Bircan Değirmenci/ DUVAR

After being threatened by pro-government journalist Nedim Şener who was speaking on a live television program, Human Rights Association (İHD) co-leader Eren Keskin recalled the killing of lawyer Tahir Elçi, saying that for the first time she felt that she herself was going to be killed. 

Elçi, a respected human rights lawyer of Kurdish origin, was gunned down in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır in 2015. A London-based forensics research firm determined in a report released earlier this year that police should be considered as suspects in his death, contrary to claims by pro-government media that militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were responsible. 

The PKK has been designated as terrorist by Turkey, the U.S. and EU.

Elçi’s murder occurred just a few months after a peace process between the Turkish government and the PKK collapsed, and though he was giving a press conference calling peace at the time of his killing, the event only served to escalate the conflict. 

In response to Şener’s comments on Oct. 12 regarding Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in northeastern Syria that Keskin considered to be anti-Kurdish, Keskin wrote a tweet accusing Şener of being an enemy of the Kurds. Shortly afterward, Şener mentioned Keskin on air saying “A coward, an enemy of the Turks wrote this. She is dishonorable and a coward.” 

Keskin, who is facing a litany of trials on a variety of charges, said that Şener’s comments made her feel like she was at the risk of being killed. 

“As I was watching in astonishment, I started to get telephone calls. Friends who were watching the program called. My mind instantly went to Tahir Elçi, and I felt overcome with the feeling that I was going to be killed. It was a really bizarre feeling. The cases [against me] don’t really scare me but I faced a threat that reached millions of people,” Keskin said. 

“I couldn’t sleep until the morning. Şener also wrote similar things about me on social media. I talked to friends on the phone regarding what needed to be done. All I did was make a political observation. I did not insult him. Anyway, based on his statements being called an enemy of the Kurds must please him, because it is very clear that he does not like the Kurds,” Keskin said. 

“I received horrifying threats on social media. Unbelievably disgusting things were said about my mother. Those sending the threats are just so low quality. How are we living together with these people? We are living in a society where everyone is an enemy except for the Turks. Racism has become that common,” Keskin said. 

Keskin’s home was recently raided by police and she is being tried in over 100 cases, some of which were due to her position as co-editor in chief of the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, which has since been shut down by the government.