Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Wrong Action : Persecuted and Prosecuted
|Ece Heper is shown in a handout photo provided by Emrah Bayram|
"She is intense and opinionated for sure."People with dual citizenship seem to harbour the impression that when they get into trouble in their countries of origin where justice and the law don't reflect democratic values of freedom of expression their Canadian citizenship will protect them from the repressive regimes they originated in and return to visit from time to time. When contrasting the freedoms and assurances under the law that is theirs in Canada to the country they left behind where human rights assurances are of questionable value these people fail to exercise due caution, leaving themselves vulnerable to state arrest.
"But everything is intense over there right now, especially criticizing the government."
Birgitta Pavic, Toronto
"Freedom of speech is a huge problem in Turkey."
"But it's just nonsense, this insulting the president business."
"She has a real interest about the problems Kurdish people face in the country."
Emrah Bayram, Turkish citizen, Seattle, Washington
And this is precisely what happened to a woman of Turkish origin who emigrated to Canada and now holds Canadian citizenship. Choosing to retain her Turkish citizenship as a dual citizen of both countries, she returned to Turkey for a prolonged visit, during which she publicly posted criticism of the politics of her native country and more specifically, critiqued the irascible and criticism-averse Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (in)famous for arresting his critics and imprisoning them.
Ece Heper, fifty years of age, was living in the city of Mardin but travelled to Kars in northeastern Turkey when she was arrested and charged on December 30, according to her Turkish lawyer, Sertac Celikkaleli. She had injudiciously posted several criticisms about President Erdogan on her Facebook account. A December 28 post had her accusing Erdogan of jailing journalists who had the effrontery of suggesting the presence of evidence that Turkey under Mr. Erdogan supported the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Ms. Heper ordinarily lives in rural Norwood, Ontario, 150 kilometres northeast of Toronto. Where she makes a life for herself with five rescue dogs comprising her family. The dogs were rescues, as it happens, from Turkey, and according to her Toronto friend Birgitta Pavic, Ms. Heper's five dogs "...are like her children", evidently temporarily abandoned in the interests of giving aid to a long-distance friend who is suffering under the Justice and Development party's war on Turkey's Kurdish population.
Her friends are concerned for her welfare; doubly so, since she has been incarcerated for 'insulting' the president of Turkey whose penchant for prosecuting those who insult him is legendary, and because she has health issues and her welfare will not be top of mind for those doing the bidding of Erdogan. And since, according to her Turkish lawyer, it may be months before her 'case' can be heard through the judicial system, she will be languishing in prison for awhile.
Her friend, living in southern Turkey had been living in exile in the north of Syria, a Kurdish region. That friendship alone would have brought her to the attention of the Turkish intelligence agencies for whom, in reflection of their government's attitude toward Kurds, anyone who supports them would automatically be suspect. Her friend had recently returned to Turkey, was arrested and imprisoned, charged with a link to the Kurdistan Workers Party which Turkey labels a terrorist organization.
Ms. Heper had traveled from southeast Turkey in Mardin to Kars to fetch her friend's wife and help her to visit with her husband in jail. While at the woman's home in Kars, she was arrested, imprisoned and is now awaiting trial. Erdogan has filed some two thousand defamation suits under a law that does not permit insults against the president, a law little-used until recently, to intimidate and ultimately silence the president's critics.
Naming this thin-skinned caliph "America’s biyatch", a "jack ass", and an "idiot" in a Facebook post dated two days before her arrest, would be certain not to have endeared Ms. Heper to the president who has delusions of magisterial grandeur that no uncouth critic would be permitted to sully. And so, she must pay for her unforgivable impertinence. Clearly, a dangerous enemy of the state.