li Poyraz, (59) was a PKK political prisoner in Turkey’s prisons for 21 years and 4 months. He was initially given a death sentence that was commuted to 21 years and 4 months after the abolishment of the death sentence in Turkey.
Poyraz who was born in Bozüyük, an Alevi village of the Gürün District in Sivas maintained a prison diary during his incarceration in many of Turkey’s prisons including Maraş, Mersin E Type, Antep E Type, Adana, Eskişehir L Type, Aydın Special Type, İzmir Buca Closed, Antep Special Type and Urfa Birecik.
He began writing about his prison experiences on November 28th, 1994 until July 12th, 2002 despite many hardships, not least because it was strictly prohibited to keep a diary and also being almost impossible to find any paper to write on in prison. Despite these difficulties and the periods of beatings, torture and solitary confinement, Ali still managed to maintain and preserve his diary which has just been published entitled, ’21 Yil, 4 Ay’ (21 years, 4 months) by J & J, a publishing house in Diyarbakir (Amed) and was launched by Ali Poyraz himself at the Kurdish Assembly in London on Sunday where he also personally signed his books and gave a short description of his journey to a packed out audience.
Ali, who is from the same village in Sivas as revolutionary, Hüseyin İnan, who was hung together with Deniz Gezmiş and Yusuf Aslan, also recently lost his brother Hüseyin Poyraz, who was a member of the PKK Central Committee, as a result of the Turkish state’s air strikes in January 2017. His two sisters Rahşan and Handan, who also joined the guerrilla forces in 1990 and 1993 respectively also both lost their lives in clashes with the Turkish army in 1996.
Ali’s brother Hüseyin and his long time friend Mehmet Aksoy who was killed by ISIS in Raqqa 26 Sept 2017 while making a documentary, had both repeatedly encouraged Ali to write and publish his dairies as a book and so eventually after years of political activism in the UK and with those words of encouragement of Hüseyin and Mehmet ringing in his ears, he finally began work on his diaries and after 2 years they are published.
The book, written initially in Turkish, (Kurdish and English to follow) summarises the developments in Turkey and Kurdistan, especially in the 1990s and discusses critical events that occurred within the Kurdish regions in a chronological manner – from Turgut Özal’s peace talks with the PKK to the Gazi Massacre in Istanbul, from the cross-border occupation operations to the oppression and violence experienced by the Kurds. He writes about the hunger strikes and the anger caused in the prisons regarding Turkey’s abduction of the Kurdish people’s political leader Abdullah Öcalan.
Regarding the 21 Years and 4 Months of his imprisonment, Ali writes about the political prisoners discipline of daily life, the collective living and solidarity of PKK political prisoners especially, that are all explained in great depth.
The book also explains in great detail the psychological affects on prisoners caused by unfortunate or sad news reaching the prisons from the outside often inducing terrible nightmares.
When the news about the death of Ali’s two sisters, whom he lost in the guerrilla ranks reaches him in prison, his pen runs out of ink. Poyraz only later is able to write about Handan and Rahşan Poyraz, who fell as Kurdish martyrs. Describing his sister Rahşan, Ali writes that she is “a spear with a handle always held on my left side”.
Hope and Belief
Although Ali Poyraz kept a personal diary, he also expresses the cries of hope, faith, resistance and freedom of all the political prisoners. Poyraz also details how he resisted for decades despite all the brutal oppression and violence he faced in the prisons and details the jokes, stories and daily political humour that kept him and his comrades going.
Ali writes of the day when he left prison, he joked with a prison guard, “I’m retiring now but you are still staying inside.”
At the book launch one of Ali Poyraz’s fellow prisoners during those years joined the meeting in London by Skype and spoke with great intimacy and fondness of the strength that Ali Poyraz gave to the prisoners during his time in prison and especially emphasised the importance of keeping in touch with political prisoners to let them know that they have not been forgotten.
Ali has made sure that his past comrades who fell as martyrs in prison are not forgotten. Together with the book, he wrote all of their names, by his own hand on hundreds of specially made bookmarks with coloured tassles attached and which were given out with each book at the book launch.
An extraordinary publishing feat, of an extraordinary man who has given his life to the Kurdish struggle losing his brother, sisters and so many comrades and friends but still to this day, despite all of this suffering he remains a solid rock of resistance who gives solidarity, strength, love and support to the Kurdish people’s struggle from his home in London, to his wife Birsel and his own young daughter, Dicle and son Rubar and the whole of the Kurdish community and their friends in the UK.
I look forward to the book being published in English.
Acknowledgements: Thanks and love to Ali, Birsel, Dicle, Rubar and Erem for the help with this article.