Aydınlar: I felt like I had come out of a Nazi concentration camp
Popular music singer Pınar Aydınlar spoke about her experiences in prison. Pınar Aydınlar, who served a three and a half month prison sentence for a speech she made at the time she was an HDP parliamentary candidate for Izmir, spoke to Cumhuriyet on her release. Aydınlar says she spent 105 days in an eight metre square cell in Bakırköy prison and was threatened with the words, “We’ll take you to the obstetrician” for resisting a strip search.
Popular music singer Pınar Aydınlar, who served a three and a half month prison sentence for a speech she made at the time she was an HDP parliamentary candidate for Izmir, said that on leaving prison she felt like she had come out of a Nazi concentration camp.
Recounting how she had been threatened with the words, “We’ll take you to the obstetrician” for resisting a strip search, Aydınlar said, “Even a tiny flower that appears from among the concrete in the prison falls foul of the warders’ intolerance and is pulled up. On seeing greenery coming out from among the concrete in prison I never lost my hope.” Aydınlar, who stayed in a single-person cell for 105 days, spoke of her greatest longing being for her family and picking up her baglama and singing. Following her release, I came together with Aydınlar, who is preparing to give a huge popular concert in Bakırköy. Aydınlar was sentenced to ten months imprisonment for a speech she made in 2015 and put in Bakırköy Women’s Closed Prison on 15 May. Aydınlar was released on parole on Monday 3 September.
-You were detained for a speech you made in 2015. What was that speech?
Actually, at that time, the solution process was continuing in the country. Politics in the country was a tide-like politics. While the solution process was in progress, the attitude towards the Kurdish struggle was totally different and there were grave consequences as this spilled into the 7 June elections. And, on 7 June, I imparted my observations about everything from the Islamic State slaughters being conducted in Syria to the injustices being done in the country. The words I spoke were in fact what was being said in all quarters of this country from the highest to the lowest. In the end, the country was going through a different process at that time and attitudes were different. Everyone included in the HDP ranks was isolated in some way.
-How did you feel on first entering prison?
I entered prison feeling sure of myself, because there was a detention order out for me and I set out from Europe and came knowing that I would be detained. On first being apprehended, I was taken to the custody suite and, of course, the procedures undertaken there seemed a bit different. At that moment, there were sentences I said to myself to console myself. Constantly. “Pınar, your conscience is clear, your head is upright and you are beyond reproach.” I kept saying this to myself. I have always been the singer of the downtrodden, the poor and the workers. Politically, I have stood at the side of the downtrodden Kurdish people. I regret none of this. The moment I entered prison, going behind the iron bars, I mean, on being alone, I told myself, “Pınar, now we’re starting and we’re going to get through this ordeal with great strength.” Because human honour is more valuable than anything and this fight for honour of mine will not fall to the ground. Not in the cell, not in the prison and not on the street.
-Were you subjected to a strip search in prison?
Strip searches are actually a method that is applied to every detainee but this is a practice that revolutionary captives do not accept. And I did not accept this at Bakırköy. I was subsequently placed in the cell. I suddenly plunged into eight square metres. All of a sudden, I found myself in a setting where there were bugs and without hygiene. No meal was given on the first day. The first night went very badly. I stood up when I heard a noise at eleven in the evening, thinking something was happening and I waited with the mindset of one standing to attention.
-What did you miss most in prison?
I cannot think there is any feeling as valuable as freedom. I missed my kids the most. I greatly missed my comrades, friends and pals. And I greatly missed picking up my baglama and singing, and going onstage and singing my folk songs among the masses faced by the thousands. The letters that came to me from prisons, detainees and convicts provided me with immense support. I got books from our writers and intellectuals. Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ sent letters. I did not feel alone in any way. I thank CHP MPs Mahmut Tanal, Onursal Adıgüzel and Ali Şeker, former CHP Istanbul Metropolitan Municipal Assembly member Hüseyin Sağ and the CHP administration who came to visit me for standing by me. A massive injustice is taking place politically and it must be impeded. It is important to stand beside whoever has suffered injustice and unfairness.
