In a recent arti­cle in french, we pub­lished com­ments by Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş, prais­ing the virtues of « pop­u­lar humor » in order to be heard and under­stood with­out hatred or spite, despite all the seri­ous­ness of the repression.

Here then is a text writ­ten in prison by Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş that illus­trates his method (orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Turk­ish on Birgün and trans­lat­ed by Kedistan.)

My incar­cer­a­tion is too recent to allow me to for­get the sound of life still flow­ing freely out­side. It isn’t long enough either for me to give lessons in a coun­try where some hostages have been jailed for over 25 years. But I con­sid­er it a duty to write down my impres­sions on the world of incarceration.

One of the objec­tives in jail­ing us is to spread fear in soci­ety, to intim­i­date every­one with the threat of prison. Our duty then con­sists in annul­ing those efforts. In any event ‘fear doesn’t help death’ [Turk­ish proverb]. If we must break down the cli­mate of fear in order to enter the sea­son of courage, instead of cow­er­ing in front of the injus­tices and ille­gal­i­ties, it’s wis­er to tease fear.

I’m writ­ing so that you will have fresh infor­ma­tion on hand should you be arrest­ed. In all hon­esty, there are no nov­el­ties worth talk­ing about… There­fore, I will write about small mat­ters of dai­ly life. You can store in your mem­o­ry what you find useful…

When you enter, they search you and con­fis­cate every­thing it’s for­bid­den to keep. But they can­not con­fis­cate your “opin­ions”, those that are put forth as the motives for your incar­cer­a­tion. Thus, you can bring them inside with you. A strange practice.

Dur­ing the first days, when they take you out of your cell, you may pan­ic for a moment in the cor­ri­dor, search­ing for your key and think­ing you may have left it inside. No pan­ic ! Here, there are a lot of locks, but no key.

Your vis­i­tors always find you at home, no prob­lem. There’s no one to tell them : “Mon­sieur just left for a meet­ing”, or “He’s on annu­al hol­i­day, if you wish to leave a mes­sage, we’ll pass it on.” In oth­er words, you have no excuses…

Don’t be sad­dened if, on the out­side, you are a per­son who is loved and respect­ed and who counts for the mem­bers of his cir­cle. Here, they count you at least twice a day. It’s bet­ter than noth­ing. Try to draw some hap­pi­ness from it.

Here, you don’t have the wor­ry that makes you say : “Damn ! I’ve no bat­tery left !” Your bat­tery is nev­er down here. Take it easy, don’t stress yourself.

They can’t block your Inter­net con­nec­tion either, as they usu­al­ly do when events inten­si­fy. It gives a sen­sa­tion of seren­i­ty, a fore­taste of freedom.

For those com­plain­ing because they nev­er appear on TV, mat­ters have been tak­en in hand. There are cam­eras film­ing you 24 hours a day and bud­dies fol­low­ing your every move on their screens.

My friends, if you spend your days in a sweat, rush­ing not to miss the bus, the metro, the fer­ry, this place is made for you. Because the trans­fer vehi­cle, called ‘ring’ absolute­ly nev­er leaves before you are aboard. Great impor­tance is put on the trav­ellers’ satisfaction.

You’ve reached the point where you can’t go any­where with­out the help of your GPS nav­i­ga­tion­al sys­tem ? Not to wor­ry, at least 4 guards take you every­where you must go.

You’ll cer­tain­ly have friend­ly co-detainees who’ll want to tease you by say­ing “hey I just heard the door­bell, you want to answer ?”. Don’t let them fool you.

If you hear nois­es in the night, you can be sure it won’t be rob­bers. Of course, there are rob­bers in jail but they are in oth­er wards and oth­er cells. In any event, they are only small fry. The big rob­bers aren’t sent to jail. You have noth­ing to fear.

Here, no one threat­ens to send you to jail. It’s a rather pleas­ant sensation.

For those who get excit­ed and say “I sent a mes­sage ten min­utes ago, and no one’s answered me yet !” Here, at least a month goes by between the send­ing of a let­ter and receiv­ing an answer. An excel­lent method to learn anger management.

No point in adding to the can­teen list items such as pick­ax­es, saws, sick­les, ham­mers. Those nasty boys don’t pro­vide them.

Here, there are teach­ers, direc­tors, assis­tant direc­tors, but don’t count on the day when you’ll receive your year-end report card and go on hol­i­day. No report card. Guaranteed.

Even if you show off by say­ing “I’m the son in law of a fam­i­ly in Lice” [allu­sion to a very influ­en­tial Kur­dish fam­i­ly in Lice], you won’t get any­where. It’s not your father-in-law’s fault. It’s the way the sys­tem works.

In Izmir they call sun­flower seeds “çiğ­dem”. Here as on the out­side, that doesn’t change. [Res­i­dents of Izmir have their own des­ig­na­tions for cer­tain things. For instance gevrek instead of the sesame seed pas­try every­body else calls sim­it.]

Here also “life is short, birds fly”, here too “even if you’re a drag­on it makes no dif­fer­ence”, here also “true love is not giv­ing up”…

Sela­hat­tin Demirtaş

Trans­la­tion by Renée Lucie Bourges.
French ver­sion >Demir­taş • Mode d’emploi des pris­ons en Turquie

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