Thousands of Kurdish activists and politicians of the main pro-Kurdish political party, the Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP), have been stripped of parliamentary status or jailed, and sometimes faced with aggravated life imprisonment in Turkey.
One of these is Democratic Society Congress (DTK) co-Chair Leyla Güven, who was stripped of her parliamentary status on 4 June 2020. She was arrested shortly afterwards and sentenced to 22 years 3 months in prison on charges of “being an organisation member” and “making propaganda for the organisation”. Güven was sent to Elazığ Type E Prison in eastern Turkey on 21 December 2020.
Medya News shares excerpts from the interview with Leyla Güven regarding recent developments, conducted by Jin News.
”Prisons are just one of the places that we may experience during the struggle for freedom,” the jailed Kurdish politician said. ”For political prisoners, prisons are one of the places where they can create their self-discipline and collective understanding of life.”
She briefly described their daily routine in prison;
”Our most regular activity in prison is reading books. We women here have read about 400 books so far. Recently, we prepared a brochure in Kurdish. We also work on individual research topics such as the women’s movement, the history of feminism, the Kurdish women’s movement, the recent history of the Middle East. We read up on the subjects and turn these studies into written pieces of work.”
Regarding the increased violations of rights in prisons, Güven said that prisoners are subjected to cruel torture practices, inhumane treatment and arbitrary punishment.
”There have always been ill-treatment and rights abuses. And they have always been on the increase. But resistance is also on the increase. The administration wants to create chaos in the prisons. However, the political prisoners are aware of this dirty plan, and are resistant to it.”
”Prisoners are subjected to incidences of ill-treatment and torture that are incompatible with human dignity such as strip searches and having their wards raided at midnight. It’s almost the same as it was in the Kenan Evren era. ISIS gangs are placed in the wards of political prisoners.”
She thinks that the oppression in prisons is deeply linked with the isolation regime imposed on the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been imprisoned on Imrali Island since 1999.
”As Kurdish political prisoners, we have also drawn attention to the isolation regime which has been imposed on Abdullah Öcalan for years on end, and we have said that the isolation will spread to society as a whole,” Güven said and added: ”Prisoners’ rights, ranging from family and lawyer’s visits to social activities, are restricted on the pretext of quarantine measures. Of course, as always, female prisoners experience these rights abuses more severely. Mothers have not been able to see their children for about two years. Sick prisoners are virtually left to die.”
She continued: ”If this isolation regime is not eliminated, it will spread to all prisons and even to society as a whole. Indeed, we are currently faced with isolation that has spread to all layers of society. Kurdish prisoners have expended great efforts to get the unlawful practice of isolation stopped and eliminated as a whole.”
”The AKP (Justice and Development Party) – MHP (National Movement Party) coalition is working on plans to keep thousands of prisoners in prison despite their sentences having ended. They are putting all kinds of injustices into practice to this end.”
”The AKP government persists in conducting security measures and applying the old methods to avoid solving the Kurdish question. The Kurdish question can only be solved by democratising Turkey.”
She also mentioned the main opposition party CHP having voted ‘no’ to the motion regarding Turkey’s cross-border operations.
“The CHP’s statements over the Kurdish issue, its ‘no’ vote in the motion regarding cross-border operations and its declaration regarding imprisoned politicians are extremely important for Turkish politics. In the coming months, we will see whether or not these steps are simply tactical steps for the elections. If the CHP continues to take such steps, the chronic problems of Turkey, especially democracy, human rights and freedom of rights, will be resolved.”
Leyla Güven also highlighted 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and stated the following: ”As women prisoners we thought that 25 November should be dedicated to Afghan women this year. While humanity discusses universal values, real democracy and ecology in the 21st century, the dark male dominance mentality of the Taliban is growing in the Middle East, and especially in Afghanistan.”
“We Kurdish women are exposed to severe violence from the state in addition to more general male violence. We are subjected to all kinds of torture and violence on arrest. We experience all forms of violence in prisons. For this reason, wherever a woman is exposed to violence in the world, we feel her pain in our hearts. That’s why we say; We are not the same. But there are more things that unite us than divide us”.