“Please know that we love you, think of you, and do our best to make sure the world knows you. You are not alone. Don’t let darkness steal away all light from you. I pray and hope that your light overcomes,” said a letter penned by Marina Nemat, a Canadian rights activist, writer and the chair of the Oslo-based Vigdis Freedom Foundation (VFF).
The letter written by Nemat to Turkish journalist Ayşenur Parıldak, who was sentenced in November 2017 to 7 years, 6 months in prison on charges of membership to a terrorist organization, was released by the VFF on June 15, 2018.
VFF is a “woman-to-woman solidarity” group that promises “legal support and counsel to women human rights defenders who have been wrongfully accused and imprisoned and are therefore prisoners of conscience.”
The Oslo-based VFF also awarded Parildak with its inaugural Shahnoush courage award in September 2017.
Parıldak, also a law student at Ankara University’s faculty of law, was detained while taking exams on Aug. 11, 2016. She was released by the court on May 2, 2017 but was later rearrested by the same court before being freed since a prosecutor objected to the initial ruling. During her trial, she told judges that she had thought of committing suicide several times while in prison. Behind bars since last year, Parıldak faces 15 years in jail under Turkey’s broad anti-terror laws based on her tweets and alleged use of the ByLock mobile app. Turkish authorities believe ByLock indicates links to the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding the abortive coup last year. The movement denies all involvement.
What follows is the full text of Nemat’s letter:
Dear Aysenur Parildak:
You don’t know me, but I’ve heard a lot about you. My name is Marina Nemat. I live in Canada now, but I was born in Iran in 1965 and spent 2 years, 2 months, and 12 days as a political prisoner when I was a high school student. I now teach at University of Toronto and work with a few human rights organizations. One of them is the Vigdis Freedom Foundation that gave you the Shahnoush Award last year, in 2017. This award is named after a friend of mine who was executed in Evin prison in Tehran in 1981. But I survived, and so did many of my cellmates. Now, we live all over the world and work to make sure that the world knows the terrible things that happened and are still happening in prisons in Iran and other countries.
I want you to know that you are not forgotten. When I was in prison, it felt like the world had forgotten my friends and me, and this thought sometimes made us lose hope. People ask me how I survived Evin. I tell them that I survived because of my friends who gave me hope; they made sure that I knew I was loved, despite all the darkness and evil in the world.
Please know that we love you, think of you, and do our best to make sure the world knows you. You are not alone. Don’t let darkness steal away all light from you. I pray and hope that your light overcomes. Take care of yourself.
Board Member, Vigdis Freedom Foundation