77-year-old Kurdish woman put under house arrest with foot shackles
Overwhelmed with the longing for her son that she hadn’t seen for 21 years, she gave her photograph, a jumper, and some dried fruit to two men from her village when they went to her house in Gebze in 2008 and asked them to deliver those small gifts to his son if they saw him again. When the two men got caught, the security forces also found Nazife Babayigit’s photo on them, causing her to get prosecuted. Nazife Babayigit has been condemned to 2 years in prison “for aiding and abetting” her son.
Three correspondents of Evrensel Daily visited Nazife Babayigit and asked her about the process which made her end up under house arrest.
Two young men came to our house. I hadn’t known them before. I love all human beings no matter who they are. I asked them about my son. I gave them one of my photographs, a jumper I had knitted for my son and some food. Then, I told them, “If you see my son, tell him that his mother is alive”, but those men got caught later. When they found my photo on them, I was remanded in custody for 10 days. I was interrogated in two cities. When I returned to Gebze, the judicial process began. I was confronted with some people and they said they did not know me and that they did not have any organizational relation with me. Then, I was released upon those statements.
However, that was not the end of the nightmare.
When the decision of acquittal was reversed by the court of appeals, she was tried again and condemned to 6 years for “aiding and abetting an organization intentionally and willingly” but her sentence was first reduced to 2 years and finally was changed into house arrest. After all those arrests and trials, her foot was shackled, which turned her life into a dark cell.
Babayigit is not allowed to step outside her house and she even has to get permission to go to the hospital. If she goes out to the balcony, she will be immediately put in prison for having knitted a jumper for her son.
Her son, Metin, joined the PKK forces in 1993 and her grandson, Yunus, in 2004. Her other son, Kasim, was jailed for 3 years and 5 months while her grandson, Engin, spent 7 years in prison.
My son has been in the mountains for 21 years. This struggle is for the rights that have been invaded by the state. Whatever has happened, we do not bear enmity towards anyone. We want a solution to this problem. All we wish for is peace, beauty and fraternity, she said.
Babayigit lives in Gebze, a town in the western region in Turkey, far away from her village. The reason why her son went to the mountains to join the PKK and why she left her hometown to move to Gebze is the same: the pressure they were exposed to by military and police forces in their hometown.
I miss my hometown so much. Here we are living a life that does not belong to us. I remember the childhood of my son. I always reminisce about the days we spent there. After all, that is my will: When I die, bury me in my village.
Her son, Kasim Babayigit, said:
My brother has been a guerilla for 21 years. We have had no contact with him for about 16 years. He has only called my mother twice. The only relaxation of my mother was to go to the garden of our house but they took it from her. They have locked up this old, sick woman inside the house. Now we are planning to write a petition to the President. With pure maternal instinct, my mother sent whatever she had to her son. She neither had a gun nor killed anyone. What has been done to her is illegal.
Cicek Babayigit, her daughter-in-law, said to the Dicle News Agency (DIHA) that whenever the signal tone of the electronic shackle was off, they got a warning call from Ankara: “Electricity is cut off very often in our village. They phone us the moment the electricity goes off and my mother starts getting scared of being put in prison.”
If the shackle breaks down, they will be sued for “causing damage to property” and will have to pay for the device, which is 7 thousand Turkish Liras.
“Torturing a 77-year-old woman is unacceptable. She can only move between the balcony and the room. She cannot take one step outside the stairs. It is unendurable for a sick woman who is about to turn 80 to get tortured like that,” Cicek Babayigit said, and called for everyone to struggle for lasting peace: “I would do the same thing if I was Mother Nazife. The punishment I could get would mean nothing. I would even give my life for my son. If it is a crime for a mother to do those things for her child, then all mothers are guilty. As Kurds, we always want peace but mothers of soldiers and all other mothers should also want peace. There are prisoners who are older than my mother. We want all political prisoners to get released.”
“I have not committed a crime. I am sick but unable to move. This shackle hurts so much. I yearn for a bit of fresh air and a bit of wind,” Nazife Babayigit said when she was asked how she felt about the punishment imposed on her, and added, “My imprisonment here is a violation of humanity.”
The inhuman treatment that Kurds suffer from in every sphere of life clearly manifests the fact that violating human rights of Kurds is systematic and institutionalized in Turkey.
The Turkish state killed and lost thousands of Kurdish civilians in the streets in the 90s. It was a time when one could not ever witness any form of law or justice in Kurdish cities.
Today, the Turkish state does not kill Kurdish civilians in the streets as openly and frequently as it did in the past but has arrested about eight thousand Kurds including serving and former mayors, politicians, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, trade unionists and students since 2009 on charges of supporting KCK (Union of Kurdistan Communities). If convicted, the defendants face jail sentences of between 15 years and life imprisonment.
Unidentified murders that were common in the 90s have mostly been replaced by mass arrests and detentions today but the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkey presents this new policy as “the democratization of the country.”
Turkey has continually been denounced for inadequate prison conditions and in particular for not resolving the problem of overcrowding. The reason why Turkish prisons are filled with so many Kurdish political prisoners is that the Turkish state has criminalized all forms of Kurdish existence from joining legal and peaceful press conferences and demonstrations to armed struggle.
Simply refusing to be silent and invisible as a Kurd is sufficient for the Turkish state to stigmatize you as a “terrorist” and subject you to detention, torture, isolation, coercive interrogation, and even to death.
And with Nazife Babayigit’s case, loving your child and knitting a jumper for him have now been added to the endless list of crimes drawn up by the Turkish state.