Six Kurdish female activists jailed in İzmir

In the run-up to the parliamentary and presidential elections, the repressive course against Kurdish structures in Turkey continues to intensify. Six activists of the Kurdish women's movement have been jailed in Izmir on terror charges.

As the parliamentary and presidential elections approach, the Turkish state is intensifying its repressive course against the democratic opposition. The Kurdish women's freedom movement, one of the most dynamic and organised forces in the country, is currently in particular focus. Six of its activists have been jailed in the western Turkish coastal metropolis of Izmir for alleged membership in a "terrorist organisation".

The people concerned are women who have been actively campaigning for a democratisation process in Turkey for years: Idil Uğurlu, a member of the Executive Council of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP); Behiye Yalçın, spokeswoman for the Izmir Peace Mothers Initiative; Berfin Çiçek of the HDP Youth Council; and Free Women's Movement (TJA) activists Hayat Izgi, Newroz Çelik and Selma Demir. They were detained in raids on Wednesday and taken to the Turkish Police's Counter Terrorism Department (TEM).

The reason for the action against the activists was not known at first, as a 24-hour ban on lawyers was ordered. In addition, the investigation file was placed under secrecy. The reasoning behind the order was that “personal contact between the suspects and legal persons, as well as the authorisation to examine the contents of the file or make copies of the documents" could jeopardise the purpose of the investigation. Berfin Çiçek was transferred to court on Thursday evening and hastily arrested.

The specific charges against the women were finally named during the judicial hearing on Friday. According to the prosecution, they are suspected of "membership" in the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). It was stated that corresponding information had been obtained in the course of TEM investigations regarding the participation of the activists in TJA events as well as on the basis of "statements" of alleged witnesses. Further details on the events "incriminated" were not given, with the public prosecutor's office only stating that they were actions in 2020. In that year, the TJA carried out the campaign "Em xwe diparêzin" (We defend ourselves) against sexual assault, violence and all forms of oppressive policies against women.

Meanwhile, the arrested women were transferred to the Şakran Women's Closed Prison in Aliğa in Izmir. Kurdish student Barış Kırmızıtaş, who was arrested at the same time as the activists two days ago, was released after police interrogation. According to the lawyers, it is not yet clear if and when charges will be brought against the accused.

The TJA (Tevgera Jinên Azad) was founded at the end of 2016. Previously, its predecessor organization, Congress of Free Women (Kongreya Jinên Azad) was banned by emergency decree. The TJA operates as a registered association and is legal. Nevertheless, the movement is treated by Turkish law enforcement agencies and the judiciary as a "PKK structure" and criminalised accordingly.