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The Kur­dish politi­cian and ex-deputy, Aysel Tuğluk is in prison. Aysel is ail­ing. Aysel can no longer remem­ber. Accord­ing to med­ical spe­cial­ists, she can no longer live with­out assis­tance. Serv­ing her sen­tence must be post­poned. Yet the Legal Med­i­cine Insti­tute has decid­ed to keep her in prison.

Aysel’s mem­o­ry is fad­ing away, lit­tle by lit­tle. But we remember…

We remem­ber that, dur­ing long years, Aysel worked as an inde­pen­dent lawyer. We know she was a mem­ber of the Board of Admin­is­tra­tion of the Foun­da­tion for Social and Legal stud­ies (THAV), a mem­ber of the Asso­ci­a­tion for Human Rights (IHD). She found­ed the YKD, with women who love their coun­try. We have not for­got­ten that she was Co-Pres­i­dent of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Soci­ety Par­ty (DTP) from 2007 to 2009, elect­ed as deputy for Diyarbakir from 2011 to 2015, deputy for Van of the Peo­ples’ Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (HDP) in which she held posi­tions of respon­si­bil­i­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly on mat­ters of Law and human rights.

We remem­ber as if it were yes­ter­day, the day of Decem­ber 29 2016, when Aysel was arrest­ed at a time when she was Deputy Co-Pres­i­dent of the HDP. The bill of indict­ment was based on her work and dec­la­ra­tions dat­ing from her Co-pres­i­den­cy of the  Con­gress for a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Soci­ety (DTK), a plat­form of Kur­dish asso­ci­a­tions and move­ments in Turkey, one devel­op­ing since 2011 its mod­el of “demo­c­ra­t­ic auton­o­my” as the orga­ni­za­tion form­ing its con­fed­er­al sum­mit. We remember…

We remem­ber that Ankara’s Penal Tri­bunal N° 17 sen­tenced Aysel Tuğluk to 10 years in prison, on the usu­al accu­sa­tion used  with­out mod­er­a­tion, that of “belong­ing to an ille­gal orga­ni­za­tion”. Despite all protests and requests for judi­cia­ry pro­ce­dures, this sen­tence was con­firmed by the Court of Appeals.

And we also know that, recent­ly, in the con­text of the inquest con­duct­ed by Ankara’s Prosecutor’s Office con­cern­ing the events in Kobanê on Octo­ber 6–7‑9 2014, the arrest against Aysel Tuğluk was ordered.

Final­ly, real­i­ty is before our eyes: Aysel Tuğluk has been behind bars since  Decem­ber 29 2016. Which means that, thus far, it has been 5 years since she was thrown into the Type F prison of Kandıra in Kocaeli.

Aysel can no longer remember…

Because in recent peri­ods, Aysel’s health has dete­ri­o­rat­ed more and more severe­ly. She suf­fers from demen­tia and because of seri­ous loss­es of mem­o­ry, can no longer attend to her dai­ly needs alone.  Dur­ing an inter­view with Dilek Gül for Euronews, her lawyer, Rey­han Yalçın­dağ said: “Think of it this way: some activ­i­ties must be done every day. Eat­ing, drink­ing, attend­ing to one’s care, speak­ing, writ­ing, read­ing, are these not all parts of such activ­i­ties? What is left when you remove some among them? A human being who can­not live with­out help from others…Imagine for­get­ting a num­ber of rou­tine occur­rences dur­ing the day. How could you move for­ward by your­self? Is it pos­si­ble? No, it isn’t. More­over, even in this con­di­tion, she remains sen­si­tive to cer­tain things. She says there are oth­er pris­on­ers in even more severe con­di­tions, and thinks that draw­ing atten­tion to her case in the news could  be prej­u­di­cial to them”…

We remem­ber that in 2017, Aysel Tuğluk wit­nessed the exhuma­tion of the remains of her moth­er, Hatun Tuğluk.

After bare­ly a year in prison, Aysel had learned of her mother’s death. She was allowed to attend the funeral.

It con­sist­ed of a funer­al one could not wish on an ene­my and per­haps the mind prefers to for­get, secretly…

A bur­ial sub­ject­ed to vio­lent racist attacks… First, a group of some ten peo­ple who attempt­ed to pre­vent the bur­ial. The close ones of the deceased attempt­ed to car­ry on as best they could. Then, dozens of per­sons, informed in small groups, arrived at the ceme­tery, by car, by truck and by trac­tor. The fam­i­ly mem­bers, rel­a­tives and friends were then sub­ject­ed to ver­bal aggres­sions, insults, threats which then became increas­ing­ly phys­i­cal attacks, fol­lowed by gun­shots in the air. The mourn­ers, held hostage in the ceme­tery, their attack­ers pre­vent­ing them from leav­ing and cov­er­ing them in racist and insult­ing slo­gans — “We won’t allow the bur­ial of ter­ror­ists here! This is not a ceme­tery for Arme­ni­ans!” The police inter­vened. The fam­i­ly then decid­ed to exhume the deceased and bury her elsewhere.

That was Hatun Tuğluk’s final cal­vary; she was buried the next day in Dersim.

We remem­ber.

And Aysel wit­nessed all this. Her lawyers, doc­tors and close ones say they saw how deeply she was affect­ed by what hap­pened and tes­ti­fy to her phys­i­cal dete­ri­o­ra­tion.   No need to be a spe­cial­ist to know that such an indeli­ble wound leaves traces, and the effect of psy­chic trau­mas on the body are no secret for any­one… The med­ical doc­tors are of the same opinion.

