Hatun Aslan (71) and Meryem Soylu (79) – two Kurdish human rights defenders – were sent to jail in Turkey on 2 March. Whilst the imprisonment of the two elderly women on charges of “terrorism” caused a debate regarding Turkey’s ‘approach’ to human rights once again, the public remained concerned about the health status of the two women.
In an operation targeting the Association for Solidarity with Families Who Lost Their Relatives (MEBYA-DER), Hatun Aslan and Meryem Soylu were detained on 27 February in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakır (Amed). Having spent three days in police custody, the two women were sent to prison.
Fatma Soylu, the daughter of 79-year-old Meryem Soylu, spoke Jin News about the struggles of her mother against injustice and shared her concerns regarding the well-being of her mother. She appealed for the immediate release of her mother.
Thousands of political prisoners have controversially been jailed in Turkey on charges of “terrorism”. Whilst the political prisoners continue their struggles in the prisons, their families try to raise their voices on the other side of the prison walls. Fatma Soylu is one of the relatives of political prisoners who shared her perspectives about her mother’s struggles.
Meryem Soylu: A mother’s struggle
Meryem Soylu is a Kurdish woman, living in Sason district which is located on the edge of Mareto Mountain in Batman (Elih) province in Turkey. She has been struggling to defend human rights against state violence for years. The mother of thirteen children, Soylu has been involved in the human rights struggle for several years after three of her children joined the People’s Defence Forces (HPG), the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
When she was 68 years old, Meryem Soylu was arrested and spent ten years behind bars on charges of terrorism. After she was released, her children Amine Kaya and Mehmet Kaya were arrested.
‘My mother needs to be released immediately’
Fatma Soylu notes that by losing her children in war and having already been jailed for ten years, the health condition of her mother has deteriorated significantly. “My mother needs to be released immediately. In 2009, my brothers Sait Soylu (Berxwedan Amed) and Ali Soylu were martyred. My mother had serious health problems after my brothers’s death”, she said.
“When my sister Zarife Soylu (Birîndar Amed) was martyred, we tried not to tell my mother, but my mother learned from the news. Later, she suffered from severe health problems due to this grief and pain. She was hospitalised and had to undergo surgery. She also faced ill treatment during her stay in hospital. I can never forget those days”, said Fatma.
‘They jailed her again, but we don’t even know the exact grounds for it’
“Meryem Soylu was recently released from prison after a ten year sentence. Just when she was trying to adapt to life outside, she was jailed again”, Fatma stated. “My mother would not give up her struggle for years despite all these pressures. They jailed her again, but we don’t even know the exact grounds for it”, said Fatma. “What kind of an accusation can the state find for a 79-year-old woman?”
Fatma expressed her deep concern over her mother’s health condition: “What would my mother do in prison with her asthma? What would a 79-year-old woman do in prison? We are worried about my mother. We demand that my mother is released immediately”.