Being a Mother in Turkey

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I was detained for the first time in my life on September 12, 2017. The day when my son was born…

Our baby was born at the end of a 9-month difficult period. It had been only half an hour since I gave birth. While we were feeling joy and excitement of this moment, the police came to the room. Delight of being father and mother vanished suddenly. Joy and excitement were replaced by fear and panic. Neither I can explain my mood at that moment, nor can one who hasn’t experienced this situation understand.

I have thought they came for my husband and with a sudden panic:

“He is my brother” I said to the police.

My husband went out of cops with the help of God. I believe that it was my God that made them believe us and protected us at that moment.

Then I understood that they came for me. They were constantly asking me questions but were not satisfied with my answers and accusing me of telling lie.

It was very painful for a mother who newly gave birth to be exposed to verbal violence while she expects compliments from her family

They were constantly asking me to give names, otherwise they told that they will take me into custody, and that I will be arrested then.

Oh my God! I was living a grave dilemma.

I needed to make one’s life miserable to save my life. Otherwise, I was going to cause my son who came to world before less than one hour to live in very bad conditions.

Without a second thought, I rejected their offer, saying;

“My God! Whether you give pain with Glory,
or you give loyalty with Beauty,

All are wellcomed,

Both Grief and Grace from You are lovely.”

This situation lasted for 3 days. I newly gave birth and I still had labor pains. I even couldn’t feel the sense of motherhood. Besides all these, I was being subjected to interrogation like a brutal terrorist while I was expected to be away from stress.

At the end of third day, they had to set me free due to pressures on social media. One of the policemen whose heart has no room for affection or love became very angry because of this, and didn’t want to sign the release document. But as it was the command of prosecutor, he had to sign it.

Unfortunately 14 days later, my husband who could go out among the police at the hospital was arrested during a criminal control check.

Again it was time to get going for us. I had a caesarean birth and I was obliged to travel before my wounds healed completely. I tried not to go any official authorities in case there would be a warrant about me. I called the prison to ask about my husband but they didn’t give any information. For ten days, I couldn’t get any news from my husband. Every night, I was crying, with looking at my baby who wasn’t even one month old. I had to be strong for my son; I tried to be strong.

As a last resort, I sent my brother, and he learnt visiting day. I hesitated to go but couldn’t stand. After the visit finished, my fears came true; the police at the hospital came there to take me into custody again. They mocked with me and “Didn’t we arrest you newly? Why do we arrest again?” said with grinning. Then they put me to the police car. Although they knew that I had operation newly, they went to station through very bad bumpy roads.

One of the policeman said “She has newly had an operation, be careful, and don’t bring trouble on us”. The policeman who was driving car went on driving, saying “what will happen to her!”

I asked them: “Now, do you really believe I am a terrorist?”

They replied: “Yes.”

Me who has never had a gun, have had nothing with illegal things, and has grown up with love of country and nation was regarded as a “terrorist”. Either this country has never seen a terrorist or someone was trying to show innocent people as terrorist…

That day after interrogation, I was released on condition that I will give signature to the police station five days in a week.

I was sued for “Being a member of armed terrorist organization”. I, who even hasn’t taken a pocket knife to her hands, was trialed as being a terrorist. I appeared in court 6 times in 7 months.

Before each court, I prepared my suitcase in case I get arrested. Each court was like a torture for me. Living that stress and uneasiness each time was making me depressed.

In 6th of March, it was our happiest day. My husband was evacuated. I was very happy. But my happiness didn’t last long. After my husband was evacuated, I appeared in two more courts and at the final court, I was sentenced to 10 years 6 months imprisonment.

Neither me nor the judges knew my crime. I was accused in committing an offense which is not known. I didn’t commit an offence which is regarded as a crime in Turkish Criminal Law. But this hasn’t prevented me from being sentenced to 10 years 6 months imprisonment.

I was going on fluttering in the lawlessness. I presented a document that my husband will do his military service, that my son has dermatitis, that he is just seven months old and the conditions of the prison is not suitable for a baby. But they didn’t accept any of them. I was arrested unjustly. When the sound and video information system was open at the court, I said “If I was a real terrorist, I wouldn’t have been arrested now”. But it was in vain.

A policewoman and two policemen came to bring me to the prison. While saying goodbye, my son was waving hand to his father as if he felt everything. After medical examination, they brought me to the prison. It was clear from their face that the police were sorry. My husband told he saw one of the police crying after they left me.

Who can bear this?

Only those who have a heart of Stone will not cry against the scene where 7, 5 months old baby is put into prison.

We were inside the prison but they didn’t take us to the ward as I forgot to take my son’s identity card. They made us wait till my brother brought the identity card.

They said “What if you have brought this baby from the street!” What is a 7, 5 months old baby to do at street?

Their aim was clear; as I was a ‘brutal terrorist’, my son deserved this treatment.

After my brother brought the identity card, we were brought to the ward 3 hours later. When we entered to the ward, there were four single girls, whose faces were shining with innocence; and who wouldn’t hurt a fly, let alone commiting an offense.

