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In Turkey, for an entire gen­er­a­tion in par­tic­u­lar, the term “Sep­tem­ber 12 1980” cov­ers and describes an entire peri­od. The fol­low­ing gen­er­a­tions were not spared for all that, and the entire Turk­ish Left­ist move­ments refers back to it.

Express 53

Express, n° 53, Sep­tem­ber 2005

The mil­i­tary coup of Sep­tem­ber 12 1980 in Turkey ran over the coun­try like a steam roller. This night­mar­ish peri­od of per­se­cu­tions, of unimag­in­able tor­tures, of exe­cu­tions, left indeli­ble traces.

There are sev­er­al books cov­er­ing this peri­od, but also tes­ti­monies like those of our friend and Kedis­tan author Sadık Çelik who spent 8 years behind bars before being acquit­ted so many years lat­er. Pic­to­r­i­al tes­ti­monies also which require courage in order to look at them square­ly, such as the works of Zül­fikar Tak who made draw­ings of the tor­ture meth­ods. Or yet again, the graph­ic nov­el by Zehra Doğan, cur­rent­ly exhib­it­ed at the Berlin Bien­ni­al and which will be pub­lished by Del­court in March 2021, in which she pro­vides images from her stay in today’s Diyarbakır prison, and retraces the his­to­ry of this sin­is­ter gaol all the way back to the 80s.

This inter­view with one of the wit­ness­es of the Turk­ish pris­ons in the 80s throws a harsh light on the pris­ons and the meth­ods… Ini­tial­ly pub­lished in n° 53 of the the Express mag­a­zine pub­lished in Sep­tem­ber 2005. 1+1 is re-pub­lish­ing it anew for the 25th anniver­sary of the coup d’é­tat, and Kedis­tan is shar­ing trans­la­tions in French and in Eng­lish, as archival reference.


Seza Mis Horoz, witness to the September 12 imprisonment

An inter­view con­duct­ed by Siren İdem­en and Aysegül Oğuz

The inter­ro­gat­ing offi­cer had said, “When you will go out, you will regain such youth­ful­ness that no one will rec­og­nize you, not even your­self.” Who were these youths they impris­onned and tor­tured? What did they want? What was done to them in the Sep­tem­ber 12 pris­ons? We lis­ten to Seza Mis Horoz, an active mem­ber of İns­an Hak­ları Derneği (İHD, Human Rights Asso­ci­a­tion), of Tutuk­lu ve Hüküm­lü Yakın­ları Bir­liği(Union of rel­a­tive of the con­demned and the incar­cer­at­ed) and of 78’liler Vak­fı (Foun­da­tion of 78ers) who lived through the per­se­cu­tion per­pe­trat­ed in the pris­ons of Erz­in­can, Mamak (Ankara), Metris (Istan­bul) and Çanakkale. Spe­cial edi­tion “25 years from Sep­tem­ber 12” of Express magazine.

Where were you pri­or to 1980, what were you doing?

It is true enough that for our gen­er­a­tion there was a break between “pri­or to 80” and “after 80”. I lived in a small town in Iğdır until I fin­ished my sec­ondary school­ing in 1973. Four of us out of a fam­i­ly of eight went to Istan­bul for fur­ther stud­ies. I reg­is­tered in Istan­bul Uni­ver­si­ty in the Fac­ul­ty of Eco­nom­ic Sci­ences. In fact, with my high grades, I could have attend­ed a bet­ter school, but since I had to work, I had to choose a school that did not require reg­u­lar atten­dance. This is also a speci­fici­ty of our gen­er­a­tion: we had to study while work­ing and, at the same time, we were whole­heart­ed­ly involved in politics.

Where did you work?

While attend­ing uni­ver­si­ty, I was inte­grat­ed as a civ­il ser­vant in the Social Secu­ri­ty region­al Direc­torate (SSK). There, I began learn­ing about polit­i­cal top­ics. When I lived back home, we did­n’t know much about what was going on. When I arrived in a big city and the uni­ver­si­ty, my world changed very rapid­ly. My hori­zons widened…

What was the polit­i­cal cli­mate at the university?

As I was a full-time work­er and only attend­ed school for exams, I con­sid­ered myself more as a work­er than as a stu­dent. I still have dreams in which I did not fin­ish university.

Which is to say that the stu­dent move­ment had no influ­ence on your politization…

When I start­ed work­ing, we had entered a peri­od of trans­for­ma­tion of work­ers into civ­il ser­vants, imple­ment­ed in order to con­fis­cate their rights to strike and their col­lec­tive agree­ments. As civ­il ser­vants, we sup­port­ed the work­ers’ resis­tance. This was the first stage in my poli­ti­za­tion. This is where I start­ed see­ing real­i­ty: they fired mass­es of peo­ple, with no atten­tion paid to win­ter, to snow. To make the civ­il ser­vant sta­tus appeal­ing, they gave us three or four addi­tion­al bonus­es. Most of us donat­ed thoses bonus­es to the work­ers. For me, this was some­thing grand, we were par­tic­i­pat­ing in the work­ers’ resis­tance full-heart­ed­ly, in solidarity.

Was there a union, an orga­ni­za­tion lead­ing this resistance?

There was Sosyal-İş of which the work­ers were mem­bers and the civ­il ser­vants were in the process of orga­niz­ing an asso­ci­a­tion with Mem-Der. More­over, social­ists, rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, democ­rats par­tic­i­pat­ed in this type of resis­tance. At the time, I went to every meet­ing of the stu­dent move­ment. The mood in the amphithe­aters was very polit­i­cal, dis­cus­sions took place…The stu­dents want­ed to clar­i­fy, research, attempt to under­stand life. They were very dif­fer­ent from the beings the Coun­cil of Supe­ri­or Learn­ing (YÖK) fab­ri­cates these days. Work, school, life in the neigh­bor­hood, unions, activ­i­ties in the slums, all were part of a cohe­sive movement…

How did you move on to a more struc­tured struggle?

At home, we were close to the MHP [Nation­al Action Par­ty]. But our approach was not one of nation­al­is­tic, fascis­tic belong­ing. We are of Azeri ori­gin and as the Azeris were against Rus­sia, we were MHP sym­pa­thiz­ers. After my arrival in Istan­bul, I became a CHP sym­pa­thiz­er [Peo­ple’s Repub­li­can Par­ty, sec­u­lar, kemal­ist]. (She laughs) Those were the days when Ece­vit [still Pres­i­dent of the CHP] used to say “man­u­al work­ers, work­ers, stu­dents”

Did you par­tic­i­pate in CHP activities?

As I was work­ing, I did­n’t have such oppor­tu­ni­ties yet risk­ing the loss of my job, I went to the meet­ings any­way. Dur­ing that peri­od, I met politi­cized friends at work, and then in asso­ci­a­tions. I began to learn social­ist thought, rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas, I inte­grat­ed the polit­i­cal process very quick­ly and intensely.

In what kind of polit­i­cal activ­i­ties did you find yourself?

At first, they con­sist­ed of asso­ci­a­tion work in order to orga­nize the civ­il ser­vants. A that time, sev­er­al activ­i­ties could be done at the same time. There was a strug­gle in the slums, with inhab­i­tants, we par­tic­i­pat­ed in var­i­ous work­ers’ resis­tance activ­i­ties, I also min­gled with asso­ci­a­tions and stu­dent activists. Work­ers, civ­il ser­vants, stu­dents, slum dwellers were all part of my field of inter­ests, as was the case for many young peo­ple at the time.

