eastern women, and to act like a bridge that communicates the struggle that women wage for their demands, freedoms and achievements. We do this as much as we are able to.
Can you give us some examples of news reporting in the past year that you think have been particularly effective?
I can give many examples. The stories of the prostitution ring in Batman, a school principal in Diyarbakır’s Dicle district who was reassigned to another school after he raped children, and Burak Ercan, a teacher in Şırnak Cizre, who abused 40 children and was reassigned to Istanbul. There is no shortage of such stories, I’m afraid. Another important piece of news that I think still reverberates was that we found and published the letter left behind by İpek Er, who committed suicide in Siirt. We have revealed that what was recorded as a suicide and covered up was actually something else. Before İpek committed suicide, she had been detained and raped by a specialist sergeant named Musa Orhan. There is an ongoing trial.
As an agency, do you face any oppression and harassment?
Yes, I guess it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that harassment and oppression have become routine for us. We suffer constant harassment and oppression from the perpetrators who murder women, the police and the military. We receive arrest, death or rape threats. Being a woman is already difficult in every field but being a woman journalist is even more so. We are under ceaseless attack. An onslaught that aims to suppress the truth.
So how do you cope with it? What support do you have? Is this support enough?
To be honest, we can cope with these conditions only by standing in solidarity with women. Because the women of these lands are very brave and determined. Armed with this determination and courage, we do not step back. We believe in the righteousness of the work we do. Unfortunately, this ordeal we have been going through is not very visible in the international media. Yes, there is some solidarity but it is not enough. The oppression we face here needs to be reported extensively. It is essential that the international institutions support us in this regard and put pressure on their own governments. When going out to pursue a story, we are never sure that we will make it home again. It is very difficult to do journalism in such an environment.
Do you know the number of lawsuits filed against the agency or against its employees?
I do not know the exact number of lawsuits filed against us. But it is safe to say that we do not have a single journalist colleague who does not have a case against her. We are detained because of the news we make. Lawsuits are filed on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization”. Many of our colleagues are banned from international travel. We had colleagues who had to sign at the police stations on a regular basis and were banned from travelling out of the city, a practice we call ‘urban confinement’. When police forces conduct operations against the women’s organizations and institutions, our employees are detained as well.
What about censorship?
In 2021, access to our agency’s website was blocked 21 times. Dozens of news reports have been banned. A presidential circular on the media was issued on January 28, 2022. It practically legalized such censorship. Again, lawsuits are filed due to the news and opinions we share on our social media accounts. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have also removed some of our reports.
What is the attitude of your male colleagues towards you? Do you have to strive for representation and stand your ground in this area as well?
Although there is greater awareness of the oppression of women, we are still faced with stereotypical masculine attitudes and mentality. It would be wrong to say that it is completely over and that we are not experiencing discrimination. Even in the Kurdish press, we cannot say that this mentality has completely disappeared. A struggle is required to liberate ourselves from this mindset. That is why we make our presence, power and will felt on the field. We are also fighting to liberate our colleagues from this mentality and to help them overcome it.
Are you hopeful for the futures of Turkish and Kurdish women, and women in the wider world?
Of course, we are hopeful! We take part in this struggle because we are hopeful. We think that we express our hope with the reports we publish and with our editorial policy. The struggle of women against the patriarchal mindset, violence, harassment, rape and violations of rights creates new hopes for every woman.
As an agency, what are your expectations from 2022?
Our wish in 2022 is to live in a democratic system where women are not killed and where peace prevails. We want to report about the success stories and laughter of women. Of course, we also know that a huge effort is required to realise our hopes. As an agency, we have plans to meet with women internationally, as well as reporting news that will suggest solutions to women’s problems. We aim to be a part of the women’s networks internationally and to stay in touch. We feel powerful enough to change not only Turkey but also the world. That’s why we need to reach out to more women.
Finally, what message do you have for the women of the world, on the occasion of 8th March, International Women’s Day?
We are women who set out to write the collective and unwritten history of women’s resistance. We consider ourselves to be very strong as we are a part of women’s struggle. But we need you to progress even faster. We cannot do it alone; we must prepare the groundwork for a united struggle together.