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Ley­la Güven has just been trans­ferred from the jail in Amed to the larg­er one of Turkey. In real­i­ty, this is one way to attempt break­ing down her resistance.

I’m not the one who says this, she says it her­self in a text that she had pub­lished by the HDP (Peo­ple’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty) of which she is a deputy, elect­ed at the last leg­isla­tive vote.

I was able to read it. Here are a few excerpts of her words:

Leav­ing my cell in Amed [Diyarbakır], the place where I began my strug­gle was real­ly hard for me… It was as if the soul of past resis­tance impreg­nat­ed those walls [Zül­fikar Tak’s draw­ings — In French]. When I began this resis­tance, I tru­ly felt this spir­it, like a rem­i­nis­cence of the expe­ri­ences and the words of friends who lived through that peri­od [of the 80s and 90s]. I have been pur­su­ing this action for 81 days. I had very good sup­port in jail. But since yes­ter­day [Jan­u­ary 26], I feel as if I am cut off from that spir­it. I try to push this feel­ing away. Noth­ing seems nat­ur­al to me in the out­side world, be it the air or the water, it’s as if every­thing was more nat­ur­al inside. As I said, it’s a rather strange state of mind…

A two-bit psy­chol­o­gist would talk of a syndrome…

But since I’ve read this under some­one else’s pen, that of jour­nal­ist and artist Zehra Dogan (who was recent­ly one of Ley­la Güven’s co-detainees before she was trans­fered to anoth­er jail in Tar­sus) and see­ing as she spoke about it very well, I’ll share this with you also:

The oth­er day I went out to the hos­pi­tal. I was look­ing through the tiny win­dow in the blue Ring (pris­on­er trans­port vehi­cle). I looked at the peo­ple. They were rush­ing around. Life goes on. But curi­ous­ly, I felt no nos­tal­gia. I even felt pity and was sad­dened over them even more. I said to myself ‘these peo­ple are not aware that they are pris­on­ers”. The only dif­fer­ence was the fact I was in the blue Ring with hand­cuffs. I did not wish to take the place of a sin­gle per­son who was walk­ing down the street at that moment. They were also hand­cuffed but they did not feel it. It made me feel fun­ny. Mov­ing slow­ly under the grey sky through the suf­fo­cat­ing and frozen streets, in the mass of peo­ple with frozen expres­sions and emp­ty skulls, at that moment, I wished to get back to jail as soon as possible…”

And when she speaks of jail and of its com­mon “spir­it”:

…and, once again, we are togeth­er in the ear­ly morn­ing. I don’t know exact­ly how to describe this, but it is a time when Ipar­take in one of the most pro­found and beau­ti­ful exchanges in my life.

It is a cli­mate in which every­one, from the moth­ers to the youngest, the polit­i­cal ones and the artists, jour­nal­ists, teach­ers, city hall employ­ees, fac­to­ry work­ers, all the way to the field work­ers who han­dle the bill­hook, pour their thoughts togeth­er, in all equal­i­ty, as if they were con­tribut­ing to a col­lec­tive source of knowl­edge. We feel as if we pour in all our knowl­edge and obtain a new alloy. And we close off our exchanges, each one tak­ing the max­i­mum from them, and stor­ing our por­tion away in our kit bag…”

zehra dogan tarsus

Tar­sus Prison, ward C‑3. Decem­ber 2018.
Baby Der­sim and her moth­er on the left, Moth­er Sisê on the right, and third upwards: Zehra

And even if she seems to be exag­ger­at­ing when she writes again on the “barbed wires” :

Plain barbed wires. Objects the very name of which sours our face and makes us say “how lousy”. The object used to mark fron­tiers, divide, define spaces and which, when we over­step those lim­its, pun­ish us with their point­ed tips.

But now, I stop and I look; and those ugly barbed wires, cov­ered with claws, strike me as so inno­cent and harm­less that I can’t man­age to be angry at them. They seem to say “We have noth­ing to do with this, they’re the ones who’ve made us this way.” I feel as if I’m dis­cov­er­ing their naive and pure aspect. Like a woman, drift­ing in the ide­ol­o­gy that has turned her into a mer­chan­dise for thou­sands of years and who would rebel sud­den­ly and say “I have noth­ing to do with this, men have made me this way.” The cry would be the same.

So, in call­ing these barbed wires “ugly” am I not caus­ing them an injus­tice? As men have inter­fered with every­thing, they have played with the wires’ chem­istry and installed them above our heads. This tells me that I’m at the wrong address when I turn against the wires and look at them with a curse.

Tonight, the barbed wires are so innocent.

Bathed in moon­rays, their shad­ows scat­ter on the walls of the prom­e­nade, like danc­ing women. They shine even more, the life­less barbed wires, sen­tinels to my condemnation”.

She is also the one who said to her co-detainees, dur­ing her “pre­ven­tive” impris­on­ment in 2016: “the jour­nal­ists are in jail, so let’s make the papers in prison.” And they set to work with all the risks of dis­ci­pli­nary sanc­tions that might follow…

The ques­tion aris­es of what is the exact nature and mean­ing of the word “free” in Turkey.