In the sec­ond half of the 70s, the mood was chang­ing increas­ing­ly. The Beyazıt Mas­sacre on March 16 at Istan­bul Uni­ver­si­ty, the inten­si­fi­ca­tion of attacks…How did you expe­ri­ence this red-hot period?

We had mixed feel­ings and, on the oth­er hand, sev­er­al peo­ple were join­ing the move­ment, the strug­gle was inten­si­fy­ing. Most of us could see this strength, this union. We were con­vinced of our legit­i­ma­cy. Some com­rades were wound­ed or fell at our side. The gen­er­al vision was to put a dress­ing on our wounds and car­ry on with the fight. We were in that kind of state of mind. Obvi­ous­ly, there were a lot of provo­ca­tions. With our col­leagues, our school friends, we attempt­ed to face these attacks. Our con­fi­dence sprang from the con­vic­tion that our cause was legit­i­mate. We were con­vinced we would win, because we con­sid­ered those in front of us were wrong, were tyrants. I stayed in Istan­bul until Feb­ru­ary 79. And, fol­low­ing uni­ver­si­ty I head­ed toward the towns in the East, Erz­in­can, Elazığ.

Seza Mis Horoz

Seza Mis Horoz


What group did you belong to at that time?

To the “Par­ti­zan” group [Rev­o­lu­tion­ary com­mu­nist orga­ni­za­tion in Turkey]. This was the first group with which I had become acquainted.

So you went from the CHP to Partizan?

Yes. (She laughs) There was a quick jump for me. One year after arriv­ing in Istan­bul, I became a very dif­fer­ent per­son. My head opened up on a num­ber of top­ics, I lost my bash­full­ness, I was able to touch on dif­fer­ent aspects of life. Poli­ti­za­tion made me evolve very quickly.

What appealed to you in the rev­o­lu­tion­ary movement?

The fact peo­ple were close to each oth­er, that they were opposed to injus­tice… A full-heart­ed oppo­si­tion to injus­tice and a nat­ur­al reflex, defend­ing equal­i­ty, women-men equal­i­ty… For me, this was a great free­dom. I came from a place where the prin­ci­ples of feu­dal judg­ment were dom­i­nant. As a women, social­ist ideas appealed to me much more… Some­times I would come home at one o’clock, two o’clock in the morn­ing, and had this been before, I would have heard “a woman must stay at home.” I saw that women could accom­plish every­thing men could, and that the strug­gle for free­dom makes peo­ple even more effi­cient. All that appealed to me. Of course, the most impor­tant aspect was the atti­tude against injus­tice, exploita­tion and the demand for a world and a soci­ety more just and equalitarian…

When I heard all that, I fig­ured that every­one, my fam­i­ly, even my boss­es, State peo­ple, would accept social­ism. Because it was beau­ti­ful and human. Peo­ple’s sweat would find an answer, there would be work, there would be a social­ist State… I thought every­one who want­ed to live with dig­ni­ty would say “yes”. I would nev­er have imag­ined that those of us who defend­ed this vision would meet a huge per­se­cu­tion and be sub­ject­ed to heavy vio­lence. At first, I did­n’t know that cus­toms and tra­di­tions would hold sway with such a strong reac­tion. In my log­ic, I had accept­ed the change so eas­i­ly that I thought every­one would per­ceive it in the same way. Mov­ing along in life, I start­ed to see how the forces of career ambi­tion and prop­er­ty are pow­er­ful. We became aware of the State’s tyran­ny through expe­ri­enc­ing it. My feet began to stand more firm­ly on the ground.

And you were liv­ing in Istan­bul, you had just received your high­er edu­ca­tion diplo­ma, numer­ous oppor­tu­ni­ties were open­ing up before, did you hes­i­tate in decid­ing to go East?

Not in the least. I knew we were fight­ing for beau­ti­ful things, that we aspired to a just soci­ety that would allow every­one to live hap­pi­ly, humane­ly. So, I did­n’t even look back. And now, today, I may have dif­fi­cul­ties but I don’t regret it at all. Back then we did what our heart dictated.

In 1979, did you have a pre­mo­ni­tion, did you guess a coup d’é­tat was approaching?

In fact, there was talk about it. In the face of var­i­ous provo­ca­tions, the fact they sent the fascis­tic mili­ta up against us, the Maraş Mas­sacre, these were sounds of boots fore­run­ners to the coup d’é­tat. There were com­ments about an approach­ing coup d’é­tat such as “in dis­putes between broth­ers, I am opposed to the left and on the right.” The jun­ta was built up on that. The provo­ca­tions were orga­nized so as to cre­ate in peo­ple the thought that “some­one will save us”.

What are your rec­ol­lec­tions of the Maraş Massacre?

I was in Istan­bul at that time. I expe­ri­enced a huge anger and we were very sad. Despite every­thing, you tell your­self “such cru­el­ty at such a lev­el is sim­ply not pos­si­ble”. Preg­nant women, chil­dren were killed, peo­ple were burned… That awoke a lot of anger; so you cling even more to the strug­gle. There were also some who said “if the State is that cru­el, I’m going to stand aside”. In our gen­er­a­tion there was a very rapid progress but also, because of this speed, some unhealthy evo­lu­tions. A child walks on all four, then he walks stand­ing up, he grows… That was not our case; as soon as we became aware of who we were, we were forced to run. We showed lacks of deep obser­va­tion on a num­ber of things we had not inte­ri­or­ized, knead­ed into our personality…But that was only nat­ur­al, we must not crit­i­cize nor judge.

How did you expe­ri­ence the day of Sep­tem­ber 12?

We had moved from Elazığ to Erz­in­can. My com­pan­ion and I were in our house in the cen­ter of Erz­in­can. On the radio, we learned a coup d’é­tat was occur­ring. Mar­tial law, cur­few, every­thing took on ter­ri­fy­ing pro­por­tions. Armored vehi­cles were deployed every­where. You know that there had been a pres­i­den­tial cri­sis pri­or to Sep­tem­ber 12. No Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic could be elect­ed, and even the name of singer Bülent Ersoy was show­ing up in the urns. When I heard the radio announce­ment of a coup d’é­tat, I unthink­ing­ly asked “who will be Pres­i­dent?”. (She laughs) My hus­band told me “there won’t be a Pres­i­dent nor a Repub­lic, the mil­i­tary is every­where”. Of course, life became even more difficult.

When had you married?

We had mar­ried when we decid­ed to head East. Our mar­riage last­ed about a year and a half. But see­ing how intense things were, we bare­ly spent a month, a month and a half togeth­er. He was also arrest­ed, two months after my arrest.

How did your arrest go? Where did they bring you?

They arrest­ed me short­ly after Sep­tem­ber 12, on Octo­ber 30 on a bus from Erz­in­can head­ing toward Elazığ. They cir­cled the bus. They came direct­ly toward me. Just before that, we had been with a group of com­rades, I sup­pose one of them talked. There were a lot of denun­ci­a­tions at the time.

They took me to Elazığ. They were putting peo­ple in places like Nazi camps, in out-of-the way places. They took me into a build­ing where Turk­ish Intel­li­gence (MİT) and the counter-gueril­la worked togeth­er, with a notice that read “Region­al Traf­fic Direc­torate” locat­ed in a place known as “1800 Evler” out­side Elazığ. The first inter­ro­ga­tion began.

