‘My heart not my body was in agony’

Veli Saçılık’s mother Kezban Saçılık, who was dragged along the ground, describes her ordeal.

26 Mayıs 2017 Cuma, 16:59
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Ozan Çepni
The passage of seventeen years has brought renewed conflict with the state over her son for Kezban Saçılık, who came to Ankara from her home village in Çorum to support her son Veli Saçılık, who had joined academic Nuriye Gülmen and teacher Semih Özakça in Yüksel Street to call for his job to be given back to him. The footage taken of her being dragged along the ground in front of the Human Rights Statue has earned a special place in people’s memories for Kezban Saçılık, mother of sociologist Veli Saçılık, who had his arm torn off in a blow from the scoop of a bulldozer during the ‘Return to Life’ operation staged on 5 July 2000 at Burdur Prison and who was expelled from his post under a decree with the force of law within the state of emergency.
Saçılık, recounting how she was dragged along the ground, said she wanted to prevent the harsh intervention being made against her son and said, ‘The police told me to move back. One of them kicked me in the head. One of them swore. He said unspeakable things. I tried hard but they kicked me on the head, with their feet, on my back and head. They were dragging and hitting at the same time.’ Mother Saçılık, protesting by exclaiming, ‘You have got him by the arm, what else are you going to grab him by?’ while her son Veli Saçılık was being arrested, said, ‘Then I carried on doing my best for my Veli. Saying, “Leave my Veli. Leave my Veli.” With them undressing my son this was more than I could take. I ran to the side of the car. I ran to those steps. They were hitting my Veli and Semih’s mother and putting them in the car. You know, heaven is at mother’s feet and we ended up under policemen’s feet. They gave Semih’s mother very rough treatment.’
‘They were writhing around like birds’
Saçılık, describing how the police sprayed gas into the arrest car and closed the door and she wanted to save her son, said, ‘They put them in the car and sprayed gas inside. Then they shut the door. They were writhing around like birds inside. I was hitting with my hand so as to break the window and let them get some air. I hit and hit. I could not open it or break it. I don’t know what the plain-clothes policeman there hit me in the neck with, but my bones took some punishment. They still carried on swearing.’
‘If he was in the wrong, I wouldn’t have come’
Saçılık said about the support she was giving her son, ‘Of course my son is in the right. I support my son. Anyhow, if my son was in the wrong, if he showed up there as a civil servant without having been deprived of his livelihood, I wouldn’t have come. But, in this situation, I am behind my son all the way. We don’t want anything from the state. We just want the few crumbs they have taken from us.’
Saçılık, explaining that she was very upset at Gülmen and Özakça being detained, commented, ‘The state is abandoning these kids to their deaths. None less than Semih and Nuriye. Detaining people in that state is to kill them. Their deaths will be terrible. Their souls are our souls. They have been the same for years. What are we? Are we murderers or what? For me as a mother, it makes no difference if it is Veli or Semih and Nuriye. I feel the same pain for all of them and they are part of me.’
‘I’ll be back’
Saçılık, indicating that she will always support her son’s justified fight, said, ‘They say go home and sit down. If the rent for the house is paid, and there is money for the electricity and gas, my son also has a child, so how can I sit at home. Let them kill us. I’ll be back soon. We are not terrorists. What business do I have with such things? What business does Veli have with such things? They say go home and sit. This kid is forbidden to go to work and has no livelihood. They have taken his passport from him so he can’t go abroad. What can we do? I will not sit. I’ll be back. I’ll come all the time.’
‘I have never forgotten that my skirt was green’
Kezban Saçılık, who also set out on the road for her son at the time of the ‘Return to Life’ operation targeting inmates of Burdur Prison in 2000, says she has not forgotten what took place there and describes the time she learnt that her son’s arm had been torn off: ‘Then the lawyer came out of the jail, this is my nightmare, I have dreamt of it every day. He said, “Veli Saçılık has had his arm torn off. He is seriously injured.” We were beaten up and my son-in-law who was with me was also arrested. They banged my head against the iron gate in front of the prison. I went to Isparta on my own. I ended up on my own. The skirt I was wearing had fallen off. I had no handbag or money. Because of my child, I felt nothing even when the rapid reaction force sprayed water. But I was injured all over and was bleeding. Everyone felt sorry for me but I felt no pain anywhere. I felt no pain at all because my heart was in agony. My heart was hurting more than my own pain.’
Saçılık said with reference to those days, ‘I got to Isparta. I got into a shared taxi but I had no money. I got there and spent the night on my own in a park. In the morning, a visit was to be made to the public prosecutor and I went. The prosecutor waved me away without looking at me. My husband came, too. He said, “One of you go in and one of you stay.” I banged my hands on the desk and said, “I am his mother and this is his father. Which one of us is to stay?” He said, “Go outside” and I tipped over the desk. I do not know how I was taken outside.’
The story of that skirt
Saçılık, whose skirt was torn off in the course of the violence she suffered in front of the prison she went to seventeen years ago and who has never worn a skirt again, said, ‘They sprayed water in front of the prison and my skirt was torn off there. From that day until today I have worn trousers and I have worn pyjamas, but I have never worn a skirt. Sometimes when passing in front of shops the fancy occasionally takes me. I have never forgotten that my skirt was green and it stayed there. I had actually got the money to get there from one of my fellow townspeople from Malatya. I had no money to get back, anyhow. If I had had money, I would have got myself a skirt there. I did not even have money to get that.’