Songül's letter from prison
Baki Tezcan, a GIT – North America member on research leave in Turkey, had participated on March 3 at the Prison Lectures at the end of which the audience wrote cards to the women students held at the Bakırköy Women’s Prison and elsewhere. Tezcan received responses to all the three cards he sent, the English translations of which were published on this page earlier (for the letters of Selver, Aysel, and Sevcan, see below). His response to Aysel generated another letter from her (for the second letter of Aysel, also see below) as well as a letter from Songül Sıcakyüz, a friend of Aysel's who mailed her letter with Aysel's second one. What follows is its translation based on the transcription provided by Tezcan.
April 8, 2012
I hope you are well. We do not know each other actually. However, upon my friends’ suggestions and having heard about the work you have been doing for the arrested students, I decided to write to you.
It is a great joy to know that something is being done for us outside these walls. Since we lost our trust in justice and the judiciary in our country, our only solace is the solidarity of the fellow democrats.
Let me shortly relate my story. I got arrested when I was a third-year mathematics major. Unfortunately, I now lost the excitement I had when I started college. I was once, ambitious to make math, the nightmare of many, my students’ favorite subject. However, the distributors of justice thought I am more dangerous than the molesters and rapists. I have been in prison for two years based on flimsy charges. Most of the indictment is based on unsubstantiated and made-up testimonies of unidentified witnesses. The rest is for attending peaceful campus protest marches to defend the right for education in the native language. They want to create a submissive generation that memorizes rather than thinks and creates. I cannot accept this; we cannot accept this.
Our choices and right to live belong to us. We want to live in a free, democratic society. For the sake of this, we oppose all anti-democratic situations and acts concocted in the name of nationalism.
We have not killed anybody. We have not harmed any property. It is hard to fathom our current situation, as it has no rhyme or reason.
The worst part of it is that the society gets used to it. In time, the violations get normalized. Arresting scientists, academics, intellectuals, writers, journalists and students for what they think becomes normal. In the end, they will be declared “terrorists” with a made-up cover for it.
Embarrassing traces are left on the pages of history. I cannot take this situation lightly, but what we can do is so limited. If our permission is needed for quoting our thoughts and writings, I readily give it. I do not know what comes out of it, but I believe we should try everything.
There is another issue I want to point out. Prisons are seen as spaces of taming and reformation. On my friends’ and my own name, I can say this: We do not have enough time here. We make this space habitable. We read, discuss, and follow what is going on. We have a collectively constructed life here. Against all odds, we are nurturing hopes and beautiful dreams for the future.
Take care of yourself and thank you for your concern.
Uğur's crime: Being a socialist
Sent prior to his trial in Beşiktaş, the following is Uğur Ok’s letter to his sister to be disseminated in the press. It was published on Medya Tutkunu on April 5, 2012.
I want to tell you about my university education, which is taking ten years, and the cause of its long duration: my imprisonment adventure. As you know, today there are 600 students in prisons in our county. I am writing to you as one of these 600 students in prisons. I was arrested on September 27, 2006, when I was a senior in Mathematics at Balıkesir University. My arrest was based on a document, a print-out, the factuality of which has not been checked during the six years that passed since. At that time I was the president of Balıkesir Socialist Youth Association (SGD). According to police’s argument, SGD is associated with MLKP/KGÖ [Marxist Leninist Communist Party’s Communist Youth Organisation], since I am the president of SGD, therefore I am supposed to be a member of MLKP/KGÖ. All my criminal charge is based on this argument. However, the reality is that there is no single Turkish High Court of Appeals precedent that shows organic relationship between SGD and MLKP/KGÖ. On the contrary, there is a verdict that annuls any relationship between the two. Far more importantly, apart from this abstract claim, there is not a single piece of evidence showing that I was involved in any illegal activity. Consider this: the police forces, who are able to find so many things, fail to find a single piece of evidence of illegal activity against me.
After 4.5 months of pre-trial detention, I was discharged in the very first trial by the 10th High Criminal Court in 6th of February, 2007. In my second trial, the prosecutor demanded my exculpation and the court board ratified my exculpation. However, the prosecutor who prepared my indictment objected to this verdict and reversed my exculpation in April 2009. Upon this reversal the same board, who once adjudicated based on the fact that there were no accurate, tangible evidence for criminal activity, changed its decision and decided for my arrest in December 2009. And this time the same board argued that it based its decision on the current evidence, kind of crime I committed and out of suspicion of my escape. Good enough, but what has changed in the last two years? Did they include a new document into the dossier? Or did they realize a new element for crime? No, nothing of that sort happened. From that day onwards, I have been in prison for 2 years and 8 months including my prior 4.5 months. It is exactly 32 months, which equals to 970 days! The charge against me is membership of a terrorist organization. If the court sentences me today, most probably I will stay in prison just about two more years and I will be discharged.
