Nurcan Baysal is a Kurdish Human rights defender, journalist and writer.
She was born and grew up in Diyarbakır. She graduated from Ankara University Faculty of Political Science and received a master’s degree from Bilkent University International Relations Department. After 1 year of assistantship at Bilkent University, she returned her homeland Diyarbakır and began to work for humanitarian issues in the Kurdish Region. Between 1997-2007, Baysal worked as the project coordinator for United Nations Development Program in Diyarbakir. During that time, she was active in poverty and development issues as well as in microfinance and women’s entrepreneurship. She was engaged in the establishment of a number of NGOs in the Region. She was part of the Kurdish women’s movement and a big supporter of women NGOs in Kurdistan. In 2000 she established the Development Centre Association and worked for the rights of the forced migrated Kurdish population, evacuated villages, the rights of returnees and rural development.

In 2008, she began working for the Ozyegin Foundation and developed a rural development program in 6 war-torn villages of Tatvan, Kavar. The program made a significant impact on the living standards of over 2,000 people through projects working on education, employment, health and social life. As a result, Baysal was selected as one of “Turkey’s Changemakers” by the Sabancı Foundation in 2012.

Her work in development has had an international impact. In 2010
Baysal was awarded the “Women’s Creativity in Rural Life Award” by the Women’s World Summit Foundation in Switzerland for her work in the Kavar Basin and for her contribution to development literature by linking development with happiness. As she said in an interview “happiness is part of development”.

In 2012, with a group of Kurdish and Turkish intellectuals, activists and academics, she established the Diyarbakir Political and Social Research Institute (DISA). DISA has conducted research on different aspects of the Kurdish question including education in mother tongue, reconciliation, paramilitary forces, disarmament and more. Baysal serves as an advisor or board member to many non-profit organizations, like the Global Fund for Women, the Women Labor and Employment Platform, the Urgent Action Fund, the Mezopotamya Foundation, the Platform to Save Women Kidnapped by ISIS. She is a member of the women’s movement and several peace movements in Turkey.

After ISIS attacked Şengal in August 2014, Baysal immediately began to work voluntarily in the Yezidi camps in Iraqi and Turkish Kurdistan. She increased the voice of Yezidi people with her articles and with a group of brave women, she established the Platform to Save Women Kidnapped by ISIS in 2015. The platform continues to give different legal and health support to Yezidi women saved from ISIS and tries to increase the voice of Yezidi women in the world.

Since 2013, Baysal has been writing as a regular columnist. Her articles have been published in various countries. She is member of PEN Turkey.

Nurcan Baysal is the author of O Gün (That Day), Ezidiler: 73. Ferman (Ezidis: 73rd Decree) and co-author of Kürdistan’da Sivil Toplum (Civil Society in Kurdistan) and  O SESLER (THOSE VOICES). Her last book “Those Voices-Diyarbakır, a city under siege” was also published online in English by 60pages Publishing House from Berlin. (https://www.60pages.com/longreads/those-voices-diyarbakir-a-city-under-siege/ ). In “Those Voices”, she wrote about her city that was under bombardment. How the city itself experienced the bombardment; how daily life continued under the bombardment as well as how different sections of society experienced the bombardment.

She is one of the very few reporting from inside the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, from the proud and ancient heart of Kurds living in Turkey – the city of Diyarbakir. She focuses on human rights and war crimes in her articles.

Nurcan Baysal, mother of 2 sons, was awarded the “Brave Women Journalists Award” presented by the Italian Women Journalists Association in 2017 for her courageous work. She was also named 2018 Global Laureate for Human Rights Defenders at Risk by Front Line Defenders (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEBUovdD7qU) and currently faces a number of criminal prosecutions in relation to her work.


There are many court cases against her because of her articles about human rights and war crimes in Kurdistan. Despite all threats, intimidations and humiliations she faces; she refused to leave her hometown Diyarbakır, continue to write and record the human rights violations and war crimes from her city Diyarbakır.  As she said in one of her interviews:

“We are in the middle of a long struggle for democracy, freedom and justice. I write to record the history not written by the powerful, but to remember those who struggle for equality, freedom and justice.

History books continue to be written by executioners. But truth needs to find a place in history. I feel it is my responsibility to record truth for the future.”