10 December 2011 [Istanbul Bakirköy Women’s Prison]
I hope this letter finds you well. I have received your letter. It was a nice surprise and stimulation. Thank you. Please give my greetings to all. The presence of you all out there surely makes us feel stronger. I am—we are—fine. Yes, you can send me books; I’d love it. This prison—for the time being—is one of the better ones in Turkey. I mean, the conditions aren’t horrible like in other prisons. Being deprived of one’s freedom, being behind bars in itself is horrible enough, though. Looking at the direction and speed of developments, conditions here will (may) probably begin to deteriorate as well. We shall see! […]
The situation here is rather critical. Feeling ever more powerful with the support he is getting from “Western powers” as a representative of so-called “Western ideals of democracy and freedom” in the region, Erdoğan has turned his back on—or done away with—all semblance of democracy at home and is preparing to intervene actively in the region. Your action is valuable in the sense that it exposes the true nature of the Erdoğan government. Having the world public question their practices at home, and challenge the façade of democracy he put up abroad, is very important because he feeds on this “democratic prestige” he has abroad to take harsher measures against democratic opposition at home. Such prestige makes his hand stronger against opposition in the country. Anyone who does not agree or go along with his way of solving the problem is a terrorist, an enemy—familiar, no?
Because of efforts to find a democratic, peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, to democratize Turkey, and because we are members of the BDP [Peace and Democracy Party], a legal political party that succeeded in getting thirty-six seats in the parliament in spite of all their unimaginable anti-democratic obstruction—because of our activities, our work as BDP members, we are accused of “membership in an armed terror organization.” We have been refused access to any further information on the case. They say our “file is restricted.” Our lawyers don’t know on what grounds this accusation has been made. So we haven’t been able to make any statement of defense; we just told them that we cannot defend ourselves or testify because we have not been allowed to read our files and to understand the context.
There are two positions on finding a solution to the Kurdish issue, and on putting an end to the armed conflict. One says keep fighting, defeat and eliminate the “terrorists.” Kill them and the problem will finish. And the other says engage in dialogue, negotiate, stop military operations, and talk. Take steps, change laws—to provide for a truly democratic atmosphere that ensures thorough discussion, where everyone can express his opinions freely, without legal backlash. Free political prisoners and discuss. Because we favor and work for this latter position, they have declared war on us as terrorists. This action to criminalize all legal political activity of the BDP is in fact a conscious choice that opts for limiting and restricting democratic political struggle, thus giving leeway and priority to military options.
This is why protests against this anti-democratic obstruction of political struggle and the arbitrary nature of the detentions, against arbitrary detentions to obstruct political struggle and democratic opposition, is very important. They need to know that the world knows and follows.
I know this letter is not well-structured. It has been rather mixed up. Do forgive the confusion. Please send my greetings to all.
With all my best wishes. Take care.
Note: Earlier in October 2011, Ayşe Berktay (Hacimirzaoglu)—a renowned translator, researcher, and global peace and justice activist—was taken by the police from her home in Istanbul at five o’clock in the morning and subsequently arrested. She still remains imprisoned for the foreseeable future. This letter by Ayşe Berktay is addressed to Lieven De Cauter—a philosopher and founding member of the Brussels Tribunal—who has been organizing an international campaign to release Ayşe Berktay from prison. Click here to sign a petition to stop arbitrary detentions in Turkey.]