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Zehra Doğan talks to us here about these women, her co-detainee friends, on hunger strike in Tar­sus Prison. An arti­cle pub­lished in Turk­ish on JINNEWS on April 13 2019.

On these lands at every sec­ond, you are wit­ness­es to His­to­ry. Every sec­ond is a strug­gle for exis­tence. And, at some spe­cif­ic moments, you tell your­self “I am part of it.”  This action is a part of it. Let’s be the echo of these beau­ti­ful peo­ple who love life so much.”

The pris­on­ers awake in the light of ear­ly morn­ing. A famil­iar lit­tle breeze still grazes the bars on the win­dows. All of a sud­den the sec­tion fills with the sound of black boots. Yet no one gets up, no one lines up for roll call or turns around for a look. They come with their sound of boots, they count, they leave. Most of all, they want to make their oppres­sion felt.

The Tar­sus pen­i­ten­tiary, the con­struc­tion of which began on July 11 2013, is one of the biggest pris­ons in Turkey. In this jail, the name of which has become famous through ill treat­ments and tor­ture since its acti­va­tion in 2017, the resis­tance by the polit­i­cal pris­on­ers against mil­i­tary count­downs in ranks, against strip search­es and mis­treat­ments has been ongo­ing for months. The women pris­on­ers have widened their resis­tance against the aggres­sions, the rub­ber rooms [sen­so­ry iso­la­tion] and the heavy phys­i­cal tor­tures, and they have man­aged to make these prac­tices end, despite the sanc­tions of iso­la­tion cells and the new tri­als to which they were subjected.

These pris­on­ers, these women whose names we heard often dur­ing this resis­tance, then joined the hunger strike ini­ti­at­ed by Ley­la Güven, HDP deputy for Hakkari and DTK.1co-Pres­i­dent.

Since Jan­u­ary 5 2019, Menal Temel, Nurşen Tekin, Hat­ice Kay­mak, Dilan Yıldırım, Ley­la Tey­mur and Dıl­bırin Turgut are on hunger strike and last March 3rd scores of oth­er women joined up with them. I would like to tell you about a few of these women hunger strik­ers, who are part of the prison strikes where this resis­tance has widened, and now involves thou­sands of prisoners.

Menal Temel

Menal Temel

Menal Temel

With her curly brown hair, she is a slim and young rev­o­lu­tion­ary. She joined the strug­gle when she was 15. Menal is from Kızıl­te­pe, Mardin dis­trict. She is from the same coun­try as Uğur Kay­maz, mur­dered at the age of 12 by 13 bul­lets shot by the police. Chil­dren grow up ear­ly on these lands where they are shot down as “ter­ror­ists”. Menal too is one of them. She has been part of the strug­gle since the days of pri­ma­ry school. She ran away to join protests. She often stopped before the sculp­ture of Uğur Kay­maz, deep in thought, and ques­tioned life.

The time Menal was arrest­ed by the police in Diyarbakır was not an ordi­nary peri­od. When she was tak­en into cus­tody, bombs were explod­ing in her region. In Sur, in Nusay­bin, in Cizre, Dargeçit, İdil, Yük­seko­va and in Derik. Short­ly after her arrest, Menal was sen­tenced to 7 and half years in prison for “belong­ing to an ille­gal orga­ni­za­tion”. When she heard her sen­tence, Menal’s protests  res­onat­ed through the halls of the Palace of Jus­tice. “Oppres­sion will not intim­i­date us!” Menal was tor­tured by the mil­i­tary. She was incar­cer­at­ed in the prison of Amed (Diyarbakır) then sub­ject­ed to a forced trans­fer to Tar­sus Prison.

Menal has such a voice… She makes the winds rise in the heart of every pris­on­er that lis­tens to her. She catch­es every one, car­ries them to their burnt and destroyed lands, in order to sow togeth­er, through her melodies, the seeds of free­dom. It is no sur­prise if each time Menal sings, a dis­ci­pli­nary inquiry is launched.

Today, Menal is on hunger strike. She is wast­ing away day by day. In her heart, still beat­ing in her weak­ened body, rev­o­lu­tion­ary songs flow. Can you hear them?

