Jailed Kurdish politician Leyla Güven sent a letter from prison to Jin News, the all-women news agency in Turkey, on the occasion of Mother’s Day, addressing mothers who struggle for the cause of peace, freedom and justice.
Güven, MP for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), was stripped of her parliamentary status on 4 June 2020. She was arrested shortly afterwards and sentenced to 22 years and three months in prison on charges of ‘being a mamber of an illegal organisation’ and ‘making propaganda for an illegal organisation’.
Here our translations of parts of her letter.
Dear esteemed mothers, who teach us to laugh again after every pain, who teach us hope again after every slaughter, who teach us to be born again after every injustice…
We send you our greetings and respect from the dungeons of Xarpet, and we kiss your sacred hands. I’m sure that you as Peace Mothers, are as always very busy, because wherever there is unlawfulness, injustice or inequality, you are there. You are the first to feel pain when there is conflict and war, wherever in the world it may be. You have always represented hope to the community with your boundless resistance, from the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo to the Saturday Mothers and yourselves, the Peace Mothers. You have taken your wounded hearts in your hands and travelled from country to country in the name of peace. You have always said the same to the police who attack you with truncheons, to the judges and prosecutors who subject you to unlawful trial, to the soldiers who break down your doors and raid your homes, to the prison wardens who manhandle you and subject you to strip searches: ‘We want peace’. The first word you learn in a language you don’t know is, ‘peace’ (…)
Those who label your brave daughters and sons, whom you mothers have raised with a thousand and one hardships, whose looks you could not resist, “terrorists”, can never understand your pain. They can never know what the mother Esmer Tunç felt when she identified the bodies of her two sons, burnt in the cellars of Cizre, what the mother Halise felt when she embraced the package of her son’s bones sent to her by freight, what the mother Cemile Çağırga felt when she had to put her daughter’s body in the refrigerator, what the mother Emine feels as she persists in her search for justice, because these things have to be experienced to be known. There are mothers who guard the graves of their daughters or sons to prevent the gravestones being smashed up, in a country which is 99 percent Muslim. There are mothers whose sons or daughters, driven to suicide as a result of torture in the prisons are not even supplied with a vehicle to bring their bodies home, whose bodies are not even washed by an imam. How is it possible to express the concepts of a mother being denied permission to hold a funeral for her son or daughter, or the authorities raiding a funeral tent? (…)
Our mothers ask, ‘What is this mentality? What is this rage? What is this hostility to the Kurds?’ To express this concept, our mothers would say, ‘May Allah return on them a thousandfold the things they have done to us, the pain they have caused us.’ What Islamic values explain a 67-year-old mother with a broken heart, fasting for the month of Ramadan just ended, being transferred [the 250 km] from Muş Prison to Elazığ Prison and held in quarantine for two weeks? The mother Besna lost her son in the Suruç massacre and was arrested for words she said at her son’s funeral. And this system is the enemy of all who do not agree with it. We are faced with a government which discriminates even against mothers’ pain (…)
The days are not far off when all mothers will embrace their children, when an honourable peace will prevail in our lands. It is our vow to all Peace Mothers, to all Saturday Mothers, to all the mothers of prisoners, from the mother Üveyş to the mother Taybet, from the mother Berfo to the mother Hatun: We will meet before too long in Şêx Seîd Square in Amed [Diyarbakır]. Take great care until that day. This you already know: Hope is more valuable than victory. My regards…