A Letter to Znar Bozkurt

By Fréderike Geerdink

Dear Znar,

How are you? did you sleep last night in yet another bed in the house of friends who gave you a temporary place to hide? How long does it take the European Court of Human Rights to decide whether Sweden can put you on a plane to Turkey? I hope and pray that justice will be done for you.

I don’t follow Swedish media that much, but now with the ongoing row between Turkey and Sweden (and Finland, to a lesser extent) and NATO, sometimes articles end up in my Twitter timeline that give a painful insight into the realities of Kurds in Sweden, and in Europe as a whole. That’s how I learned about the your case. You came to Sweden as a refugee in 2014 and half a year ago, the decision was made to repatriate you to Turkey. The Swedish Secret Service, SÄPO, decided you were a security threat to Sweden, while the migration authorities in Sweden claim you face no danger of being tortured in Turkey, which would have been a reason not to extradite you.

It’s a curious case, as journalist Rasmus Canbäck describes in the article about you. Full of contradictions, full of politics, while your life is at stake.

Turkey claims you’re a PKK member, but due to Turkey’s very broad and vague terrorism law, anybody expressing themselves as Kurdish or claiming any rights based on their Kurdish identity can be prosecuted and jailed for ‘membership of a terrorist organization’. In reality, you’re a People’s Democratic Party (HDP) member, a representative of a legal political party, and you go to their gatherings or to cultural events celebrating Kurdish culture. Such activities are, of course, a problem in Turkey, but not in Sweden, and therefore, according to the European Convention on Extradition, you cannot be extradited.

However, the Swedish Secret Service SÄPO claims you’re a threat to Swedish security so you can’t be permitted to stay. Strange, because its own reports, Canbäck’s article said, have concluded that the PKK is not a threat to Europe in any way. So what’s the story?

The story could be that you are not the story. In Western media, I mean. In Sweden, yes; but the bigger established media outlets in Europe are not familiar with the way Kurds are made pawns in all kinds of political games between Europe, NATO, and Turkey. Of course, other people from outside the EU face European racism as well, but for Kurds, the situation is different; many Kurds come from the country the EU seeks friendship with – one that is both a member of NATO and the Council of Europe.

In that political dynamic it would cause too much of an uproar if people like the well-known publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, who is on the list of people whose extradition Turkey demands from Sweden, are detained and handed over to Erdoğan. But Erdoğan needs to be pleased. So, what if they deliver the Turkish president a few Kurds to show good will? Kurds whose fates won’t cause too much uproar, or any? So called ‘terrorists’ that Erdoğan can use to continue his show for domestic consumption?

This is what I am afraid of. People here in the Netherlands, where I live, are surprised when I tell them that Sweden has already extradited many Kurds to Turkey, also in recent years. Somehow, this whole discussion has caused people to think that Sweden is some kind of paradise for Kurds, where they are safe and fully out of reach of Erdoğan’s fascism. But it’s just the basic human rights standards that are secured in the European Convention on Human Rights that protect them; nothing more. Ironically enough, that Convention is valid in Turkey as well – but I don’t have to tell you that, I’m sure none of this irony is lost on you.

I wholeheartedly hope that the European Court of Human Rights will protect you. They know Turkey well, and hopefully they will not be led by the political games that NATO and Turkey are entangled in. So you can get your residence permit in Sweden, and continue your life and build a future in peace and safely. A future where you are not going from one place to another anymore every few days to stay out of the hands of the immigration authorities. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you, and those in the same situation as you, to be in such an incredibly insecure situation.

I wish you justice,

Fréderike Geerdink


  • Fréderike Geerdink

    Journalist, writer and speaker focused on power structures, and those who want to tear them down. She works in Kurdistan and the Netherlands and is the author of 'This Fire Never Dies', (2021). Her previous book, 'The Boys are Dead: The Roboski Massacre and the Kurdish Question in Turkey', (2015) was nominated for the Brusse Prize.

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