American Writer Banned from Turkey

By Dr. Amy L. Beam:

In America they have a saying: “Let the punishment fit the crime.” In Turkey, for too many years, this adage has been reversed: first comes the punishment, then comes the accusation. Truth-telling has become the leading crime in Turkey, but it is always disguised, either as something mundane like “overstaying your residence permit” or something more subjective and provocative like “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

I, Dr. Amy L. Beam, am an American who promotes tourism in eastern Turkey and writes about Kurdish history and culture, as well as Yazidi refugees in Turkey. On November 28, 2014, the Agri Foreign Police refused to renew my residence permit. They said it was because the Sirnak police had put in the computer that I have visited Beytussebap, a small mountain town in southeast Turkey near the border of Iraq.

Ankara police directed Agri police to deny the renewal of my residence permit based on Law 6458, Article 33/1-ç because it was “inappropriate“. The actual law states the residence permit may be denied “when an entry ban or removal decision exists.”

Turkey Declines in Press Freedom Index

The 2014 Press Freedom Index  compiled by Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey 154 out of 180 countries. Foreign journalists in Turkey have been silenced through fear of losing their residence permit or actual deportation and banning.   Usually these entry bans come without explanation.   This is my second time being banned without being told a reason.

Secretly, word came to me that the real reason was because of my “Kurdish politics.” “Amy Beam is a dangerous person for Turkey because of her writing on the internet.

Southeast Turkey is safe for tourism. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. What could be so dangerous about visiting Beytussebap? I wrote about the history of 35 villages bombed, burned, and evacuated in the 1990s. The reason that Sirnak police do not want foreigners visiting southeast Turkey is not because of terrorism. It is because the ruling AK Party does not want outsiders witnessing how Kurds are being treated or learning the history of State violence and oppression that has been used against them.   It is not Amy Beam that is dangerous; it is truth that is considered dangerous.

The police and immigration authorities have acted with impunity for years. They have banned foreigners without having to provide a reason or justification.   In the lack of guiding legislation, the police have made their own arbitrary laws.


Erroneous Reason Given for Entry Ban

According to Ms. Çigden Dogan, Visa Office of the Turkish Consulate in New York, the reasons given in the computer system for my entry ban were simply “ç” (on November 19) and “g” (on November 24).

Law 6458, Article 33/1- ç is the denial of a residence permit when a ban or removal decision exists against the foreigner. But where was the ban or removal decision against me?

Article 54/1-g states a removal decision may be ordered for a foreigner who overstayed the expiry date of his or her residence permit. I did not overstay my residence permit. I voluntarily left one month before my residence permit expired. Did the Sirnak police hope no one would check? Does the Immigration Directorate’s new automated computer system have a “bug” in it . . . a “system problem”? Or will the police simply choose to ignore the computer system which would identify such irregularities?

Not everyone inside Turkey has given up hope.   A recent survey conducted by Kadir Has University in Istanbul  reported that 28% of Turkish citizens still do believe in their justice system. I am naively optimistic like so many Americans. I join that 28% of believers in spite of mountains of evidence to the contrary. I have to believe justice is possible in Turkey, because my only hope of ever returning to Turkey is for an independent judge to remove the entry ban against me. The Turkish Consulate stated that an entry ban is never removed unless it is appealed in court or to the foreign police. This position is in contradiction of Law 6458.

The Elegance of Law 6458, Law on Foreigners and International Protection

Law 6458, Law on Foreigners and International Protection was adopted in April 2013 by the Turkish Grand National Assembly and became effective in April 2014. It reflects an effort to bring Turkish legislation into accordance with EU standards.



Salih Efe, who is representing Amy Beam, was one of the many human rights activists and lawyers who advised legislators on drafting this law. This law is a tool for courts to replace the old police mentality of inflicting punishments without first charging and convicting a person of a crime.

My first career was as an English teacher and linguist. I love language and cherish the precision of words. My love of language served me well in my second career of developing software. Writing computer code requires precise syntax and punctuation. One missing comma and the code will not run. It is based on the logic of true or false conditions: if condition A exists, then do B. In the software profession, code that is clean, concise, easy to read, and efficient is referred to as “elegant.” To say a software engineer writes “elegant” code is the highest possible compliment.

Law 6458 is a brilliantly written piece of legislation. In computer lingo, it is elegant. . . the most elegantly written law imaginable, even if one does not agree with all the content. It follows the same if-then logic as a computer program. There are no complex sentence structures, no run-on sentences, no indecipherable legalize language. A lay person can understand it. It is not vague or ambiguous. There is little room for interpretation. It merely needs to be enforced, exactly as stated in black and white.

Residence Permits, Article 33

The renewal of a residence permit may be denied under Article 33, paragraph 1(ç):

Article 33/1-ç: “a short-term residence permit shall not be granted, shall be cancelled if it has been issued, and shall not be renewed when there is a current removal decision or an entry ban to Turkey in respect of the foreigner”.