No toleration even for flowers
-What was it that you said you would do first on being released?
You miss everything life-related. They even deem a bit of greenery too much. Even a tiny flower that appears from among the concrete falls foul of the warders’ intolerance and is pulled up. A person greatly misses the soil and all you have facing you is harsh solitary confinement, grey walls and concrete and bars. These are not places conducive to human life.
-Which was the event that affected you the most while in prison?
The unfairness suffered by the Soma workers’ families and those families’ lamentations upset me a lot. I was one of the first to go when the Soma mine murder took place. I saw both the funerals and the families’ distraught state. Then I felt really powerless at the time of the attacks the Saturday Mothers underwent. The inability to be there at their side dealt a very heavy blow.
-There was talk spoken about you such as, “She was held in an independent dormitory and not a cell.” What would you like to say about this?
An independent dormitory in no way accords with my principles. It is against my principles and world view and I will say most emphatically that I have a disposition and alignment. I am not a person who remains unaligned and impartial. I spent a full 105 days on my own in a cell. Journalist Ece Sevim Öztürk was in the cell next to me and on my other side was Board of Judges and Prosecutors Second Chair Nesibe Özer. In the cell after that was a transvestite friend of ours Esra Arıkan from the LGBT community. Release on parole became available if I served one-third of the sentence in a cell. I had previously been in exile in Europe for months. I was away from my children and put up with staying in a cell to get it over with all at once. I completed 105 days in the cell among the mice and bugs under the harshest of conditions, and then was able to get release on parole. A week in Eskişehir was a total nightmare. Staying there and seeing those people’s lives I truly felt like I had come out of a Nazi concentration camp on getting out.
The words on the bunk bed
-You said, “The words I wrote on my bunk bed connect me with life here.” What were those words?
I wrote on the of the head of the bunk bed, “No condition can take surrender of my will,” and I looked at my words when I got up every morning or when I felt very weak. There are people who have spent thirty years in prison. What makes us strong is believing that the human brain and will is stronger than everything. It was undoubtedly a very difficult and traumatic situation for me. I made a calendar on the wall like every convict. Cumhuriyet newspaper was my newspaper every day. I also got Birgün and Evrensel but most of the time I was told they were unavailable. Cumhuriyet came every day and was hung from the iron bars. The reason I put it there was so that every detainee going out to the courtyard could take it and read it. It was read from hand to hand.
-Were you able to pick up a baglama? Did you do concert preparation?
We are getting ready for a massive popular concert with Bakırköy Municipality. We will say, “Justice for everyone.” It will be soon, I think in October at the latest. I will sign up four days a week on parole release. There is no ban on me leaving the country and my foreign concerts will start. I have greatly missed singing folk songs.
-Are you saying let me flow into life rather than rest?
Life does not consent to waiting and I experienced the arduousness of being in solitary confinement as one who feels happy within crowds, but there is a bubbling, flowing life out there. I will pick up without halting precisely where I left off. I will rest when the blue days come. Now is not the day to rest, it is the day to stand beside those who are suffering injustice and oppression.
A life in the courtyard
-How did one of your days pass in prison?
I got up at half past six in the morning. My books were at my bedside and I read them. Then I got up and made breakfast. Three olives and a little cheese. I had my count at eight. They come to count me and see if I was in the cell. Then, about eleven was my time to go out into the courtyard. It was up to one and a half hours and I spent time in the courtyard with my other fellow political prisoners. I took walks. I made the cracks in the plaster on the courtyard floor seem like countries. All different countries. While walking, I said I am in that country, this county, that city, here. I let my imagination run riot there, because your fancies are your greatest strength.
I wrote folk songs, I composed music. I did not stay idle. For example, I wrote about cockroaches and bugs. I learnt there just how much cockroaches put it on. They play possum. You cannot tear yourself away from nature. It is not long before you are talking to them, like, “You’ve seen it, haven’t you? Look, this is what I feel and you have witnessed this.” I always had bleach in my hands and was disinfecting the cell and trying to keep it clean. Having got back from the courtyard, lunch was given at twelve and then the evening meal at about two thirty or three. I went to bed at about ten in the evening.
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