However, during all these years, what happened to my university education? When I was a senior student in 2006, due to my arrest I could not attend the lectures in the first semester. And again due to my arrest I was expelled from the university for two semesters. In the year 2009, when I was arrested again, I was supposed to pass all the classes and graduate, because there is a time limit of 7.5 years in the university. However, because I was in prison I couldn’t take the exams and in July 2010, I was dismissed. The reason was the time limit; there were still 5 more courses I was supposed to take for my graduation. Finally, last semester I was admitted again to the university due to the repentance law. However, since Balıkesir is too far, I am not able to enter the exams. The prison has not replied my plea for entering the exams. This is my entire story. Unfortunately, the cost of being a socialist is too high in this country. The Minister of Justice Sadullah Ergin, or any government representative would most probably say “no body is prosecuted because of being socialist.” The fact is that there is nothing in my dossier, apart from being the president of Socialist Youth Association! They didn’t investigate the document for six years as why and where it was printed, they still treat it as evidence for my arrest and they claim it was prepared by Y.D. As you know, anybody can prepare such a document in 21st century; the police might have done it as well. If they were to conduct a lawful investigation, wouldn’t you expect a decent investigation of where and by whom this document was prepared? Colonel Dursun Çiçek’s print-out was sent to 7 legal experts, why they don’t do the same for the document in my dossier? It means that we are not as equal before the law as Dursun Çicek, or İlker Başbuğ. It means that all are not equal before the law in this country.
Accused of by the same document, Y.D was discharged within 15 months. It means the court did not treat this print-out as conclusive evidence, hence decided his discharge. But in my case, I am in prison for 32 months. This double standard per se is enough to question the originality of the document and this is violation of justice. My case is now at the decision phase. There will be a trial on the 5th of April, I am curious about the result. Frankly, after all this, I lost my hope. If I am discharged I will be able to enter the exams for this semester, but if not, my hope will be delayed for unforeseeable future.
What I want from you is sensitivity. Unfortunately, we don’t get coverage in the media, hence nobody hears our voice.
Thank you for everything, love and greetings.
F Type Prison, Number 2
F Type Prison, Number 2
A letter from Sevcan
This letter is a response from Sevcan Göktaş to the card she received from Baki Tezcan, a GIT – North America member on research leave in Turkey, where he had participated at the Prison Lectures at the end of which the audience wrote cards to the women students held at the Bakırköy Women’s Prison and elsewhere. The letter was translated into English by Zeynep Oğuz based on the Turkish text transcribed by Tezcan. You can read the Turkish version of the text on Bianet.
Sevcan's case was very well known and followed closely. Two members of parliament from the Republican People's Party Veli Ağbaba (Malatya) and Hüseyin Aygün (Tunceli) attended some of the proceedings and protested the handling of the case. You can read Turkish coverage of the case in two articles on Bianet.
April 1, 2012
I send you all my love and greetings. How are you? We are quite well despite all that has happened.
I just received the card that you wrote in front of the Bakırköy Prison on March 3. I wanted to reply right away. I received your card only now because we have this communication ban in place. We receive the letters sent to us as once a month, and we send the responses the following day. We are not allowed access to means of communication such as letters, fax, or phone for the rest of the month thereafter. We were punished with this limited communication because we protested against what we were put through and because we sang songs. Of course the communication ban also means no free visitation. Only the restricted visitation is allowed, and not many people come for that. This place is a little challenging to get to in terms of transportation, and so the families cannot visit frequently.
See how I have let myself loose with one card! When we get the chance to get our voices heard, we want to tell whatever goes on in isolation within these walls.
Let me tell you my story – that is the process of my case, the penalties we were given and what we have been living through here. Let the injustice and lawlessness be known.
