Emergency text message secures release of BBC Kurdish journalist


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A Kurdish BBC journalist who has extensively covered Kurdish events, including the conflicts in Turkey and Syria, says he was detained and deported on his arrival to Turkey from Erbil because of his reports for the BBC.


Jiyar Gol, a journalist working for the BBC Persian, said on his twitter on Friday that he was detained for five hours and then deported because of “my reports for the BBC.”



Detailing his detentions in Persian on his Facebook page, Gol, a British citizen, considered himself lucky as British authorities soon intervened to secure his release in a short time, compared to two other Iranian nationals who were detained with him for illegally flying Turkey to Spain. 


When visiting Middle Eastern countries, Gol said, he always makes sure he has a text message prepared on his cell phone that sends an alarm message of his situation to his relatives and BBC officials. 


“After the pass of years, I used the text message for the first time in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport,” Gol said as he described the moment he was arrested in the airport arriving from Erbil.


He said the passport control officer entered his passport details into the system, looked at him, and picked up the phone. It was at this stage Gol thought he had to push the button to send the following message.


“I am in the Ataturk airport in Istanbul. I think they are arresting me. If I did not make a call in half an hour, inform the BBC and the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”


He said he was then informed that he is banned from entering Turkey. Following that he made a phone call to his relatives saying that he is definitely going to be arrested, asking for help from the foreign ministry.


He was held up for five hours during which British diplomats based in Turkey were in contact with him. 


He said that when nationals of western countries have difficulties in a foreign country their embassies will be in contact with them. “But the fellow Iranians said what would happen if our countries too were to give importance to their citizens?” Gol said of the complaints from the two detained Iranian nationals who were contacted by Iranian embassy in Turkey.


Kurdish journalist Jiyar Gol in solidarity with the detained Al Jazeera journalist in Egypt Peter Greste who was then pardoned by the Egyptian president and subsequently released. Photo: Gol’s Facebook account. 



Gol who is widely praised for his report about the ISIS siege against the Kurdish city of Kobane in late 2014 said that based on the arrest of several foreign correspondents in Turkey, and his reports about the conflicts in Syria and Turkey, he believes that he was arrested for his reports for the BBC, especially about the Turkey’s purge after the failed coup last year.


In early June, detained French photojournalist Mathias Depardon was also deported from Turkey, a month after his arrest while reporting for National Geographic magazine.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) lists Turkey as number 155 — between the Congo and Brunei — on its World Press Freedom Index out of 180 countries. Norway, Sweden and Finland top the list, while Turkmenistan, Eritrea, and North Korea are at the bottom.

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