No end in sight for journalist Rasool as detention passes 100 days

Rasool and his two colleagues, Philip Pendlebury and Jake Hanrahan, were detained on Aug. 28 whilst reporting in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakır; however, Rasool is still in prison despite his colleagues being released 11 days after their imprisonment. The trio was reporting on the increasingly bloody conflict between Turkey and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Southeast of Turkey.

Journalists have come under increased obstructions while reporting from the region, with the escalation of violence between the PKK and the security forces since July 20 effectively ending a three-year cease-fire.

The trio had been represented by prominent human rights lawyer Tahir Elci, who was shot dead in on Nov. 28 immediately after conducting a press conference calling for peace between Turkey and the PKK. “We don’t want guns, clashes or operations in this region,” were Elci’s last words before he was killed in the Sur neighborhood of Diyarbakır.

Rasool was acting as VICE News’ fixer — usually a local national with responsibilities such as booking interviews or driving a car for an international reporter — at the time of his detainment.

In an article for VICE in September, Hanrahan described the moment when he and Pendlebury were forced to leave Rasool behind: “I wrapped my arms around Rasool and promised him that no matter what, we would fight until he was released. Phil did the same. ‘Get me out of here guys,’ Rasool said as we were led away.”

Many international press groups have criticized Rasool’s detainment. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined VICE in September a few days after Rasool’s plea for release was rejected “to call on the Turkish authorities for a swift end to this unjust detainment and to grant his immediate release.” A petition by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) calling on the Turkish authorities to release Rasool was started on the online petition site and has attracted over 85,000 signatures, with 25,000 signatures coming in the first 24 hours.

A September open letter saw dozens of prominent writers and journalists plead with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to allow the release of Rasool. The open letter by English PEN, a UK-based journalists’ and writers’ association, was signed by the like of Monica Ali, Elif Shafak, Hanif Kureishi and Ali Smith.