I set­tled down at the lit­tle gar­den table. The weath­er is fresh but the cats are loung­ing under the timid morn­ing sun of this Sun­day in May.

My pen­cils are spread out in front of me. The paper remains blank.

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I want­ed to do a draw­ing for Ayşe. But I find myself bereft of col­ors. What can you draw for a tiny lit­tle girl of 3, impris­oned with her mother?

Every­thing that fills my eyes and my mind with life has been stolen from Ayse over there. Each drift of of clouds sus­pend­ed in the blue, each tree reach­ing for the sky with its arms,  each beat­ing of wings from those birds hop­ping from one tree­top to anoth­er, each leaf cov­er­ing the branch­es in shim­mer­ing gree­ness, each shoot of ivy cir­cling the trunks as if want­i­ng to raise the green from the grass all the way to the branch­es, each flower vibrat­ing on the grass in this gen­tle breeze, each cat bury­ing its muz­zle in search of small  crea­tures hid­ing in the fresh­ness of the lawn, each lit­tle insect busy in its tiny world … all stolen. Stolen from Ayşe.

Mys­tery and dis­cov­ery are stolen from her. Life cycles, sea­sons, meet­ing the world are stolen from her. Sen­sa­tions, the smell of the earth, the tex­ture of a petal, the song of a riv­er, the immen­si­ty of the plain seen from the moun­tain, the taste of a cher­ry fresh­ly picked off its branch… Stolen.

Ayşe prison enfant turquie

A lit­tle girl, cling­ing to the iron bars of the win­dow, talks to the birds behind the barbed wires: “Birds! Come and get me. Take me to the trees!” A child who can’t tell all this with words. Yet, she already knows words she should­n’t. “I can’t go with the birds, I’m incar­cer­at­ed here.” How to inspire won­der­ment to this child with a draw­ing? How to make her hap­py, if only for a moment?

Does she still have the all-mighty pow­er of child­hood? Is she already say­ing in her mind “If I refuse to see the walls, they will not exist”? She will learn. She will learn to make them dis­ap­pear, grow­ing up with women of every age and back­ground, impris­oned here, all of them guilty of think­ing. The lit­tle girl will learn because her elders have stub­bor­ness and  resis­tance. Shar­ing and trans­mis­sion exist. She will learn how to embell­ish life, how to add col­ors where there are none.

Their right to inno­cence was stolen from them.

Like hun­dreds of oth­er chil­dren, Ayşe is thrown with her moth­er in this cage from which col­ors are absent. A cell where even dried flow­ers slipped into let­ters do not reach their recip­i­ents. Flow­ers are for­bid­den. They would be dan­ger­ous. They live in this world cir­cled by lim­its and pro­hi­bi­tions where the sky is sum­ma­rized by a piece of blue­ness, and “tak­ing a breather” hap­pens in a tiny cement court­yard, dur­ing spec­i­fied time peri­ods. Do Ayşe, Çınar, and Der­sim, and the 750 chil­dren detained with their moth­er in Turk­ish pris­ons cry when the bell rings? “I don’t want to go back inside!” I don’t want to leave this sky as nar­row as a hand­ker­chief and return behind the walls where I do not belong.

What should I draw? What can I draw for this child, me, a free adult, breath­ing free air, my eyes rest­ing on free birds? My stom­ach aches. Guilt fills me, the guilt of know­ing that human adults can steal child­hood from a child, steal life…And also the guilt of being aware that I can enjoy those free­doms of which Ayşe is so cru­el­ly deprived.

I am a free adult… But can I tru­ly be free as long as Ayşe is not?

In order to pick up the crayons, I would have to find the child buried inside myself and over­come this feel­ing of guilt. Lis­ten, see, feel as she does, and trans­mit a bit of life to her. This is all I can do.

The paper must not remain blank.

Take a paper and crayons too. Draw me a child. Draw me a child, but most of all, not in a box. Draw me a child so that she can feel what liv­ing free can mean.

In order to send let­ters and draw­ings here are names and address­es for their mothers…

Note of July 2019

The lit­tle Ayşe and her moth­er Şemal were released in June 2019. They thank you for your let­ters and support.
You can con­tin­ue to sup­port Çınar and Dersim.

Medine Yiğit C‑6 (moth­er of Çınar, 5 years old)
Safiye Yağ­mur C‑3 (moth­er of Der­sim, 2 years old)

Tar­sus Kapalı Kadın CİK (add the N° of the sec­tion, for exam­ple C‑3)
Ali­fakı mahalle­si Ali­fakı sokak

Zehra Dogan Tarsus

Improvised exhibition prior to Zehra Doğan’s liberation, in Tarsus prison.
Zehra with little Ayşe and one of her co-detainee friends, Hülya.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Naz Oke
REDACTION | Journaliste 
Chat de gout­tière sans fron­tières. Jour­nal­isme à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mar­mara. Archi­tec­ture à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mimar Sinan, Istanbul.