The dura­tion of inter­ro­ga­tions was increased then to 90 days, was it not?

Yes, but I stayed there 115 days. I func­tioned under my true iden­ti­ty, I was­n’t on a search list so I thought I would go free quick­ly. A bunch of police peo­ple, men and women, arrived, undressed me, searched me. They imme­di­ate­ly took me in for inter­ro­ga­tion. That was the stan­dard pro­ce­dure at the time, to arrest rapid­ly, as soon as a name was pro­vid­ed. Because as soon as your friends heard of your arrest, they took pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures. For this rea­son, the first attack was colossal.

They undressed me and sus­pend­ed me to the strap­pa­do. At the same time, they were giv­ing me elec­tri­cal shocks. I did­n’t under­stand what was going on. No ques­tions, no ‘who are you, where do you come from, where are you going’ no attempts to estab­lish my identity.

They sus­pend­ed you to the strap­pa­do straight off?

Yes, as soon as they had undressed me, it was straight to the strap­pa­do. It made me pan­ick. That’s their goal.

Were there many peo­ple in custody?

Of course, with cries… You can’t see if these are peo­ple you know because they blind­fold you right away.

For the first five, ten min­utes on the strap­pa­do, I was con­fused. Our gen­er­a­tion learned every­thing through experience…I’m sus­pend­ed there and I say “please, could you take me down?”(She laughs) They burst out laugh­ing, say­ing “we must take down her lady­ship!” After the laugh­ter I told myself  “come on Seza, under­stand where you are, in what real­i­ty”.

How old were you then?

I had just fin­ished uni­ver­si­ty, I was 23 years old.

There were insults, humiliations?

Mon­u­men­tal insults I could bare­ly under­stand. Sex­u­al assaults, sex­u­al insults of the basest kind…The works. The strap­pa­do, elec­tric­i­ty, insults, fala­ka [blows with a stick on the soles of the feet], beat­ings… Despite all this, I pulled myself togeth­er quick­ly. Once I under­stood what I could and must endure, I relaxed. I want­ed a bet­ter world, a bet­ter soci­ety; I had tak­en up this cause with con­vic­tion and of my own voli­tion. Once I told myself “I am going to face this no mat­ter the cost, I will denounce no one”, my head cleared up, my strength of resis­tance soared.

How long did the tor­ture last?

They messed me up heav­i­ly for two days. They took me down, then put me back up on the strap­pa­do. They bus­ied them­selves on me for six, sev­en hours… They took me down, put me up again, took me down, up…

If a per­son gave up dur­ing the first inter­ro­ga­tion, he or she was done for. If not, lat­er, peo­ple man­aged to get hold of them­selves. They con­sid­ered that “for each per­son arrest­ed, five weapons, five men”. That was their accept­able min­i­mum. They went after me heav­i­ly. Dur­ing the first tor­ture ses­sion, my right arm became use­less. Short­ly after, they threw me into an iso­la­tion cell. I stayed there alone for 25 days. Dur­ing the first days, I carved sticks on the wall, I gave that up on the 20th days. Dur­ing those days, they kept tak­ing me out for torture.

Were there times when you thought you would­n’t make it through?

Of course. They put you into a spe­cif­ic psy­cho­log­i­cal space, they make you think you will nev­er get out of there if you don’t make a state­ment. The door is open. You can leave. But they will say “we shot her as she was escap­ing.” In front of that door, I tru­ly lived through a moment of con­flict: “no means of lib­er­a­tion, I leave, they shoot me and this tor­ture ends.” Despite every­thing, the fact of cling­ing to life weighed in the balance.

They tor­tured me for almost a month, non­stop. They brought in groups, col­lege stu­dents, because they had shout­ed slo­gans, hung up plac­ards… Cries out of chil­dren, plead­ing… They brought in the par­ents from their vil­lage so they would denounce their sons, their daughters…Without inter­rup­tion, cries from the tor­tured ones, cries of old peo­ple, cries from chil­dren… It was terrifying.

The last day I spent there, the com­mis­sion­er came at mid­night, “today you talk or you die”, he told me. He escort­ed me, filled with hatred. Anoth­er police­man approached me: “my girl, I have a daugh­ter your age. I can’t sleep at night, I can’t stand to see you sub­ject­ed to such suf­fer­ing. Tell them a thing or two, you will have a chance to live.” Play­ing out the role of the priest. I answered him “if you had so much con­science, you would­n’t be able to work in such a place.” He cleared off. Five or six peo­ple rushed into the room. The com­mis­sion­er removed my blind­fold. If you had met him on the out­side, you would have thought he was a teacher, well dressed, perfumed…But extreme­ly fero­cious. “You don’t scare me, you’ll end up by talk­ing!” he told me. Plus, he had a wager going. I’m rather small; “the weak sex”. You resist, his pride takes a hit. The words “you don’t scare me” were extra­or­di­narly stim­u­lat­ing for me. I had been there for a month. My long hair was tan­gled, filled with lice. My body was wound­ed and swollen all over. They made me look at myself in a mir­ror. It was ter­ri­fy­ing, I fright­ened myself. And that sen­tence “you don’t scare me” pro­nounced in front of me when I was in such a state made me think that “they, in fact were the ones who were scared by our legit­i­ma­cy.” He said “this busi­ness is going to end today!” He picked up a big stick. Instinc­tive­ly, I raised my arm to pro­tect my head. On the first blow, my arm broke with a loud snap. One of my arms was use­less, the oth­er was now bro­ken. I asked “you have tak­en both my arms, and you ask me for names?” Then he let go of the stick and went on hit­ting with the trun­cheon. He’d let go of the trun­cheon and admin­is­ter elec­tric­i­ty… For the first time they undressed me com­plete­ly. Before that, I kept my panties… They took me to the toi­let. End of Novem­ber, it was cold. They sprayed me with pres­sur­ized cold water. Then, the strap­pa­do again. For the first time, I felt that I was faint­ing. Then, they had to dress me and threw me into a cell with oth­er women. There were a few women they had brought in from the countryside.

seza mis horoz

Çanakkale prison, Jan­u­ary 1991.


Were there cas­es of rape?

There were many. There were no rapes there but, reg­u­lar­ly, sex­u­al assaults. Once when they were tak­ing me from my cell for tor­ture, there was an old­er sol­dier, I think he was a sergeant… a dis­gust­ing guy. They were hold­ing me under the arms, drag­ging me and he was feel­ing up my breasts. I was nau­seous. When they admin­is­ter elec­tri­cal shocks, they apply it inside your vagi­na. It’s an appalling thing. As if all of your inner organs were going to burst out through there. Nip­ples are also very reac­tive because they are close to the heart…

Of all these tor­tures, which did you find the hard­est to bear? Or is such a com­par­i­son possible?

The estra­pad­do is the hard­est. It’s impres­sive. As if your arm was going to pull away from your body. You feel as if your foot could only touch a small area for an instant, you would be in par­adise. The estra­pad­do is hor­ri­ble. The elec­tric­i­ty, is very bad also. At that point, your heart seems to stop. But when it ends, you breathe again.

There was also the fala­ka, inten­sive­ly. The soles of our feet were lac­er­at­ed. I still remem­ber a guard by the name of Ahmet. He tru­ly suf­fered a lot from what he saw. He attempt­ed to help. Once every­one was gone, to avoid gan­grene set­ting into my feet, he made me walk in salt­ed water.

