“The Kurdish women’s movement is a movement that could only be understood and interpreted by its resistance. When it comes to the resistance of women, the spaces in which their resistance take place, especially the prisons are of significant meaning. Because Kurdish women, who have been held in prisons, in the homes of their husbands, in the homes of their fathers, have been struggling to get out of these spaces, and by liberating these spaces, from the homes they take to the streets, to the squares to struggle, to the mountains,” writes Sara Aktaş for Yeni Özgür Politika.
Kurdish women put up a magnificent resistance against the norms and gender roles imposed upon them by the patriarchal system, against the oppression of the government. Furthermore, they do that not only in the sphere of the political struggle, but in all spheres of life.
Aysel Tuğluk is one such woman. After her barristers announced that she was coping with memory loss, the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP’s) women’s assembly stated that they would turn their “justice for women” campaign to a much wider campaign that included all seriously ill-prisoners and women who are held as political hostages in Turkey’s prisons.
They also announced they would intensify the campaign for “Justice for Aysel Tuğluk,” because Aysel’s story to a great degree summarises the nature of persecution that all Kurds and all Kurdish women have been suffering.
So, who is Aysel? Let us remind all our readers one more time: She was raised in Elazığı (Eleziz), but is originally from Dersim and like all people from Dersim, inside the depths of her memories, she carries the marks of the Dersim massacre and she suffers the first major trauma of her life due to this massacre.
In her youth, she witnessed the fascism and persecution of the Turkish state. She waited for her brother, who was detained, at the doors of the site of torture where her brother was held. As if these traumatic experiences were not enough, her brother was killed in prison, and that caused her further major trauma.
“As a person who has experienced so many incidents, as such, there is no option but to become an opposition figure, a leftist and a rebel,” she said.
Due to the constant pressures on her family, they moved to Istanbul. She graduated from law school and became a lawyer, but she continued to witness violence.
She took it as a mission to take up the cases of the revolutionaries, who were detained and subjected to severe forms of torture during the 1990s. She followed the cases of extreme abuses of human rights and acts of torture.
She took part in the activities of the Foundation for Society and Legal Studies (TOHAV) and Human Rights Association (IHD). In the same period, she established the Association of Patriotic Women and became a part of the women’s freedom struggle.
When leader Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] was arrested as a result of an international conspiracy, she took part in his defence lawyers’ group and in the foundation of Asrın Law Bureau. (…)
During the 2000s, Aysel Tuğluk transformed into a significant political figure who actively participated in politics, became the co-chair of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) and, later, of the Democratic Societies Congress (DTK).
Serving as a member of parliament for two terms, Aysel Tuğluk was arrested in 2016 when she was the vice co-chair of the HDP, but the persecution she was subjected to has not ended.
If you recall, the Turkish government – which tries to maintain its power by the politics of death and by its mysoginistic, polarising, militarist policies – has tried to make Aysel bow down by exercising one of the most cruel act of torture against her.
Her mother Hatun Tuğluk’s funeral ceremony could not even be held in peace and her body had to be taken out of her grave due to physical attacks on her grave. This become another major trauma in Aysel’s life and to her soul.
So, just like all the other prisoners in Turkey’s prisons who continue to resist despite their countless health problems, the fact that Aysel Tuğluk suffers from memory loss cannot be evaluated independently from the these policies of torture.
Despite the fact that the serious health problems of Aysel Tuğluk have caused an outrage amongst the public, the Turkish authorities have continued to play the three monkeys – because Aysel is a Kurd, Aysel is an Alevite, and because Aysel said the following words in the other political hostage Gültan Kışanak’s book titled ‘The Purple Colour of Kurdish Politics’ when she was explaining her struggle: “Just as Samuel Beckett says: try again, fail again, fail better. We should always continue to keep on fighting each time after we fail with the joy of playing a game. We can fail more, so what? Then we should, again and again, try and fail for better. What matters is to be able to embrace life.”
Yes, Aysel is a woman, who has never given up struggling, despite all the percesution she suffered. Aysel is a woman who has dedicated her life to the freedom struggle. Therefore, saying “Justice for Aysel Tuğluk” means defending the women’s freedom struggle, it means defending democratic politics, it means standing up against government’s politics of death.
Therefore, let us raise our voices once more for all prisoners, on behalf of Aysel, and end this article with another quote from her: “We will continue to exist for our labour, for our identity and for our freedom. As women, we have no choice but to fight against the sexist mindset. We need to be assertive. There is nothing that the emotional and analytical intelligence of women cannot achieve.”