They started to cry when they saw my son.  They said: “How come! What is the baby to do here?” Persecution was also being done to the children. They weren’t considering whether they are children, young, old or sick. (The police were going to the house of dead people to take them into custody)

There was a storm of persecution over my country “from cradle to grave”.

They worked hard to cheer me up and make Orhan feel comfortable. They even performed afternoon prayer late. With this, our prison adventure has started.

We had to write a petition for all of our demands. We had rights for one open visit in 2 months, one phone call in 2 weeks and one non-contact visit in one week. We would see our beloveds from the back of a window from now on.

(After each visit, we always had a headache. We were trying to talk everything in one hour. It was tiring. The most painful was to leave our beloveds and turn back to ward.)

I could bear, but how could Orhan bear?

There has been counting each morning and evening; and before counting, announcement was made loudly. Orhan was waking up with fear. I was trying to make my son sleep after these loud announcements. Whenever the iron doors were opened and closed, he was splattering with panic.

The warden was a cruel man.

When I wanted diaper for my son, he didn’t give most of the times. I had one last diaper. I wanted diaper from wardens many times, I even wrote petition to everywhere but they didn’t give. For one day, I didn’t give water to my son so that he wouldn’t wet his pants and we wouldn’t need diaper. When I offered them to buy diaper with my own Money, they didn’t accept it also. I was walking back and forth at the courtyard, weepingly.

One day a bee stung Orhan and I yelled to the wardens. The wardens came. I said “A bee stung, I want to see a doctor”. One of the wardens replied “If he was allergic to it, he would have died”.

The one who said this was a woman.

Each day, new people were coming to the ward. 13 adult and 2 kids were staying in a ward for 6 people. In addition to difficult conditions, now we had place problem.

When I was arrested, my son was 7, 5 months old. Yes, a 7, 5 months old baby was put into prison in my country.

For mothers and fathers, first childdren are special. After years, they remember as sweet memories the place where the first crawled, the first word they told, the first steps he walked.

For us, remembering those days will be grieving. Because my son, my beloved Orhan walked his first steps at the courtyard of the ward. He told his first words at the ward. And his father couldn’t witness any of these. Neither I nor my ward mates could become happy when we witnessed these moments. We burst into tears with a bitterwseet joy.

As Orhan was arrested when he was just 2 weeks old, he didn’t know his father. For this reason, he was crying too much at visits, and never stopped. He didn’t let us talk.

Then, a girl who was 6 months olders than Orhan came to the ward. One day she pushed Orhan and Orhan crashed his head to the edge of the bunk. His head swelled up and it didn’t go down so we told it to the wardens. We went to the hospital with my hands handcuffed. It was difficult for me to carry my son and handcuffs cut my ankle. While we were walking inside the hospital, people were looking at us mercifully. They could never guess that we were arrested for being a terrorist. Because this country know well about how terrorists are! We stayed at the hospital for 10 hours. They made us wait at the detention ward and it was very cold. Orhan’s medical examanation finished and thanks God, there was no problem. They brought us back to prison again. But after this event, Orhan’s eyes started to stare into space while looking at something. I let my husband know to take my son and see another doctors.

That day, Orhan constantly cried as he didn’t know his father and as he remained seperate from me. That’s why, my husband wanted to give Orhan back to me but the warden didn’t accept it.

At last, they had to take him to home. He looked for me at all rooms of the house. When he couldn’t find me, he went on crying. And he fell asleep at 3 after midnight. The next day, they brought him to me. After he came, he couldn’t feel good for one week. Whenever he saw wardens, he started to cry thinking that they will seperate us. As he was searched till his diaper, he didn’t want to change his clothes and diaper.

At the prison, even a little thing wasn’t thrown away in case it would be necessary one day. Like water bottles… We made a toy from water bottles for Orhan. As the floor of the ward was cold and firm, it was difficult for Orhan to crawl and his knees were getting bruised. That’s why we made kneepads from socks and sponges for him. He could crawl much better, then.

My Orhan was doing crawling act, which was his natural right, in most difficult conditions.

Dreams which were seen at the prison were very important for us. Even a leaf which moves for the sake of hope was a fresh breath for us. Whenever we feel stressed, get desperate, my God was making us happy with a dream.

We were interpreting each dream as release. After all, all we want was to be released as soon as possible.

We tried to be happy and have fun among these narrowish four walls. One of these activites to have fun was to play charades.

We wanted next player to act out the word ‘bairam’. She acted out but none of us could guess. Then she told that she was acting out ‘release’. We asked ‘Why?’

She replied: “Because ‘release’ is our ‘bairam’, isn’t it?”

We all laughed.

We all liked it.

We lived four religious bairams in prison with my wardmates. Bittersweet, sad and missing bairams…

Before every bairam, we always thought if this was our real bairam, and we prayed for it. But every bairam morning, we woke up at the ward, imprison our sadness, missings to our heart and try to cheer each other up. We set a table to the Wall view garden under limited sky, and congratulated each other’s bairam.

How quaint! Although all of us needed something to feel good, we were trying to cheer somebody else up.

