Amargi Women’s Solidarity Cooperative is calling all women, lesbian – feminist associations, and human rights groups and networks to stand by Pinar Selek in this critical moment.
Feminist, sociologist, anti-militarist peace activist, writer and founding member of Amargi Women’s Solidarity Cooperative, Pınar Selek is facing penal life imprisonment for a third time.
According to Helene Fautre, vice president of the European-Turkish Group at the European parliament: “The fact that the trial is still going on after 12 years and two acquittals contravenes human rights”
Selek is accused of belonging to the outlawed PKK, the Kurdish separatist organization, and laying a bomb in their name in Istanbul’s busy spice bazaar in 1998, killing seven people and injuring over one hundred more. She denies the charges against her and claims she is being politically persecuted because of what she has written.
When Selek was arrested two days after the blast, she was working on a potentially controversial book about the Kurdish movement, explaining they had chosen a path of violence in their struggle for independence. At the time, the PKK was waging war against Turkey and the authorities were determined to capture their leader Abdullah Öcalan.
Selek had been speaking to people in the PKK as part of her research and she said: “They arrested me and took all my documents. They started asking me questions about the people I’d been speaking to. I never wrote their names down.”
She was heavily tortured because of her refusal to give the names of the people she interviewed. She recalled: “They passed electroshocks through my brain, they dislocated my shoulder – lots of things. I just told myself, just resist for two minutes, two minutes, two more minutes. That’s how it happened, two minutes at a time.” It was only after a month of police interrogation that Selek discovered she was being accused of bombing the spice bazaar.
In the meantime, Pinar Selek spent two and a half years in custody, even though several more experts said that the blast could not have been caused by a bomb, and pointed to faulty gas pipes instead. In 2008, the Istanbul Criminal Court finally ruled that Selek was not guilty.
In 2009, the Criminal Office No. 9 of the Turkish Supreme Court decided to reverse the acquittal and demanded Pınar Selek be judged with a claim of 36 years of heavy imprisonment. Then in February 2010, the Supreme Court ordered the Criminal Court to retry the case, claiming she was a leading member of the outlawed PKK. The case was sent back to the Istanbul 12th High Criminal Court to revise its original decision of acquittal.
Fearing a jail sentence, Selek left Turkey and took up offers of financial support from charity organizations in Germany, including the German P.E.N. – an association for poets, essayists and novelists. The Writers in Exile scheme, which is funded by the German government, has been sponsoring Selek since last year, providing her with a rent-free flat and health insurance.
This is not the only case of political biases in Turkish judiciary system. According to Cem Sey, who writes for the liberal newspaper Taraf, the Turkish judiciary often cracks down on artists and writers who tackle taboo subjects like Kurdish rights and the Armenian genocide.
Selek’s case has already turned into a symbol for the struggle against discrimination and oppression. She is very well known in Turkey and abroad for her focus on different marginalized groups, with books on violence against transgender women in Istanbul, the history of peace struggles in Turkey and the construction of masculinity through military service experiences. This last book Sürüne Sürüne Erkek Olmak (Leading a Dog’s Life: Masculinity) was published in Germany under the title, Zum Mann gehätschelt. Zum Mann gedrillt.
Pınar Selek will be tried once again, on 9th of Fe