My brother Mehmet

By Emine, Mehmet's sister, October 2005


My brother Mehmet was in Izmir on April 8, 2005 for the Tüyap book fair with the publishing house for which he worked as an editor. It all began with a phone call from Mehmet. The phone call that came at 11:00 am same day changed everything. Mehmet was saying that he was taken into custody and that he was fine. We thought that we were prepared for the possibility of him getting arrested at any moment ever since he declared his conscientous objection but we found that the situation was very different from what we imagined. It turned out we had no idea as to the aftermath. Ilke and I told my mother that a friend of ours was sick and went to Izmir. We had to be there as soon as possible and see him. There was a chance that we would not be able to see him or hear from him for a long time. They had to see that we were with him and that they could not disappear him. At least this way Mehmet would not be a training casualty. We made it to Izmir around 2 a.m. When we got to the gendarme command where Mehmet was held, they told us to come back in the morning. I thought it was the most difficult night of my life but I was wrong, looking at what we have been through since I can say it was just a beginning.


During his transfer from Izmir to Tokat that is for about 20 hours, they never took off Mehmet’s handcuffs. When we went to Tokat the next day, he was snatched, summarily taken to court in Sivas and arrested. Since the day he was first taken into custody, our life became a true nightmare and it still continues to be so.

My other brother is doing compulsory service in the institution that imprisoned Mehmet and tortured him, and he doesn’t know what to do, he is in a lot of pain. He has not seen Mehmet for a long time, and he says “I can imagine what he is going through, I can imagine what can happen to him in the military” and although we try to comfort him, what we tell him does not suffice and he does not believe them.  


My mother suffers from ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure and especially right now we are ever more worried about her health. We concealed Mehmet’s imprisonment from her until the first hearing telling her that Mehmet was on a business trip and that our friend was still sick. All this while we just didn’nt know how to tell her what was going on. We talked about how we should tell her as soon as possible and that she had a right to know but we just couldn’t do it. We worried that learning this would badly affect her health, we even feared for her life. When Mehmet was not released after the first hearing, he wrote a letter to her and told her he was in prison. She said she knew it but did not want to accept or believe it.  Nevertheless she kept on saying “I must persevere for the sake of my son, I shouldn’t cause him any more suffering,” and tried to comfort herself.  But she started taking more medication, and never laughs like she used to. After Mehmet went to Izmir, the first time she saw him was two months later during the second trial. Mehmet could barely stand up because of the torture and couldn’t move his neck. At the court room my mother was sitting behind Mehmet so she couldn’t even see his face real well. She was not allowed to see him or hug him. My mother cannot travel because of her health problems and therefore cannot go see him. She could only meet with him the second time she went there but could only touch him and hug him for one minute. After the trial we did a private visit at the prison.


As long as he is not kept in solitary confinement and there is no visitation ban, I go to Sivas every week. I leave Istanbul on Tuesdays and the trip takes 14 hours. The next day I meet with him for 7 hours behind the fence then I leave Sivas in the evening and come back. Our meetings take place with their permission and behind wire fences. If there is no visitation ban or solitary confinement we meet once a week during business hours. 


I, my mother and Mehmet, the three of us all used to live in Istanbul. I had a business. Mehmet was working too. But increasingly I haven’t been able to give myself to work. Mehmet’s imprisonement was hard enough. Also I hadn’t been able to leave Sivas for the first three months because of what was going on there.  His life being endangered by other inmates and detainees in the prison he was held in, the physical and psychological repression of the prison administration, and the hunger strike he began as a response to all these, changed the course of our lives. I had to close down my business because I could not attend it anymore, I had to evacuate my house and move back to Iskenderun. My mother lives there right now, and I stay at my friends’ in Istanbul for the work that’s being done for Mehmet.


Mehmet is on hunger strike once again as a result of what has been done to him and life is at a standstill again. I guess there are no words to describe the desperation one feels before what is going on. Every time I meet him I am moved, saddened and angered because he is still there. I want him to be out immediately, at any place where he would like to be….