“I left my house on the night of September 16, 2016. Since then, I have been on the run,” a Turkish teacher who has been a victim of an ongoing purge in Turkey, told Bold newsportal in an exclusive interview on March 8, 2019.
According to the Bold interview, the teacher identified as R.F., was initially fired from his job with a decree issued by the Turkish government in September 2016. A Turkish court then issued an arrest warran for the victim over her alleged links to Turkey’s Gulen group, which is accused of materminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
R.F. is only one of the tens of thousands of schoolteachers who have been purged or jailed due to “terrorist” links or coup charges in Turkey since 2016. Over 150,000 people have been sacked from their jobs for alleged links to the abortive putsch.
What follows is the full text of the written interview with the purge-victim teacher:
I want to speak to teachers from all over the world, in Europe, in America, in Africa, to both teachers and parents like me, to everyone, from whatever field. Please hear me!
I am a teacher and mother who has been persecuted in Turkey for nearly three years. I’ve always put my teacher qualification forward because I always looked at my students as the LIABILITY of God and their parents, and I spent more time with them than my own children. I never regret doing that.
Now, after the ridiculous coup farce that took place on July 15 in Turkey, I was unrightfully declared a terrorist as an organization member whose name I never even mentioned. First, my job was taken away, then my motherhood.
I was suspended in July 2016. I wanted to be taken into custody because of my husband, but my young son was crying and having a nervous breakdown, so the cops gave a night’s respite for my husband to come.
I had to leave my house with my three kids and a suitcase that night. On September 1, 2016, I was suspended by KHK (decree-law). I have been issued an arrest warrant. I’ve been living an illegal life since that day, separated from both my children and home.
In the meantime, albeit all the risks, I try to follow what’s going on in the world, the victimization in Turkey, and the atrocities that have come from this stage of genocide. I want to know whether people living in law and freedom in the fair countries of the contemporary world know about us.
Fighting to spread awareness to people who are currently being persecuted like us in other parts of the world gives me hope, a reason to struggle for life. But I regret to see that the leaders of the countries we call ” democratic legal states” in the world, those which we set our hopes on, remain silent at some point. The leaders, politicians, and members of the ECtHR (European Court of Human Rights) of the Americas and European countries remain silent in some place. What I understand from social media is that the reasons behind remaining silence are the country’s interests, refugee agreements, etc. I’m not a politician, I don’t know. I don’t know if the leaders of the countries might be right because they prioritize the peace of their nation’s people.
But as a teacher, a mother, and as a human being, I cannot accept this situation. When people who were persecuted in Syria started to flee their country, I was a teacher in a district of Gaziantep.
I was working in a building, where the refugees were first settled. I was praying daily for those people, buying chocolates and toys for their children, as well as trying to converse and crying with them. Unfortunately, the political will that ruled my country declared me and a lot of people like me terrorists in one night and imprisoned them in prison for their own benefit. People left casually to the point of starvation. Our passports were confiscated so we wouldn’t go to other countries. The people we know with a passport were detained at the airports or prevented from leaving the country. Now I want to address my colleagues and mothers in all European countries and the USA, not to the politicians.
WE’VE BEEN LIVING IN A ROOM FOR THREE YEARS
I’ve been living in a room for more than three years with my husband. In three years, we moved to 17 places. We can’t go outside of the room; a couple of people try to meet our needs. They can’t always be with us for fear of being followed or caught. When it’s absolutely necessary, they come to us and bring our needs. Moreover, we can’t see our children whenever we want to. Every two or three months, we are granted to see our children for a day or even a few hours.
We’re tired of not being with our children all the time, not being able to live as free as other humans, asking even for most intimate needs as a woman from another, and waiting for someone to bring something to eat for us.
I’m so tired of waiting to reach our freedom and our children. I’m a human, a mother, a woman. I don’t think I deserve all of this.
I’M VERY TIRED, I GUESS IT’S THE END OF THE ROAD
Why? Because I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted of escaping, living in a room, being away from my kids and not being able to see them, lacking money, asking for money to borrow, making things in that room and begging people to buy them, witnessing betrayal from people closest to me, people who find any excuse to abandon us whenever we ask for favors, getting “advises” like ‘endure your punishment then go back next to your kids’. I’m exhausted, not only psychologically but also physically. I’m diabetic. I have severe Restless Leg Syndrome; I’m on Parkinson’s with a prescription. I have reflux and two wounds in my stomach which are not treated because I cannot go to the doctor. On top of that, I’ve now developed eye problems and woman’s disease caused by my crying and diabetes. I have bleeding and pain that hasn’t been sustained for nearly three months. Due to anemia, I’m very sluggish and can’t move anymore. I’ve used many recommended medicines, but I haven’t been able to get any results. As I mentioned before, I’m living an “absence” life; I cannot go to the hospital. We’ve been looking for a gynecologist who has a private practice place, but we couldn’t find it.