Dilan Yıldırım

Dilan Yıldırım

Dilan Yıldırım

Menal and Dilan are hunger strik­ers from the same sec­tion. In each sec­tion, two friends are often the lead­ers. Dilan is a young woman from Mus. When Menal starts to sing, she sings along on occa­sion. She usu­al­ly takes part in the polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions. All her friends in the sec­tion tease her about the şutik scarf wrapped around her slim waist. Dilan has the look of a true rev­o­lu­tion­ary. She par­tic­i­pates with a smile in the songs the moth­ers have writ­ten for the strik­ers. And dur­ing the strike, she has learned how to make bracelets. Every day, she makes these bracelets out of col­ored threads and offers them to friends as “a gift from a strik­er”. Her sec­tion com­rades keep these bracelets in their pouch­es; they car­ry the care from her fin­gers and the spark in her eyes as a sou­venir, until the strike reach­es its goal.

Ordi­nary dai­ly con­ver­sa­tions are about weight. Morn­ing and evening, they come back from the infir­mary after their weigh­ing, their faces dour. “Why am I los­ing so lit­tle? They will think we are eat­ing…” Those upset in this way, Dilan, Menal, Hat­ice, Nurşen, Dıl­bırin and Ley­la are the slimmest women in Tar­sus prison. If you were to gath­er them all togeth­er today, they would not even weigh 100 kilos. Pri­or to the hunger strike, Menal weighed 45 kilos, Hat­ice 39, Dıl­bırin 43, Dilan 45 and Nurşen 40 kilos…

Hatice Kaymak & Nurşen Tekin

Hat­ice Kay­mak & Nurşen Tekin

Hatice Kaymak

She gets up very ear­ly every morn­ing and walks back and forth in the court­yard, Hat­ice, our Xecê. One of the women who brings col­or to the sec­tion, with her buzzing pres­ence, her need to be con­stant­ly on the move and her pas­sion­ate polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions. As soon as you come across her in the court­yard or on a bunk bed, she draws you in like a mag­net with her wide eyes. She imme­di­ate­ly starts talk­ing about the past and the future, of the thou­sand-year old patri­ar­chal dom­i­na­tion against women.

This young woman who has been on hunger strike for days does not know about fatigue. Every day, from her wak­ing at 7 AM till mid­night, she leads polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions. Some­times, her friends in the sec­tion tease her and make jokes about Amed. Xecê who is 23 was born in the Dicle dis­trict of Diyarbakır. She entered the strug­gle dur­ing her stud­ies at the uni­ver­si­ty. Since that day, she has­n’t stopped. In order to “stop” her, they put her in jail. But as she says, she is more active in prison that she was on the out­side. They sen­tenced Xecê to 9 years in prison for “belong­ing” (to a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion). The prison admin­is­tra­tion reg­u­lar­ly opens dis­ci­pli­nary inquiries against her. Why? We thinks it’s because of Xecê’s wide eyes. Her look… As we say in Amed, “ne baxisen ma bi mese­le vardir”, “If you look like that, there must be a problem.” 

Nurşen Tekin

Nurşen gives off the scent of an inno­cent flower from Mount Süm­bül. She is from Hakkari. In prison for the past 11 years, she was arrest­ed at 18 and sen­tenced as quick as light­ning “for belong­ing and high respon­si­bil­i­ties”. There is no count­ing the num­ber of inquiries launched against her. As she grew up on the sides of Mount Süm­bül, she remem­bers it bet­ter than any­one. She has kept the accent from Hakkari bet­ter than any­one else. She can sense the per­fume of flow­ers bet­ter than any­one. “I feel heval”,2she says “I feel it !” Nurşen feels. She feels life, she is aware of life flow­ing by, every moment, even in its tini­est par­ti­cles. She prob­a­bly knows how beau­ti­ful it is to live, bet­ter than mil­lions of peo­ple on the out­side do. This woman who has stretched out her body with hunger, loves Mount Süm­bül and its mul­ti-col­ored flow­ers, more than all of us. On cer­tain nights, if you lend an ear, you will cer­tain­ly hear Nurşen whis­per­ing Gul­firos, the Rose Mer­chant, the poem by Cegerxwîn  in front of the barred win­dow. (see video below)

Dilbirîn Turgut Leyla Teymur Zehra Doğan

Dil­birîn Turgut and Ley­la Tey­mur with Zehra Doğan

Leyla Teymur

Ley­la was one of the first hunger strik­ers in Sec­tion C‑4. She is always in front of you with her round and smil­ing face. If some­one makes a jokes, Ley­la laughs. She is the friend who most likes to laugh. Go fig­ure, laugh­ing suits Ley­la so well.