Policemen in face masks holding guns busted into the apartment, where I was staying over as a guest, around 06:00 in the morning on June 3, 2011, and our story began thus. The story of me and ten friends of mine. They arrested us, dragging us, literally, by the head and ears. We spent three days in the detention rooms of the Malatya “anti-terror branch.” I didn’t know why I was there, there was a privacy statement against us and we couldn’t see a lawyer. It must have been the third day, when we finally learned bits and pieces. I couldn’t believe the questions when I first heard them, and yet they were very real. I was being questioned for democratic and legal press statements, participation in the May Day protests, etc. These were the reasons why we had been detained for three days. We were taken to the prosecution office on day four and got arrested, all ten of us, by that evening. We were taken to Malatya prison. We were psychologically sound because we were comfortable in our conviction that we did the right things. Even though we were well aware of the realities of our country we still couldn’t –or didn’t want to– understand the grounds of our arrest. To cut a long story short, our hearing took place two months later. Following that, there were six trials with a month or two between each one. During the sixth hearing we got prison sentence for several years. For example I was sentenced to thirteen and a half [13,5] years, and the sentences of my friends range from eight to fourteen  years. Yes, that’s right; this is precisely the severity of the sentence of the Third High Criminal Court of Malatya. In keeping with what seems to be fashionable these days, apparently pouring his barrage of years of jail sentence was hard on the conscience of the chief judge!
So what were these grave crimes of ours that called for this punishment with many years in jail? This is where the real problem lies. Here are things that they punished by thirteen and a half [13,5] years of imprisonment: Attending a protest and public declaration that demanded “free transportation for students right now” in front of a high school in Malatya in 2009; attending a panel on the December 19-22 massacre in prisons (also known as “Hayata Dönüş Operasyonu” or the “Resurrection Operation” [30 prisoners were murdered during these operations that took place simultaneously in 20 different prisons on December 19, 2000, with the participation of thousands of security forces]); attending public declarations organized by hundreds, thousands of others to demand the release of Güler Zere due to severe illness [Güler Zere was pardoned by President Abdullah Gül on November 6, 2009]; attending the protests on the May Day alongside around a million others and March 8 [International Women’s Day], as well as a Grup Yorum concert called “Independent Turkey” with 150,000 people. These “extremely grave” crimes are nothing compared to even more grave ones such as distributing invitations to the Group Yorum concert and selling tickets thereof; attending a breakfast gathering with women before the March 8 protests; demanding free education and justice; demanding freedom for Berna and Ferhat, who were arrested for demanding free education and so on and so forth.
I was sentenced to thirteen and a half [13,5] years in prison because I attended such protests and gatherings. My friends are in a similar situation. These are all legal, and within our democratic rights. They all took place in the most frequented and populated public spaces, under the watchful eye of the police and the press. Tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people attended one or the other of these events. The right to participate in such acts and events is plainly protected by the legislation. And yet, the police handed out flowers to the women participating in the March 8 events, only to prepare a summary of proceedings against us thereafter. This summary seems to have made its way, without significant modification, to our court cases in the form of the bill of indictment. The court board kept obstinately looking for an illegal organization behind these events. During a phone conversation, a friend of mine (who is arrested in the same court case with me) jokingly addressed me as “auntie.” In their search to come up with traces of illegal activity, they claimed that must have been my pseudonym or code. Why on earth would I be using a code name? Besides, what kind of a pseudonym is “auntie”? Would a member of an illegal organization be a student, or work as a professor, a lawyer or a civil servant? Would she be making public appearances with no reservation or be attending public protests in contrast to what the name illegal implies – that is against the aim of secrecy? Of course not. The court board knows this well, anyway, but to no avail, given that it [seems that it] was required that we be arrested. We disproved all of their claims against us, and they couldn’t bring in a single concrete evidence, and yet we got sentenced to thirteen and a half [13,5] years.
Here is their actual incentive: we do not support AKP [the party of the ruling government]. We are people who think, question, and fight for their rights and freedom. We are against policies of oppression, exploitation of labor, trading of the lands of our country parcel by parcel, lot by lot. We are against becoming American soldiers, countries being bombed, and people getting killed. We want free, scientific, and democratic education; we want it available in one’s mother language, and taking place in democratic high schools and universities. In other words we want to live humanly. This is precisely the kind of thinking that they want to punish.
In reality, everybody, including the judges and the attorneys, knows very well that public declaration is not a crime. AKP doesn’t even want public statements that raise criticism against their policies anymore. No one should be criticizing AKP or resisting it; that is what they want. And that is why thousands of people, including us, over five hundred  fellow students, along with tens of journalists/writers, lawyers, academics, workers, civil servants, unemployed, are behind bars.
Despite all, we stand behind what we have thought, stood up for, and done. We believe we are right. And, the most important is that, we remain bonded at heart with hope to this day and the days to come. They may imprison bodies but the hope and faith in our hearts and minds remains free.
