A short film was released on Friday about the life and struggle of Aysel Tuğluk, who was arrested in 2016 when she was co-chair of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and released from prison for medical reasons on 22 October this year.
The film “Aysel”, produced by journalist Mehveş Evin and director Nesrin Ölmez as part of the SES Equality and Solidarity Association’s “Women’s Voice for Peace” project, tells of Kurdish women’s struggle to exist in society, politics and peacebuilding, with reference to Tuğluk’s life story.
Tuğluk, a human rights lawyer and a Kurdish politician, was sent to prison in December 2016, after the collapse a year before of peace negotiations between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Tuğluk lost her mother in September 2017 while in prison. The funeral, which she attended with special permission from the prison authorities, was attacked by a group of extreme nationalists. Subsequently Tuğluk’s mental health deteriorated, and she gradually drifted into dementia.
In the film, former HDP MP Sırrı Süreyya Önder describes what happened at Tuğluk’s mother’s funeral:
“I witnessed the moment when Aysel mentally gave up. That moment when her mother was taken out of the cemetery.”
Fifty-seven-year-old Tuğluk was diagnosed with dementia in February 2021 while behind bars, where she was serving a 10-year sentence in relation to her speeches at various events. Her health deteriorated as her condition advanced.
A court in Ankara forced the jailed Kurdish politician to take the stand at a hearing of her trial in June on charges of terrorism, despite her widely reported declining health and advanced dementia. While testifying, Tuğluk had difficulty even confirming her identity and was often confused.
In August, Turkey’s Constitutional Court rejected a release application for Tuğluk on the grounds that the Forensic Medicine Institute had at the time said she was fit to remain behind bars, while acknowledging that her condition was likely to decline.
Tuğluk was released from Kandıra Prison in northwest Turkey on 27 October, after the Forensic Medicine Institute finally issued a report saying that she was not fit to remain in prison.
Watch the short film, “A life dedicated to peace: Aysel Tuğluk”, here.