I Do Not Accept This Indictment
I am a member of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). In December 2009 I became a BDP member. In March 2010 I was elected to the BDP Istanbul Province Executive; in October 2010 I was elected to the BDP Central Women’s Committee. I worked in the Press Committee during my term as the Istanbul Province Executive and in the Foreign Relations Office while I was a member of the Women’s Committee.
I grew up learning that opposing inequity, injustice and inequality was a virtue. I was told to read and to research but never to learn by rote and never to give up learning. From my mother and father, I learnt that all people are equal, that discrimination, conceit and deceit are the most shameful deeds, that hard work and freedom are the noblest values. I always tried to live my life adhering to these values. I became a socialist.
I adopted a stance predicated on the knowledge that any injustice in life is committed against not one but all of us while refusing to live as a prisoner to this; on not being at peace with the idea of living in a society where the presence of inequality, inequity and injustice is accepted; gaining knowledge by learning mutually; accepting individual grievances as our collective grievances; and endeavouring to change this situation. Today, I am 58 years old, and this is why I am [involved] in BDP.
I have always had a very special relationship with understanding and communicating through language, through speech. I was drawn to being a translator by my strong relationship with my mother tongue and my aptitude for languages. To the extent of my abilities, I wanted to be a bridge, to contribute to the sharing of words. I know very well what a person’s relationship with their mother tongue is. I know that the mother tongue is one’s identity, is one’s existence, I know how vital a person’s connection to their mother tongue is, the place language holds in one’s life, the springs that nourish it and how it blossoms and develops. I know that banning education in one’s mother tongue and its use in public places kills that language; that killing a mother tongue means destroying a people’s collective memory, identity and culture, as well as a part of this world. This isn’t mere ethnic politics.
Languages constitute the collective memory of humanity, of the world. An insistence on having a mother tongue live on is an insistence on having a people, humanity, and the world live on. Consequently, insisting on a [legal] defense in one’s mother tongue is a just insistence. It is an insistence on humanity. It is not an organizational pretense born of no genuine human need as has been claimed in this indictment. BDP’s position on this issue is correct.
In the last 10-15 years, I have conducted work at the History Trust (Tarih Vakfı), the Women’s Human Rights Trust (Kadının İnsan Hakları Vakfı), the Compatriots for Peace Initiative (Barış İçin Yurttaş Girişimi), the Truth [behind] Diyarbakır Prison Research and Justice Commission (Diyarbakır Cezaevi Gerçekleri Araştırma ve Adalet Komisyonu), and the Women for Peace Initiative (Barış İçin Kadın Girişimi).
My years at the History Trust were marked by efforts to overcome the gulf between official history and real history, to come to terms with the past. At the Women’s Human Rights Trust I had the opportunity to forge a close relationship with the female struggle and to meet feminists, I prepared publications; I took part in the Prime Minister’s Advisory Board on Human Rights as a representative of the Trust.
After 9/11, the Peace Initiative’s work focused on issues regarding national, regional, and global peace: the Kurdish issue, the Armenian issue, the Cyprus issue, relations with Greece, the Palestine issue, the Gaza blockade, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Prejudice, military guardianship, nationalist and militarist policies were questioned; panels and meetings were organized; attempts were made at creating an alternative language opposed to the policies of war, at creating comment that was for peace and resolution, at creating spaces for dialogue.
I took part in European and Global Social Forums and anti-war assemblies within the domestic and international anti-war movement; this was in opposition to the policies of tyranny and war, and the axis of “either you are with us or against” that was trying to be foisted on the entire world under the mask of the War on Terror following 9/11. We ran a domestic and international campaign against the 1 March Bill [rejected by the Turkish Parliament, this bill would have allowed Coalition Forces to be stationed on Turkish soil and Turkish forces to be deployed during the invasion of Iraq]. I am one of the coordinators and creators of the World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI), developed within the global anti-war movement to try the invaders of Iraq and question the international system/organizations that enabled this invasion. For three years this global network carried out a serious campaign that garnered respect on a global scale.
Unfortunately, I was not able to fully realize my efforts at the Truth Behind Diyarbakır Prison Research and Justice Commission, which aimed to cast a light on the reality of what happened in Diyarbakır Prison, to prompt [Turkish] society to face up to this reality and debate how justice would be done. The Commission aimed to do this by individually meeting with those who had been detained in Diyarbakır Prison from 1980 to 1984, recording their experiences based on their oral accounts. However, the work I carried out in the first stage of the project while I was staying in Diyarbakır, Urfa, and Batman brought me face to face with the reality of Kurds in a very real way. I will never forget the way those telling us about their experiences looked us in the face and said, “Welcome, but you’ve come late. Where were you until now?”; “If you had listed to our voices in the West, if you had raised strong objections we would not have had to experience such abject cruelty”; “How is it that our voices were not heard, how is it that no-one came to ask us what was happening there, to listen to us, how is it that all hell didn’t break loose at this brutality?” I will always carry that with me.
