COMMENTARY — What did you want from Ayşenur?

Journalist Ayşenur Parıldak.

By Arzu Yıldız

“Ayşenur was a person who could not even tell a simple lie on the phone, and I did like her this way very much.”

Ayşenur was a student of law faculty and got arrested in witch hunting following the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey. She was detained during the exam she entered in order to pass her last course at the faculty of law on Aug. 4, 2016. The reason for her detention was just an anonymous phone call which was reporting that Ayşenur, as a student, was followed by Fuatavni, a Twitter phenomen, on Twitter. This was enough for police to take Ayşenur into custody. May be she had never even thought that this is how she would be leaving her school of dream.

When Ayşenur was studying at the law faculty, she noticed that she wanted to be a journalist and therefore she came to the newspaper Taraf where I have been working for five years. She was insisting to be an intern at Taraf daily. She was so sympathetic and talkative it was impossible to reject her. Finally she got accepted. Later, because of her background in law she was sent together with me to the court house. She was going to be intern under my supervision there.

We went to the court house together. My working conditions were very tense. In the meantime, I was asking Ayşenur to go to different departments to get various dossiers and to ask prosecutors whether there were any developments with different files. She never objected. She was waiting for me until midnight. I was running too much on requests and simultaneously was making her work a lot. And she was never complaining but instead was saying, “I did not know you worked like that. I am learning a lot from you.” She was a very young girl at her 20s. I did not even see her being disrespectful to anyone else. As the time went on, we started to get to know each other very well.

At that time, there were some news reports on a heritage struggle of late political Islamist Necmeddin Erbakan’s children. Erbakan’s daughter Zeynep Erbakan sued her brother for heritage. Everyone was trying to reach her. I tried my chance a few times, but failed since she did not want to meet journalists. We went to the Ankara Bureau of Taraf daily. I thought it might be a good way to reach Zeynep Erbakan. I got an idea and called Ayşenur. I had spoken to Zeynep Erbakan a lot on the phone, therefore they were recognizing my voice quite well. Now I wanted Ayşenur to talk for me. Even if the answer was rebuffing, it was important to us and we could use it in the news.

I told Ayşenur to call to the number as an offical from the Konya Kulu and say that we have a woman activity here and we want to invite Mrs. Erbakan to our event as a speaker. I wanted Ayşenur talk to her. She looked at me and said, “Arzu Abla, I can’t lie.”

And I told we had to reach to her. Don’t talk too much and call her. She took the phone in fear and was looking to my eyes. She was perplexed. She transferred to the other side what I had told her. Then she turned to me saying, “They want a number.” “Give them your handy” “How come?” she answered and gave her number. After hanging up the phone she said, “Arzu Abla you made me lie. I have never thought to reach to someone this way,” she said. Ayşenur was a person who could not tell a simple lie on the phone. And I really liked it very much.

Ayşenur wanted to be a journalist. She did not want to be a regular journalist either. She was dreaming to be a great journalist. Her colleagues were concentrating only on their lectures and seminars at school though she was sacrificing her time of sleep and was taking both school and journalism together quite well.

Once she came to me saying that she is changing Taraf to Zaman since the Zaman newspaper was providing her both with insurance and with a monthly salary. It was saddening. Ayşenur was not only hardworking and honest, but also a young, loving, cheerful and very intelligent person. When we chatted, it made us feel that she was aware of many subjects such as cinema, history, literature. She loved people for being human. The little girl was drawing her own way now.

When she started working at the Zaman newspaper, she automatically fell into a very active period of Turkey. We were following the corruption operations that were associated with the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his relatives, and members of the ruling AKP. We were not working at the same newspaper with Ayşenur anymore but we were still side by side with each other at the court house. We were working together, we were following the events together.

Whenever we were together, she kept acting like an intern. She was still keeping asking questions to learn. At that time many injustices were being done to people. Ayşenur could not stand how the pregnant women were being taken into custody. Sometimes she was overly sensitive, even under the pressure of the developments she was drowning in tears.

