Türkçe Bir Artı Bir | Français | English

Moth­er Mak­bule’s sto­ry is that of a con­stant search for clo­sure. It is also a sto­ry of hope, of stub­born­ness, of the search for jus­tice. And it is a sum­ma­ry of suf­fer­ings and pun­ish­ments that have last­ed with­out inter­rup­tion for 23 years. It is the sto­ry of the open­ly tram­pled life of Mak­bule Özbek, a mem­ber of the Sat­ur­day Moth­ers who was thrown in prison, yet again, last June 29th…

Recent­ly, in the begin­ning of the month of June, the news­pa­per Özgür Poli­ti­ka, active in Europe, pub­lished a head­line say­ing “The State has loaded Eve’s back with every­thing that has hap­pened after Adam.” Even if the names seem famil­iar, the Eve (Hav­va) in ques­tion is not the one we know. Hav­va Kiran, 65, lives in Diyarbakır. She is active in the Sat­ur­day Moth­ers’ ini­tia­tive and accord­ing to the State, her endeav­ours are very dan­ger­ous! This is why there are 106 inves­ti­ga­tions opened against her and she has been held in cus­tody five times. To speak even more clear­ly, on the State’s map, Moth­er Hav­va, with her back lashed by the whip, is shown as so many red stick pins.

My pur­pose in bring­ing up Moth­er Hav­va is to speak of Moth­er Mak­bule. Mak­bule Özbek, 70 years old. These two old women are like a con­densed sum­ma­ry of the Kur­dish prob­lem. Tan­gi­ble exam­ples of the war poli­cies, of spe­cif­ic types of wars, of search­es, loss­es, tor­ture, attempts at intim­i­da­tion, attempts at oblit­er­a­tion, of the tech­niques used by under­lings, and of poli­cies meant to man­u­fac­ture con­sent based on sub­jec­tion! Those who wish to under­stand this prob­lem can delve into what these two women expe­ri­ence and that to which they testify.

Ever since I have exist­ed, Moth­ers Hav­va and Mak­bule have been mired in strate­gies of cus­todies, inquests, and a thou­sand and one intim­i­da­tions. The State has set every­thing aside and gone after the moth­ers. The new atti­tude adopt­ed by the State in its pol­i­cy on “tombs” and on “mourn­ing” has inten­si­fied ill-will against the moth­ers. The State devel­ops this trans­for­ma­tion, not in secre­cy, but in broad day­light and even takes pride in it!

With­out widen­ing the top­ic to dif­fer­ent dimen­sions I wish to focus on Mak­bule Özbek’s story.

Because she was arrest­ed in the evening of June 29. Why?

One morning, Josef K. …

Kaf­ka begins his nov­el The Tri­al with a naive state­ment, “Some­one must have slan­dered Joseph K. : One morn­ing, he was arrest­ed, with­out hav­ing done any­thing wrong.” Moth­er Mak­bule has been sub­ject­ed to a lot of slan­der, “it does­n’t mat­ter”, she says. She has been point­ed out as if she had done evil things, “it does­n’t mat­ter”, she said. She was tak­en into cus­tody, “it does­n’t mat­ter”, she said yet again.

I would like to draw atten­tion to a point in Kafka’s sen­tence, the “K.” I don’t know why, when I read this nov­el for the first time, I told myself the “K. could only stand for “Kur­dish”. Because every­thing matched. The State is con­stant­ly at our door, we are con­stant­ly being detained. Most of the time, these arrests and impris­on­ments are sense­less. We do not even know why the thou­sands of women pris­on­ers are there. Because the “crime” is estab­lished lat­er. No need to hurry…Having expe­ri­enced this per­son­al­ly, I can say this with utter certainty

So they went to Moth­er Mak­bule’s door also. They took her in, they arrest­ed her. They did this although “she was not denounced but she did some­thing evil”. Moth­er Mak­bule’s sto­ry is that of a search, of an impos­si­ble end to mourn­ing. It is also a sto­ry of stub­born­ness, of the search for justice.

Mère makbule özbek Mother Makbule

From left to right: Hav­va Kiran, Ley­la Güven, HDP deputy, Özlem Gümüş­taş, ESP Co-Pres­i­dent, Mak­bule Özbek. Dur­ing an inti­tia­tive by the news­pa­per Atil­im, on Novem­ber 9 2019.

The story of Mother Makbule’s trampled life

Moth­er Mak­bule was born in 1950 in Bis­mil, Diyarbakır dis­trict. In the 80s, she moved down­town. She gave birth to six chil­dren. In the begin­ning of the 90s, two of her chil­dren turned toward the moun­tains: Nihat Özbek (Haki Amed) and Nilüfer Özbek (Beri­tan). She received the news in 1997 that Nihat had lost his life. But the fam­i­ly could get con­fir­ma­tion. The news fell on the moth­er’s chest. “What if he is still alive? What if the news is false?

