A Kurdish woman, aged 79, was sentenced by a Diyarbakır (Amed) court to a prison term of six years and three months on Thursday over her activities in MEBYA-DER, an association for solidarity with the families of victims killed in armed conflict.
Meryem Soylu, also a ‘peace mother’*, had been accused of participating in the funerals and mourning ceremonies for the Kurdish fighters killed in clashes with Turkish forces, and in public events organised by the association. The evidence against her included statements by a ‘secret witness’, who claimed that she ‘played a role in the psychological battle waged by the armed group’.
Soylu’s payments of membership fees to the association and her name appearing on ‘vigil lists’ were also considered as evidence in the indictment for her ‘illegal’ activities.
Her lawyer, Muhittin Muğuç, said in defence that no evidence had been provided by the prosecutor that proved the association was linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“The reason that the association was founded is, essentially, the attacks against the remains and graves of individuals,” he added, and stated that Soylu had participated in public announcements that are within parameters for the freedom of expression.
The association had recently reported that the remains of more than 20 Kurdish civilians and fighters, all killed during military operations in 2016 in Turkey’s south-eastern district of Nusaybin (Nisêbîn), have still not been handed over to their families.
Meryem Soylu had been detained on 27 February 2021 over ‘terrorism’ charges in the context of a prosecution against MEBYA-DER. She had been released from pre-trial detention on the 25th of May, by the order of a Diyarbakır court.
* The Peace Mothers is a women’s peace and civil rights movement in Turkey, which promotes a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish Question and struggles for an end to armed conflict between Turkish armed forces and Kurdish fighters.