İsa Artar’s trial in exile and the (in)possibility of return

Because of his political and journalistic activities, İsa Artar came under state pressure and police observation in Turkey. Before he was sentenced to a custodial sentence, he managed to flee to Germany in December 2016. In this interview excerpt, he tells why he wanted to use the security of his asylum in Germany to bring an end to the criminal trial against him in Turkey. He also talks about how difficult it is not to be able to travel to the country of origin to see and support the family.

İsa Artar, private photo.

“2017 ist mein Vater in der Türkei gestorben, und ich konnte nicht hinfliegen. Ich war der einzige Sohn, also das einzige Kind. Und mein Vater wusste nicht, dass ich hier im Asyl bin. Ich habe gesagt, ich habe ein Stipendium bekommen, ich mache Deutschkurs und so weiter. Wenn meine Mutter gestorben wäre, und mein Vater hätte mich bei ihm gewünscht, hätte ich ihm das deswegen nicht erklären können. Aber meine Mutter wusste schon, dass ich nicht kommen kann. Niemand hat darum gebeten, dass ich da hingehe.
Mein Vater ist eher so ein empfindlicher Mensch. Ich konnte ihm das nicht erklären, das konnte er nicht ertragen. Aber meine Mutter kann das schon.

2019, letztes Jahr: Ich wollte immer, dass dieser Prozesse weiterläuft. 11Wegen seiner journalistischen Tätigkeiten war gegen İsa Artar in der Türkei Anklage erhoben worden. Ihm gelang jedoch kurz vorher, im Dezember 2016, die Ausreise nach Deutschland. Ich wollte es nicht so: ‘Ich bin hierher geflüchtet. Ist mir egal, was in der Türkei passiert. Warum sollte ich eine Aussage machen?’  […] Ich wollte Wege suchen, und habe sie dann gefunden. Als damals der Haftbefehl gegen mich erlassen wurde, habe ich meine Anschrift hier in Deutschland angegeben. Daraufhin hat das Gericht die Ermittlung hierhergeschickt, also sie haben es übersetzt und dann hier zum deutschen Gericht geschickt und erbeten, dass İsa hier eine Aussage macht.

Eigentlich wollte das deutsche Gericht das nicht machen. Sie haben das erst mal abgelehnt, weil sie immer denken, sie machen das so gut für die Flüchtlinge. Aber in meinem Fall wollte ich dann sehen, wie es läuft, denn vielleicht werde ich dann unschuldig, also freigesprochen. Deswegen wollte ich das probieren. Sowieso habe ich kein Risiko: Also wenn das Gericht entscheidet, dass ich eine Strafe bekomme, gehe ich nicht hin, ich habe ja Asylstatus. Ich habe das dann mit meinem Anwalt gemacht. Der hat dem Staatsanwalt geschrieben, dass İsa das machen will. Dann haben sie mich gerufen und wir haben eine Aussage beim deutschen Gericht gemacht. Ich habe das alles auf Türkisch geschrieben und abgegeben. […] Dann haben sie das an die Türkei geschickt, und dort hat der Staatsanwalt entschieden, dass der Inhaber unschuldig ist, aber für mich [den Redakteur] wollte er Strafe, und zwar richtig vier Jahre oder so. Und das Gericht hat sich dann entschieden, dass ich anderthalb Jahre bekomme wegen Propaganda über die Medien, […] aber nur anderthalb, weil ich mich vor dem Gericht gut verhalten habe. Und dann wurde das Gerichtsurteil aufgeschoben: Das heißt, ich muss nicht in den Knast gehen, wenn ich in den nächsten fünf Jahren nicht nochmal eine Straftat begehe. […]

Also theoretisch kann ich jetzt in die Türkei fliegen, aber andererseits kann es immer noch gefährlich sein und ich würde meinen Status hier verlieren. Aber natürlich würde ich gerne meine Mutter besuchen, sie ist eine alte Frau.
Aber ich warte darauf, dass ich irgendwann eingebürgert bin, und dann kann ich vielleicht mal gehen. […]
Ich verstehe schon, dass zum Beispiel die Iraner*innen und Afghan*innen richtig Schwierigkeiten haben. Die haben nicht vor, irgendwann hinzureisen, weil sie das niemals machen können. Aber die Türken, also die, die früher gekommen sind, in den 80ern und so, die hatten immer vor, irgendwann hinzureisen und dann da zu wohnen. Ich habe das nicht vor. Ich habe immer gedacht, dass ich dort niemals wieder leben kann, aber wenn es sicher ist, will ich hinreisen.[…] Aber es ist nicht sicher und es kann sich immer ändern: Ich konnte nur so eine kurze Strafe bekommen, weil ihre Gefängnisse so voll sind, dass sie das Gesetz geändert haben. Wenn ich da gewesen wäre, wäre dieser Prozess schnell gelaufen, und dann hätte ich wirklich eine hohe Strafe bekommen. Aber ich habe immer Angst, dass meiner Mutter was passiert und ich nicht da sein kann.”

    Footnotes

  • 1Wegen seiner journalistischen Tätigkeiten war gegen İsa Artar in der Türkei Anklage erhoben worden. Ihm gelang jedoch kurz vorher, im Dezember 2016, die Ausreise nach Deutschland.

