Halise Aksoy (52) spoke to Mesopotamia Agency about the raid on her house last week in Turkey and the subsequent beating she received before being detained. She also recounted her life’s experiences and those of her daughter Şinda and the scandalous way in which her late son Agit was deprived of a respectful burial.
Halise Aksoy received the remains of her son Agit İpek in a cargo box delivery this year despite the fact that he had been killed in Tunceli (Dersim) on 23 May 2017. The body of İpek, after he lost his life in the conflict, was sent to the Tunceli Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office after an autopsy was conducted at the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute (ATK). His remains were sent by the General Directorate of Posts on 2 March and delivered to his mother Halise in Diyarbakir (Amed) on 10 April this year.
Halise Aksoy was born in Tizyan (Elmabahçe) village in Mardin’s Artuklu district in Turkey. After her father died, she was married to the son of her uncle (who was 15 years older than her) when he was eleven years old. She gave birth to eight children, four of whom were girls and four of whom were boys. Stating that her life has always been a struggle, she observed how, during the 1980’s, young people who were engaged in the Kurdish freedom movement started to enter her village.
Halise noted that “young people who took part in the Kurdish freedom struggle started to come to the village in the 1980’s. There was constant activity in the village. I became scared. I didn’t know exactly what they were fighting for. Sometimes, I was influenced by the words of the villagers who were unfriendly to them. I wanted to attach protective devices to the windows of my house but my brother told me: ‘They will not harm you: on the contrary, they will protect you’. By this time, we became aware of everything. During the 1990s, people joined the organization. Now I knew what these young people were fighting for”.
Halise remembered that the young people who came to her village told her: “All Kurds will be free one day”. She added: “I thought we would all be free by the time my children grew up”.
Being subjected to domestic violence by her husband on the one hand and struggling with poverty on the other, Halise moved into her mother’s house when financial difficulties became extreme. During those years, “my husband was not at home and my mother and brothers took care of me and my children. My brothers’ wives were also in prison for political reasons. More than one family lived in one house”.
Pressured to become ‘village guards’
Her family members were then pressured into becoming state supported ‘village guards’ (koruculuk) during the conflict. Being subjected to all kinds of pressures to become a village guard, the soldiers told her to otherwise ‘leave the village’. The soldiers raided villages which did not want to become ‘village guards’. As a result of these types of pressures, Halise moved to Diyarbakır (Amed) in 1993, taking her children with her, and her house in the village was burned down by the soldiers.
Life in Diyarbakir and İstanbul
Raising her children by working as a tailor in Diyarbakir, she was then forced to migrate to İstanbul in 1996 as a result of pressures exerted by her husband. Halise noted that her children, by this point, were constantly in trouble with the police for asserting their rights.
She explained that her son Agit joined the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and that was how he came to be killed years later in the conflict. She remembered fondly how, on one occasion: “I told him the meaning of his name. I said: ‘You’re brave'”. She added: ”Agit worked in textiles. Our house was placed under constant surveillance. One day, they detained my son. They took the boy to the police station. They beat him so much that I could not recognize him afterwards. Then they released him. Whilst leaving, they said: ‘If we catch him again, we’ll cut off his head'”.
Halise and her children were constantly harassed by the police at this point so found a temporary solution to this problem by changing their address. The family moved to another district of İstanbul but Agit was detained again and tortured. He left the house in 2010 when he was just 15 years old, and never returned. Halise said: “They told me: ‘You sent your son to the mountains’. They enlightened my son. He could not stand the pressure here. He chose an honourable path”.
Şinda, her youngest daughter, also joined the organization after a while like her brother. Halise described her daughter in the following way: “She started working in textiles. One day, she was fired because she opposed the expensive sale of skirts knowing they were cheaply produced in the workplace. After a while, she started to work for Azadiya Welat Newspaper”.
Stating that her house was raided countless times in Diyarbakır (Amed), Halise said that her 16-year-old daughter Şinda was detained several times in a week. Consequently: “It was in 2014 when my daughter said she would not come home again and left the house. I followed her, saw her turning round the street and never saw her again. I did not hear from my daughter again”, she said.
“My daughter couldn’t see the trees she had planted in our garden grow. Agit remained unaware of the pomegranate trees in our garden. My daughter went without picking one of the pomegranates from the tree she planted”, Halise noted. When the garden turns green in the summer, she remembers her children fondly.
Halise noted that the house raids intensified again in 2015: “They would break my door. I had to change the door every week. Sometimes, I ran towards the door so that it wouldn’t break. They would break it even though I would be telling them I was opening it. We were tired of the raids by this time. They did not have the authority to break in. At this point, I refused to open the door. I told them to break it. They waited for hours and made a report and left”.
When she received news of Agit’s death on TV in 2017, she went first to Dersim, then to Malatya, İstanbul, and then to Dersim to retrieve her son’s body. But his body was not delivered to the family for three years, and when this happened, his remains were delivered in a cargo box.
Noting that she had nightmares every night as she was not allowed to fulfil her religious duties while burying her son as a faithful woman, Halise said: “The box I took was the one he was buried in. I could not look at my son’s remains for the last time. I did not see them. They prevented me from burying him properly. They did not let the imam come. I had to bury my son with that dirty bag. I can’t sleep now. I have these nightmares every night”, she said.
Attack and detention last week
Halise, whose house was raided on the grounds of a ‘warning’ last week, was detained after being beaten. She said: “I suffered a lot. I am still suffering. But I’m not afraid anymore. I went through so much poverty, I did not open my hand to anyone. I will not open it from now on”.
When asked: “How are you still standing despite all this pain?”, she replied: “My heart is burning. My children went with honour, but while I eat, walk, watch TV, I remember my children. We have to resist the hostility against us”.