What hap­pened at the end of the month when you were put into this cell with the women?

When I came to, the women, expect­ing I was going to die, were cry­ing around me. They were beat­ing on the door: “she’s going to die, take her to the hos­pi­tal!” They did­n’t tor­ture me again. They held me there for three days, in pain. The rea­son they stopped the tor­tures was because they had killed a child. In the mid­dle of the night, we could hear them, hit­ting him from one cor­ner to anoth­er, throw­ing him. We heard the child’s cries. Then, all of a sud­den, the cries stopped. There was an impres­sive silence. Run­ning foot­steps fol­low­ing. The fol­low­ing day, they tor­tured no one. We learned lat­er that this child was dead.

Were there med­ical doc­tors par­tic­i­pat­ing in the tortures?

I don’t know. But there were cer­tain­ly some peo­ple who were advis­ing the tor­tur­ers. For exam­ple, so as not to kill, they only raised the dosage of elec­tric­i­ty to a spe­cif­ic level.

Three days lat­er, they trans­ferred me to the mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal in Elazığ. Sep­tem­ber 12 was­n’t insti­tu­tion­al­ized every­where yet. In many places, there were still some peo­ple left with a con­science. Over there there was a head nurse by the name of Ayse and her hus­band, a doc­tor. When they saw the con­di­tion I was in, they were angry. Tan­gled hair, dirty, no func­tion­al arms, lice, fleas, I was even dis­gust­ed with my own self. I was in such an inhu­man con­di­tion… I told them “please excuse me, I’m in a ter­ri­ble con­di­tion”. They answered “how can you say that? The shame is on those who put you in this state.” They were very warm-heart­ed. They cut my hair, cleaned me up.

Were there mil­i­tary men or police­men watch­ing over you?

Of course. Police­women stood guard. Three of them behaved cor­rect­ly, attempt­ed to keep a pos­i­tive atti­tude. In real­i­ty, Sep­tem­ber 12 was a shock for every­one. They were com­plain­ing also, they had trou­ble putting up with what was going on. The three oth­ers had fas­cist skulls. As I could­n’t use my hands, they were forced to feed me. One of them did so by push­ing on my mouth, spilling every­thing on me.

The doc­tor said I would require treat­ment for at least a month and a half and gave me a report say­ing so. Nine days lat­er, a team arrived. They took me in this con­di­tion, put me into a Renault and took me to Ankara. A dis­gust­ing trip, under assault, unceas­ing insults…

What was the rea­son for this trans­fer toward Ankara?

With no state­ment, no rev­e­la­tion of orga­ni­za­tion­al links on my part, they could­n’t do a thing. In Ankara, there is a place called “Müte­fer­ri­ka”, they brought me there. There was already a group of 28, 30 peo­ple arrest­ed in an oper­a­tion. They want­ed to inte­grate me in this group. [the post-coup d’é­tat tri­als, con­cern­ing accu­sa­tions of belong­ing to an ille­gal orga­ni­za­tion were almost always opened against groups. The most impres­sive is the tri­al known as “the main tri­al of the Dev-Sol” with 1 243 accused.]

I said I did not know any of these peo­ple. The police who had accom­pa­nied me said “if your reveal any­thing here, we shoot”. They bragged say­ing “no one can get admis­sions out of those who did­n’t talk in Elazığ.” I stayed one month in Derin Araştır­ma Lab­o­rat­u­arı [DAL – Advanced Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry]. Dur­ing the first few days, they went after me relent­less­ly. Then they said “we won’t get any­thing out of this one.” Both of my arms were in casts, they got rid of me. Since they could­n’t include me in a tri­al in Ankara, they brought me to Istan­bul, in Gayrettepe.

This time, they tried to work me into anoth­er group arrest­ed dur­ing oper­a­tions in Istan­bul. I said I had no links with those peo­ple either. Istan­bul was a cat­a­stro­phy, the place over­flowed. They brought in peo­ple from asso­ci­a­tions, unions, any­one that hap­pened to fall into their hands. In a tiny cell, we were nine, ten. There was no room to budge. You could bare­ly breathe. We would take turns mov­ing our head up close to the win­dow, and breath­ing. Lice crawled over us. The toi­lets with a sharp smell were hor­rif­ic, you felt as if your brain would explode. Even the police com­plained: “because of you, our wives won’t let us into the house. We keep spray­ing our­selves with cologne water but this smell does­n’t dis­ap­pear.” Hun­dred, thou­sands of peo­ple were held there for months…

They had put a preg­nant women in with us. They told her “if you talk we will free you”. The woman was in a pan­ic, “here my child will be born hand­i­capped”… You don’t know what to say. On the one hand, oth­er lives are in the bal­ance. On the oth­er hand, you try to under­stand this women. We would tell her “you should resist, you can’t trust them to keep their word.” She would answer “they promised they would release me”. So she signed a state­ment, she wrote down names of peo­ple she knew. They brought them in also. But of course, they did not release this woman. She was going crazy, in an attack of nerves, she would hit her heads agains the walls “here, my child will be born hand­i­capped”. For us, her “beat­ing of wings” like a bird caught in the net were an even heav­ier tor­ture than the others.

Seza Mis Horoz

With her hus­band Memik. Çanakkale prison, Jan­u­ary 1991.

Were you still being tor­tured at that time?

They con­tin­ued of course. They said “here this is Istan­bul, all tongues loosen”. My arms were still in casts, they could not sus­pend me to the strap­pa­do, they assault­ed me, beat­ing me with truncheons.

I thought they would release me at the end of the legal term of 90 days. They kept me 15 days longer. Then, they sent me back to Ankara again. And they opened a tri­al sole­ly for me.

Under what accusations?

Under arti­cle 141/5, belong­ing to an ille­gal orga­ni­za­tion, Partizan.

There was a place in the very heart of Ankara, they called it “The school of lan­guages.” This is where they took me. I felt as if I had land­ed in par­adise. (She laughs) They removed the casts from my arms. Friends washed me, scrubbed me down. This was the first time I washed fol­low­ing my cus­tody, three and a half months earlier…

Were there per­se­cu­tions and vio­lence there also?

At first, they approached women with pro­ga­pan­da in the style of “you were deceived, you are chil­dren from good fam­i­lies. Make the state­ment request­ed by the pros­e­cu­tor, then you can go on and build your life.”

When new peo­ple were arrest­ed dur­ing the ongo­ing oper­a­tions, you might be pulled out again for inter­ro­ga­tions. This pos­si­bil­i­ty of going back at any moment to the com­mis­sari­at was also a kind of psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ture in its own rights. We were close to 200 women. All the rev­o­lu­tion­ary orga­ni­za­tions were there. It was a prison with cell blocks.

At first again, they attempt­ed to bribe us. For exam­ple, they would offer 4 dif­fer­ent kinds of meals. They would threat­en us with a trans­fer to the Mamak prison. They attempt­ed to anni­hi­late our polit­i­cal iden­ti­ty. We did­n’t real­ly know how we should orga­nize the resis­tance. Among us were some very new mil­i­tants. Not every­one was at the same lev­el. But we thought we had to start somewhere.

Did they impose mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline on you?

Some things were imposed. First of all, the nation­al anthem. Some of us said “let’s not sing”, oth­ers said “let’s pre­tend to sing.” We had dis­cus­sions. They kept telling us “there are four or five lead­ers among you egging you on, denounce them. You, you are nice young ladies.”

