Skip to main content

Turkish journalists missing in Syria finally phone home

By By Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert, CNN
May 7, 2012 -- Updated 0201 GMT (1001 HKT)
Turkish journalist Adem Ozkose (left) and Hamit Coskun went missing while filming a documentary.
Turkish journalist Adem Ozkose (left) and Hamit Coskun went missing while filming a documentary.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • One of two missing Turkish journalists calls home
  • Adem Ozkose said he was fine, his father tells CNN
  • Ozkose and camerman Hamit Coskun went missing March 9
  • They were filming a documentary when they disappeared

Editor's note: Read this report in Arabic.

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- One of two Turkish journalists missing in Syria called home Saturday, ending nearly two months of speculation about their well-being but failing to clear up questions about who is holding them or when they might be freed.

"For two months we didn't even know whether they were alive or dead so we had so many concerns and worries. Now at least that has lifted," journalist Adem Ozkose's father, Mustafa Ozkose, told CNN. "We are so happy that it is impossible to explain in words."

Ozkose, a reporter for the Turkish publications Gercek Hayat and freelance camerman Hamit Coskun went missing while filming a documentary.

They were last heard from March 9, as they were traveling through Syria's troubled Idlib province on their way back to neighboring Turkey, Mustafa Ozkese said.

Mustafa Ozkose said his son had less than three minutes Saturday to talk to his wife and ask about the welfare of his three children.

"He said he was fine. He said that he missed his children," Mustafa Ozkose said.

Humanitarian Relief Foundation, a Turkish Islamist charity group widely known by its Turkish acronym IHH, said it mediated the call.

"As a result of negotiations that have been on going, an IHH diplomatic delegation was able to visit Adem Ozkose and Hamit Coskun where they were in Damascus and managed to have both Adem and Hamit make calls to their families," said Serkan Nergis, an IHH spokesman.

"This was a very positive step," he said.

A spokesman for the Turkish foreign ministry told CNN he had no official information about who is holding the men. Syrian officials have not answered formal requests by Turkey about whether the journalists were in government custody.

Turkey withdrew its ambassador and diplomats from Damascus last March, as relations drastically deteriorated between the countries.

IHH officials declined to give details about who is holding the two Turkish journalists in Damascus or what condition the men were in.

"This is a very sensitive process," Nergis told CNN. "For now we cannot give further information about the two journalists' whereabouts or the process itself."

But Nergis did say that the negotiations have been conducted in conjunction with Iran, which is a close ally of the Syrian government.

In an April 23 statement, the group said it had worked with Iranian and Syrian counterparts to broker the release of two elderly Iranians who had been held by members of the Syrian opposition.

At the time, IHH publicly argued that the release of the Iranians would hopefully lead to the safe return of Ozkose and Coskun to Turkey.

Throughout the anti-government uprising and bloody regime crackdown that have left more than 9,000 people dead, the Syrian government has for the most part prevented foreign journalists from freely entering the country.

Turkish citizens do not need visas to travel to Syria. Nonetheless, the Syrian government has detained and deported a number of Turkish journalists who tried to work in the country. One group of reporters did not even make it past the airport before being sent back home.

The tight restrictions have prompted numerous news organizations, including CNN, to smuggle reporters into Syria.

According to a six-point peace plan brokered last month by the United Nations, Damascus pledged to allow foreign journalists into Syria. However, news organizations, including CNN, are still being denied visas into the country.

CNN's Anna Ozbek contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1019 GMT (1819 HKT)
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
May 31, 2014 -- Updated 0141 GMT (0941 HKT)
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT