79-Year-Old Kurdish Mother: “I don’t want to die in this prison!”


The Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan said on the occasion of the international human rights day on 10 December 2012 the following:

Protecting and developing human rights, democracy and principles of the state of law have been some of our primary objectives since the day we came into power. Our efforts in those fields have strengthened the presence of Turkey among modern and democratic countries in the world.

Four months after the Prime Minister conveyed this message a Kurdish mother was calling to him through DIHA (Dicle News Agency) from the prison where she was put 7 years ago in the Kurdish province of Batman:

I am 78 years old now. I have been in prison for 7 years. I am calling to the Prime Minister: You cried when your mother died. However, so many mothers are crying because of you. And hundreds of them are in prison because of you. Listen to the voice of your conscious. End this war. I want to die at home by my children. I don’t want to die here in this prison.

Those words were uttered on 24 March 2012 by Elfo Ülper, a mother born in the Kurdish province of Şırnak in Turkey.

Elfo Ülper is 79 years old. She has been imprisoned in the M Type Prison of the Kurdish province of Batman for 8 years. If not released, she will have to stay in prison for 7 more years.

But one year after her call to the Prime Minister, nothing has changed for the 79-year-old prisoner: She is still behind bars and suffers from osteolysis, high blood tension, rheumatism, embolism and some other very serious illnesses.

Having had a hand operation recently, she is not even able to wash her clothes on her own and is in need of the help of others in order to meet her personal needs.

The Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute wrote report without examining her

Nuri Mehmetoğlu, lawyer of Mother Elfo, applied to the Ministry of Justice so that she could benefit from the pardoning power of the President due to her “lasting illness, disability and old age” and get released in accordance of the 104/2-b article of the Constitution.

Ülper was first examined at Batman Public Hospital and her reports prepared by the hospital were sent to the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute (ATK).

Without examining Ülper, the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute only evaluated the previous reports and gave the ruling that “presidential pardon is not necessary.” Hence, the Ministry of Justice refused to convey the lawyer’s request to the President.

But they submitted another petition of objection to the Ministry of Justice and demanded Ülper’s health condition to be examined again, Mehmetoğlu added.

A petition has also been launched to call for the release of Elfo Ülper. Some of the highlights from the petition included:

Mother Elfo is now in prison in the province of Batman and her children can visit her once a year at most because of their health problems and financial difficulties. Being far away from her children and her land as well as her increased age and her inability to carry out her daily acts, demoralize her and affect her health negatively. The sentence she keeps repeating lately sums up all her fears: “I don’t want to die here.”

Isn’t captivity for 8 years enough for a 79-year-old mother?

We are calling for every one with a good conscience, particularly the Minister of Justice and the President, to be responsive to Mother Elfo who says “I don’t want to die here” so that she can spend her last days at home in her family’s care.

There are 411 ill prisoners in Turkey, Human Rights Association (IHD) warned, criticizing the lack of sufficient health services and the government’s hesitation to release the seriously ill prisoners.

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) reported:

Turkey must act in accordance with the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine of the Council of Europe that it signed in 2003, provide health services to all prisoners justly and respect all of their rights and freedoms including their right to get released.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regards delays in medical treatment as torture, and the Council of Europe’s Committee on Prevention of Torture recommends the release or deferral of sentences of prisoners with serious illnesses who can’t receive treatment in prisons.

The recognition and protection of human rights in Turkey have always been a matter of dispute on national and international platforms. Non-governmental organizations for human rights have recurrently pointed out the fact that incarcerating seriously ill prisoners is a violation of prohibition of torture.

But unfortunately, Turkey seems to be an expert when it comes to violating political prisoners’ rights and freedoms recognized by international treaties that it has signed.

If the Turkish government insists on turning a deaf ear to the screams of the political prisoners, human rights record of Turkey will keep on being a huge affront to humanity for years to come.