Once when they asked us to sing the nation­al anthem, some did, some did­n’t. They came toward us and said “all of you sit on the floor”. We did­n’t know what we should do, you must always act as a group. Sev­en, eight friends stayed stand­ing, the oth­ers sat down. They start­ed to charge us vio­lent­ly with trun­cheons, kicks. Then, some­thing beau­ti­ful hap­pened, like you see in films. What did we see, one woman stood up, then oth­ers, one by one. All the women stood, togeth­er. It was beautiful.

Can we say that this moment was a turn­ing point for the resistance?

Yes, some­where, that’s tru­ly what it was. The mil­i­tary were pan­icked. We were were close to 200, they took some six­ty of us down into the cel­lar. A sti­fling space where the win­dows are paint­ed over in black, filled with rats, where the sew­ers drip and with bunk beds.

The next morn­ing, they came in and announced “you are also part of the mil­i­tary; you must stand at attention/at ease!” There again there was the threat of Mamak prison “if you resist you will go to Mamak!” For three, four days, they per­se­cut­ed us, beat us, some to the point of loss of consciousness.

Did the police­women also join into the beatings?

Of course! Espe­cial­ly the ones with fas­cist skulls. They were the worst. For exam­ple: once, I was exhaust­ed, my arm in a cast and one of these women was beat­ing me. There were young com­rades around us. One of them, no longer able to bear the scene jumped on her “she is sick, don’t hit her!” Latch­ing on to the oppor­tu­ni­ty, all the oth­ers joined in, pulled at her hair, pinched her, punched her… She pan­icked, and the oth­ers had to pull her out…

What hap­pened after the cellar?

We stayed there for almost a week. Then they pulled me up and sent us to block D in Mamak.

Did you know for how long you would be incarcerated?

No one knew exact­ly. If truth be told, in the first peri­od of the jun­ta, the sen­tences were not as heavy as they are now. In those days, for “belong­ing to an ille­gal orga­ni­za­tion”, you were sen­tenced to 4 years and 2 months. One of our com­rades was sen­tenced to 5 years, for “lead­ing an ille­gal orga­ni­za­tion”. I was sen­tenced to 4 years and 2 months.

What were your first obser­va­tions in Mamak?

The first day, they put us in a very big and long block. There were fifty or six­ty of us. The block con­tained wood­en bunk beds. The beds were made out of wood so they could not be used as weapons. The mat­tress­es were a dis­as­ter, you sim­ply could not sleep on them. The meals were dis­gust­ing… The food was cov­ered with some kind of bitu­mi­nous oil. We threw it out before eat­ing and rinsed the ingre­di­ents like chick­peas on the plate.

They tried to impose mil­i­tary style ranks with “atten­tion, at ease!”. But we resist­ed. In Mamak there was a lot of presure on the men, but also quite a lot of red­di­tions. The men gave in to orders more eas­i­ly.

How do you explain the fact the women resist­ed more?

The women were more self-deter­mined in defend­ing their free­doms. I thought it was impor­tant to prac­tice the val­ues instilled in me by the fact of being a rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Being a rev­o­lu­tion­ary brings a lot more to women in their dai­ly life. You become part of the polit­i­cal life, your world changes total­ly, you become more effi­cient. You then feel that you must appro­pri­ate and defend all that you have gained. And also, I think the stub­born­ness in women is some­thing else. We had been able to acquire this state of mind. Some tongues did loosen from time to time, but on the whole we were pret­ty resistant.

For exam­ple, we were ordered “you must address us as ‘my com­man­der’ or you open your hands”; they would use the trun­cheon on the open palms. Those trun­cheon ripped your guts out. We did not say “my com­man­der”, we opened our hands. In fact, you should­n’t open your hands. Once, a friend opened her hands. The sol­dier start­ed hit­ting, hit­ting… he was red with exhaus­tion… He said “low­er your hands, you dirty bitch!” And we were telling our friend “stop, stop, you’ll end up hand­i­capped”. In the end the sol­dier was the one who threw in the tow­el and left. Obvi­ous­ly, our friend could not use her hands for months.

Are there moment of admis­sion you still remember?

Yes. For exam­ple, when they put us in the cel­lar, a few peo­ple said “I accept!” This type of behav­ior was not relat­ed to the polit­i­cal careers of the indi­vid­u­als. For exam­ple, there was one with quite a career who with­drew into a cor­ner on the very first day and yet, there were very young sym­pa­thiz­ers who resist­ed to the end. We wit­nessed that kind of admission.

How long did you stay in Mamak?

Not long. Because they did­n’t know what to do with me there either. (She laughs) Then they took me to the mil­i­tary prison of Erz­in­can. This is where my tri­al end­ed. With all this fuss, I spent a total of one and a half years in prison.

In those days, some tele­vi­sion chains put up the pho­tos of pris­on­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly of cer­tain women with the cap­tion “flash! Flash!”. They gave them var­i­ous sur­names, “Fil­iz the squid”, “Ley­la the bomber” …While I was held at the “lan­guage school” (Ankara), we were watch­ing TV. What do I see? My pho­to on the screen: “Female ter­ror­ist want­ed”. (She laughs)

What was the atmos­phere in the prison in Erzincan?

It was a rather small place. We were nine women, things were qui­eter. I was released toward the mid­dle of 1982.

How had your com­pan­ion been arrested?

My hus­band was arrest­ed in Erz­in­can. They also took him to Ankara. He was sen­tenced to 5 years of which he did about 2 and a half years.

What did you do after your liberation?

I went back close to my fam­i­ly in Istan­bul. I attempt­ed to earn a liv­ing as an accoun­tant. I worked in the office of an Armen­ian cit­i­zen in Sul­tanah­met. The police both­ered him also. He told me “Don’t hold it against me but I’m going to be in trou­ble, you can’t go on work­ing here”. So I found myself unem­ployed. To widen my range of skills, I took train­ing ses­sions as a typ­ist, in health care.

What­ev­er I did, the police did not let go of me. They fol­lowed me, dis­turbed my fam­i­ly also. In those days, many peo­ple were tak­en into cus­tody, asso­ci­a­tions and unions shut down, it was a ter­ri­fy­ing atmos­phere. I real­ized there was noth­ing I could do, build­ing a life was impos­si­ble, I left home. I re-entered polit­i­cal life. And in March 1984, I was arrest­ed again.

How did your arrest go this time?

It hap­pened in Istan­bul. One of our com­rades revealed our meet­ing place to the police.

What feel­ings does this sit­u­a­tion give you? A great feel­ing of trea­son, or does it seem like an ordi­nary part of the whole?

A very bad feel­ing. You are ashamed for that per­son. You expe­ri­ence great anger. Tru­ly, this was a very devot­ed, very mod­est com­rade. You knew the per­son­’s past. You expe­ri­ence a dou­ble emo­tion: on the one hand, despite every­thing, you must not betray. No one enters this cause forced by a third par­ty. On the oth­er hand, see­ing the con­di­tion to which tor­ture reduces peo­ple, you feel anger. You feel oppressed.

Was it a man, a woman?

The com­rade was a man. I’ve nev­er received a blow from women. (She laughs)

Do you have an expla­na­tion for the fact some peo­ple resist despite the worst tor­tures while oth­ers give in to the slight­est nudge?

