Turkey’s women-only newspaper

Turkey’s women-only newspaper

Tunceli Emek, a daily in the southeast province of Tunceli, has a feature that no other newspaper in Turkey has: All of its employees, from its owner to its reporters and from its editors to its page designers, are women.

Its founder, Hüsniye Karakoyun, took her sisters with her when she went to Erzurum for her university education as conflicts between the state and “the mountain” (the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK) continued. As she was studying, she was also working to take care of them. When she graduated, she was appointed as a teacher to a southeast province.

It was a province where unsolved murders were frequent at the time. As the life of any woman was besieged in the city, she started to write columns for a local newspaper. After three years of adventure as a columnist, she returned to Tunceli in 2004. She started to publish a weekly newspaper with her two sisters and her cousin. Nobody thought they would succeed. Some people even placed a bet, saying: “The weekly will be printed for three or four issues and then it will close.”

Because they see it as a competitor, two local newspapers declined to print Karakoyun’s weekly at their printing center. She was forced to send the articles to the Elazığ province for the first five months to print them. 

Then, one day, Karakoyun learned that the Global Fund For Women had been awarding grants to projects for women. She prepared a project, presented it and was accepted. Consequently, she presented the project to Turkey’s Small and Medium Sized Businesses Development and Support Management Directorate (KOSGEB). 

Providing her wage as collateral, she withdrew credit from a bank, established her own printing center and turned her weekly into a daily newspaper. It was registered on behalf of Dilek Karakoyun, her sister.

Meanwhile, Hüsniye Karakoyun continued her career as a teacher. In 2011, shortly after her newspaper reported irregularities in the Tunceli Governorate, Karakoyun was exiled to a school in the Dağardı village of the Aegean province of Kütahya. She could return home only after a court ruling.

After she returned to Tunceli, she quit teaching, her profession for the previous 16 years. She officially took charge of her newspaper instead.

As “Emek” means “labor,” the newspaper was initially perceived as a marginal left-wing publication. Turkish intelligence, police, the gendarmerie and the governorate were following it closely. Sales were low. In time, however, Emek turned into a newspaper that set the local agenda. National media outlets started to apply to Tunceli Emek to verify local news. People started to understand that a problem would not remain unsolved if it was passed to the women of Emek.

Journalists at Emek do not always remember their feminity while reporting, though. They analyze the media’s language in reports about murders in which the victims were women. They try to use the correct language. Sometimes they spend hours to fix such a report’s wording. They weigh each and every sentence, every word.

This newspaper does not only contribute to the women of Tunceli, but it also shapes the day with an editorial policy that develops initiatives in favor of many disadvantaged groups, including youth, the unemployed and villagers, who all need a model. 

The age of those who prepare this newspaper ranges from 23 to 45. They are all university graduates. They seek and hire those who have been divorced or were subjected to violence. 

For the past 12 years, they were victimized by a campaign that has been trying to silence them by usurping their right to publish official ads. They were threatened by a person who happened to be the local director of Turkey’s national Education Ministry. They managed to make him stand trial.

Karakoyun complains and she is right:

“During the period of the conflict, we had been presented in national media in traumatic situations as the ones who killed, or were killed, burned or were burned. In reality, nice things also happen in this town, but none of them were reported. If we had joined the PKK as six women from Tunceli, or something bad had happened to us, our story could have been reported for days. However, the fact that a newspaper whose owner, editors and correspondents are all women and are reporting by not relying on any political organization is apparently not newsworthy.”

No, of course it is newsworthy.

Everyone should know about the brave women of Tunceli Emek.