Jailed Turkish journalist Büşra Erdal: Thanks God, birds not forbidden to visit me

Jailed Turkish journalist and writer Hanım Büşra Erdal has said in a letter sent from her prison ward in İstanbul that she has been waiting for the day of justice. Reflecting her longing for flowers on her cell Erdal wrote that she has glued the leaves blown to the aeration by the wind to and the photos of the flowers cut from the newspaper pages.

Erdal, an author, lawyer and journalist who made a career and a name for herself from years of working as a court reporter who chased high-profile legal cases, was accused of being member of terror organization and coup plotter due to her news and tweets. Erdal, who was demanded for aggravated life sentence and 10 years imprisonment, sent a letter from the prison.

36 year-old Hanım Büşra Erdal, a prominent journalist, has been locked up behind bars in Turkey for 15 months over trump-up charges of terror based over her social media postings on Twitters, comments and books she owned. This bright and intellectual journalist has been languishing in İstanbul’s Bakırköy Women’s Prison with no glimmer of hope that she would be get out any time soon.

Hanım Büşra Erdal said in her letter that she was being consoled by her books, she talked to Zweig, she liked Zola who took her to Paris in the 1800s and invited him to drink coffee in 2000s of Paris.

Explaining that she expects the scale of justice to work with a small conscience, she underlined the fact that the release decision of the court has been ignored in the 8th month of her imprisonment and she was handcuffed in the prison and exposed to strip searched in the police headquarter.

Büşra Erdal’s letters full text is as follow:

A letter from an ‘other journalist’ under detention

I write this letter as a figure from Bakırköy Closed Women’s Prison. I am one of the laborers categorized as ‘and the others’ among the 170-180 arrested journalists. Today, while being imprisoned for 15 months, I’m not trying to prove my journalism in the case of a troll named ‘Fuat Avni’ that I have no connection at all. The indictment already proves this. I am just waiting for the scale of justice to work with a small conscience.

July 25, 2016, on the day of the decision of detention on the pretext of ‘helping the terror organization, so-called FETO [a derogatory term coined by the ruling AKP and Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement], I phoned the police and surrendered in front of my relatives in my parent’s home.

In spite of this fact in the official documents, I came to know the fabricated news that ‘got caught with make-up and no scarf on the head’ when the magistrate asked me. This news was written and published by the media outlets where my journalist friends, who went on pilgrimage to Mecca with me together, were the directors of these media outlets. The ones, who used my old photo without scarf, knew that very well that after making pilgrimage in 2011, I decided to cover my head. It’s really a pity…

In the indictment completed in January 2017, my college that I went to 20 years ago, my tweets and articles were shown as criminal evidence. After 8 months of detention, the release decision was given under the condition of judicial probation at the end of the hearing that I could defend myself for the first time. But I was not released. While waiting for a long time to be released, I was taken into custody in the prison and after being handcuffed I was taken to the police headquarter. I was exposed to strip searched in there and arrested again.

I am writing on a table in my cell where I have been imprisoned for months (I don’t know how many hundreds of days passed) and decorated the walls with the flowers I cut from the newspapers such as Hortensia, Geranium, Petunia etc…  and photos of Miray (her 4-year-old niece) and leaves blown to the aeration by storm.

This is my biggest luxury in prison. As a detainee, who detained under the state of emergency (OHAL), you have to open new ways in your own as the ways of communicating with the outside are closed.

My companions in these ways going to myself are books. We often talk to Zweig, for example. He talks about his homeland Europe, I talk about my country Turkey. Zola takes me to Paris in the 1800s, I invite him to drink a cup of coffee in 2000’s Paris. I wander around with Bukowski in the streets of Los Angeles and finally I hang out with Atılgan and touring İstanbul. Idly. After all, I have too much time!

Fortunately, books do not discriminate, do not marginalize like human beings. It is a kind of ointment for the suffering of the times being lost from my life. There are also pigeons. They eat their food in front of the windows facing the ventilation and accompany my morning and evening walks. And thank goodness, birds are not forbidden to visit me in OHAL!

Somehow time passes in jail for better or worse. Apart from the OHAL restrictions (which is too much), I have coffee, milk and green apples. I’m not too short to survive, except for justice in my life. There is no need to say that my longing for my family. My grandmother, 86 years old, who could stand with a cane, said that ‘perhaps I won’t be able to live long to see her again’  and came from Manisa province to visit me on the open visit after 13 months of my imprisonment. I used to sleep with my grandmother when I was a child. When I arrived in Manisa from İzmir on weekends, I used to inform my grandmother by whistling to tell her I was back as I was passing by her house. Now only for 1-2 weeks, after 15 months she has been waiting for me to return.

The radio is forbidden to us. I recently heard the Memuş Baba’s song ‘Whistle if you come back’ from the common broadcasting of the prison, like a miracle. I loved it a lot. Now everything is up to a whistle to see my family’s happiness. I mean, the imprisonment is not like that after a few months of imprisonment, the ones who share their stories as if they get the first position of a beauty contest and give messages, not similar at all.

My consideration is that my sister, who leaves her small child and shuttles between Manisa and İstanbul for 15 months; my mother, who always sheds tears; my father, who is unable to sleep after seeing me demoralized in the open visit. I’m not bad, but over time, your cheerfulness or the sparkle in your eyes disappears in jail. You get a solid bitterness inside of you. And who comes to visit you, they notice it unfortunately.

I will be on the court for the 5th time on December 4th. And as Büşra Erdal, I want eviction, justice. My friends who supported me, I have no work, I’ll come back. I only have my family. For all of them…

Stay with love, not hostility and hatred. See you later.

Hanım Büşra Erdal

Bakırköy Closed Women’s Prison

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 257 journalists and media workers are in jails as of December 4, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 231 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

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