I was in Diyarbakır for Newroz 2008. I witnessed the town square rapidly flooded by people who knew what they wanted; who, undeterred by threats, sought what they knew to be their rights; who had transcended fear; who had become like giants through their dignified, determined calm. I took part in the Women for Peace Initiative, formed by Kurdish and Turkish women who had come together saying, “we have a case to make for peace, the power to realize it.”
We tried to understand and communicate what war and the politics of war meant for women. We tried to create a language of peace that went beyond slogans; we argued that the politics of war—fed by nationalism, racism, and militarism—constituted unfettered sexism, violence, and rape for all the women of Turkey, be they Kurdish, Turkish, Armenian, or Arab; we attempted to spread the call for a peaceful, democratic resolution. Feminist women, socialist women, revolutionary Kurdish women engaged in the struggle for female emancipation; we tried to get to know and understand each other, to solve and give meaning to the struggle we were all engaged in together.
2009 was a difficult year. Unilateral ceasefires, military operations and arrests had all become intertwined. DTP’s success in the local elections was met with surprise in the Western provinces because the mainstream media didn’t see the pre-election rallies, the Newroz celebrations. The arrests that started the day after the ceasefire and which lasted for months saw the detention of 2,000 Kurdish politicians. On the one hand, endeavours towards peace and expectations regarding an imminent resolution were developing; on the other hand, military operations and high numbers of arrests were continuing; all the while the earth spewed bones. Oil wells were being searched for bones.
It was at this time that the Peace Group arrived [the Peace Group was a delegation of 34 members of the outlawed PKK, who were granted diplomatic immunity for a visit to Turkey in October 2009]. When, within a few days, in response to the joy of peace and resolution, insults started flying and people were being incited to hate, lynch, and organize themselves into factions, joy was replaced by tension, lynchings, attacks, and racially motivated terrorism. Attacks were made against [DTP leader] Ahmet Türk and DTP convoys. Taksim and Tarlabaşı were being raided by lynch mobs; petitions for the death penalty were being collected at tables set up in town squares; a mindset born of nationalism, characterized by a transient respect for the constitution, and which attacked Kurds and Kurdish politics was in the process of dominating the public sphere.
It was almost as if Turkish society had to be enemies to Kurds and their demands; a matter of fact there was a consensus on this issue that was being formed.
Then, the closure of DTP hit the agenda. I responded to a call by a group of intellectuals to become a member of BDP as an act of solidarity against the stigmatization of Kurds and democratic Kurdish politics; the normalization of pressure, oppression, and enmity; and the politics of isolation. I became a member of BDP in order to contribute to the belief that the Kurdish people’s demands of equality, democracy, freedom, and identity were not solely an issue concerning the Kurds, but an issue engaging democratization for all of Turkey.
I was wrestling with politics but I had no plans to feature within a political party system at this age. Because hierarchic and political systems made me uncomfortable. But in that atmosphere of isolation and aggression, it seemed important to actively involve myself in BDP, to continue my endeavours to break down walls and discuss these troubles.
I was met with love, respect, and warmth at BDP. I took a small step in the name of friendship and they valued this, they attached importance to it. I only really got to know democratic Kurdish politics and the Kurdish people, who until then I had supported from afar, at BDP. I came across a system that was unlike classic hierarchic party systems, rather it was one that attached importance to being democratic, to reaching decisions through internal discussion, and to criticism and self-criticism; one that endeavoured to place everyone on the same level and to have developing itself in regard to these subjects feature on its agenda; a party system where the base and the public’s oversight was keenly felt. BDP assuaged my initial fears with its pursuit of egalitarian, directly democratic, and participatory organizational models, a very valuable experience/accumulation of knowledge in Turkish politics.
I asked my Provincial Co-Chairman friend. Of BDP’s 60 Provincial Executives all but four are detained, the same is the case for the majority of the BDP Istanbul Province Administration (including co-chairmen), our Istanbul representatives at the Central BDP Party Council as well as our district chairmen.
In order to argue that a BDP party member or anyone with a role within a legal arm of the party is using the party as a front, and that they are in fact members of an illegal organization furthering that organization’s agenda and not BDP’s, one would need to present concrete evidence detailing activities falling outside of and opposed to BDP’s aims, views, projects, programs, and manifesto.
This is not what has been done in the indictment. Endeavors done under the roof of BDP and within the framework of the party program and manifesto are being presented as evidence of clandestine organization membership.
