The eighth hearing of the Kobane trial took place in an Ankara court on Monday.
Gültan Kışanak, the former co-mayor of Diyarbakır (Amed), the largest Kurdish-populated city in southeast Turkey, made a political defence speech during the hearing, in which she raised serious criticisms regarding Garibe Gezer’s death in Kandıra prison, where Kışanak is also jailed, and protested over Kurdish politician Aysel Tuğluk’s ongoing imprisonment, despite the fact that she has been suffering from dementia.
“We couldn’t hear about Garibe Gezer until our MP friends announced it in the parliament during the evening. We were all shocked. Garibe did not bow down against persecution. We are the witnesses of this persecution,” Kışanak said.
Kışanak described the death of Garibe Gezer as a femicide.
“This is a femicide. This is a murder, whether she took her own life or someone else took her life,” she said.
If a woman, Kışanak underlined, “comes up and says that she was raped, she was sexually harassed in such circumstances where such practices are applied traditionally and the state authorities, starting with the government, the Ministry of Justice, the prosecutor, and the prison administration does nothing, then they are all responsible for her death.”
Kışanak slammed Turkish authorities for not having started an investigation after Gezer raised her complaints regarding the prison officials’ sexual and physical violence against her.
“Not even once did they called Garibe Gezer for a testimony. They did not hear the witnesses, and they tried to cover up the incident,” she said.
“Impunity is a political choice and a policy of the government. Seriously ill prisoners go out of prisons in coffins and we try to survive in coffins. Every prison is a coffin. If a person in the same prison you are in dies in a cell right next to you and you don’t hear about it, this is isolation, and it shows that prisons are a crime scene.”
Kışanak also drew attention to the situation of Aysel Tuğluk, who has been diagnosed with dementia, but has still not been released, despite her deteriorating health.
“They placed Aysel in quarantine in a cell after she returned from the hospital. Locking Aysel in a room, all alone, means leaving her to her death,” she said, telling the judges and Turkish authorities that it is their responsibility regarding “whatever happens” to Aysel Tuğluk.
Kışanak concluded her speech, reiterating her standpoint one more time.
“My life, my words, my stand, is out there. I have dedicated my life to women’s struggles, to democratic politics, to justice, to the laws. I have a lot to say. I have been persecuted so much that I have a lot to say,” she said.
“We will not remain silent. Why should we remain silent? What did we do to remain silent? As those who shout out the truth, we will continue to say our peace at this court. I believe it from the bottom of my heart that women will give their response to such persecution by resistance.”
As part of a major crackdown on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), 108 current and former HDP politicians,including former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, have been on trial in relation to the so called Kobane trial, in which 108 people are accused of all the deaths that occurred during the 6-8 October 2014 protests over the ISIS siege of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane in northeastern Syria.
In September 2016, the elected officials of southeastern Turkey were removed from office on charges of “terrorism.”
In late October 2016, Kışanak and Fırat Anlı, the other co-mayor of Diyarbakır, were detained and arrested.
Kışanak, who has been jailed ever since, had been previously arrested during the 1980 coup and had been sent to Diyarbakır Prison, a notorious military prison known for its extreme acts of torture by its officials, where she was also subjected to torture for the two years she spent there.
According to her own account, she had to stay in the prison director’s kennel for two months because she refused to stand up in his presence. She said, in another speech, that she slept in a doghouse for six months, according to Institut Kurde de Paris.
Kışanak worked as the editor-in-chief and editorial coordinator for Yeni Ülke (New Country), and for Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda) and Özgür Ülke (Free Country) newspapers as a journalist. She still has a column in the daily Yeni Yaşam and she authored a book titled ‘The Color Purple of Kurdish Politics,’ together with female prisoners, in 2018.