Hereby, I send my regards to all my fellow students in prison and everyone behind bars.
See how I produced two pages when, ironically, you’d asked for a couple of lines. As I said before, it is very important that there are those who hear us and work to get our voices heard. Many thanks to you all.
Take good care of yourselves,
[from the envelope:]
Two letters from Aysel
The first letter is a response from Aysel Diler to the card she received from Baki Tezcan, a GIT – North America member on research leave in Turkey, where he had participated at the Prison Lectures on March 3, 2012, at the end of which the audience wrote cards to the women students held at the Bakırköy Women’s Prison and elsewhere. After receiving this first letter from Ms. Diler, Tezcan wrote a letter to her to which she responded in her second letter below. The letters were translated into English by Tezcan.
The night of March 20-21
Dear friend Baki,
Thanks for the support card you sent. I very much value your effort to be our voice outside. I have been in prison for nine months. I do not know how long I will stay here. Because my status here, like that of my other friends who have been arrested for political reasons, is not any different from that of a hostage. Are you wondering how I came to this view? If someone is subjected to a trial in a country because she used her most natural rights; if she is prevented from using her right to education, her cultural, social, and political rights, she is just a hostage. I see my detention here in this way.
The main reason for my trial is my identity; another reason is the fact that I am an oppositional student. My Kurdishness is enough for me to be seen as a potential felon. Because of this you start life defeated: one to nill. For them you are a savage who has not yet reached the “level of civilization” and who might attack hither and thither anytime. For this reason, there must be some people to tame and govern you, to show your place and to punish you when necessary.
I suffer the pain of being an “other” since my childhood. When I was a kid, I used to be afraid of police officers who raided our home. It was the '90s. I remember them arresting my father and releasing him after torturing him for a week. We used to have tapes of Kurdish songs at home. Since my mother was afraid that they might take my father and “loose” him in police custody, she had buried a plastic bag full of tapes in the yard of our house. I could not make sense of this. Why was she burying tapes, I wondered. Everyone was listening to them anyway. Later, my father was imprisoned for four years. I went to see him at visitations. Now it is the other way around. I am in prison, and he comes to see me at visitations. It is because of this reason, seeing now that nothing changed in this country from those days to these days destroys my belief that good things will happen.
Not long ago, very recently actually, the murder of 34 Kurds in Uludere, Şırnak; the fact that no one was called to account for this; and, moreover, the fact that the prime minister thanked/congratulated the chief of staff astonished me. In addition to these, the acquittal of the murderers of Hrant Dink by the state and the closure of the case of the Madımak massacre in Sivas because of such an utterly nonsensical reason as statute of limitations swept away the remaining crumbs of hope.
While all of this is happening, while people are jammed into prisons in a way that reminds one of camps like Auschwitz during the Nazi era, no one should expect from us to believe in the justice of this country. I am very curious: are they thinking of making soap out of these people whom they packed like sardines in jails, one should ask. I can no longer predict what this government, these self-interested machines of war, could or could not do.
We follow the current affairs from here through newspapers and TV. What is happening is affecting our mood. I do not understand why leftist, socialist, oppositional groups can still not show a serious reaction to all these things. Just as much as the perpetrator, s/he who knows the crime but remains silent is also guilty. Because of this, I think that there must be a response that everyone could give to all these injustices. At least because of one’s responsibility to humanity, in the name of respect to all ancient peoples who created so much value, something should be done. We cannot do much from here. What we can do is limited. We try to make people hear our voice with hunger strikes. But they try to isolate us thoroughly by punishing us with canceling our right to have open visitations for three months.
Here, there is concrete all over the place, [the building] is surrounded by barbed wire; we can see the sky only in a limited way. There is no soil, no green. We save tea leaves by filtering the water after we have tea so that we can use it as soil for planting flowers. There are twenty-eight of us staying in our ward. Twenty-eight women from many professions: journalist, student, academic, political party employee, lawyer, sixty-year-old mothers, we are all together. We share our lives, our joys and sorrows. At the same time, we read and discuss a lot. Sometimes we come up with skits, dance the halay, and sing in order to add color to our life here. Each value that is created with the limited possibilities here makes us immensely happy. Then we realize that women are productive and prolific wherever they are. I will never forget this beautiful side of life here.