The concrete findings in my case file merely establish my membership of BDP and the kind of work that I conducted within the framework of my role in the party; that I have the same stance on democratization and the Kurdish issue as BDP; that I have read and conducted research on the subject of democratic transparency; that I follow news, commentary and announcements; that I am in favor of a peaceful and democratic resolution to the Kurdish issue, nothing else.
The BDP Women’s Council also paid the price for the prosecutor’s labeling of anything with the word “council” in it as KCK. Whereas the BDP Women’s (local, district, provincial, and central) Councils are regulated legal entities created by the BDP manifesto (Articles 19, 27, 39, 68). The three meetings that are presented as evidence by the indictment are meetings held by the BDP Istanbul Province Women’s Council in January 2010 to form BDP District Women’s Councils. In the December 28, 2010 meeting of the Istanbul General Women’s Council, it was decided that “we would form women’s councils in 14 provinces by January 30, 2011”; this decision was announced to the press. That attendance of these official meetings—conducted in BDP provincial headquarters, attended by members of Parliament and with publicly available minutes and decisions—is included as evidence in the indictment, and is highly instructive as to its nature. My attendance of these meetings, accompanying one of our members of Parliaments and as a representative from the General Party Headquarters, is natural, legal, and proper.
The meeting in question was done specifically within the framework of efforts to provide women with an equal voice, an equal contribution to decision-making and equal representation. Every female member of BDP is a Women’s Council member. The BDP Women’s Council is the largest and most widespread political women’s organization within a party in Turkey owing to [its] persistent efforts regarding women’s issues, female emancipation, and women’s politics.
With the struggle it fought against discrimination, violence, “honor” killings, sexual assault, rape, juvenile marriage, berdel [the practice of exchanging female family members as brides in arranged/forced marriages], başlık parası [the practice of paying the bride’s family for her hand in marriage in arranged/forced marriages] and polygamy; its efforts to create policies against and raise awareness of the impact on women of unemployment, poverty, migration and war; and its work on language in one’s mother tongue, political participation, equal representation, peace, the constitution, decentralization, direct democracy and non-hierarchical administration models that give women more of a say, it worked to make women and life freer, it tried to overcome obstructive conditions. It fought against the patriarchal system and mindset.
I consider it an insult that the BDP Women’s Council, purveyors of such hard work and vision, can be accused of not working on women’s issues and emancipation with the kind of masculine language used in the indictment. As someone who has given years of her life to the struggle for womankind, I would like to say that I find coming across a political party’s effort for women that attaches importance with such sincerity and persistence to women’s issues, and which strives to transform itself accordingly, a cause for excitement and joy.
Another piece of evidence in the indictment regards a press release made by the Platform to Free Hediye Aksoy, the Solidarity Association for Families of the Detained (TUAD) and the Modern Lawyer’s Association (ÇHD) in relation to a verbal and physical attack (and the events that unfolded in its aftermath) carried out against cancer patient Hediye Aksoy by convicts while she was being taken to the hospital for therapy in a prison transport vehicle.
I took part in the press release through the Platform to Free Hediye Aksoy. This platform was formed by many women’s groups, including the BDP Women’s Council, upon the news that the imprisoned Hediye Aksoy, who has a visual disability, had been diagnosed with cancer. The BDP Women’s Council also has a public notice on the Hediye Aksoy campaign.
Furthermore, it is unacceptable that my attendance of human rights, peace and women’s rights-related international meetings—including those related to the World Tribunal on Iraq, which I mentioned above—as well as one or two journeys abroad with the purpose of personal travel, were included in my case file with the statement, “they have been assessed to relate to PKK-KCK activities.”
When problems become like intractable knots, when deadlocks dominate or appear to dominate, I believe that serious effort needs to put into leaving every kind of prejudice, rigidity, clichéd language or mentality to one side; to listen, read, understand, and hear, without categorizing, labeling, or excluding any opinion as belonging to this person or that person, and to look everything over at length. Every word that is prevented/limited from being communicated, expressed, or heard, every actor that is prevented from entering this pool limits the possibility of a creative, satisfying, and urgent resolution.
Security-centric politics/resolution opts to solve this problem that we call the Kurdish issue—but which at its core is a democracy issue born of a rejection of the Kurdish people’s right to “exist,” and a failure to provide their demands for equality, democracy and freedom with constitutional guarantees—by destroying these demands and those making it. This is the path adopted by this indictment.
But there is an alternative to this: peace-centric resolution. An approach predicated on correcting the inequity, injustice and inequality that leads to crisis by identifying it. This is the path embraced by BDP. I also embrace this path.
I live my life according to the choices I have explained here. The accusations in this indictment question my existence, my being, my presence in this world as much as BDP’s. I do not accept this. I reject the accusations, I request my release.