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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REDACTION | Journaliste
Chat de gouttière sans frontières. Journalisme à l'Université de Marmara. Architecture à l'Université de Mimar Sinan, Istanbul.