For over a decade, I worked as a journalist in my homeland of Turkey. I had chosen journalism to amplify the voices of those who seek justice — the poor and those who are oppressed.
Courthouses were often where some of the most marginalized people in society could be found. I wanted to believe that the judges would be fair even if the state was not. If none of them were fair, I knew it was a journalist’s duty and responsibility to reveal the truth.
That’s how I became a courthouse correspondent.
Yet, all of that ended abruptly with one Facebook post. “Torture is a crime, the state is in charge of justice and cannot commit a crime.” I wrote after witnessing the beating of soldiers and civilians in the aftermath of the controversial military coup attempt of July 15, 2016.
The next night, the authorities issued an arrest warrant for me, referencing my words. I was accused of promoting terrorist propaganda.
That day, not only did I lose my freedom but I also lost my faith in justice.
Seeking Asylum in Canada
I decided to seek a safe haven to continue speaking my mind instead of surrendering to the authorities. I crossed the border illegally from Turkey to Greece. I left everything behind, including my job.
I came alone to Canada on November 24, 2016. With little English, I knew a journalism career was out of reach. I had to make a living and continue my life and took on various jobs just to survive. That reality did not keep me from following my hopes of one day working as a journalist again.
I made sure to follow news websites, radio programs, and podcasts to understand Canadian media. I spoke to journalists in Canada who were in similar circumstances to me. Their stories encouraged and excited me.
One of these journalists was Syrian journalist Maan Alhmidi who came to Canada in 2017.
While he was a student at the Faculty of Law in Syria, he participated in the protests that launched the Syrian uprising and subsequent war. It changed his life. In 2011, when he saw the pro-government publications and the media’s manipulation of information, he started to work as a journalist under a pseudonym.
He would eventually be detained and tortured by regime forces. It didn’t stop him. He continued writing even after his release. Not only was he a target for the regime, but for Daesh as well.
In February 2014, he fled to Turkey. He continued to work as a journalist. He later applied for asylum through the United Nations and arrived in Canada in 2017. Within six months of his arrival, he enrolled in the Masters of Journalism program at Carleton University and started publishing stories in Canada. He now works for The Canadian Press in their parliamentary bureau.
“When I came to Canada, I had the goal of continuing my journalism profession. For this, I had to learn about Canadian culture first,” Alhmidi’s suggested during an interview with me.
Alhmidi’s story was inspiring. For me, I also wanted to see what I could do. I found out about New Canadian Media and reached out to them. We started emailing and working with editors and a mentor, which was important for professional solidarity. I did not feel alone. It was encouraging and promising, just like Maan’s motivational words.
The idea of being able to practice my actual occupation in Canada feels as exciting as the day I started journalism in Turkey. I’m incredibly hopeful to share new stories here.
This story has been produced under NCM’s mentoring program. Mentor: Amira Elghawaby
Arzu Yildiz graduated from Istanbul Bilgi University in TV Journalism Department and has worked as a journalist, editor and senior reporter. She has written critical pieces of investigative journalism about unresolved murder cases in the Southeast against Kurdish businessmen and illegal weapons supply to Syria. She has four books published and writes for New Canadian Media.