Two journalists from Turkey's Milat daily who went missing in Syria two months ago were located thanks to the efforts of the Humanitarian Aid Association (IHH), which says Iranian officials helped in determining the whereabouts of the two men.
Silent footage showing Turkish journalists Adem Özköse and Hamit Coşkun for the first time since their disappearance two months ago, with İHH members, was released on May 6, one day after İHH officials visited the two men at a state prison in Damascus.
İHH President Bülent Yıldırım told the Turkish media that Iranian officials helped in locating Özköse and Coşkun. He noted that the İHH had been looking for the two journalists for a long time, going from village to village in Syria to find a clue as to their fate.
Yıldırım said the two men were in good condition. “Adem and Hamit saw each other for the first time in 58 days when we went there. They were placed in different cells after their arrest, but they report no maltreatment.”
The İHH says it will continue its efforts to make sure the two journalists are brought back to Turkey safe and sound. Yıldırım noted that Turkish Foreign Ministry officials have supported the İHH's efforts throughout the organization's search for the missing journalists.
A spokesperson for the İHH who talked to Today's Zaman did not reveal the title or rank of the Iranian officials involved.
According to the İHH, the two men were initially accused of having traveled to Syria to fight against Assad forces along with rebels, which caused delays in the judicial process. They are expected to appear in court soon on charges of illegally trespassing into Syrian territory.
The İHH asserts the two were only involved in journalistic activities in the country. Syrian officials suspected them of being fighters who had intended to join the rebels because of rumors spread in some tweets by Turkish users that they had gone to join the opposition forces. “Syrian intelligence keeps a very close eye on Turkish social media,” explained İHH spokesperson Serkan Nergis.
“It took a while for Syrian officials to investigate whether they were really journalists. It is a very chaotic area; it's not clear who is who. Nobody trusts anybody, and if a foreign person is arrested, the process takes longer because they take time to establish their true motives [for being in Syria.].”
Nergis said the İHH expected the two men to be released after they appear in court, saying pressure from Turkey and the public for their safe return has played an important role in ensuring their safety.
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay confirmed that the two journalists were in good health, saying the Foreign Ministry was taking steps to ensure their return home as soon as possible.