In Turkey, violence starts as hunger strikes end

On 27 May 2019, the Turkish army launched a military operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Hakurk area in northern Iraq. It was not just an air operation for a change but a seemingly limited ground operation as well, with soldiers dropped in the rugged mountains from helicopters.

Five days earlier, the Turkish state allowed lawyers to visit imprisoned Kurdish leader and PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan, the second of two visits since 2011, raising questions about Turkey’s intentions.

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Amnesty for Mustafa Perisan – and hundreds like him

Last week, I moved to a new house in Diyarbakir. My apartment block has a common garden, and when I came home at night after a solidarity concert for Roboski (it’s been more than 900 days now that the truth about the murder of 34 people hasn’t come out) I was invited to sit with a group of my neighbours. We chatted, they introduced themselves. They pointed out in which houses they were living, and all told me that whatever problem I had, I could knock on their door and they would help me.

The next day, one of the women knocked on my door.

Kocaeli prison
Kocaeli prison

‘Can we talk?’ she said. I invited her in. ‘Or did I wake you up?’ ‘No’, I said, ‘I was awake already, I was working’. She sat down in my comfortable black chair, and started to cry. ‘You are a journalist, right?’ she asked. I said yes. Continue reading “Amnesty for Mustafa Perisan – and hundreds like him”

If you don’t put yourself in jail

The last 33 prisoners in the main case of the KCK trial in Istanbul were set free last Thursday. Some twelve days before that, in the wee hours of the morning, 48 defendants in the main KCK trial in Diyarbakir were set free. Halfway through March all the lawyers in the KCK ‘lawyers case’ were released, and later that same month eight of the remaining fifteen journalists in the KCK ‘press trial’ walked out of jail.
I believe, in a way, these people were never imprisoned. Nor are the remaining hundreds of KCK suspects really inside.

Muharrem Erbey in his office in Diyarbakir
Muharrem Erbey in his office in Diyarbakir

Last week, I talked to human rights activist, lawyer and writer Muharrem Erbey. He was one of the persons released this month from Diyarbakir prison. Just ten days after having been locked up for four years and four months, he was sitting behind his desk as if he had been working there forever. ‘This is where they came to take me into custody’, he said. ‘I lived here with my family at the time. Now we have moved to another house, with a garden, and I keep this as my office.’ Continue reading “If you don’t put yourself in jail”

What to write to a friend in prison?

‘Tu çawa yî?’ is how I always start my letters. How are you? Then: ‘Ez baş im’, I am fine. But then? What do you write to a friend who’s been spending the last 27 months of his life in a few square metres behind bars? I don’t even know if he can see the sun, and I am reluctant to ask.

We met on 12 November 2011 in Diyarbakir. I was in the city for a conference, but heard that on Saturday there would be a funeral of two PKK members. Since I had never attended such a funeral, I decided to leave the conference for a few hours and go. It started at a mosque, were several thousand people gathered. I was alone among slogan shouting, angry people. I talked to a few of them, but I wanted to talk to a more relaxed, less activist person too, if available. I looked around and saw a man with a kind face who gave the impression of being an outsider in a way. A journalist, it turned out – we somehow recognize each other. That’s how I met Turabi Kişin, reporter for Özgür Gündem.

Turabi Kişim
Turabi Kişin

Two days later, we met again. Coffee in the famous old inn of Diyarbakir, Hasanpaşa Han. He whispered and was constantly looking over his shoulder. He felt the state was after him. He didn’t want to go back to jail. He had been there in the nineties. Continue reading “What to write to a friend in prison?”