More than 5,000 women from 54 countries have joined a call for the immediate release of prominent Kurdish politician Aysel Tuğluk, due to her deteriorating health.
The most recent contributions to the campaign came from feminist academics Silvia Federici and Angela Davis, who praised Tuğluk’s nonviolent politics in their video messages.
Tuğluk was arrested in December 2016, following an earlier crackdown on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in November that year when then-co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ were placed behind bars. At the time, Tuğluk was the vice co-chair of the party, and her term in parliament had ended just over a year ago.
While behind bars, Tuğluk was diagnosed with dementia and her condition was accelerated due to conditions in prison.
As a rights defender, Tuğluk has worked as a lawyer in her early career and politician in later stages. The 56-year-old former Diyarbakır (Amed) deputy was the first co-chairperson in Turkey, a system that the Kurdish political movement implemented to ensure better representation for women in all levels of organisations.
According to doctors’ reports, Tuğluk can no longer remember various details about her past and is having problems tending to her everyday needs. The Kandıra Prison in northwest Turkey has not provided her with the healthcare she needs.
Tuğluk is one among “a new generation of Kurdish women who are now in prison for seeking nothing more than being able to live as free people on their ancestral land”, Federici said in her message.
Davis said the medical reports stating that Tuğluk could remain behind bars were “bogus”.
“According to humanitarian principles, she should be released so that she can return to her home, where she can take leave of this world in her own bed, and in the care of loved ones,” Davis said.
Messages from the two prominent feminists are as follows:
“I am here to say that I stand in solidarity with the 1,000+ women -people who have expressed their indignation for the continuing incarceration of Aysel Tuğluk- whose only crime is to have demanded a peaceful resolution to a decades-long armed conflict.
I am in solidarity with a new generation of Kurdish women and their allies who are now in prison for seeking nothing more than being free and being able to live as free people in their country, on their ancestral land.
We do not accept keeping women like Aysel Tuğluk in jail because they had the courage to oppose Erdoğan’s regime and his mishandling of the supposed ‘peace process’. Aysel Tuğluk was a democratically elected member of parliament and has proven herself to be a leader of the Kurdish people. It really is a scandal that she should be put in jail.
What makes her incarceration particularly painful and particularly objectionable is that she is terminally ill and that her health is rapidly deteriorating. Like many terminally ill people incarcerated in Turkish jails, Aysel Tuğluk must be immediately liberated, reunited with her people and allowed to be in the care of her friends and family.
We cannot accept that a woman who has been such an inspiration to hundreds and hundreds of younger women be treated this way. Aysel Tuğluk deserves our admiration, our respect and to be free,”
“I want to express my support for my sisters in Turkey, who are persecuted for seeking justice for the Kurds and for calling for the peaceful resolution of the violent conflict in the region.
We cannot accept that hundreds of Kurdish women are in prison for their nonviolent political actions. These include former members of parliament such as Aysel Tuğluk, who was tried and sentenced for statements she made while she was the elected representative of her people.
She is her party’s first co-chairperson, a human rights advocate, and a peace warrior. And now, she is condemned to deteriorate in prison, suffering from an irreversible disease that is rapidly claiming her life.
She is kept behind bars on the pretext of bogus medical reports, whereas under humanitarian principles, she should be released to return home where she can take leave of this world in her own bed and in the care of loved ones.
This cruel and inhuman punishment targets her because Aysel is a nonviolent peace warrior, and she is part of the wave of new and courageous Kurdish women leaders. She is my sister, and I always stand with my sisters.”