Kurdish journalist stranded in Zurich airport will no longer be deported

by Meghan Bodette    


Kurdish journalist Mustafa Mamay, who has been stranded in the Zurich airport for nearly two months, will no longer be deported to South Africa, according to a message posted on his Twitter account. 

Mamay fled Turkey after a terrorism case was opened against him for attending a press conference for the DTP, a pro-Kurdish political party. He lived in Northern Syria for some time, where he continued to work as a journalist. 

This year, he left Syria and traveled to Switzerland, attempting to seek asylum there. Swiss authorities initially attempted to deport him to South Africa, where he had stopped before he reached Switzerland, claiming that it was a safe country— one that does not violate non-refoulment principles designed to ensure that refugees cannot be returned to countries where they may face harm. Mamay, however, noted in an interview with The Region that South Africa's close economic ties with Turkey and historical treatment of refugees meant that, were he deported, his life and freedom would still have been at risk. 

Turkey is the world's worst jailer of journalists, with hundreds of media workers imprisoned for doing their jobs. Kurdish media has borne the brunt of the crackdown. The current AKP government has shut down Kurdish newspapers and TV stations, and often accuses Kurdish journalists like Mamay of terrorism and other serious anti-state offenses for actions taken well within in their professional capacity as reporters. The Committee to Protect Journalists said of Mamay's case that the six-year prison sentence he faced was "based only on being present at press conference that was considered illegal in Turkey in 2008."

Mamay is now waiting for permission to enter Switzerland.