33/1-ç is considered the kiss of death. Every lawyer I asked to represent me, said 33/1-ç meant I had been banned from Turkey. My case was hopeless. However, 33/1-ç is not an entry ban in spite of what 99% of the lawyers in Turkey mistakenly believe. It is a denial of residency.

If an entry ban or removal decision exists,

then the residence permit may be denied.

But where was the entry ban against me? The entry ban must come before the denial of residency, not after.

Removal Decisions, Article 54

A removal decision is covered under Article 54. This is issued when a foreigner is inside Turkey and is asked to leave the country by a certain date.   Article 54/1-g states:

IF a foreigner overstays his or her residence permit,

THEN he or she may be issued a removal decision.

Entry Bans, Article 9

An entry ban is covered under Article 9. It is issued when a foreigner is outside Turkey and is prevented from re-entering. Under paragraph 2:

IF a foreigner was deported,

THEN he or she may be banned.

I was granted the right to stay in Turkey until my six-month residence permit expired on Jan 3, 2015. I was specifically told I would not be deported. So I cannot be banned for being deported, because I was not deported.

That leaves only one other reason for being banned, described under Article 9, paragraph 1:

IF a foreigner is undesirable for reasons of public order, public security or public health,

THEN he or she may be banned.

The condition of being undesirable must be proven. The crime must come before the punishment. If Turkey is a functioning democracy, then a ban cannot be arbitrarily placed on a person. That is the big IF being debated around the world. Is Turkey still a functioning democracy?

The Right To Be Informed and To Appeal, Articles 10 and 25

Dec. 5, 2014, I went to the Immigration Directorate headquarters in Ankara and was escorted upstairs to an area not meant for visitors. There was a stack of books, freshly printed, of the new Law on Foreigners.   I asked for the procedure to appeal the denial of my residence permit, but no one knew. They asked me to leave. I opened to Article 25(2) and read the law to them: “Refusal, non-renewal or cancelation of the application shall be notified to the foreigner . . . and shall also include information on how foreigners would effectively exercise their right of appeal.” They had no reply. “If you don’t know the procedure, then how should I know it?” I sat down to wait for them to find out the appeal process.   After some staff discussions, I was taken to the Document section in the basement where I filed my written appeal for residency.

The next day, when the Immigration police delayed my departure in Istanbul Ataturk airport on Dec. 6, causing me to purchase an expensive new ticket, I asked what the problem was so that I might fix it. The police told me “There is no problem with your visa or residence permit. It was a system problem.”

Article 10(1) states a foreigner shall be notified of an entry ban, along with the appeal process, when he or she leaves the country. I was not informed of an entry ban until Jan. 21, 2015, after my appeal to the Immigration Directorate was denied.

Which Way Will the Scales Tip in Turkey?

Turkey is embroiled in an internal battle to save its democracy. It is scorned by the international press and denied entry into the European Union for its internet censorship, its decline in press freedom, and its poor human rights record, especially toward the Kurds. The 2013 Law on Foreigners and International Protection is a tool for the courts to restore press freedom by removing arbitrary entry bans against foreigners.

I am appealing my entry ban in an Administrative Court in Ankara. Will the court exercise its independence from the police to enforce justice and dismiss my entry ban because of a “system problem” or will the court continue to uphold the old police mentality and determine I am an “undesirable foreigner for reasons of public order, public security or public health”? If the court determines that I am “undesirable,” then what is my crime? Where is the charge against me or a conviction?

We are waiting to see if the courts will abide by the rule of law and enforce this elegant new Law on Foreigners or if Turkey will continue down this dangerous path of kicking foreigners out of the country without justification. I stand with the 28% of Turkish citizens and hope the court will use this opportunity to exercise judicial control over the police and regain some standing in the eyes of the international community.

Dr. Amy L. Beam promotes tourism in eastern Turkey at Mount Ararat Trek and writes political and historical commentary on Kurds in Turkey at Kurdistan Tribune. Twitter @amybeam;

2 Responses to American Writer Banned from Turkey
  1. Amy L Beam
    March 14, 2015 | 03:07

    On March 13, 2015, my attorney, Salih Efe, filed my appeal against the entry ban in Administrative Court 1 in Ankara. On March 12, the Hurriyet Daily reported that Turkey’s secret police shared a report with them (but NOT with me) stating I had “interviews with persons known to have contacts with the PKK”. Such an accusation has never been presented to me. Presumably, this “report” came after my visit to Beytussebap in November 17-18, 2014.

  2. Amy L Beam
    April 26, 2015 | 14:41

    It has been 7 weeks since I filed my appeal against my entry ban in Ankara Administrative Court 1 on March 13, 2015. I am still awaiting the court to review it. I continue to write about Kurdish and Yazidi issues from outside of Turkey. I continue to send climbers with Kurdish guides to the summit of Mount Ararat which is very symbolic for Armenians.

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