I think the fact of giv­ing in to the slight­est nudge is, in truth, the sign of a dis­in­te­gra­tion that had hap­pened out­side. This per­son arrives there with a con­vic­tion but it has already been altered on the out­side. Enter­ing a tri­al process is no easy mat­ter. You must con­stant­ly be cal­cu­lat­ing in order to be stronger. You must acknowl­edge your own real­i­ty. Human beings must take on respon­si­bil­i­ties to the degree they can bear. Peo­ple endure tor­ture up to a cer­tain point and, once that lim­it is reached, they may talk. Despite every­thing, no one should move straight into admis­sions at the first nudge.

And what hap­pened after your sec­ond arrest?

I was tak­en once again to the famous Gayret­te­pe (Istan­bul). I remained there for approx­i­mate­ly a month and a half.

Were the inter­ro­ga­tions as violent?

The meth­ods were the same. The vio­lence was maybe a bit less. But still, fala­ka, estra­pad­do, elec­tric­i­ty, beat­ings… The most intense was what we called “mey­dan dayağı” [group beat­ing], a kind of lynch­ing. Then I was sent to Metris.

When did you appear at the hearing?

I appeared at the first hear­ing, two years lat­er. We had a third tri­al involv­ing 380 peo­ple. They had their first hear­ing four years lat­er. Of these, 49 per­sons were lib­er­at­ed. Had these peo­ple had their tri­al only a few months after their arrest, they would have been released at that time. For four years, these com­rades were sub­ject­ed to the most intense per­se­cu­tion of the jun­ta peri­od. Most of them were acquit­ted, by the way.

How was Metris in 1984?

They prac­ticed tor­ture under cov­er of “search­es”. A search was also imposed in order to go out for the “prom­e­nade”, we did not accept it and that meant you would not go out for months on end. The blocks were full. We slept in bunk beds, three to a bunk. Some­times, on the top bunk, we tied our­selves down so as not to fall off.

Was there the prac­tice of the uni­form [known as the “sin­gle gar­ment”]?

Of course, they imposed the wear­ing of the sin­gle gar­ment. There was a 28 day hunger strike held against this prac­tice. They did not impose it on the women but we also took part in the strug­gle against every­thing imposed on the men.

Pri­or to vis­its, they want­ed us to stand in line. You can­not con­duct vis­its in a file. Their aim was to destroy our polit­i­cal identity.

We put up pic­tures of chil­dren, of land­scapes. They tore them down. They did not want us to keep the sligh­est link with life. They tore them down, we put oth­ers back up again. It was a war of wills. We could receive blows for days, just because of an image. The image was­n’t in ques­tion, they want­ed to destroy what­ev­er might inter­est us.

In the ear­ly peri­ods, pro­hi­bi­tions cov­ered news­pa­pers, cor­re­spon­dence, pen­cils, visits…We shared our thoughts between our­selves, mutu­al­ly, so that our brains would­n’t rust. We tried to answer rid­dles, we per­formed plays. We taught one anoth­er what­ev­er we knew, one taught maths, the oth­er Eng­lish, and a third, some­thing else again…We did every­thing we could to keep our brains functional.

They often put pro­hi­bi­tions on water which is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant for women Dur­ing men­stru­al peri­ods, every­thing requires water. We adapt­ed to the point of being able to bathe with a tiny bowl of water.

Men­stru­al peri­ods were impact­ed by the con­di­tions, no?

Par­tic­u­lar­ly because of the tor­tures, most of us had ter­ri­bly painful peri­ods. For some of my friends, the peri­ods were per­turbed, too fre­quent or only every two, three months…On that score, the women lived through a lot of prob­lems. In any event, dur­ing the tor­ture ses­sions, they told us “we will dry out your descen­dants, we will dry out your uterus”. This was their great­est threat against women: “you will nev­er bear a child again.” To tell the truth, I did­n’t think I would be able to put a child into the world. You are so messed up! But the human body is an unbe­liev­able mech­a­nism, it repairs itself.

Intro­duc­ing objects in the body, deliv­ery of elec­tri­cal shocks through the vagi­na, were these gen­er­al­ized methods?

Of course. The use of elec­tric­i­ty was very wide­spread. They had intro­duced trun­cheons in some wom­en’s vagi­na. They may have been more reluc­tant with young women [vir­gins] but they knew no limits.

Were some women raped?

Of course they were.

Did these women speak about this type of tor­ture, did they share this with others?

This depend­ed on the lev­els of con­scious­ness, the ways of see­ing life. Some hes­i­tat­ed, feel­ing embar­rassed. Some hid it, feel­ing oppressed, liv­ing with the prob­lems. When we sensed this, we tried to talk to them, to share, to help one anoth­er. When they took a grip on them­selves, when atten­tion was paid to them, they man­aged to speak up and reha­bil­i­tate them­selves. There were some who did­n’t man­age to talk. You would rather not remem­ber, and not relive those moments again. And of course, there are those judg­ments, those feu­dal cri­te­ria. They felt humil­i­at­ed, soiled.

How long were you in Metris?

They gave me twen­ty years.

What were you accused of this time?

This time, I had a pro­mo­tion. (She laughs) Accord­ing to arti­cle 168/1, which means “found­ing a gang, lead­ing a gang”… Yes, I became a gang leader also. (She laughs)

I did­n’t stay very long in Metris. Short­ly after I was trans­ferred to Çanakkale.

When we say Metris, what left the great­est impression?

The resis­tance we orga­nized against the search­es. The friend­ships. We lived beau­ti­ful things, tru­ly. The efforts we made to com­mu­ni­cate with our male comrades…

How did you com­mu­ni­cate with the men?

They tried to keep us sep­a­rat­ed as much as they could. They behaved as if only the men were polit­i­cal pris­on­ers, and we were there by acci­dent. And that stim­u­lat­ed us even more. This is why it was so impor­tant for us to orga­nize as a group, to resist as a group. When they did some­thing to the men, we behaved as if they had done it to us.

We tried to com­mu­ni­cate when going to the tri­bunals, when pass­ing in the halls. Or again through Morse code, on the walls…Later, after long efforts, we orga­nized an aer­i­al line. It was unbelievable.

How did you do it?

There was a prom­e­nade between our block and the men’s. The men had to throw up a rope with a weight up to our win­dow. We wait­ed entire nights in front of the win­dow. It did­n’t work. And then the mir­a­cle hap­pened one night.

Did you rig a pul­ley system?

Yes. Before that we com­mu­ni­cat­ed with bits of paper. You could hard­ly read them with a mag­ni­fy­ing glass. With the aer­i­al line let­ters and pho­tos were exchanged, there were per­son­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Peo­ple saw pho­tos of one and anoth­er, rec­og­nized faces.

Then, we strug­gled and won the right to the library. We could go there on cer­tain days of the week.

You were there dur­ing the “escape from Metris”, what happened?

For me, this escape was sup­posed to be a pri­vate event.( She laughs.) I was the only one informed in the wom­en’s block. The men were the main insti­ga­tors. There was an area known as the “Siberia Block”, they were meant to make their get-away through there. The first time they told me about it, I could­n’t believe what I was hear­ing. In those days, the say­ing was “even a bird can’t escape Metris”. I said “this is impos­si­ble”, I was filled with fear. I felt two things at once: lib­er­ty and death. If they failed, destruc­tion await­ed! And they were not just a few, they were 29.

For how long did they dig the tunnel?

For four, five months.

Did you know the date planned for the escape?