Next day was open visit. It was our real bairam to see our beloved ones, to spend time together even if it is one hour…

One day, the wardens came one hour before counting, and announced one of our friend’s name. We were all suprised and got excited. We thought she was going to be released as she was a convicted prisoner.

When we went downstairs, we saw that 6-7 male wardens and 6 female wardens were inside. They said to our friend “Pack your stuff, you will be sent to hospital”.

At that moment, we understood that they didn’t come for release news. It was a suspicious case. We were afraid and felt worried. Because when one of us is to be sent to the hospital, it was informed before, and we didn’t need to pack our stuff.

Our friend was also afraid, and it reflected to her voice. She asked with fear: “What hospital? What referral?”

They didn’t reply; they took our friend and put her to the cell. They told us to pack her stuff. We did helplessly. None of us talked. We were very sorry.

Days passed and we had no news from our friend about where and how she was.

One day, a letter came from her. At the letter, she wrote: “I was terrified and thought I was taken away to an uknown place like other kidnapped peaople. When we arrived, I understood that I was referred to another prison in another city”.

How painful that such people (I think they should not be called as human) who enjoy scaring people, do exist.

How can they dare to scare and disquiet a human whatever crime she or he committed?

Isn’t her fundamental right to be given information about where she is being taken away?

Isn’t it torture to take someone away like a lamb to slaughter from one place to another without saying anything?

When someone at the ward sneezed, we always replied: “Free live”. This became a habit of me. When someone sneezez, I say this.

We did our religious cults neatly at the ward. We were performing atonement prayers, reading the whole of the Qoran, and praying.

In addition to these, we also learnt to do crafts with beads. We were making key rings and bookmarkers. We couldn’t wait to give these things to our beloved ones in visit days.

11 months passed after being arrested. But for me, as if it was 11 years…

I never forget… It was 10th of April 2018. We were waiting our orders from canteen to come with bags in our hands. A warden came and told me: “You need to sign a document”. I thought it was refusal document for one of the petitions I wrote for release demand. I didn’t care too much and went with the warden. There I learnt that Supreme Court’s decision came. With lots of fear and a little hope, I looked forward to seeing what its decision was. I learnt that it was an overturn, and court of appeal reported about trial day. All of my hopes revived, and there was another chance for me to be released. Days were hardly passing. Inside me, there was a big excitement for my release and it was increasing day by day. 

Court day came. It was 6th of June, 2018. It was my court day. Maybe my bairam day… The trial would be done at 11.30. I was going to join the court by sound and video information system. Till 13.50, I pressed the button and asked wardens if there is any news or not. She said: “Continution of detention may have been decided; otherwise, news would come”. At 14.00, I made my son sleep. I was hungry and prepared something to eat. My hopes started to fade away. I took off my scarf, and wore my daily ward clothes. I started to eat my lunch; thinking today wasn’t my bairam day. While I was eating my lunch absentmindedly, one of the wardens called me and said: “Prepare for sound and video information system”.

Lights of hope revived and my heart was beating so fast. I was afraid of not standing this excitement. I stopped and begged my God: “My Lord! Please forgive me as I lost my hope for a moment”

I entered sound and video information system room. My legs were crawling. My only pray and wish was to be released…

The court started. It lasted 20 minutes. For one moment, the world stopped, time stopped, life stopped. My fastly beating heart stopped. The blood in my veins stopped. Was it a dream?

Was it real?

My sentence was reduced to 7 years and 6 months, and the court decided for my release.

Thanks my God, my son Orhan and I were free from now on…

I came back to the ward with great enthusiasm. As if I wasn’t walking but flying. As soon as I entered the ward, my happiness finished.

How, how can it be?

How can a woman become the unhappiest person on the world just after she was the happiest 5 minutes ago?

When I came to the ward, I faced the sad truth. I was released, but my ward mates?

They never deserved to be here.

Some are young and single, some lefr their children outside, some left their husband… All of them were seperate from their beloveds.

We weepingly said goodbye to each other. I was at the other side of the iron door which was shut in my friends’ faces. It was very painful to see that door closing on them, a pain that I will never forget during my life…

I was going to be free after some paperwork. 7 doors that were shut on me were opened one by one and I stepped on my freedom. Outside the prison, my husband, my mother in law, children of one of my ward mates and a woman that I don’t know, whose husband was in prison, were waiting me.

That woman was crying and praying: “Please God, grant for us also!”

I was dreaming of being released with bairam enthusiasm but I was released with a bitter happiness.

My son didn’t want to enter the house at first as he was afraid of staying in closed areas. Moreover, he learnt about outside late. He wasn’t going home. He was sleeping at the park, and then we were bringing him home. Thanks God, he got accustomed to it later. He was 22 months old; 14 months passed in prison.

After 4 months we lived in Turkey, we immigrated compulsory. We stayed in Athens for 3 months. Now my son and I are in refugee camp in Finland. My husband is in Athens. He is waiting patiently to reunite with his family. My son is 32 months old now. He could spend only 7-8 months with his father. He is longing for the days that he will see his father.

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