Makbule Özer to go back to prison

Makbule Özer has to go back to prison on Monday. The 81-year-old Kurdish woman from Van was convicted by a Turkish court without evidence of “supporting terrorism”. She is on a wheelchair and cannot look after herself.

Makbule Özer is scheduled to begin the remaining part of her sentence in a Turkish prison on Monday. The 81-year-old Kurdish woman from Van-Edremit (Wan-Ertemêtan) was arrested last year along with her husband Hadi Özer for “supporting terrorism”. The couple was sentenced to over two years in prison. In the case of Makbule Özer, the sentence was suspended for one year due to her poor health. She was released in September 2022 after four months in prison.

Now the Institute of Forensic Medicine (ATK) has issued a certificate of fitness to custody. The institute said that Makbule Özer was brought in for evaluation in a wheelchair and suffers from asthma, shortness of breath, limited mobility and reduced vision. Nevertheless, the ATK supported her detention in a “Type R” penitentiary. The abbreviation stands for “rehabilitation”. Her health status should be checked again after three months.

Makbule Özer explained to ANF that during her detention last year she was constantly sick and had to be taken to the hospital again and again. “I can no longer walk, but I will be taken back to prison. I cannot use my hands and feet and have many illnesses. Because it's so difficult for me to breathe, I'm sometimes put on an oxygen machine. When I was in prison, the other women took care of me. Without these friends I wouldn’t have been able to survive there.”

There is no justice for Kurds in Turkey, Makbule Özer said, adding: “We Kurds are oppressed. In the hospital I saw people who were much worse off than me. They were taken back to prison on a stretcher. There are so many ill and old people in prison. They must all be released. Innocent people are arrested and given many years of punishment. Thieves and murderers will be taken out of prison, but we Kurds will be punished. There is no justice for us. I'm not just thinking about myself. In prison I'll be a burden to my friends again. You did everything for me. If I go back to prison next week, I might not get out alive.”

Why were Makbule and Hadi Özer arrested?

On 23 July 2018, Turkish police anti-terror units stormed the house of Makbule and Hadi Özer in Edremit. Seventeen people were there at the time, including four minors. The elderly couple, three family members and an acquaintance were terrorized, insulted, beaten and threatened by the officers for around three hours.

They were then arrested and interrogated in police custody for two days. The transfer to the responsible public prosecutor's office took place on 26 July. Şükran Yıldız, who was visiting the Özers on the day of the raid, was arrested for alleged PKK membership. Makbule, Hadi, Medeni, Übeydullah and Emrullah Özer were released.

The background to the raid was an incident that occurred a good week earlier in the Rêya Armûşê (Ipekyolu) district, 45 kilometers northeast. On the night of 15 July 2018, special paramilitary units of the Turkish police carried out an operation in a house on Yalım Erez Street. Two YPS (Civil Defense Units) members had barricaded themselves there. Only later did it become known that they were Metin Ünalmış (Numan Serhat) and Bilal Şimşek (Serhıldan Ararat). Both fighters initially fought a battle with the operational units. The YPS named two dead and six injured police officers, the Turkish governor only spoke of three wounded officers. Only the two people “who prepared an illegal action” are dead.

Human rights organizations had expressed the suspicion that Metin Ünalmış and Bilal Şimşek may have been victims of extrajudicial executions when their ammunition ran out. Several arrests were made that same night.