Finally, yesterday, one of our friends found a doctor and scheduled an appointment for me. Yes, this is great right? We were so glad to hear that, but this happiness didn’t last long. Why? I think it’s a test, destiny. The doctor wants to charge us a 200 TL examination fee and also requires an ID. Yes, here’s the problem: I only have 25 TL and I cannot use my ID since I have been issued an arrest warrant.
At first, we neither had any serious illnesses nor complained about the food; we always found a way to manage all that. The only thing we wanted was a few close friends who asked after us, people we can talk with. We’ve always been on the look for friends who would help us be spiritually strong and who’d not disrupt our mental health. Someone we can advise with each other and pour out our grief to each other. To say we’re not alone in this, we have brothers/sisters even though we don’t know each other, to know that they’re with us.
SUMMARY OF MY SITUATION
Frankly, I’m ashamed to even write this down, but I just want to keep a written record of what I’ve been through for the future. Here’s the summary of my situation:
I’ve been separated from my kids for two and a half years. They are trying to handle themselves all alone. I cry after asking for money from others to give it to my kids for their needs.
My father had colon cancer; he passed away. I couldn’t be with him while he was sick, and I couldn’t join his funeral. I just ran away and hid on my own. (I can’t even face my problems, why should others face it for me?)
Me and my children were unhoused by my father-in-law during the middle of the night. My mother, although we begged for my safety, just left her cell phone to me and left saying these words “I don’t need a daughter”.
My children got sick and I couldn’t be there for them, as a mother.
Yes, we experienced a lot of perfidies and trouble; there were times we tried to say that we grew used to this, hat this was easy to face, alas our bodies reminded us that none of them are easy to face. I’ve had two very severe heart spasms in this process. I lost my ability to talk twice because of my diabetes. I’ve had nervous breakdowns several times, but even when I was alone I still had hope.
Police raided one of the places we used to stay, and we had to change our location. We asked a place to stay from our friends, but no one wanted to let us stay with them.
I had a toothache for months, tried to get through it with painkillers, but they eventually broke my teeth. We rasped the sharp edges of my broken teeth with a nail clipper rasper, and we put cotton pads into my mouth while I was eating. We even tried to shoot it with pliers but didn’t ask to see a doctor. We were afraid that they wouldn’t let us.
LIFE GAVE ME TWO PATHS
I’m done. Exhausted. Life has given me two paths. One of them is to surrender, to go to jail. My arrest warrant file is in a city located in Southeast of Turkey, which means 14-15 hours away from my kids. My husband will be sent to a city in the Black Sea which is almost 13 hours away from our kids. If we go to jail, how they will visit us? Do we have the right to leave them in such a difficult situation? There is a possibility, a trap, like “apologizing as an admission of guilt”. I can’t just say that I regret what I did, which in this case none of us did anything bad, and wait for them to forgive me. Also, this is not what they all want me to say; they expect me to give others name from this movement so they can arrest them too. I cannot do this to myself, to anyone else. So, this path is undesirable. May God sway us away from this path.
And the other path is to wait until the process is over and live as an illegal person and live with the fear of being caught while also waiting through my imminent death or the loss of my ability to see, the possibility of going insane, of suicide. Of course, there is a judgment in the hereafter, but perhaps my Lord will forgive. His loyalty is endless. He’s merciful!
NOT BEING ABLE TO DO SOMETHING
It hurts me a lot not being able to do anything, living like a prisoner in a room. I’ve lost a lot of my humanity now. I think I’ve wished to die many times. Maybe if my religion hadn’t banned suicide, I’d have already chosen to commit suicide rather than live in such a frenzy. But it wouldn’t be my right to take the life that my Lord gave me. As a human being, I am trying to make my voice heard and survive with the hope of relying on your help. I believe that one day God’s help will come; people who believe in real justice and freedom will come out and hear the voices of those who are persecuted. I believe it with all my heart. Because being human means being happy when everyone else is. If we ignore the people who are not happy and free, the people who are oppressed and are insensitive, we will pay for it eventually. Avoid this for you and your children. Come and hear our voices. Let’s all stand together for the wrongdoers. Let’s not let our children remain without parents. Let’s not let babies, pregnant mothers go to jail. Let’s not allow mothers without children, teachers without students. Let’s let people be free. Perhaps it can be lived without bread, but it is impossible to live without freedom. Please help us get our freedom and humanity back; be our voices.