Today in Turkey there are over 10,000 political prisoners. The news in Turkey is flooded with hundreds more being arrested from day to day based on innate chargers and anonymous witness accounts. It seems as though the Turkish government is having a hard time distinguishing between what they call ‘terrorists’ and human rights activists, their definition of the two have somehow become intertwined.
I would like to introduce you to Mr Muharrem Erbey: A current victim of Turkey’s indiscriminate imprisonment of human rights activists around the country, mainly in and from North Kurdistan. Mr Erbey is a writer, lawyer and executive from the İnsan Hakları Derneği (IHD), Human Rights Association, in Amed (Diyarbakir) branch.
On the 24th of December, 2009 T 4.50 AM Mr Erbey’s house, private legal office, car and Diyarbakir Office of the Human Rights Association, which Mr Erbey chairs, was raided by the Turkish police. Documentation, computers, discs and information was seized from all properties without any official warrants. Mr Erbey himself was arrested, forcible taken to the public prosecutor’s office and denied his right to a lawyer.
Mr Erbey describes in his letter how he was interrogated in relation to the activities which he had carried out in legal civic platforms such as the HRA and in international meetings, as if they had been criminal acts. He then states “I testified to having committed to all of the attributed acts and assured the Prosecutor that I would maintain my work on these grounds following my release.” The Prosecutor making use of many undisclosed witness ‘X’ as evidence finally issued the arrest of Mr Erbey on the grounds that he had acted in the name of KCK and around 4.30am he was taken to prison.
The HRA Diyarbakir office was established in 1988 and has since participated in numerous meetings, conferences and panels where they have used the invitations as platforms to present the situation of human rights in our region with regards to the Kurdish issue, children and women’s rights, social and economic rights, freedom of expression and much more. Mr Erbey has been working in the office since 2000 and participated and initiated many of these platforms. The organisation has also repeatedly voiced its support for the government’s “Democratic Opening Process”.
I met Mr Erbey through his letter that was given to me by organisers of the Nameyên Piştgirî initative. Reading his letter broke my heart and warmed it all at the same time. Both of my parents have served time in Iran as political prisoners and have never spoken to me about their time in the notorious prisons of Iran. Whilst reading Mr Erbey’s letter I thought about my parents and their time behind bars. No matter where you look at the Kurdish struggle, everyone has a story to tell. Behind the entire struggle, the pain, courage and hope… every single Kurd has his own heart-wrenching story. Most are buried with along with their story teller, but once in a while one will be voiced and when that happens a nation of 50 million hearts binds as one. Our voice and struggle becomes one.
For the past week every time I put pen to paper or my fingers to my computer to write words in solidarity to Mr Erbey… everything becomes untied. I can sit here and write for hours about anything you tell me. Writing is my greatest escape from the world, but ask me to write a few words to a prisoner who is sitting behind bars due to his endless contribution to human rights and everything is thrown out the window. How do you tell a man sitting in a prison for doing all that is good in this world that he should have hope… that he shouldn’t give up his fight against the evil we endure all over the world. How do you tell a victim of an invisible crime, from an invisible nation, with an invisible voice that we hear you… We are listening and our hearts, souls and strength stand right with there with you in that cell?
I dared to ask my father, if all those years ago he was given a letter of solidarity from a Kurd half way across the world telling him that people were doing all they can to fight for his right what he would have wanted to see on those pages whilst sitting helpless behind bars. He stared through the TV for what seemed like a lifetime, then looked back at me, straight into my eyes with all the rage, pain and sorrow I could imagine a human can fathom and said,
“In what language, with what words can you tell a man that the pain he endures, the pain he sees his friends endure, the death around him will not be in vain? That there IS a light somewhere in all of that darkness…”
He smiled and shook his head, turning back to the TV.
“No my dear child, there are no words in no language that can bring back the hope in a faith that died long ago… .”
In his letter written back in 2010, something written by Mr Erbey really caught my heart, He states:
“There are some nine-hundred of us who are currently in prison. But we are hopeful. Because we do not have any other choice, but to live together. We are sailing in the same ship; either we will wreck or survive the impending catastrophe together. I greet you with all my faith that 2010 will be the year when we open a new page towards light and life together.”
It is now 2012 and Mr Erbey plus thousands more are still sitting behind bars, pending trial. No matter how long it takes or how many words and in what language, I will find the words to let my father, Mr Erbey and those like them know that around the globe we are listening, we care, we hear their cries for justice and we will continue their fight for it.