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100 days of Deniz Yucel's imprisonment

Dilek Mayaturk Yucel
May 24, 2017

Turkey accuses German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel of inciting hatred and terrorist propaganda. In the following letter, his wife Dilek Mayaturk Yucel describes what life has been like since his arrest 100 days ago.

Dilek Mayatürk Yücel  Ehefrau von Deniz Yücel
Image: privat

Today is the 100th day that Deniz has been deprived of his freedom. I can put another mark on the calendar of my uncertainty. On February 14, he voluntarily went to the police to testify and has since then been held in detention for 100 days - including his first 13 days of police custody. I have been missing him for 100 days.

The thing that people both inside and outside prison have in common is that both count the days. But from a certain day on, you can no longer count down the days. The automatic clock in your head no longer asks, how many days are left? It asks, how many days has it been that your loved one has been deprived of their freedom for no reason, unjustly and without being charged? This happens every day - every morning.

When finally, after months, the charges are announced, the imprisoned journalists and their families are happy, because at least they know now when the case will be heard. Sometimes those of us who are less experienced with this sort of thing turn to the energetic Yonca, who is married to journalist Ahmet Sik. That's because Yonca is so experienced - Sik has been arrested twice already. It shows you how many absurdities now shape our lives. Inside and outside - you could write a book about the absurdities of your own life.

Inside and outside means waiting together for the rusty wheels of justice to start turning again.

To be clear, I'm not expecting any mercy, merely an indictment.

Dilek Mayatürk Yücel  Ehefrau von Deniz Yücel
Dilek Mayaturk Yucel is the wife of Deniz YucelImage: privat

But I have another internal clock.  It counts the number of days that Deniz has been kept in solitary confinement. That number is now at 87. This, in itself, is a violation of human rights. Isolation can lead to physical and psychological damage, the effects of which can always crop up abruptly. The imposed isolation is a type of psychological torture.

Inside and outside means you look at the same sky with a different pair of eyes. Knowing that both of us at least live under the same sky; that we see the same sky when we look up, no matter where we are, makes it - perhaps - a little bit easier. But then, we do not see the same sky as Deniz and the other imprisoned journalists; none of us do. Deniz looks at the sky through prison bars.

He's forgetting what there is on the outside, but you yourself constantly think about what those on the inside are missing out on. You do not only think about how they have been robbed of their freedom; that they have been imprisoned without reason, but also that they are being robbed of the most basic rights.

Inside and outside means waiting to talk to each other once a week for an hour on the phone while separated by a glass partition. It means waiting for an open meeting, which can only happen every two months because of the exceptional conditions. Because I don't have any previous experience as a visitor, I can only tell you what I have learned well by going to Silivri.

Deniz Yücel
Yucel has been in jail for 100 daysImage: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Schindler

I go to the place where Deniz has been held in solitary confinement for 87 days, without being charged. He has been accused of spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization and inciting hostility and hatred among the people. The only evidence the authorities have cited are articles and interviews that are part of his work as a journalist and that, according to Turkish press law, are subject to a statute of limitation. In addition, some of them have been translated incorrectly. 

The road to Silivri is not lined with roses. On this road you can experience a thousand feelings at once. You lose your mind because of the excitement, the longing and the stress that is inherent to this road while you pass through the checkpoints, eye scans and turnstiles you have to put behind you to reach the people you want to see.

As I walk to Deniz' cell every Monday, every single fence I pass sticks in my heart. I spend the week ahead of our next meeting pulling out the wires embedded in my heart. Monday, my heart bleeds; the rest of the week, my hands bleed. Imagine having to do this every week. Life outside means you have to spend the week like this.

After spending an hour talking on a phone across from each other with a soundproof glass partition between you, when the limited time is over, a signal sounds and it means that the time to bid farewell has come. Inside and outside that means when you have waved goodbye after visiting hours and turn around, the smile on your face suddenly disappears.

Deutschland | Demo für die Freilassung von Welt-Korrespondent Deniz Yücel
Yucel's arrest sparked protest in GermanyImage: Reuters/F. Bensch

Do not think that imprisonment is restricted to a physical location. It is a process in which all those waiting are hemmed in by a fence that reaches into their dreams. If that is how it is outside, try to imagine how it is inside. The loneliness behind the prison door that never opens is only broken occasionally for a visit by an attorney, a lawmaker or once a week for an hour for family members. Imagine the isolation. That is what it means to be inside.

Deniz has been held in detention for 100 days. He is far away from his loved ones and his beloved job. I have been outside for 100 days. Life outside for 100 days is about as nice for me as it is for fish on dry land.

Being outside also means that you also build great solidarity between the family members and partners of the other imprisoned journalists. It does not matter whether you are inside or outside. It means that the feeling that you are right makes you hold your head up even higher. I am amazed by Deniz' strength; it even gives me strength. My pride in him being a journalist doing the right thing spans the past, present and future.

I will never use the language of hatred because when you are right, it gives you a certain dignity. If Deniz can remain strong and noble, even though he has not been charged with a crime and is being held in isolation for no reason, then that is the reason why.