Yes because my fiance was over there. (She laughs) I had sep­a­rat­ed from my first hus­band. I met my fiancé in prison.

How did you live the day of the escape?

It was ter­ri­fy­ing. I could­n’t sleep. They were sup­posed to escape between mid­night and 5 AM. Since there were 29 of them, they were going to leave by small groups. Obvi­ous­ly, I was close to death with fear all night long. I did­n’t know a thing about how things were going…I was liv­ing in fear and in joy at the same time.

The admin­is­tra­tion real­ized what had hap­pened dur­ing the morn­ing head count. The only ones left were the ones whose sen­tences were near­ing their end. The sol­dier asked “where are they?” and the com­rade replied “escaped”. The sol­dier insist­ed “stop jok­ing, they must come out!” They could­n’t believe it. They searched every­where.

Did the vio­lence increase after the escape?

This is what we expect­ed. But they were in a state of shock. Then, the trans­fers began and I was sent to the prison of Çanakkale. I stayed there until 1991.

How was Çanakkale?

After 1989 and through the strug­gles, cer­tain rights were obtained. Many peo­ple had been sen­tenced to death or to per­pe­tu­ity. Con­di­tions had changed a bit from those in the ini­tial peri­od after Sep­tem­ber 12. At Çanakkale, we had some rights. We could meet the men pris­on­ers, there were open vis­its [with­out a cab­in] we could receive food from the outside.

Out­side spe­cial days, what was the dai­ly routine?

My life was so busy out­side. I slept five, six hours, I was run­ning all the time. I could­n’t even imag­ine liv­ing in a prison, locked up between four walls. But I was incar­cer­at­ed for a total of nine years and, even there, time went by.

In prison, I went to bed at mid­night and got up at 6 AM. I prac­ticed a sport in the morn­ing. We read a lot, we wrote, we had train­ing activ­i­ties. I liked work­ing with my hands, I knit­ted hats, pen­cil cas­es. Some­times we had no mon­ey and sold these items.

seza mis horoz

Mar­riage in Çanakkale Prison, March 8, 1990.

What hap­pened to your fiancé after the escape?

Nine of the com­rades were re-arrest­ed a month and a half lat­er. They were sent to Metris, then they were deport­ed to Bartın prison. I then asked for my trans­fer to Bartın so that we could mar­ry. There was a hitch and the mar­riage did­n’t take place. Then both of us were sent to Çanakkale. We mar­ried on March 8 1990.

Could you see each oth­er after your marriage?

Yes. There were spousal vis­its. More­over, we could see the male prisoners.

What was your hus­band’s sentence?

Per­pe­tu­ity. In 1991, they received a con­di­tion­al release.

How did you find the social cli­mate at your lib­er­a­tion in 1991?

What seemed the odd­est to me was to see that every­thing was mea­sured with mon­ey. Before, we embraced a lot when we met up again, we expe­ri­enced great enthu­si­asm. I found that this aspect had dimin­ished. And also, the lack of inter­est in politics…On the out­side, Sep­tem­ber 12 had achieved its true objective.

As we still had close ones, com­rades in prison, we reg­u­lar­ly attend­ed the demo­c­ra­t­ic orga­ni­za­tions, we met up there with the fam­i­lies. A short while lat­er, my hus­band was lib­er­at­ed and we went on togeth­er in the tur­moil of the out­side world…

Did you decide to have a child right away?

I loved chil­dren very much and wished to have some. But there were fears also. I had gone through so much that I did­n’t think I could get preg­nant right away. But it is quite pos­si­ble that I became preg­nant on the very first night. (She laughs)

After my hus­band’s lib­er­a­tion, we lived as if we want­ed to recap­ture the time spent in prison. We trav­elled, we went on treks in moun­tains, val­leys, walked, recon­nect­ed with friends…It was a mad life. For the first time in my life, I bathed in the sea…

One day, we were with friends, I had odd dis­charges, my gums were painful. I was preg­nant. My son is now 14 years old.

In fact, your hus­band went back to prison, did­n’t he?

They arrest­ed him in 2001 and sen­tenced him to 15 years.

If you com­pare today’s prison con­di­tions [2005] and those in the 80s?

Con­di­tions in type F pris­ons [pris­ons with a spe­cif­ic archi­tec­ture allow­ing for iso­la­tion] are real­ly very harsh. Despite all the suf­fer­ing, at least we were all togeth­er. The type F is dis­gust­ing, inhu­man. My hus­band was in the type F of Tekir­dağ, then he was deport­ed to Bolu. Con­di­tions are even worse in Bolu.

How much longer must he stay in prison?

In fact, until 2012, we will see how the new law will be applied. We think he still has two, two and a half years.

It is even hard­er being a polit­i­cal pris­on­er these days. The aim of type F pris­ons is to intim­i­date soci­ety through per­sons in prison, to keep peo­ple away from pol­i­tics. But no mat­ter what the con­di­tions may be, peo­ple strug­gle, you can’t par­a­lyze the move­ment completely.

What is your analy­sis of “hunger strikes to the death[Hunger strikes with no absorp­tion of ton­ics] car­ried out in type F pris­ons and the fact that no strong and wide­spread reac­tion takes place despite the num­ber of dead and handicapped?

One must con­sid­er hunger strikes to the death as the final phase of the strug­gle. Because there is noth­ing left to defend beyond life. I think it is the ulti­mate point one can reach. Soci­ety should be able to see this: if peo­ple put their life at stake, what they are strug­gling against must be seri­ous. They impose things worse than death; iso­la­tion, purifi­ca­tion of polit­i­cal iden­ti­ty… The Decem­ber 19 mas­sacre [2000] was anoth­er gauge; they broad­cast the sav­agery live. Faced with this pol­i­cy of destruc­tion, peo­ple had no oth­er choice than to endan­ger their bod­ies. Heavy prices were paid, seri­ous events were expe­ri­enced. But, unfor­tu­nate­ly, this did not res­onate in soci­ety or else­where. It was not a prison prob­lem, but this is the result of Sep­tem­ber 12 that has pushed soci­ety to this point. With no reac­tion from soci­ety, one had to cease action from that point on. In fact, sev­er­al peo­ple ana­lyzed the sit­u­a­tion and stopped their hunger strike to the death.

Final­ly, all this will be inscribed in his­to­ry. I think we should look not at those who died but at those who killed them.

When you com­pare the young gen­er­a­tion of the oppo­si­tion to the youth pri­or to the 80s, what fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ences do you see?

Sep­tem­ber 12 eject­ed a large part of the youth out of life, dis­cussing pol­i­tics, cul­ture, life activ­i­ties… I see the fact of being born after Sep­tem­ber 12 as a mis­for­tune. They have killed their hopes, fetishized self­ish­ness, upend­ed values…Despite this, there exists a youth that shows polit­i­cal resis­tance. But nat­u­ral­ly, you can­not dis­so­ci­ate a per­son from soci­ety. They bear the traces of a more indi­vid­u­al­is­tic, less devot­ed exis­tence, but they ask more questions.

What do you have to say about the “sis­ter­hood” (bacı) lit­er­a­ture that has tak­en shape around the peri­od pri­or to 1980?