If he is no longer of this world, some­thing must remain of him! An object, a bone, some lit­tle thing! Moth­er Mak­bule goes search­ing for traces. Because one always wish­es to get rid of the great void of absence in mourn­ing, that which for­ev­er keeps hope alive. This expe­ri­ence is even more painful for the moth­ers. They want to find their chil­dren’s bones, give them a bur­ial, ful­fill this final duty. They wish to do this because they know that “His­to­ry begins in the graves”.

Moth­er Mak­bule is denounced as she begins her search, thus lead­ing to her first painful cus­tody. A few State col­lab­o­ra­tors, also put in cus­tody and inter­ro­gat­ed, tes­ti­fy against Moth­er Mak­bule. The denun­ci­a­tion is crowned with the words ‘aid, com­plic­i­ty and belong­ing to a polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion’, she is arrest­ed. Dur­ing this first arrest, she is intro­duced to tor­ture. After a few months in the Diyarbakir prison, this impris­on­ment in 1998 con­tin­ues with a forced trans­fer to Bat­man. She is there for two years, in the wom­en’s prison.

Daughter and mother in the same block

Of course, life goes on while she is detained in Bat­man prison. Every­thing that goes on dur­ing this time ends up at the doors of the prison in Bat­man. When the locks on the sin­is­ter bars are opened, a young woman enters the block: Münevver!

Münevver is Nilüfer­’s youngest. She finds her­self in the same block as the moth­er she has not seen in a long time. She has also been arrest­ed for “aid, com­plic­i­ty”. “Caught” with a few books that were con­sid­ered suf­fi­cient proof of her “crime” for an arrest. When I asked her lat­er, she said: “in prison, my moth­er thought a lot about me and wor­ried about me. When we found our­selves side by side, we relaxed. Thus, while in prison, I con­tin­ued receiv­ing mater­nal warmth.” Münevver is now in exile, thou­sands of kilo­me­ters away from her mother.

Münevver was lib­er­at­ed before her moth­er. Her moth­er’s lib­er­a­tion came short­ly after. When she is brought before the court, it decides to drop the charges of “aid and com­plic­i­ty”. Moth­er Mak­bule is freed.

But the pros­e­cu­tor appeals the court’s deci­sion. He absolute­ly demands a con­dem­na­tion. The case is moved up to the High­er Court. Months lat­er, the sen­tence for “belong­ing” is ren­dered. Moth­er Mak­bule is sen­tenced to twelves years of prison and the sen­tence, con­firmed. Through var­i­ous legal recours­es, her sen­tence was reduced to six years. This is con­firmed at the end of 2002 . A chase then fol­lows between the State and Moth­er Mak­bule who does not wish to go back to prison. Her house is raid­ed almost every day. And the only ques­tion dur­ing these oper­a­tions is “where is Mak­bule Özbek?”

She spends almost 12 years as a clan­des­tine. For a moth­er this is a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion in all regards. The need to con­stant­ly change dwellings, to be con­stant­ly in tran­sit, end­less move­ments back and forth, the anguish when some­one knocks at the door, and so many oth­er worries…

I heard from her mouth that once, the police arrived when she was in the house. The police­men enter, take a look around in all the rooms. Fam­i­ly mem­bers who are present, out of polite­ness say “please sit down, have a cof­fee.” The police­men in civil­ian clothes take place. Moth­er Mak­bule, hid­ing behind the couch where they sit, waits, hold­ing her breath. With her health prob­lems, a cough or the slight­est move­ment can betray her. The half hour drags on, with the police­men on the couch and Moth­er Mak­bule behind it… Then, they leave.

Mother Makbule

Press release by the Bis­mil group of Sat­ur­day Mothers

Nihat, Nilüfer and prison, again

News arrives in 2013. The date and the place where Moth­er Mak­bule’s son Nihat Özbek lost his life are declared offi­cial­ly. Mourn­ing begins…Having at least obtained pre­cise infor­ma­tion con­cern­ing the end of Nihat, the moth­er then awaits news about her daugh­ter Nilüfer. She was told that her daugh­ter had also lost her life in 1994, but no one can say where or when she died. For Moth­er Mak­bule, it’s back to square one! She tracks down every sign, lis­tens to every bit of news. She trav­els in the hope of find­ing Nilüfer­’s trace. She has yet to find anything.

The exis­tence of a grave is impor­tant. Because remain­ing with­out one means remain­ing with­out a mem­o­ry. Mem­o­ry is born from this bur­ial site. [Trans­la­tor’s Note: This is the rea­son for the State and the Turk­ish nation­al­ists’ per­sis­tence in destroy­ing and defil­ing Kur­dish cemeteries.]