Tomorrow is Newroz. It is the day of resurrection, the harbinger of the spring. I am waiting in excitement. Unfortunately, celebrating Newroz has not been permitted in the last few days. Quite a few people were injured and arrested. One person lost his life. Yet, if people had not been prevented [from celebrating Newroz], none of this would have happened. But the AKP [Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, Justice and Development Party], which made a decision of all-out war, wreaked carnage in Newroz celebrations. This party is only liberal towards itself. On top of it all, it released a Newroz celebration message, as if making a joke. It is very strange indeed. Tomorrow, even if we are beaten, even if we are blocked, we will light our fire and celebrate Newroz here in our yard.
I am ending my letter here. Once again, thanks for your sensitivity and sincerity. Life is so beautiful that one could die for it. We are here because of our desire for a free and honorable life. In the hope of meeting at many a Newroz during which we will build a free and honorable life,
with my greetings and in respect,
[from the envelope:]
L Tipi Kapalı Cezaevi
Bakırköy / İSTANBUL
Friday, April 6, 2012
Slav Hevalê Baki,*
I hope and wish that you are doing well. I received your letter. And as soon as I received it, I set to write a response. We already got to know you from the letter you wrote to Selver. We had learned about the lectures given in front of the prison from the newspapers. This embracement [of our case] was very meaningful. The fact that you, as an academic, are one of the supporters of this campaign is specially much more meaningful and valuable. I could feel your sincerity and frankness from your letter. In situations like this one, the number of people who assume responsibility would be few and far between. Because the desire to have a just and honorable life necessitates a price. In a society where the idea that every man is for himself is inscribed in people’s brains, running the risk of paying a price is only for those who feel a responsibility towards humanity. You better be careful, though; they might take you inside, alleging that you are a member of KCK [Koma Civakên Kurdistan]. :)
This letter will reach you soon. I would like you to publish the letter I sent. I am sure that there are hundreds, no, thousands of people in Turkey and the world who do not know that there is such a large scale mistreatment of students, politicians, lawyers, and journalists here! I believe that the “Don’t touch my student!” campaign will create a real sensitivity in society. Many students expend their lives in prisons for absurd reasons. My hair started to whiten already. I am being held here for the similarity of a cardigan. It is just like the keffiyeh of Cihan Kırmızıgül. They want [to sentence me for] seven and a half years [of imprisonment] for this. The only justification is the black cardigan. Then, cursed is the one who wears a black cardigan. I feel like saying “Don’t wear white, they’ll talk about you; don’t wear black, they’ll arrest you.” :)
As you stated [in your letter], visitations are limited to three people whom one identifies in advance, but one can have a visitation with special permission from the Office of the District Attorney. This month we were punished with a ban on open visitations because we were engaged in hunger strike. The second punishment will be on communications (one is prevented from the right of telephone and [receiving and writing] letters). In fact, these are our only means of connecting to the outside world, and they are trying to ban them as well. Sometimes they engage in arbitrary practices. My lawyer is Emine Şeker. She is a young, new lawyer. She sometimes comes to my visitation.
I think I had not introduced myself a great deal. I was born in Tekirdağ in '88. Originally, I am from Wan. I am the youngest of three siblings. I have two brothers. I was studying Teaching Social Studies [at the School of Education] in Edirne until I was arrested. I am trying to put the time to good use here. I read, play volleyball, and grow flowers in brewed tea leaves.
It would be really nice to welcome spring outside. But as the seeds we planted here put forth sprouts, we are able to live the excitement of the spring here, too. We are twenty-eight people in a ward now. Professor Büşra Ersanlı is in our ward, too. She gives lectures to us here as well. In other words, those who threw her in jail for giving lectures were mistaken. At the present time, she is focusing on some work. She, too, is doing well. In the meantime, they transported Selver to Batman. She would write to you from there.
I am ending my letter for now. I am sending my love and respects to your wife and children. You, too, take very good care of yourself. Stand somewhere close to the sea, maybe on the shore, and inhale the smell of the sea for me. Remain with hope, resistance, and love!
[from the envelope:]
L Tipi Kapalı Cezaevi
* It means “Hello Friend Baki” [in Kurdish].
Selver's Letter from Prison
This letter is a response from Selver İspir to the card she received from Baki Tezcan, a GIT – North America member on research leave in Turkey, where he had participated at the Prison Lectures at the end of which the audience wrote cards to the women students held at the Bakırköy Women’s Prison and elsewhere. The letter was translated into English by GIT – North America blog editors based on the Turkish text transcribed by Tezcan.
