Turkey • Where is Gülistan Doku?

gulistan doku

Gülistan Doku, a young Kurdish woman studying at Munzur University in Dersim has disappeared since Sunday January 5 2020.


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The last images filmed by security cameras show Gülistan climbing aboard a minibus after talking with her ex boyfriend Zeynal Abarok, a young man of Russian origin. But she is not seen stepping out again. There are no further traces of the young woman…

On the Saturday, eve of her disappearance, Zaynal had violently forced Gülistan to climb into a vehicle.

Zeynal Abarok is suspect number one, but he is the son-in-law of a policeman. Gülistan’s family, women’s associations and those defending human rights suspect the police and the regime of wanting to protect this suspect and, by delaying the launching of searches, of offering him the possibility of going into hiding, abroad if need be. Yet the prefecture claims that Abarok is in Turkey and under judiciary control…with no further details.

Dirayet Dilan Taşdemir, spokesperson for the women’s councils of the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), speaking about Gülistan made the following declaration in Dersim: “In a region where not only people but mountains are searched with a fine tooth comb, a woman remains untraceable.”

The police would be considering the possibility of suicide. Searches were conducted in the waters of the lake at Uzunçayır damn, at the level of the bridge to Dinar, since two minibus drivers declared seeing her there. Still following this version of a suicide, police intensified searches in the zone and declared having found in the water a prescription in her name along with a pair of scissors Gülistan had borrowed from a friend.

Gülistan’s sister, Aygül Doku, says the family rejects the thesis of suicide: “Are those really Gülistan’s scissors? The police says maybe, they are not sure.” She says a note was found in her sister’s student room where Gülistan mentions being messy, “friends, if I die, make up my bed and tidy up my room so no one can say I’m messy, ha ha ha!” But her friends explained to her sister that the note was written last year as a joke between friends. Aygül informed the media that, ten minutes before going to see her ex boyfriend, Gülistan had called a friend and asked to see her that same evening. Then, she called her professor to say she would be working on her exam and could not babysit. She also mentions that Gülistan had bought materials in order to prepare for the admission tests as a civil servant (KPPS).

Since her disappearance, Gülistan’s case and the demands of her suffering family are supported by associations and activists fighting against violences perpetrated on women, all asking in one voice “Where is Gülistan Doku?” This question has resonated across the country during several demonstrations and gatherings as well as on social networks and in the media.

As for the Prefecture in Dersim, it has announced the prohibition of demonstrations for Gülistan. In other words, it would now be forbidden to ask: “Where is Gülistan Doku?”

This could appear to be one among many minor news items. But here is an excerpt from a column by Leyla Alp, published on T24 on January 17:

We know for Atiye, but where is Gülistan Doku?

A few years ago, Garo Paylan (HDP deputy of Armenian origin) who was participating in the show Mercek Altı on IMC TV [prior to its shutting down by decree] had said that the first thing that comes to the mind of an Armenian mother when her child comes home wounded, beaten up, is not the possibility he fell while playing in the street. For these normal parents, seeing the child’s scraped knees or his split eyebrow certainly raises concern. But in an Armenian family, seeing the scraped knees is a reminder of trauma. In no way is it an unwarranted worry.

History is a reminder. History is a wound.

The same thing applies for any person treated like a second class citizen.

For example, in countries such as ours, a woman cannot easily take off just like that, on a whim, to go somewhere. You won’t see this happening such as in an ad for a TV filmed around Atiye of the popular series “a woman, today, somewhere, turns her back on everything, and takes off on her trip.” In this country, almost 90% of women never take the road of their own story. They do not disappear without telling anyone. You won’t come across women who come back after disappearing for several days and who say “I left to find myself, now I’m back.” Even in order to find themselves, in this country, women stick together. Because they live in constant fear that if they leave for somewhere else, “something could happen” to them.

Because in this country, women coming home late from work, keep looking at what’s behind them. In this country, when women board a taxi, they text the licence plate number to their friends. Because in this country, every day, one or several women are kidnapped, raped, beaten, killed…

We, in this country, cannot believe that when a woman leaves a suicide note, she kills herself. Because we have witnessed the fact that women who were announced as having thrown themselves from such or such a storey, had been pushed. Sule Çet was one of them. “She jumped”, her assassin said, if you remember. The student who killed (his teacher) Ceren Damar can go on insisting, despite so many witnesses, “we had a relationship.”

This is why when a woman is reported missing, the first thing that comes to our mind is not an adventure, but violence, not suicide, but murder. This is why for families and friends, the minutes become hours, the hours months, years… Time stretches out. You knock on every door. You lend an ear to every voice. Atiye’s story may go on displaying itself on Netflix, TV manufacturers may continue making ads on “women’s freedom”, since January 5 there have been no news of Gülistan Doku, 21 year old student. Gülistan has disappeared for 12 days [January 17, the day Leyla Alp’s article was published].

Her family who has been without news of Gülistan Doku, 2nd years Pedagogy student at the University of Munzur has called upon all official authorities. Gülistan’s friend is the son of a policeman. With such a configuration, does not the situation become worrisome? Because our eyes have seen before how several men who practiced violence were cleared by “acquaintances” in the police, or the evidence against them disguised.

Aygül Doku, Gülistan’s sister, fears that the matter will be hushed up. Because Saturday night, Zaynal Abarok, Gülistan’s friend, forced her into the vehicle, molesting her. And Sunday, the last person she saw was again Zaynal. Afterwards, Gülistan disappears. On the cameras, you see Gülistan stepping into a minibus. But no images show her stepping out. When there are cameras on every street corner in the city, yet Gülistan evaporates. Can you say “this is possible”? Then, a prescription in Gülistan’s name and a pair a scissors she is said to have borrowed from a friend, are found. Can you say “She jumped”? Is that impossible? Of course it is possible.

But, in this country, we have witnessed the opposite many, many times. So, naturally, our traumas don’t let us go.

Put yourself in the place of Gülistan’s family, of her mother crying out for help, in her sister’s place as she cries, in the place of her father…Wouldn’t you be asking “where is she?” No doubt there are some who don’t wonder and who don’t even care. We are going to continue asking.

Where is Gülistan Doku?

Leyla Alp

Leyla Alp was born in Sinop in 1975.
She was chief editor of Emek Dünyası and editor of the program Mercek Altı on IMC TV. She has written for Emek Dünyasi, T24, Demokrat Haber, Jiyan.org, Sendika.org…She continues her columns on sendika.org and T24.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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