For approx­i­mate­ly eight months, nine spe­cial­ists from the Legal Med­i­cine Depart­ment of the Kocaeli Fac­ul­ty of Med­i­cine exam­ined Aysel and declared as one that she suf­fered from “an ill­ness with a chron­ic evo­lu­tion of a pro­gres­sive nature” and con­clud­ed in a report in July 2021, “that there could be prob­lems  in bal­anc­ing the require­ments of med­ical assis­tance and care with those avail­able in prison, and that she could not main­tain her life on her own in prison, and con­se­quent­ly, the exe­cu­tion of her sen­tence should be postponed.”

Based on this report, her lawyers as well as the prison admin­is­tra­tion request­ed Aysel’s trans­fer to Istanbul’s Medico-Legal Insti­tute. Her fam­i­ly, her lawyers and sup­port­ers, human rights asso­ci­a­tions, raised the alarm on numer­ous occa­sions, insist­ing on the dif­fi­cul­ty of main­tain­ing her under carcer­al con­di­tions. The few pro­gres­sive media still sur­viv­ing in Turkey talked about it. The answer came from Istanbul’s Medico-Legal Insti­tute last Sep­tem­ber, spec­i­fy­ing that Aysel “could still main­tain her­self on her own, that she could still serve her sen­tence under prison con­di­tions, with the ben­e­fit of a treat­ment and the rec­om­mend­ed reg­u­lar ambu­la­to­ry con­trols”

Fol­low­ing this response, on Sep­tem­ber 3rd 2021, the Kocaeli Prosecutor’s Office turned down the request for the post­pone­ment of the exe­cu­tion of Aysel Tuğluk’s sentence.

We will remember…

I her reac­tion, her lawyer Rey­han Yalçın­dağ insists on the fact that this a “clas­sic” in Turkey. “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Direc­tion at the Medio-Legal Insti­tute does not post­pone the sen­tences of polit­i­cal pris­on­ers, even when there exists a report from a del­e­ga­tion of nine med­ical specialists…We have a Direc­tion at the Medico-Legal Insti­tute that squeezes the med­ical insti­tu­tion in the fac­ul­ties of med­i­cine, that denies them and that acts as if they were not med­ical doc­tors. It posi­tions itself sole­ly as a polit­i­cal depart­ment. It deliv­ers reports far removed from med­ical ethics.” Rey­han also wish­es to spec­i­fy that: “Aysel Tuğluk informed us they con­duct­ed a very brief exam­i­na­tion, that she found her­self sub­ject­ed to a less than pleas­ant ver­bal treat­ment and that the doc­tors had humil­i­at­ing words. And the report in ques­tion was pre­pared in a day, imme­di­ate­ly after this brief meet­ing. One the one hand you have a report result­ing from exam­i­na­tions con­duct­ed over eight months and on the oth­er, a report hasti­ly put togeth­er after a meet­ing of a few minutes.”

Aysel Tuğluk’s lawyers solicit­ed the Foun­da­tion of Human Rights of Turkey (TIHV), request­ing an alter­nate report. The TIHV has indeed point­ed out the pres­ence of impor­tant con­tra­dic­tions between the two reports, the need for a re-exam­i­na­tion by the Medico-Legal Insti­tute. Rey­han Yalçın­dağ spec­i­fies: “This report also exists and the Min­istry of Jus­tice is per­fect­ly aware of it. Despite every­thing, the deci­sion to car­ry on with the sen­tence is there. We are not told yes or no, every­thing is frozen.”

She cease­less­ly calls on the author­i­ties to be rea­son­able: “Once again, we ask that not one more day be lost. Turn toward med­ical ethics, toward moral­i­ty, toward sci­ence and the Law. Accept our requests. And after the nec­es­sary exam­i­na­tion of Mrs Tuğluk, pre­pare a report adapt­ed to her con­di­tion so that the exe­cu­tion of her sen­tence may be postponed.”

One case among hun­dred, brought to our atten­tion. Sick pris­on­ers are many in Turkey. Some already suf­fered from patholo­gies that were aggra­vat­ed by the con­di­tions of their incar­cer­a­tion, for oth­ers, gaol caused the appear­ance of  dis­or­ders and ail­ments. In all cas­es, the answer from the author­i­ties is that of the dou­ble sen­tence, except in the extreme­ly rare excep­tions when pris­on­ers are lib­er­at­ed just before their death.

This is in direct appli­ca­tion of a fas­cist and author­i­tar­i­an ide­ol­o­gy con­cern­ing incar­cer­a­tion in Turkey for those who protest against the regime. And this ide­ol­o­gy, under the facile and elas­tic ali­bi of “anti-ter­ror­ism”  bor­ders at a min­i­mum on inhu­man sit­u­a­tions, bar­bar­ic ones in all cas­es. And it gains ground in minds well beyond Turkey.

Hav­ing Aysel Tuğluk leave prison means refus­ing ordi­nary bar­barous cri­te­ria applied to secu­ri­ty. Pub­li­ciz­ing her con­di­tion  is not only help­ing those work­ing at her lib­er­a­tion but it also con­sol­i­dates some­where the remain­ing human­i­ty required in the strug­gles against the regime in Turkey, and, by exten­sion, against all the fas­cisms now emerging.

Let’s remem­ber.

Inter­na­tion­al asso­ci­a­tions for human rights must take hold of this case. This is our rea­son for putting it forward.

Trans­la­tion of the video : The Kur­dish politi­cian Aysel Tuğluk, has been impris­oned in Turkey for months. Suf­fer­ing from ear­ly onset demen­tia, she can­not per­form even the sim­plest tasks alone. The longer she stays in prison, the worse her ill­ness gets. Despite all med­ical reports, she is kept in prison. Let’s raise our voic­es: Free­dom for Aysel!

Translation from French 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.