An armful of love and peace to you all from the Bakırköy prison! First of all, I would like to state that I do not quite accept the situation of shame you refer to in your card and that I do not find it appropriate. While there are so many people who should be ashamed and embarrassed in such a country, I believe that you and people like you should be more comfortable as far as your conscience is concerned. At least, that is what I think :)
I want to state that I find the classes conducted on March 3 very important and valuable; and, through you, I want to thank all participants for their sensitivity. If we consider that we live in such a callous society, and a society that has been transformed into an egoistic one, the significance of such actions becomes all the more evident.
Yes, today is March 20; I specifically chose this date to write my letter. You might ask why. Because I had a hearing today. I thought it would be better to report to you all that which transpired while everything is still fresh in my mind, while I am still angry. I am sure you’ll approve of my anger once I start to tell you about the trial.
Let me first begin with the indictment. Why am I being detained in prison for seven months? Because of attending the May 1 [May Day], March 21 [Newroz], and March 8 [International Women’s Day] celebrations and of having Kurdish friends – as if the others are free of their prejudices. Just because of these reasons I am being tried with “being a member of a [terrorist] organization.” It is funny, isn’t it? However, it’s also very nerve racking. Is there anything more natural for a person to get acquainted with people from her own nation? The same geography, the same culture, the same language, some common features or common views; don’t we all build our relations and friendships on these links? What kind of logic and what kind of justice is this that it would count my most befitting right as a crime!
May 1, 2010; on exactly this date, the date that I am being accused of committing a crime on, May Day was announced a public holiday in this country, and I was deemed to be a criminal.
March 8; I am a woman. Although this mentality doesn’t want to accept it, I am a woman. I am a woman who doesn’t accept the definition of a woman by the official ideology, by this system; I am a woman who fights for this and who is going to continue fighting for this. In this case, if not me, who is going to celebrate March 8? Those who cannot even bear the existence of women, those who lie in ambush in order to destroy women? I am asking because I insist on getting answers for these questions, because I am still not convinced that these acts actually constitute a crime; and I am sure, just like me, you are not convinced, either.
March 21 carries in it a different beauty and mythical meaning for almost all Middle Eastern societies. For Kurds, it symbolizes rebellion and the freedom that comes with it. Newroz is the symbol of rebellion against Dehak the Cruel who killed young people in order to cure the tumors on his shoulders with their brains. We live in the country of contemporary Dehaks who managed to transform this year’s Newroz into mourning for the Kurdish people, again. Yes, unfortunately I am saying their country because they managed to make us feel all the time as if we don’t belong to this country. This is their success. They created a generation that doesn’t like, sometimes even hate, this country. Even the one who says he is the most attached to his land and country, even the one who claims he is nationalist has always looked for a way to escape this country. The mentality of this country created such a generation. In this society, which has been exposed to such an attitude, some chose to struggle in order to get rid of contemporary Dehaks to make this country more livable; some cowered and became insensitive and selfish, as I had mentioned earlier. Just like the proverb goes, they said “long live the snake which doesn’t touch me!” Unfortunately the snake had already destroyed the scene and poisoned everyone… Some chose to wear the mantle of racism, maybe they created a mechanism in themselves, “the mechanism to satisfy one’s nothingness.”
Nevertheless, despite them, this country belongs to all of us, and it is upon us to turn it into a livable place.
If we were to come back to the trial, I would like to touch upon the defense of the lawyers a little bit. Here is how the defense of my lawyer was in general: “Because of the oppression of the citizens of Kurdish descent in the geographic region where she was educated (and at that time this was very common), my client’s friends at the university were composed of Kurds. It is said that she participated in May 1, March 8, March 21 [demonstrations]. There is no evidence against her other than phone conversations. And actually, some of the phone conversations have been interpreted very subjectively.”
Of course, this point of interpreting the phone calls is also important. They have marked the section where I asked my friend for shoes and pants. I have no idea what they think I actually was asking for. Had they allowed me to defend myself in my native language, I would have told them that one could not walk barefoot, and that’s why one needs shoes, and that one cannot walk around without clothes.
This really qualifies as a situation that can make it to the list of shame of this country. Of course, this shame belongs to those who keep us in detention because of such ridiculous reasons.
I also have a court-case-file friend, Yunus Acıoğlu. His lawyer felt the necessity to build a defense as follows: “The book, CD, computer, etc. that have been captured in the house of my client are normal objects to encounter in the home of a student. There is also a phone conversation denoting his sending of an ÖSS [university placement test—kind of an SAT in Turkey] study journal to his friend. ÖSS journals are not banned. And yet because of such allegations he is incarcerated for over two years...”
