Meet Burcu Karakas from Turkey
“I cannot stand it when a human being is humiliated, so that’s the reason I do journalism — to remind people they have rights. It can be a child that is being abused, it can be a migrant who is tortured or it can be a woman who is subject to violence by her partner.” This is how Burcu Karakas, a Turkish journalist at Deutsche Welle, describes her motivation to work in the media. She has been covering a range of topics for over a decade, including female and minority rights, migration, and free speech.
Two-time winner of the European Union Investigative Journalist Prize, a fighter for equal rights, justice, and the truth, Burcu is outspoken, consistent, hard-working and remains one of the bravest voices in Turkish media. She has been covering suppressed female communities in Turkey – in the South-eastern town Van, for instance, where there were many suspicious deaths of women. She found out that they lived in restrictive conditions, in communities that oppressed them. “Basically, they didn't have a chance to build their own lives and they felt trapped. The only way out for some of them was killing themselves”, she explains.
Another significant issue Karakas has worked on is abortion in Turkey. Even though it is officially legal and there should be no obstacles for women in the early stages of their pregnancies to have one performed, in practice it turns out it is quite difficult for that to happen. “In theory abortion in Turkey is there, but in practice it does not exist. In Istanbul, for example, there are tens of state hospitals, but you can get an abortion only in two. And there are 20 million people living in Istanbul”, Burcu says. She explains that the government wants to change the perception of an abortion through an illusion and unfortunately, it is working.
However, there is a strong female movement. “Younger generations are really capable of using the power of social media in their field. They know how to raise their voices. In general, young women are much more outspoken. They are more powerful in expressing if anything related to harassment. They are not afraid and they use social media to say a man harassed them. We did not see that before”, she explains.
Even though times are difficult and human rights and freedom of speech tend to be pushed in the corner, Burcu Karakas believes that journalists’ role is still important. “We still have the power to irritate people in power and to mobilise people in a way”, she says.