We must ana­lyze life expe­ri­ences in their own con­di­tions. At that time, there exist­ed a cer­tain form of feu­dal­ism in rela­tion­ships, undoubt­ed­ly, but it would be unfair to remain blocked on this. Many women became aware of polit­i­cal strug­gle at that time, they eman­ci­pat­ed them­selves to a cer­tain point, became active. Of course, in the polit­i­cal strug­gle, it isn’t pos­si­ble to estab­lish the bal­ance imme­di­ate­ly between men and women. A true social­ist con­science does not dom­i­nate imme­di­ate­ly for every­one. At times, there may have been a ques­tion of remain­ing in sec­ond place. But when you look at the con­di­tion of women today, you see that mass­es of women are still removed from soci­ety and lack­ing in confidence.

But I think that this peri­od brought me a lot per­son­al­ly. I behaved very dif­fer­ent­ly from my moth­er, my younger sis­ter. I thought I could choose my com­pan­ion, par­tic­i­pate in the polit­i­cal strug­gle and despite the protests from my fam­i­ly, I could take my place in life. The polit­i­cal strug­gle is what brought me that.

Of course you don’t begin the fight on an equal foot­ing with men. There were even some women who, in order to be accept­ed, felt the need to behave like men. There were expe­ri­ences attempt­ed to become more vir­ile, feel­ings of estrange­ment from one’s own gen­der. This is still going on. Back then, there was a cer­tain rev­o­lu­tion­ary cul­ture, we wore pants, did not use make-up, paid no atten­tion to clothes. Of course these were defi­cien­cies but they were also things we accept­ed will­ing­ly. But we could have been more flexible.

When you ana­lyze the ques­tion now, some approach­es can appear sec­tar­i­an. But we were not burn­ing with the desire to wear make-up. We lived a life in which we were hap­py, we con­sid­ered our­selves suc­cess­ful, confident.

Your earn your bread, you help your fam­i­ly, you study at the uni­ver­si­ty, you are at the heart of the strug­gle… Today peo­ple can’t man­age just their pro­fes­sion­al life, or only with their schooling…Back then we could do sev­er­al things at once, we man­aged, we were self-con­fi­dent. In pass­ing, there were fail­ings, we could have lived our fem­i­nin­i­ty bet­ter, brought it to the fore­front. That would have been quite beautiful.

Seza Mis Horoz

The cou­ple Seza and Memik with their son Coşku­can. Prison of Tekir­dağ, May 17, 2004.

Look­ing back in a gen­er­al fash­ion over the rev­o­lu­tion­ary move­ment of that peri­od, what are the fun­da­men­tal lacks and errors that stand out for you?

I think we should have ques­tioned more deeply, polit­i­cal­ly speak­ing. We ques­tioned much more than most oth­ers in soci­ety but, in an area as ambi­tious as the rev­o­lu­tion, we should have ques­tioned even more deeply. More­o­ev­er, you want to go beyond exist­ing atti­tudes, tra­di­tions, habits, an archa­ic world. For that, you must fight against archaism and habits in every area of life, unin­ter­rupt­ed­ly. I think there were fail­ings in that respect. We should have ques­tioned tra­di­tion­al rela­tion­ships more deeply and real­ized the calami­ties they caused and gone beyond them in our own lives. As long as you live with this inca­pac­i­ty, you can­not car­ry soci­ety fur­ther ahead. That fail­ing exist­ed and men-women rela­tion­ships are a part of it.

What is the most pos­i­tive inher­i­tance from this peri­od that we must protect?

The reflex of oppos­ing injus­tice, the will to search, the demand for a just soci­ety and a bet­ter world…The fact of being aware one can oppose injus­tice and obtain rights and the desire to do so is very impor­tant. We must trans­mit this today.

Sep­tem­ber 12 con­fis­cat­ed the dream for a bet­ter world.

The con­scious­ness that one can fight against injus­tice has fad­ed, peo­ple have become pas­sive. Today, the ques­tion is not judg­ing Kenan Evren or four or five oth­er gen­er­als. The results cre­at­ed by Sep­tem­ber 12 are what must be judged and condemned.

Despite every­thing, you would­n’t want that those respon­si­ble for the coup d’é­tat and its exe­cu­tion­ers at dif­fer­ent lev­els be judged some day?

Yes, absolute­ly, how could I not want this? It is also need­ed in order to cre­ate a con­scious­ness in soci­ety, show­ing how the unjust are judged. But if you only say “let them be judged” it will pro­vide noth­ing but a sim­ple feel­ing of revenge. Today, beyond every­thing to which I was sub­ject­ed, the prob­lem resides in the way Sep­tem­ber 12 demol­ished an entire soci­ety. The Law, the cul­ture, the ide­ol­o­gy of Sep­tem­ber 12 must stand judg­ment. And their exe­cu­tion­ers, absolutely.

You observe oth­er coun­tries. You see resis­tance occur­ring in health­i­er soci­eties. For exam­ple in Greece, close to here, you can live more demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly today. The same is true in Argenti­na. In those soci­eties where injus­tices are judged, the peo­ple elab­o­rate reflex­es of oppo­si­tion to injustice.

The men­tal­i­ty of Sep­tem­ber 12 was to con­vince peo­ple that they can­not judge the State, that they can­not oppose it. Had it been oth­er­wise, they would have sac­ri­ficed Kenan Evren. They would have used this one and the oth­er, then thrown them away like soiled hand­ker­chiefs. If the 25th anniver­sary could con­tribute to this, it would be a joy for society.

What do you do these days, how do you spend your time?

As Sep­tem­ber 12 shoved us aside, out­side life, we stub­born­ly insist in being a part of life, of being a sub­ject. I take a very close inter­est in pris­ons. I try to put a shoul­der to each activ­i­ty, each demo­c­ra­t­ic orga­ni­za­tion involved in pris­ons. I am a mem­ber of Tutuk­lu ve Hüküm­lü Yakın­ları Bir­liği (TÜYAB, Union of rel­a­tives of the sen­tenced and the incar­cer­at­ed). We have found­ed an asso­ci­a­tion called Dayanış­ma Ağı (Sol­i­dar­i­ty Net­work). More­over, I am with the 78’liler Vak­fı (Foun­da­tion of 78ers). All togeth­er, with our own means, we attempt to obtain judge­ment on Sep­tem­ber 12 and that the estrange­ment between gen­er­a­tions be dis­solved. I am every­where where the strug­gles for human rights is car­ried out.

How do you pro­vide for your liveli­hood? Has your past been a bar­ri­er to find­ing work?

Obvi­ous­ly. After our lib­er­a­tion, my hus­band and I worked for ten years in the press. We were with com­rades and attempt­ed to live mod­est­ly. Fol­low­ing my arrest, I start­ed to focus more on activ­i­ties around pris­ons. I attempt to remain stand­ing with my own strength. I’m very famil­iar with the job of a jour­nal­ist, hav­ing been one for ten years. But I can’t pos­si­bly work in bour­geois news­pa­pers. Nor would they hire me, nor would I go there.

For me, access to prison vis­its are very impor­tant. After so many years in pol­i­tics, a life turned only toward sur­vival weighs on me. I clean offices and homes, that way I can spend the rest of my time on the rest.

This arti­cle is already fif­teen years old, in this month of Sep­tem­ber 2020. Kedis­tan is pub­lish­ing it so that you may devel­op a deep­er per­spec­tive on the ongo­ing sit­u­a­tion in Turkey.

Illus­tra­tion: Seza Mis Horoz (front right), the Kur­dish fem­i­nist activist “Sara” Sakine Can­sız is also in this pic­ture (top right). Çanakkale Prison, Jan­u­ary 1981.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges 
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