The defense made against such accusations in such a court case is not only enraging but it also hurts a human.
The result: I have been acquitted, and my court-case-file friend will continue to be detained... Why then, am I still writing to you from Bakırköy Prison? Because apparently there is a detention order about me from another court-case-file. Let’s see what surprises are expecting us this time.
Tomorrow is March, 21—Newroz. I congratulate your Newroz with the spirit of those who say “obstinately, freedom.” In spite of everything and obstinately, it is nice to laugh, mouthful.
Wishing that you will laugh, a mouthful, tomorrow and every other day,
[Address from the envelope:
L Tipi Kadın Kapalı C.Evi,
PS: There are many friends who have similar court-case-files. They, too, will write as soon as they can.
Before I forget, I am a student of Tourism and Hotel Management in Balıkesir. Last time [that is, before my detention] I was a sophomore :)
Baran’s Letter from Prison
as excerpted in Yıldırım Türker’s column, Radikal newspaper, December 18, 2011
Let me first introduce myself. My name is Baran Nayır. I am a 20-year-old youth and a Turkish Literature student at Yıldız Technical University. I am a member of Socialist Democracy Party (SDP). While these two conditions (that is, being young and being politically engaged) are quite normal in themselves, they bring to the fore another condition that has become rather commonplace in today’s Turkey: that of being a young political prisoner. I am one of the thousands of young political prisoners who are deemed dangerous and put in jail.
In 2009, two SDP members (I and Ali Deniz Kılıç) were taken into custody due to a press release. The court we appeared after custody placed us under arrest based on Article 220/6 of Turkish Penal Code. Contents of this law is well-known: “persons who commit a crime on behalf of an organization shall be punished as members of an [illegal] organization even if they are not members of the organization”! Based on this article we are charged as PKK members just because we were involved in a press release that spoke about a democratic resolution of the conflict.
All sorts of interesting situations arise because the law establishes membership in an [illegal] organization without any finding of organizational link, rather based solely on political activities: while we are under trial for membership of PKK, the leader of our party and members of party’s executive board are charged for [alleged] membership in Revolutionary Headquarter [terrorist organization] because they participated in the platform Movement for a Democratic United Left [Demokrasi için Birlik Hareketi]. Similarly, SDP members who were arrested while they participated in the democratic resolution tent in İzmir are charged for membership of PKK; at the same time, our comrades who participated in Hopa demonstrations are under trial as members of a united front of several organizations. And we don’t even need to enter the subject of excessively long detention periods during trials based on Anti-Terror Legislation.
At our hearing in March, the prosecutor made a submission for our release but the response of the judges was to release everyone in the trial matter except us, that is the two SDP members. At the hearing in July, the results of the finger print investigation that we had demanded one and a half years ago arrived; and it was proven that none of the evidence collected had our finger prints on it and that none of the video evidence presented to court contained our images. Even though there was not a single concrete evidence implicating us, the court issued a remand and sent us back to jail. I can reasonably claim that this is a court that operates without any evidence, that is except the presumed danger we present because we are young and socialists.
On December 20, we appear yet again before court at Beşiktaş Court House. We have now been in custody for over two years. We are both university students. We took the university entrance exam once again while we sat in prison, and we got accepted to new university departments. However, we cannot begin our studies at our departments. Together with countless students who are in jail even though there is not even a “crime committed” we invite everyone who are against this injustice to come to Beşiktaş Court House on December 20 and support us in our struggle to make sure that it will not be someone else’s turn [to be sent to jail] the next time.
Tekirdağ F-Type Prison no. 2
Translator's note (M. Pamir): Baran Nayır and Ali Deniz Kılıç were sent back to prison after their fifth hearing on December 20, 2011. Their next hearing in the trial is scheduled for April 3, 2012. For details of their last court appearance, see the Bianet news item at:
Necati's Letter from Prison
The first letter Necati Henden wrote from Kandıra F-Type prison reached his family on December 19, 2011. The letter, a copy of which is included in the blog his family has set up, includes a sketch of the one-person cell he spent his first three weeks.
As you can see, I live in a small hole like this…Don’t worry about me too much; you won’t be able to see me around for a couple of months until my [first] trial hearing. I went to do research in a [strange] place that has no phones, Internet, technology or humans. When I return I will be more knowledgeable as a result of this research. In this place, communication by sending letters has just been established, and phones have just been invented…. To cut a long story short, I am one of those that “ the state [mercifully] looks after and feeds in jail rather than executes by hanging” [a reference to an infamous quote by the leader of the September 12, 1980 junta].
