Turkey probes fate of missing Turkish journalists in Syria

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in Konya on Wednesday that Turkey has started investigations to discover what happened to journalists who have been missing in Syria for four days. During a visit to Konya’s Selçuk University, Davutoğlu told Today’s Zaman that “Turkey will make every effort to protect the rights of Turkish citizens abroad.”

“Journalists who are on duty in the conflict-hit parts of the world should have a sort of immunity. Every country has to pay a special attention to their security,” Davutoğlu said, adding that he anticipates that Turkish efforts to find the journalists will be successful. Two Turkish journalists who traveled to Syria to cover the ongoing tragedy caused by the regime’s continuing assaults were reported missing on Tuesday. Adem Özköse, a reporter from the İstanbul-based Gerçek Hayat (Real Life) magazine and Milat daily, arrived with Hamit Coşkun, a cameraman, in the northwestern city of Idlib, a rebel bastion, four days ago. Their relatives and friends have not heard from them since then. Selçuk Ünal, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, reiterated previous warnings from the ministry in August regarding entering Syria.

“We advise Turkish citizens who really must use Syrian highways to be cautious, be aware of the risks and to travel as part of a convoy, if possible,” said Ünal, speaking to Today’s Zaman on Wednesday in Ankara. Civil society organizations also expressed their sadness and worries regarding the missing journalists. Gaziantep Bureau Chief of the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER) Abdurrahim Çelik called on Syrian and Turkish authorities to find the journalists as soon as possible. “We hope that the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s effort to find those journalists is a success,” Çelik said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a group of people -- among them were Özköse’s wife, Raziye Nur Özköse -- rallied in front of Foreign Ministry building to request information on the situation of the journalists, in Ankara on Tuesday night. After that the group marched to the Syrian Embassy in Ankara to protest of the event. Muhammet Halil Kaya, a friend of the journalists, claimed that Özköse could be harmed by the Baath regime, saying that he is a renowned activist who is close to the leadership of anti-regime movements in Syria. “Özköse lived in Syria for years. He is well-acquainted to the political situation in Syria and the Baath regime knows him very well. That’s why we are worried for their lives,” said Kaya. “Nowhere in the world should journalists, aid activists and civilians be harmed. We’re anxious for the lives of our friends. We want information from Syrian authorities,” said Eyüp Gökhan Özekin, another friend of Özköse, in front of the Syrian embassy building. Özekin said the rally in front of the embassy would continue until the officials confirmed the whereabouts of their friends. Another gathering, attended by Syrian regime protesters, was held in İstanbul on Tuesday night. Around 30 protesters, gathering after the event on the journalists, shouted anti-Syrian regime slogans near the Syrian consulate in İstanbul. The Syrian army has mounted attacks on rebel bastions in Idlib, Homs and Hama for the past two months in an assault on opposition fighters and civilians. Syria is becoming a very dangerous place for journalists who are trying to cover rebels and opposition forces during their struggle with regime forces. In February two Western journalists, American Marie Colvin and Frenchman Remi Ochlik, were killed in the besieged city of Homs when shells hit the house where they were staying.

2012-03-14

Muhabir: ŞİRİN KABAKÇI/GÖZDE NUR DONAT