“In 2017 my father died in Turkey and I could not fly there. I was the only son, the only child. And my father did not know that I was here in asylum. I said I got a scholarship, I’m doing German classes and so on. If my mother had died and my father had wanted me to stay with him, I would not have been able to explain it to him. But my mother already knew that I could not come. Nobody asked me to go there.
My father is rather such a sensitive person. I couldn’t explain it to him, he couldn’t bear it. But my mother can.

2019, last year: I always wanted this process to continue. 11İsa Artar was charged in Turkey because of his journalistic activities. However, shortly before that, in December 2016, he managed to leave for Germany. I did not want it this way: ‘I fled here. I don’t care what happens in Turkey. Why should I make a statement?’  […] I wanted to look for ways, and then I found them. When the arrest warrant was issued against me, I gave my address here in Germany. Then the court sent the investigation here, so they translated it and then sent it here to the German court and asked it to get the statement from İsa here.

Actually, the German court did not want to do this. They rejected it at first because they always think they are doing it well for the refugee this way. But in my case, I wanted to see how it went, because maybe I would then be innocent, that is, acquitted. That is why I wanted to try that. Anyway, I don’t have any risk: if the court decides that I get a sentence, I won’t go, I have asylum status. I did that with my lawyer. He wrote to the public prosecutor that İsa wants to do that. Then they called me and we made a statement to the German court. I wrote all this in Turkish and handed it in. Then they sent it to Turkey, and there the public prosecutor decided that the owner is innocent, but for me [the editor] he wanted punishment, four years or so. And the court then decided that I would get a year and a half for propaganda in the media, […] but only a year and a half because I behaved well in court. And then the court decision was put on probation: That means I don’t have to go to jail if I don’t commit another crime in the next five years. […]

So theoretically I can fly to Turkey now, but on the other hand it can still be dangerous and I would lose my status here. But of course I would like to visit my mother, she is an old woman.
But I’m waiting until I’m naturalized at some point, and then maybe I can go. […]
I understand that Iranians and Afghans, for example, have real difficulties. They don’t plan to travel there at some point because they can never do that. But the Turks, those who came earlier, in the 80s and so on, they always planned to travel there at some point and then live there. I do not intend to do that. I always thought that I would never be able to live there again, but when it’s safe, I want to go there. […] But it’s not safe and it can always change: I could only get such a short sentence because their prisons are so full that they changed the law. If I had been there, this process would have been quick, and then I would have gotten a really heavy sentence. But I’m always afraid that something will happen to my mother and I can’t be there.”

 

    Footnotes

  • 1İsa Artar was charged in Turkey because of his journalistic activities. However, shortly before that, in December 2016, he managed to leave for Germany.

After being politically active in school and university, İsa Artar became involved in the Gezi protest movement in 2013. 112013 a broad protest movement against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began in Gezi Park at Taksim Square in Istanbul. The demonstrations, which were originally directed against a planned construction project, developed into a diverse and strong civil society movement, which also received a lot of international support and spread beyond Istanbul. The police took violent action against the demonstrations, and some people were killed. Afterwards, while studying art history, he became editor-in-chief of the independent and critical news portal “Siyasi Haber”. After the failed military coup against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in July 2016, there were mass dismissals in the military and public service in Turkey. The state persecution of opposition members and government critics, especially journalists, has increased sharply since then. İsa Artar also came under the scrutiny of the authorities. However, before an arrest warrant was issued against him, he managed to escape to Germany in December 2016. In the meantime he has been granted asylum, is studying journalism and communication sciences and writes for the Tagesspiegel, among others.

In this excerpt from an interview that We Refugees Archive conducted with İsa Artar in July 2020, he talks about the (in)possibility of visiting his family in Turkey and talking to relatives about his fate. When his father died in 2017, İsa could not go to his funeral.

In addition, İsa tells how he made a statement in Germany about his trial in Turkey because he wanted clarity and, out of the safety of asylum, the chance of an acquittal. The court finally sentenced him to one and a half year suspended sentence. However, if he were to return home, there would be the danger of losing his entitlement to asylum in Germany. 22See 72 paragraph 1 No. 1a AsylG.

Many refugees share İsa’s feelings of insecurity and disruption when it comes to traveling to the country they left in fear: Even though it is clear to them that a long-term return and a life in safety would not be possible, the prospect of not being able to see family members or to assist them in cases of illness or death is very difficult. Contributing to the dilemma is the fact that – even legally (see above) – temporary return is interpreted as proof that the persecution situation is not serious enough to be granted asylum.

 

    Footnotes

  • 12013 a broad protest movement against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began in Gezi Park at Taksim Square in Istanbul. The demonstrations, which were originally directed against a planned construction project, developed into a diverse and strong civil society movement, which also received a lot of international support and spread beyond Istanbul. The police took violent action against the demonstrations, and some people were killed.
  • 2See 72 paragraph 1 No. 1a AsylG.

This is an excerpt from an interview that We Refugees Archive conducted with İsa Artar in July 2020.

Search