Translator’s note (M. Pamir): Necati Henden is 19 years old. He is a 2-year student at the Department of Communications Design at Kocaeli University. He is charged with “praising a criminal and a crime,” and “membership in a terrorist organization.” He is in prison since November 22, 2011. His lawyer submits that the reason he is arrested is because he participated in a commemoration of Deniz Gezmis [the revolutionary activist who was tried in Martial Law Court and executed in 1972], he took part in anti-government demonstrations in the town of Hopa, and because he organized a press release against the price hikes in transportation fees. He has a diagnosed liver condition, Gilbert syndrome. His family is concerned that prison conditions will exacerbate his jaundice symptoms. The blog his family has established, from which this letter and information is taken, shares news about his case and the cases of other arrested students. The blog is at:
Ayşe Berktay: Letter from Istanbul Bakırköy Women's Prison
Excerpts from Jadaliyya, the link to the rest of the letter is below.
"Earlier in October 2011, Ayşe Berktay (Hacimirzaoglu)—a renowned translator, researcher, and global peace and justice activist—was taken by the police from her home in Istanbul at five o’clock in the morning and subsequently arrested. She still remains imprisoned for the foreseeable future. Below is a letter and statement by Ayşe Berktay, addressed to Lieven De Cauter—a philosopher and founding member of the Brussels Tribunal—who has been organizing an international campaign to release Ayşe Berktay from prison. Click here to sign a petition to stop arbitrary detentions in Turkey.]"
"10 December 2011 [Istanbul Bakirköy Women’s Prison]
I hope this letter finds you well. I have received your letter. It was a nice surprise and stimulation. Thank you. Please give my greetings to all. The presence of you all out there surely makes us feel stronger. I am—we are—fine. Yes, you can send me books; I’d love it. This prison—for the time being—is one of the better ones in Turkey. I mean, the conditions aren’t horrible like in other prisons. Being deprived of one’s freedom, being behind bars in itself is horrible enough, though. Looking at the direction and speed of developments, conditions here will (may) probably begin to deteriorate as well. We shall see! […]
The situation here is rather critical. Feeling ever more powerful with the support he is getting from “Western powers” as a representative of so-called “Western ideals of democracy and freedom” in the region, Erdoğan has turned his back on—or done away with—all semblance of democracy at home and is preparing to intervene actively in the region. Your action is valuable in the sense that it exposes the true nature of the Erdoğan government. Having the world public question their practices at home, and challenge the façade of democracy he put up abroad, is very important because he feeds on this “democratic prestige” he has abroad to take harsher measures against democratic opposition at home. Such prestige makes his hand stronger against opposition in the country. Anyone who does not agree or go along with his way of solving the problem is a terrorist, an enemy—familiar, no?
Because of efforts to find a democratic, peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, to democratize Turkey, and because we are members of the BDP [Peace and Democracy Party], a legal political party that succeeded in getting thirty-six seats in the parliament in spite of all their unimaginable anti-democratic obstruction—because of our activities, our work as BDP members, we are accused of “membership in an armed terror organization.” We have been refused access to any further information on the case. They say our “file is restricted.” Our lawyers don’t know on what grounds this accusation has been made. So we haven’t been able to make any statement of defense; we just told them that we cannot defend ourselves or testify because we have not been allowed to read our files and to understand the context.
There are two positions on finding a solution to the Kurdish issue, and on putting an end to the armed conflict. One says keep fighting, defeat and eliminate the “terrorists.” Kill them and the problem will finish. And the other says engage in dialogue, negotiate, stop military operations, and talk. Take steps, change laws—to provide for a truly democratic atmosphere that ensures thorough discussion, where everyone can express his opinions freely, without legal backlash. Free political prisoners and discuss. Because we favor and work for this latter position, they have declared war on us as terrorists. This action to criminalize all legal political activity of the BDP is in fact a conscious choice that opts for limiting and restricting democratic political struggle, thus giving leeway and priority to military options.
This is why protests against this anti-democratic obstruction of political struggle and the arbitrary nature of the detentions, against arbitrary detentions to obstruct political struggle and democratic opposition, is very important. They need to know that the world knows and follows."
To read the rest of this comprehensive statement, please see:
For press coverage of this letter in another language, please see the below link in the Spanish newspaper Rebelión: http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=141549