We received a letter from Dilan Cudî Saruhan, a Kurdish artist imprisoned in Turkey, still incarcerated in Bakırköy prison in Istanbul.
As she uses this approach in order to respond to Kedistan readers or to those who mentioned her in a letter of support, it seemed urgent to translate it and publish it.
Dear Kedistan family,
Hello again. I embrace you with the hope and enthusiasm of approaching spring. First of all, I want you to know that I am in good health, and that my morale and motivation could not be higher. I would also like you to know how much the cards and moving letters I received from the Kedistan family and its precious readers and supporters make me happy.
Yes, I’m still being held in a world with 7 doors and 21 locks. I am far away from you, from those I love, from my family and friends. Like many others, I am far from a piece of clay, a handful of earth.
What was going on over here while you were concerned with the pandemic at your end? Many things. Because of this epidemic, our conditions in prison have become even more difficult. Following the arrival of the coronavirus in Turkey, visits from our friends and families were abolished for a long time. Instead, we were allowed a 20-minute phone communication every week. In your opinion, what is this if not a violation of rights? While the whole world, in declaring a state of exception, partly evacuated prisons, Turkey, with the laws promulgated in the “Judiciary Execution Pack” liberated permanently or under judiciary control prisoners it chose by its own standards: women killers, mafia dons… meanwhile many sick political prisoners are still behind bars. And those who, like me, were deprived from touching, embracing under the pretext of isolation, were kept far from our close ones. Thus, the prisons were emptied by liberating some, making more room for others, obviously, for “criminals” by their opinions and polical involvement…Despite the epidemic, every day, a number of comrades are arrested and forced into isolation cells for months, under the alibi of quarantine.
There are many problems, such as access to the infirmary, the hospital… For example, during this period, and even long after it, I could not read nor see a single art and culture magazine. As you can well imagine no cultural, artistic, theoretical or practical publication reaches us here. As for our books, they are limited. Currently, in all prisons, there is a practice known as the “book quota”. In other words, if I wanted to work on a given topic, I would run into problems to obtain the source materials, to read and to research. Or yet again, I have no bedside book I can open when I’m bored or suffocating, because books are handed out drop by drop.
Of course, I do other things… In the emptiness, I dream. I do so with my eyes open because here, dreams are realistic and powerful. I drink coffee, I read in the grounds and then, I use them to color a world on white paper. Because here, there are no other colors. Then, I continue sewing, reading, drawing…Sometimes, I sit in a corner and attempt to give shape to the void. With my eyes and my hands, I take hold of earth, I see human beings, then I imagine their warmth combined with mine. I caress the mountains, the stones, the sea, the earth, from end to end. I caress nature. I would like to cover the whole world and write, paint, knead what I have seen. Yes, you have understood, I miss the air from the workshop a lot, the smell of wood, of marble dust, the smoothness of clay…
But I must tell you that despite all these things lacking, my thoughts and intellect do not lack stimulation. Quite the opposite, I am in an even deeper surge of reflection. I do not allow deprivation to set limits on me. I remember a song I heard years ago, a film I watched, a story I read, a drawing I saw, and in re-encountering them here, I savor the meaning and very essence of these reunions. And even the difficulties I encounter make me feel how precious my memories, our memories, are to us.
With my friends in this cell block, in this world of consumerism, we do not allow anyone to consume us. We do not allow the passage of those who want to finish us off. In our communal living, everything belongs to everyone. There is no “I”, there is only “us”. There is no room for ownership. And all this serves as an inspiration for my drawings. As I said, I do not allow deprivation to lead me away from my thoughts, my aims and my feelings. This is how I carry on my struggle.
The fact I am sending you my thoughts and feelings is undoubtedly another way to cross frontiers.
I am deeply convinced that, even is we are in different locations, by crossing the borders limiting each one of us, we will grow in sharing and solidarity together. Because we need this more than ever…
I embrace you. With the hope of meeting again soon.
With my inexhaustible friendship and greetings…
Dilan Cudî Saruhan
March 29 2021, Bakırköy Prison, Istanbul.
In this Bakırköy prison where Dilan Cudî finds herself, was detained another close friend, marked forever. We speak of course of the writer Aslı Erdoğan, now exiled in Europe.
Four women creators, four imprisonments where the collective, the shared, allow for survival and resistance.
But for four names of creators brought to the attention of the public (beside the known political figures) how many “anonymous” women, heavily sentenced because Kurdish or in the opposition, with the constantly reiterated false accusation of “terrorism” are subjected to the same fate and forgotten, waithing for a hypothetical gesture from those in power to reduce their sentences?
Of that there was no mention during the recent meetings between the EU and the Turkish regime.
And yet, the defense of human rights that are violated every day in Turkey should, first and foremost, take the form of public and reiterated denunciations at the highest levels of an ignoble and iniquitous carceral policy.
As a reminder of who is Dilan Cudî Saruhan, here is a letter shared in August 2019
To write to her:
Dilan Cûdî Saruhan
Bakırköy Kadın Kapalı Cezaevi
Zuhuratbaba Mah. Dr. Tevfik Sağlam Cad.
Bakırköy – Istanbul TURKEY
Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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