Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), shared a photo on Wednesday via his lawyers showing him with Dr Selçuk Mızraklı, the jailed former mayor of Diyarbakır (Amed).
The photo shows both Kurdish politicians pacing in the small courtyard outside their cell in the Edirne Type F Prison. Three cells share a courtyard of 30 m2 with 8 m tall walls, where prisoners can work out or get fresh air.
“There may be thorns and bumps along the way. These days, we pace together with Teacher Selçuk Mızraklı. One day we will arrive at that haven for sure. Until we see each other,” Demirtaş asked his lawyers to caption the photo.
In an interview with Der Spiegel in 2018, Demirtaş described his cell as “an ugly freak”. At the time, he shared a 20 m2 cell with Abdullah Zeydan, another former HDP deputy who was released in January after five years behind bars.
Mızraklı, who was arrested shortly after being elected mayor from the HDP with 62.9 per cent of the vote in 2019, petitioned to be transferred to Edirne from the Bünyan Prison in Kayseri after Zeydan’s release. He was placed in the same cell as Demirtaş after the transfer.
Demirtaş himself was arrested in 2016 over terrorism charges, including terrorist propaganda for speeches he gave as part of his duties as a Member of Parliament and co-chair of the second-largest opposition bloc in the country.
He also ran for president from his prison cell in the 2018 elections. While winning four million votes, 9.76 per cent of the total, he lost to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
During his run, the veteran Kurdish politician and human rights lawyer was able to take more frequent photos, but outside of the presidential campaign, the public had a hard time keeping tabs on Demirtaş as opportunities to see him were few and far between.
Officially, to get their photographs taken, inmates only need to appeal to prison administrations and make an appointment with the on-site photographer. In practice, petitions can go unanswered, or detainees have to wait for months just to be issued an appointment.
Eventually, inmates are given physical copies of the photos when they have their appointments, which they then need to deliver to their lawyers or family members during open visitation if they wish to make them public.