INTERVIEW WITH GUL
In May 96, Gul Aslan then
aged 21 with a six month old baby, was arrested after visiting her
husband Tamer in Prison. Tamer is being held for his Islamic beliefs.
She was imprisoned for over three years without charge. After intense
international campaigning, Gul Aslan was released on August 20 1999.
Her husband Tamer is still imprisoned. (This interview was printed
in Selam Weekly, in an issue dated 26 Sept-2 Oct 1999, after her
When were you arrested?
: I was arrested
in May 1996, 5 months after my husband Tamar Aslan was. I had gone
to visit him when they arrested me. They tried to get information
from me that they had failed to get from Tamar. They prepared a
testimony for me in which every sentence began with the words "I,
as an Islamic organisation member .... " After all this distortion
of the truth, I was arrested as an illegal organisation member.
First they sent me to the Bayrampasa Jail. After spending 2 days
there I was sent to Buca Jail. I spent three months in Usak Jail.
Then I was sent to Bandirma where my husband is jailed. Since then,
I was there for three years.
How did you feel as a woman who wears hijab?
:: I was questioned in the Anti-Terror
Team Department for 12 days. I was alone. Even though I was prepared
psychologically for that in the beginning I was still stressed.
After my husband was arrested, I thought that I would, too. So I
tried to be calm. After 12 days facing every type of bad thing and
psychological atrocity you can imagine what state I was in. When
I was there, I was with a leftist girl in the same cell. Her arm
was broken as she was tortured. She needed help even when she needed
to go to the toilet. And I helped her and we had a closer dialogue.
That was a pretty different experience for me. I have learnt how
to give my shoulder to somebody else looking at the world from a
very different view. It was a solid experience for me. In the Muslim
Community there is an image that tells " Muslim women must keep
away from active struggle. " I was alone in the jail, but now I
am stronger than I was. After the 28 February Process, the Muslim
Woman has proved herself.
this image Islamic or the creation of male dominant society ?
: Society has labelled women feeble minded.
" I am a woman and I am weak. " I have seen many woman saying that
" I was very active before I got married. And now it is very difficult
for me to go a short distance." This has been put in the mind of
Muslim Woman. But after the 28 February Process Muslim Woman has
proved herself. The ones who defend this stereotype must see the
You were a captive and a mother. How does it feel ?
: Three years and three months - I can't
say that it was completely bad or good. It does not matter where
you are but it matters how you perceive where you are. The environment
can be negative...You have got to know when it is impossible to
change the place that you have been, then you can think of how the
conditions could be made better. But I believe humans have a flexible
character. When I was in the Usak Jail I thought that I would see
my daughter after two months. In the beginning I could not accept
it but then I get used to it. The conditions depend on how you perceive
them, negative or positive.
How did you suffer the most in the prison ?
: The need to talk. There was no close
friend of mine who shared my belief and ideology. There as no body
who I could share my ideas with.
were in the same jail with your husband. Were you in contact with
: In the beginning we were given an hour
in a week then two and half hours in a week. At last it was increased
to one day, but this does not mean that we were meeting. We were
just seeing each other's faces behind the iron curtains.
What is the effect of your captivity on your daughter ?
: She was living with her grandmother.
I could see her once in two or three weeks. When she came to the
prison I took her to my cell, and we had breakfast together. I tried
to make something together with her. Indeed my daughter doesn't
know me as a mother. She has been staying with her grandmother for
three and a half years. She knows her as a mother. She also knows
me as a mother but I am the one who can be seen once in two or three
weeks. Her grandmother is permanently with her all the day and the
night. So the child sees the one closer to herself who is always
by her side. When I was back she did not say, " Mama came back!
". But this is not abnormal indeed. I believe that it would be alright.
Do you think Muslims know how to react when they face captivity?-
It is an unknown environment which makes you stressed. From my point
of view, I had already got myself prepared psychologically as I
thought, " My husband has been arrested and I will be too. " But
it is a very different environment from what you can imagine. It
takes time to understand it and get used to it. If somebody says
that, they did not feel like an outsider when they were in jail,
you can be sure that it is not true. People feel themselves to be
like strangers when they move to another city.
" Madrasa of Yusuf " Is it relevant to real life ?
: It depends on your own efforts. If
one strives to do something good in a difficult environment then
Allah will help one in what one wants to do . But when there is
no effort to do something then it does not matter what the conditions
are. It's the same in or out of the jail.
You were a captive during the 28 February Process. Did this have
a negative effect on you ?
: It began about when I was just in.
My trial was going on and everything from the political scene was
reflected in the courts. I don't know how much you felt it outside
but as a captive who goes to the court once a month, I felt it.
What was your first reaction when you were released ?
: At first I did not believe it, because
I was inside for three and a half years. I had not prepared myself
for it so as not to have my dreams broken. I was surprised. I had
to get my things ready. I sat in front of them and I looked at them
for a while. When I was out I learnt that we have lost one of our
relations in the earthquake. So I am neither happy nor sad.
What about your husband ?
: He was happy, of course. Also I have
another friend in prison who was very happy when she heard that
I had been released.
has the time you have spent in the prison, been reflected in your
: I was alone with my character and identity.
There I had to struggle against everything alone. Now I feel more
mature. What I have experienced is not in my name only but in the
name of all Muslim Women. Neither those who personally knew me,
or those who read my articles, especially those suffering the headscarf
ban, left me alone. In their letters they wrote, "We are mobilised
when we see you." When I received that, I certainly was happy. I
realised that I could help them even they were outside. That is
why I have never said, "I wish I was never jailed."
Before you were arrested, you were a student in the Communication
Faculty of Marmara University. Now you are facing another problem,
the headscarf ban; what do you want to say about this?
: I was persecuted by the law and now
for wearing a headscarf. I love my school. I have chosen my department
consciously. But now there is an another problem, instead of captivity
blocking my return to my school, it is the so-called "headscarf
problem." Now I am one of the mistreated, whom I wrote about when
I was in jail.
How will you continue?
: I will do what I have to do. This is
an identity matter in Turkey. Some think that when you take off
your hijab the oppression would end. But we have to understand the
logic behind all of this. Their (the Kemalist rulers) aim is to
What about your book ?
: It is a novel called " The Wall That
Tears Us Apart. " (Bizi Ayİran Duvar.) I hope it would be released
in two weeks. I began and finished it inside jail. The subject is
about a very short but intensive period in jail. I think it could
give a different perspective to life in prisons.
What are you planning to do now?
: I'm not going to make a quick decision.
First of all I will go on writing in the paper. I haven't decided
yet but I will do what my capacity allows me to do.