Alaattin Tuğluk, the brother of the Kurdish political prisoner Aysel Tuğluk who has been diagnosed with dementia, says that her condition is worsening with every passing day: “She cannot get out of bed, read books, communicate with people or watch television and she doesn’t talk to anyone,” and added that a fresh diagnosis is being sought.
Aysel Tuğluk, a significant name in Kurdish politics, known for her resistance and her contribution to the women’s struggle, who fought for the co-chair system for leading political parties which furthers gender equality, eventually becoming one of the first co-chairs of the DTP (Democratic Society Party, one of the opposition parties supporting equality for the Kurds), has been imprisoned for over five years at Kandıra F-Type closed prison in Kocaeli, outside Istanbul.
Aysel’s health problems started after a racist attack on the funeral of her mother Hatun, on 13 September 2017. She has since then been diagnosed with dementia, and her state of health worsens with every passing day.
The Kocaeli office of the Turkish Forensic Medicine Institute issued a medical report saying that Aysel was “unfit to remain in prison”, in response to which the Istanbul office of the same institute issued another report, saying that she was, “fit to remain in prison”.
This caused public outrage and thousands of people began various campaigns calling for her freedom and drawing attention to her situation. Most recently, thousands of women have been crying out for Ayel’s release with a campaign called, “1000 Women for Aysel”. Thousands more have joined this campaign on social media, calling for Aysel’s immediate release through a Twitter campaign released by “1000 Women”, with the hashtag, #BinlerceAyseliz (We are thousands, all Aysel).
Aysel’s brother Alaattin evaluates her situation.
‘She has started to lose her mental faculties’
Alaattin regularly visits Aysel, and says that until two months ago they were only allowed closed visits, but that since then they have also been allowed monthly open visits. Alaattin visits once a week, and shares his impressions from the visits:
“She moves really slowly. During closed meetings we speak through a telephone. It takes her a long time to pick up the telephone and bring it to her ear. We have to wait patiently while this happens. Then when she starts talking she forgets people. Not the people closest to us, but she forgets acquaintances. At our last meeting, which was an open visit, she wanted to accompany me to the door. I think she must have forgotten where she was at that point. The wardens had to call “This way!” to her. This really upset me. This indicates that she is starting to lose her mental faculties. Her condition is gradually getting more serious. It wasn’t this bad before.”
‘She can’t read books or get out of bed’
Alaattin says that Aysel used to exercise in her dormitory, but that she has not even been able to do that in the last three months. He reports that her dormitory friends tell him that she is confined to her bed, that she can’t get up, she can’t read books. He notes that she doesn’t communicate, watch TV or talk to anyone: “I said to her, ‘Will you read that?’ and she said, ‘I can’t read’! I said to her, ‘Work on the Constitution a bit, it’ll do you good’, but she can’t read it. And she has no social activities at all just now.”
He explained that a fresh diagnosis is being sought following her lawyers’ application to higher offices after the previous two Forensic Medicine Institute reports, and that they were waiting to see what kind of result there would be. He indicated that he rejected the report issued by the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute, saying, “I want my sister to get treatment. The treatment is not the kind that can be conducted under prison conditions. It is very risky. Prison is not a place where certain activities can take place. Activities need to be increased to combat this disease. She needs to go outside, go to the supermarket. The brain needs to keep active. For that to happen she needs to be constantly active. I’m only trying to exercise our legal rights.”
‘The Forensic Medicine Institute will issue a final report’
Alaattin said that Aysel is going to hospital for a fresh diagnosis, and that a report will be drawn up by a new board. He said that this report will also be sent to the Forensic Medicine Institute, and that the institute will issue a final report in accordance with it.
He said that as the hospitals in Kocaeli have been concluded to be lacking in specialisation for this kind of diagnosis, Aysel was being taken to the Hospital for Mental and Neurological Disorders in Bakırköy in Istanbul.
He stressed that it is unconscionable that Aysel should be intentionally left to die, and recalled the attack on the funeral of their mother Hatun.
He concluded saying that all he wanted was for the conditions for her treatment to be secured, saying, “Let Aysel out to weep a little at our mother’s grave.”