The arrest of two young Czechs who have been charged with terrorist activities in Turkey has shocked the nation. Marketa Všelichová (24) and Miroslav Farkas (30) were detained by the Turkish authorities earlier this month and have been charged with gun-running and membership in the Kurdish Peoples Protection Unit YPG which the Turkish authorities consider a terrorist organization. To find out more about the couple’s activities in Syria and why they tried to cross the Turkish border I spoke to one of their friends in the Czech Republic Janusz Konieczny. He began by telling me how he came to know them.
“Two months ago I saw an interview with Marketa Všelichová, I contacted her and we later met and discussed the situation in Syria. I know that what they did was crazy and I did not support that crazy action, but I was very worried about them, so I taped an interview with them on my camera and I asked them to keep me informed about every step they make in Syria, because I would be able to react and help them if they should get into trouble. ”
They are now accused of being YPG members who engaged in terrorist activities in Turkey. What do you know about their activities in Syria? Were they terrorists or activists who took enormous risks?
“I would like to explain that they were really on a humanitarian mission and Marketa Všelichová never fought against IS militants. Both of them have a very strong emotional connection with Syrian people, with Kurdish people and they just wanted to help them. I am sure they are not fighters. That is not the right information.”
Turkey says they had some military training –how likely is that?
“I would like to say that Marketa is not a member of YPG. I am not sure about Mirek, but Marketa Všelichová is not a member of YPG and they were both in safe places in Rojava ,Syria. Their goal was to establish a field hospital there because they witnessed horrible things, many people died because they couldn’t get medical care. So they decided that they must establish a field hospital. They took crazy risks but they do not like to do nothing.”
I understand they spoke about their plans here in the Czech Republic and even established an account for donations?
“Their main goal was to establish a field hospital there. ..they took crazy risks but they do not like to do nothing.”
“Yes, yes, I recently got a package filled with souvenirs from Rojava which they sent home for an exhibition, an exhibition of clothes and things from Rojava which would represent Kurdish traditions, history and so on. So their plan was, after coming back to the Czech Republic, to organize this exhibition which would make more money in aid of the field hospital. They had an agreement with a medical team in Rojava and had planned the logistics of getting medicines there. Preparing that field hospital was their main goal.”
How long had they been helping the Kurdish community in Rojava for –years?
“They were there many times. Sometimes they had problems and troubles, but never as serious as this. But their emotional connection to the place was so strong that they did not realize how big a risk it was to cross the border. ”
Do you know why they tried to cross the Turkish border?
“In my opinion they were short of money. They were probably short of money to take a plane to Iraq, but I am not sure. The last message I got from them was from Amman in Jordan and I was later very surprised that they had planned to go to Turkey and from there to Syria because Mirek had previously told me he could not enter Turkey.”
Marketa had problems in Iraq fairly recently when the Czech Foreign Ministry had to intervene to get her out –were they not aware of how big a risk they were taking?
“This may also be the answer to why they chose this route, why they did not go to Syria via Iraq. Marketa had a problem in Iraq where they were arrested before, so maybe that is the reason why they didn’t go to Syria via Iraq –although I think it would have been a better idea than to go via Turkey. In any case, my main task now is to assemble evidence, documents, my video and so on and send it to the Czech Embassy in Turkey in order to explain to the Turkish side that they were only on a humanitarian mission.”
So you are trying to provide evidence in their favour?
“Yes, that’s right.”
The Turkish authorities say that when they were arrested they had materials relating to the YPG, they have been accused of gun-running – what materials could they be talking about?
“In my opinion this is not true. Marketa is not a member of YPG, Mirek I don’t know, he sympathized with the YPG but it would be crazy if they tried to cross the border with YPG materials.”
Could they have expressed sympathy with the YPG on their Facebook page?
“Yes, yes, Mirek had many materials on Facebook that indicated he sympathized with the YPG, that is true, but many things that appeared in the Turkish media are not true, so I am keeping my distance from information published in the Turkish media.”
Do you have any news about their circumstances at present ? I believe they are only in touch with their lawyer –do you know what conditions they are being kept in?
“They are in prison, but I do not know where. So at the moment it is most important to collect evidence about their humanitarian mission.”
You are in touch with the Czech embassy in Ankara, presumably?
“Their emotional connection to the place was so strong that they did not realize how big a risk it was to cross the border. ”
“I am now collecting evidence and later I will send it to the embassy in Ankara.”
Given what we know –from the Turkish media – do you fear the worst?
“In my opinion the European Commission and many other states beside the Czech Republic understand the real role of Marketa and Mirek and they can exert pressure on Turkey maybe and explain that Marketa and Mirek are not terrorists and that they should be given credit because they wanted to help the Kurdish people who are in a terrible situation. So I hope that they will not get exemplary punishment.”