War Resisters' International condemns persecution of Turkish feminist antimilitarist Pinar Selek

War Resisters' International (WRI), an international network of pacifist and antimilitarist organisations with more than 90 affiliates in more than 40 countries, condemns the persecution of Turkish antimilitarist and feminist Pinar Selek. For 12 years now, Pinar Selek has been under prosecution for a crime she did not commit and in connection with which there is no evidence against her - the so-called bombing of the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul on 09 July 1998. Pinar Selek was arrested in 1998, tortured during investigation and spent two and a half years in prison. The only link asserted by the prosecution between Selek and the explosion was a statement by Abdulmecit Ozturk extracted under torture and soon withdrawn. Ozturk himself has been acquitted. Several experts came to the conclusion that there had been no bomb – the explosion had been caused by a gas bottle. The only expert who claimed that the explosion had been caused by a bomb was a police informer at Istanbul university. On 23 May 2008, after 10 years of trial, Pinar Selek was acquitted. However, the prosecution appealed to the Supreme Court, which ordered a retrial on grounds of procedure. When the acquittal was upheld, the Supreme Court again ordered a retrial, and demanded that Selek be sentenced to 36 years' imprisonment. Even the Head Prosecutor opposed the retrial, but this was overridden by Supreme Court Criminal General Assembly on 9 February 2010. The case was again referred to the court in Istanbul. Penar Selek's real “crime” is a different one. As a sociologist, and as a feminist and antimilitarist, she tried to understand the Turkish-Kurdish conflict by researching both sides of the conflict, including conducting interviews with members of the PKK. When investigated under torture, she still refused to give the names and contact details of her Kurdish interviewees. The outcome of her research on the Turkish-Kurdish conflict was finally published in 2004 under the title Barışamadık [We Couldn’t Reconcile] (2004, Ithaki Publishing). The persecution of Pinar Selek is only one example – although an exceptionally shocking one – of the persecution of antimilitarists in Turkey. Some other examples:

  • in 1999, Turkish writer Nadire Mater was put on trial for her book Mehmedin Kitabi (Voices from the front), about the experience of Turkish conscripts in the war in Kurdistan. The book's distribution in Turkey was banned. In September 2000, Nadire Mater was acquitted.
  • In 2005, during the imprisonment of gay conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan, journalist Perihan Mağden wrote an article on conscientious objection as a human right, published in the weekly news magazine Yeni Aktuel. Mağden too was charged, under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, but she was acquitted on 27 July 2006
  • In 2008, Turkish conscientious objector Halil Savda was sentenced to six months' imprisonment under article 318 of the Turkish Penal Code for a solidarity declaration with Israeli conscientious objectors in front of the Israeli embassy on 1 August 2006.
  • In June 2010, Halil Savda, Gökçe Otlu Sevimli, and Zarife Ferda Çakmak were sentenced to six months' imprisonment under article 318 of the Turkish Penal Code for participation in a demonstration in support of imprisoned conscientious objector Enver Aydemir on 6 January 2010.
  • In January 2011, the prosecution charged Halil Savda, director Mehmet Atak, writer Fatih Tezcan, Enver Aydemir's father, Ahmet Aydemir, and Enver Aydemir's lawyer Davut Erkan under article 318 for a statement they released during the trial of Enver Aydemir in January 2010.

These few examples are only the tip of the iceberg of the persecution of antimilitarists in Turkey. They show to what length the state has to go to maintain the nationalist, militarist, and masculinist project of the Turkish nation. “Every Turk is born a soldier” is an important slogan in this project, but a slogan which is increasingly being rejected by Turkish people. Pinar Selek's crime was (and is) to be part of the groups and movements rejecting Turkish militarism, and even more so to do so from a feminist perspective, and to challenge not only militarism, but also nationalism and patriarchy, through her academic work, but also through her activism. War Resisters' International demands:

  • an immediate end to the persecution of Pinar Selek. We express our hope that the Istanbul court will again acquit Pinar Selek – for the third time – on 9 February 2011, and we hope that this will be the end of her persecution. We also hope that she will receive compensation not only for her 2 ½ years of false imprisonment, and for being tortured, but also for a fabricated trial lasting 12 years, which is a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • an immediate end to the persecution of antimilitarists in Turkey, and the abolishing of article 318 of the Turkish Penal Code – alienating the people from military service – which potentially criminalises any criticism of the Turkish military and of militarism in general.