Çağlar Demirel, a former MP for the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), spoke to Mesopotamya News Agency after her release from prison in September. She was detained in December 2016 during a crackdown on the HDP, her MP status was revoked, and she was imprisoned for almost five years.
Explaining that the conditions for political prisoners have got worse during the last two years, Demirel said that the Covid pandemic was used as an excuse by prison administrations to impose tougher new restrictions on prisoners’ contact with the outside world who were already kept in isolation at ‘F-type’ prisons.
“The prisoners have had little to no contact with other people for the last two years, including their lawyers,” she said. “They have had meetings with their lawyers only behind very thick glass panels. Family visits have been subjected to restrictions as well. Prisoners are allowed to only have closed meetings with family members twice a month due to a preventive measure against the pandemic.”
Demirel noted that a maximum of three prisoners were allowed to share a cell at the F-type Kandıra prison in Kocaeli, and her cellmates was another political prisoner imprisoned for 25 years and a mother with her two-and-half-years old child.
“A two-and-a-half-year-old child was staying there with me before I was released. We were sharing the same cell. Reflecting on the psychology of this kid was feeling something really powerful,” she said.
“Some time ago sections for women were set up for the first time in F type prisons with Kocaeli F type prison being of particular importance. Women imprisoned after having been elected to public posts and other political prisoners, were able to share a cell only with two others. At most three were allowed in a cell. Before I was released I was staying with Laleş Çeliker, imprisoned for 25 years, and with a mother from Rojava who was imprisoned with her child. It’s been painful for me, being released having to leave the two-and-a-half-year-old Romav and Laleş behind.
Demirel’s cellmate Laleş Çeliker was detained in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority city of Batman (Êlih) in 1997, when she was 25. She was sentenced to life imprisonment in April 2000 on the charge of separatism by a national security court, a type of Turkish court that was dissolved in 2004. Although the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in 2007 that Çeliker’s right to a fair trial was violated and the case ought to be reviewed in an independent and impartial court, a Diyarbakır court in 2013 rejected the appeal by her lawyer for a retrial. Upon an appeal to the Constitutional Court, it ruled in 2016 for a retrial.
Her book in Kurdish, ‘Ji Dîrokê Dîrokeke Ehmedê Xanî’ was published the same year.