Like all the hunger strik­ing friends, Ley­la is very young. She is only 22. She was tak­en into cus­tody in Urfa and jailed. Her ver­dict was also hand­ed down at record speed: “belong­ing to the organ­i­sa­tion”. Then she was deport­ed to Tar­sus prison.

Lay­la brings her joy every­where she goes, and in life, she leaves no room for the impos­si­ble. With all her heart she is con­vinced that every­thing can be won through the strug­gle and that hope and  con­vic­tion about the strug­gle are already half the road to vic­to­ry. This woman rev­o­lu­tion­ary who embraces life with all her might, man­ages to expe­ri­ence hap­pi­ness with the slight­est breath of life. Her joie de vivre cross­es cement walls and mix­es with the spring sun­shine begin­ning to warm these lands.

Dılbırîn Turgut

Our jour­nal­ist friend is on hunger strike. A beau­ti­ful woman who is noticed, appre­ci­at­ed and loved for her words and her actions. Our trav­el­ling com­pan­ion, so fine, del­i­cate and pure. Dıl­bırîn, our stub­born com­rade who insist­ed for days, even weeks, in order to be part of the hunger strike. “I’m part of it too.”

She has such a beau­ti­ful heart. As soon as you would meet her, you would take her into your heart with affec­tion, you would warm her frag­ile hands in yours.

Dıl­bırîn who was born in Kerbo­ran (Dargeçit), Mardin dis­trict, has a long life of strug­gle behind her, despite her young age. She learned what it was to strug­gle from her ear­li­est age onward, from those who were resist­ing against the ter­ror poli­cies announced by the sounds of boots res­onat­ing in the streets. As she grew into a woman, she took her place in the resis­tance. Fol­low­ing the death of her father who was muhtar (respon­si­ble for a vil­lage), she offered her can­di­da­cy and was elect­ed. She became a tar­get the minute she took up her ser­vice. Fol­low­ing con­fronta­tions near her vil­lage, she and her moth­er were tak­en into cus­tody for “aid and sup­port to the orga­ni­za­tion”.  The two women were sen­tenced a few years lat­er. Dıl­bırîn remained a clan­des­tine for 5 years after which she was cap­tured and arrest­ed. Now, she is also in Tar­sus prison, on hunger strike.

Recent news men­tioned Dıl­bırîn was vom­it­ing blood. Our jour­nal­ist friends is no longer but skin and bones.

Let’s not for­get that Dıl­bırîn and the thou­sands of oth­er polit­i­cal pris­on­ers declared that they share Ley­la Güven’s demands. Let’s be the echo of the voic­es of these beau­ti­ful peo­ple, of these women who love life so much.

Zehra Doğan

You can bring your sup­port to these women and to their friends through your cards and let­ters. You know their names, you know their faces, here is their address:

Tar­sus Kadın Kapalı CİK 
Ali­fakı Mahalle­si Ali­fakı sokak 
Tar­sus – MERSİN 

As a gift, Cegerxwîn’s poem “Gul­firos” (the Eng­lish makes no attempt to repro­duce the song, only its sur­face mean­ing):

The Rose merchant
Waking from my sleep, I saw a rose merchant
I was very happy, he was exchanging the rose against the heart.
He was exchanging the rose against the heart.
In us, there was a heart filled with pain and wounds
So I did not think he would exchange the rose against the heart
That he would exchange the rose against the heart.
I’m not here to haggle he said,
He who adores the rose gives his life and his heart.
Gives his life and his heart.
I said: who exchanges his life and his heart against the rose
He said: this is haggling, your heart is nothing but pain
Your heart is nothing but pain
I gave my heart and my life, my heart cried
It said, O Cigerxwin, you exchanged your heart against the rose
You exchanged your heart against the rose.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges

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Zehra Doğan
Auteure, mem­bre d’hon­neur de Kedistan
Jour­nal­iste, artiste. Jour­nal­ist, artist. Gazete­ci, sanatçı.