From time to time she started coming to my place for a chat. Now we were more than two colleagues, we had become two close friends. When she knocked at the door, she was going into the apartment, was putting her coat off and saying, “Could you please make some tea. And some fried potato too. She was behaving like she is in her own house. We were doing some critic together at the table at the same time. We were also talking about our private life. Whenever there were some negative news about me, she was all of a sudden appearing at my door for support. Whenever someone was saying something negative about me, whether it is the newspaper she was working at, whether that person was the manager or just the writer she was standing by me. I witnessed how much she was sad when something unfair was happening to me. She was next to me at all occasions. She was even next to me when I gave birth to my second daughter. She was regularly saying how much she loved me. I loved her too, but I could not as open as she was.

Ayşenur was against marriage. She did not even find it right. She said people should not get married right away. We did not have any secrets between us.  I was very surprised that the day when I heard that Ayşenur got married. She was opposing, but simultanously she did it. She was just married yet she had started experiencing serious problems. Once she called me for breakfast, until then I did not know the situation either. We sat in a place at Ankara’s Balgat and started having breakfast. She then told me that she was unhappy. She was crying. I did not know what to say. She was still young. She was not even 26 years old. I said to think in a comprehensive way. She was always trying to solve the problems and tried each way even attended the family therapist. She could not easily let go people, even if they were disappointing her.

Then she left her husband in 2016. But the break-up affected her quite much. It was like a painful ending of her early started adventure. Once she came to me again. We made together a table, we had tea together. That day she wept until the next day. Before being taken into custody, she shared a last photo on instagram, from the house where she lived with her husband. Like it’s time to go. I think that photo was the beginning of the events that caused her being reported and arrested. Ayşenur had no status, no connection to anyone else that might necessitate her escape. There was no need for her to be the target. She was a student and wanted to be a journalist.

On July 17, 2016, police officers came to my house to detain me because I wrote “torture is a crime against humanity.” However, I was not at home, and Ayşenur was among the first who called me. Despite the fact that I did not ask for it, she went to the judiciary and tried to find out the reason of why they did something like that to me. When she called me, she said, “Your baby is just five or six months old, why are they dealing with you, I’ve gone to the courthouse but could not find anyone else to talk to. It was crowded. But I will go again, and I am so sorry.”

Ayşenur was sorry because she was a real friend. Later, I decided not to give up. I could not leave my little baby. Some time left. On Aug. 4, I saw a Twitter post by journalist Ahmet Dönmez saying, “What did you want from Ayşenur?” I was surprised. I looked at the photo. Police was taking Ayşenur from the school yard. The entire day I cried looking at that picture. Ahmet was questioning right, “What did you want from Ayşenur?”

I could not leave the child from my lap, but Ayşenur was not different from my little one. My mind has always been with her. I thought that they would leave her because Ayşenur was a student and wanted to become a journalist. Ayşenur had not any purpose more than that. Ayşenur is the youngest journalist who pays a price in Turkey. She has been under unfair arrest for months. The judges of the trial in which she was judged noticed it and released her. However, the pressure continued and the court arrested Ayşenur again the same night before leaving the prison.

This is what Ayşenur said during the trial on May 2, 2016: “The prosecutor insists the continuation of [my] arrest, but he recounted on a ByLock in reasonings, but nothing like that was anywhere in the file. It has been already 9 months I am under arrest. I am 27 years old. I could not graduate from university, Mr. Judge. I really talk to you every night in my dreams. My lawyers told me not to cry. But I turn to you and cry because I talk to you even every night in my dreams. I have not been able to do anything for 9 months, you know, if you have kids, what a person might do in 9 months, but I could not do anything.

I have just recently divorced before being taken into custody. You know what a trauma it is. How a woman is suffering after a divorce. Dear delegation, I really expect justice from you. I hope for justice. But first I want to believe in justice. I want to believe that the decision will be fair. But I can not stand anymore. If April was 31 days I would not be able to stand.

I do not know how many times I’ve tied myself to a laundry string but then untied it again. I leave the decision to your conscience, Mr Judge. ”

Now I ask as much as anyone with a conscience: What did you want from Ayşenur?

May 30, 2017

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