On April 23 2014, the long-sought after Moth­er Mak­bule is arrest­ed. Hav­ing pro­vid­ed her fin­ger­prints at the hos­pi­tal where she went for a con­sul­ta­tion on an eye prob­lem, the police­men’s wel­com­ing com­mit­tee await­ed her at her front door. She is imme­di­ate­ly tak­en to the police sta­tion. The admin­is­tra­tive intake pro­ce­dures are rushed and she is trans­ferred to the pros­e­cu­tor’s office. This elder­ly woman, afflict­ed with heart prob­lems, dia­betes and high blood pres­sure is rushed through the rou­tine med­ical. And the pros­e­cu­tor sends her to prison imme­di­ate­ly. With two years of prison con­firmed by the Court of Appeal.

At that time, Moth­er Mak­bule is about to turn 65 and there she is behind bars again, for “belong­ing”. She is sent to Diyarbakır prison. Short­ly before the end of her sen­tence, Moth­er Mak­bule is lib­er­at­ed on cau­tion, for health and age-relat­ed reasons.

Sorrow and misery without end

Fol­low­ing her lib­er­a­tion Moth­er Mak­bule puts all her hope in peace and renews her activism. As a mem­ber of the Sat­ur­day Moth­ers’ ini­tia­tive, she con­tin­ues shar­ing its ideas and par­tic­i­pat­ing in its actions.

The year 2018 is one of major dis­rup­tions for her. In June, she los­es Rıfat Özbek, her great­est sup­port, her alter-ego, her trav­el­ling com­pan­ion. Five months lat­er, in the last days of 2018 she is tak­en into cus­tody again for her sup­port to hunger strikes. She is lib­er­at­ed three days later.

On June 26 2020, one of the 45 peo­ple tak­en into cus­tody in the inquests led by the Diyarbakır pros­e­cu­tor’s office against the DTK (Con­gress for a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Soci­ety) was… Moth­er Makbule…And the accu­sa­tion? None. There is ques­tion of “belong­ing” again, because of the DTK. These “DTK oper­a­tions” have now replaced the “KCK oper­a­tions” 1. From being offi­cial­ly invit­ed in the Nation­al Assem­bly yes­ter­day, the DTK has now been declared as a “so-called” for­ma­tion [imply­ing “a ter­ror­ist organization”].

22 of the per­sons appear­ing before the court on June 29 were impris­oned. At age 70, Moth­er Mak­bule is impris­oned yet again. Every­thing is back to square one! A 70-year old woman is arrest­ed yet again, accused of “belong­ing, lead­ing an ille­gal orga­ni­za­tion”.

And in the mid­dle of all this, there is the real­i­ty of a pan­dem­ic. Moth­er Mak­bule with her chron­ic ail­ments is in no con­di­tion to make it through this peri­od. For 14 days, she will tem­porar­i­ly be detained alone in quar­an­tine. On their first vis­it, she told her lawyers that she was not in good health, and that the prison con­di­tions were dif­fi­cult for her.

Mère makbule özbek

Mak­bule Özbek, as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Sat­ur­day Moth­ers’ ini­tia­tive in a DTK con­fer­ence, Decem­ber 9 2018.

The truth in language

Moth­er Mak­bule has only one wish. “That this war end, that the road to peace be opened and the dia­logue take place.” No one has ever seen nor heard any­thing else from her. And the State knows this bet­ter than any­one. It knows that peace is more dif­fi­cult than war.

Paul Valéry describes lan­guage as “the god in the flesh” (La Pythie). If a god is silent, he is guilty. He must not be silent, he must speak. He must howl out his truth. This is the real­i­ty of lan­guage. The exit requires com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Only those who are con­vinced of this can split the silence open. If there are oth­ers with healthy solu­tions, they must set aside pride, nation­al­ist feel­ings, pre-fab­ri­cat­ed lit­er­a­ture about the coun­try and non­sen­si­cal ser­e­nades, step for­ward, and speak.

War is a choice but peace is an oblig­a­tion. Moth­er Mak­bule express­es this neces­si­ty and this respon­si­bil­i­ty. In clos­ing, let us ask yet again: why, start­ing with Mak­bule Özbek, are thou­sands of peo­ple in prison? 

Özgür Amed

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges 
*A word to English-speaking readers: in all instances where the original text is in Turkish or Kurdish, the English version is derived from French translations. Inevitably, some shift in meaning occurs with each translation. Hopefully, the intent of the original is preserved in all cases. While an ideal situation would call for a direct translation from the original, access to information remains our main objective in this exercise and, we hope, makes more sense than would a translation provided by AI…
You may use and share Kedistan’s articles and translations, specifying the source and adding a link in order to respect the writer(s) and translator(s) work. Thank you
Auteur(e) invité(e)
Auteur(e)s Invité(e)s
AmiEs con­tributri­ces, con­tribu­teurs tra­ver­sant les pages de Kedis­tan, occa­sion­nelle­ment ou régulièrement…