Interview. “When Gabriele was detained, he was talking to Syrian refugees, collecting stories for the book he's working on about the war in Syria.”

Del Grande never wanted to enter Syria, partner says

Alexandra D’Onofrio is the companion of journalist Gabriele Del Grande and the mother of his two children. Nearly two weeks after his arrest in Turkey, she told il manifesto that he worked transparently, “in the sunlight,” and that rumors he wanted to enter Syria are a fabrication of the government.

“When Gabriele was detained, he was talking to Syrian refugees, collecting stories for the book he’s working on about the war in Syria,” she said.

Together with friends and colleagues of the Tuscan reporter, she is on a hunger strike to demand the reasons why on April 9 Gabriele was arrested by the Turkish authorities, and of what crimes he is accused. “It’s a collective fast, a relay race in which we decided to respond to Gabriele’s situation,” she said by phone from Athens, where she lives. On Thursday, several other colleagues joined the strike, and “every day there will be someone else,” she says.

Before talking with us, D’Onofrio spoke by telephone with the Italian consul in Izmir, Luigi Iannuzzi, who on Thursday personally followed the story along with a Turkish lawyer. “They were stopped on Wednesday in front of the Mugla detention center where Gabriele” is being held, she says. After being denied entry Wednesday, the Italian delegation was finally able to meet the journalist on Friday.

Thursday afternoon, the Turkish authorities confirmed that they had authorized the meeting, but still prudence prevails. “It seems that something is finally moving,” D’Onofrio said. “Apparently, because when I ask the console if it is safe to be able to see Gabriele, he was like, ‘I don’t know.’ Perhaps afraid that something might happen. I asked him to tell Gabriele to not feel abandoned. We all went into action and we are doing everything possible to ensure he will be freed as soon as possible.”

When did Gabriele enter Turkey?

This is not the first time he went to Turkey. In recent months, he had already entered at least two or three times. The latest trip began Saturday, April 8, when he traveled from Athens to Istanbul, from Istanbul to Hatay, and the next day he went in search of stories that interested him. In an email, he told me that everything was under control. He met people in public spaces, in the sunlight. They arrested him Sunday. The message that warned me of what had happened arrived around midnight.

He was looking for testimonies of Syrian refugees?

He was looking for stories of people who could tell how they had lived inside the war in Syria. That’s one of the goals of his research, which he stated in a video we shot together for the crowdfunding campaign. The idea is to do a “polyvocal” book, as he calls it, where different voices are woven together without bad or good, winners or losers.

Did he want to go into Syria?

No. This seems more like an excuse, a way of saying they stopped him because he was doing an illegal thing. He was very close to the border with Syria, but only because he was looking for stories that interest him, and there are so many people who came from Syria waiting to possibly return to their country after the war. Incidentally, Gabriele is a father of two children as well as being a journalist. He’s clearly very busy, and he would not want to risk neither his life nor even imprisonment knowing he has certain responsibilities.

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