You see, for once, I’m talk­ing seriously.

Here I am writ­ing about this con­di­tion of free­dom under sur­veil­lance for the cit­i­zens of a lib­er­al “repub­lic with an Ottoman voca­tion” that will soon cel­e­brate a cen­tu­ry of exis­tence in 2023 with­out once acknowl­edg­ing the geno­cide from which it was born. A geno­cide it car­ries around like an orna­ment, as a sym­bol of its basic iden­tiy, so total­ly does it con­tin­ue to negate the mosa­ic of peo­ples that shape it.

And you will under­stand that I, a white Turk raised in this “Kemal­ist tra­di­tion” who, in her youth like the great major­i­ty of those who could take advan­tage of the social ele­va­tor, con­sid­ered free­dom as the free­dom to under­take, the Turk­ish Nation as her guar­an­tor, and the illu­sion of a sec­u­lar soci­ety as an excuse to sup­port it, you will under­stand that the words of those pris­on­ers are of con­cern to me, so close­ly do they match my cur­rent open eyed dai­ly feel­ings. And when those words escape out of the jail in Amed, a sym­bol if ever there was one of the carcer­al uni­verse and of the repres­sion against the Turk­ish Left and more specif­i­cal­ly the Kur­dish move­ment, you will under­stand even bet­ter how they ques­tion my illu­sion of free­dom, if such still exist­ed. You will also under­stand why I rage when your press “cor­re­spendents” here in Istan­bul or Ankara keep on using the word “democ­ra­cy” in your papers as a qual­i­fi­er for our autoc­ra­cy. No doubt they are serv­ing up those ele­ments of lan­guage for your Munich-inspired Euro­pean leaders.

Turkey is a ter­ri­to­ry where free­dom under sur­veil­lance has become ful­ly constitutional.

 But if I still know how to read, Ley­la Güven does not only denounce this sim­i­lar­i­ty between the exte­ri­or and the inte­ri­or of pris­ons. She under­lines an impor­tant dif­fer­ence between the resis­tance prac­tice inside and the qua­si renun­ci­a­tion on the outside.

The syn­drome would not be locat­ed  where one thinks it is, Mon­sieur the psychologist…

A reminder in pass­ing: she is main­tain­ing her hunger strike begun on Novem­ber 8 2018, thus in its 86th day today…

Per­haps it is still time for this state­ment, that the huge back­slid­ing of free­doms, now cod­i­fied in a con­sti­tu­tion at the ser­vice of a sin­gle and cen­tral­ized pow­er, guar­an­teed and pro­tect­ed at the same time by the nation­al­ist forces of repres­sion and the corset of big­ots, has set­tled lay­er after lay­er on our his­to­ry, trans­form­ing this Turkey into an indi­gestible fas­cism-inspired börek.

 Even to the extent of pseu­do insti­tu­tions that sub­sist like so many denials of democ­ra­cy. Ley­la Güven is an elect­ed mem­ber of a nation­al Par­lia­ment where a limp Kemal­ist oppo­si­tion, nation­al­ist grey wolves and mil­i­tarists, along with the big­ot­ted and cor­rupt Ottoman busi­ness­men of the Pres­i­den­t’s par­ty rub one anoth­ers’ backs. As for her own par­ty, the HDP, it has been reduced to a shad­ow since a major part of its elect­ed mem­bers, sup­port­ers and mil­i­tants are either in jail or on their way there, so that it can no longer do any­thing oth­er than keep tal­lies, receive threats or take direct hits.

So for the upcom­ing munic­i­pal elec­tions, can we tru­ly believe in the mir­a­cle of the loaves and the wine? The nation­al­ist wed­dings are not in Cana. MHP, AKP, Good Par­ty or CHP are more into shar­ing the messy por­ridge rather than resist­ing in the name of free­dom. The HDP serves as their com­mon target.

This elec­toral­ist, nation­al­ist and clien­telist atmos­phere, also act­ing against the spir­it of resis­tance, is prob­a­bly also what made Ley­la say after leav­ing jail “it’s a very strange state of mind.”

The AKP ide­ol­o­gy of per­ma­nent repres­sion gets the bet­ter of the best of them, or locks them up, while the fool’s game of  demo­c­ra­t­ic illu­sion has long caused every­one to for­get Gezi. Fear and repet­i­tive purges take care of the rest, like so many “red flags”…

I will prob­a­bly see many more “lib­er­a­tions” and “arrests”, tri­als and lock-ups…I will prob­a­bly read many more offi­cial “protests” from Euro­pean quar­ters, until 2023…

But what is the point in writ­ing “Entrance” and “Exit”, if Turkey is a carcer­al labyrinth of which even Kaf­ka could not attempt a description.

Turquie • Quand les pris­ons restent des feux de résis­tance Cliquez pour lire

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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