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Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek

Sentenced once again in her 19 years ongoing case, Turkish writer and activist Pinar Selek does not give up. She is being prosecuted for defending minority rights.

Pinar Selek, a well-known Turkish sociologist and peace and human rights activist, bears witness to the truth and safeguards the dignity of human beings.

Celebrated abroad, Pinar is criminalised back home. Since 2009, the sociologist is forced to live in exile in France, continuously accused of being a terrorist and persecuted for her work amid wider clampdown on freedom and opposition in Turkey.

On 25 January, the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court demanded once again the reversal of her acquittal that was ruled on 19 December 2014. For the fourth time!

‘’An acquittal should be decided once and for all. Having four acquittals shows there’s an obvious abnormality’’, argued Karin Karakasli, co-editor in chief of Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, ’’The reversal was ordered without any trace of new evidence or new allegation against her’’.

The latest reversal decision adds another injustice in what has become a real torment for Pınar, her family, friends and supporters in Turkey and all over the world.

The judicial ordeal started in 1998 when she was arrested for the first time with the accusation of complicity with the PKK while she was completing her research on civil war in Turkey, in which she investigated why many Kurds chose armed fight, interviewing several members of the PKK. Enough to become a target of the Turkish authorities.

Taken into custody by the police, the writer was subjected to heavy torture during interrogation to lead her to confess the names of those she had interviewed. She refused spending two years and a half in prison.

During her jail time, she found out on TV that she was being associated with the explosion of the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul in July 1998. She had been detained just two days after the explosion, and not asked a single question about the blast.

‘’No evidence at all was found against her. Moreover, crime scene investigation reports revealed that the explosion had been caused by a gas leak and not a bomb, as it was claimed’’, stated Yasemin Öz who is the international spokesperson of Justice for Pinar Selek Committee.

Found innocent, Pinar was released at the end of 2000. Consecutive efforts were made to sentence her. She was acquitted in 2006, 2009 then 2012 and 2014. Yet, every time the decision was overturned and the case reopened. İn 2013, she was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia. Then the fourth acquittal reversed by the High Court last January.

Writer Karakasli pointed to old conspiracies from within the Turkish state apparatus carried out and repeated against the researcher to intimidate other intellectuals who would dare to inquire on thorny issues like the Kurdish one.

Oz, Pinar’s campaign spokesperson as well as friend, made similar remarks claiming that some factions in the state want to see the long-standing activist sentenced due to her research on taboo questions in Turkey.

‘’There are some very nationalist, conservative groups working inside the state that don’t like Pinar’s activities’’, she explained.

Sociologist, writer, feminist and anti-militarist, Pinar Selek is known for her work on the rights of vulnerable communities in Turkey.

At the core of her research are street children, women, immigrants, the poor, transvestites, Kurdish communities and others. With them, she created the Laboratory of Street Artists to offer people from discriminated groups an opportunity to integrate in society through the arts.

‘’Pinar is a human sociologist who does not see the people whom she studies as subjects of her research, but as humans’’, highlighted an actor and stage manager called Mehmet Atak who is well familiar with her writings.

She wrote, among other works, Barisamadik (We Couldn’t Make Peace) on the many struggles of modern Turkey to achieve peace and the leftist opposition, and Sürüne Sürüne Erkeklik Olmak (Masculinity in Drags) on male life in compulsory military service. Her research Maskeler, Süvariler, Gacilar (Masks, Riders, Trans Women) focuses on the exclusion of transvestites and transsexuals on Ulker Street. She also published La maschera della verità (The Mask of Truth) which was translated in Italian to remember the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

She is one of the founders of the Amargi Women’s Solidarity Cooperative, and an editor of the Amargi Feminist Theory Journal. She is also co-founder of Turkey’s first feminist bookshop, open to the public since 2008.

Karakasli pointed out that Pinar is for her a very close friend, a symbol of resistance and an inspiration for those who want to fight for a just and equal world.

Both she and Oz struggle to understand how the trial process has been dragging for almost 20 years, despite all fabricated claims against Pinar have been refuted and there is nothing that makes Pinar a culprit.

‘’The progress of the case shows the determination of the dark structures inside the state apparatus to go on targeting her’’, Agos’s editor affirmed.

The trial itself shows that the judiciary in Turkey can prosecute people politically and unlawfully.

Pinar’s sentencing essentially means that to anyone who dares to oppose the government policies or question the status quo the same can happen.

While unique, Pinar’s is among many cases of writers, researchers and journalists in Turkey facing persecution and repression of freedom of expression. Like her, many are victims of judicial harassment and state punishment.

According to PEN International, there are more than 150 writers and journalist imprisoned in Turkey, making it the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.

Since the failed coup on 15 July 2016, in particular, Turkish authorities have cracked down on intellectuals, journalists, media organisations, newspapers, judges, lawyers and political opponents. There have been reports of thousands of dismissals, arrests and prosecutions, resulting in an almost total silencing of critical voices.

As for Pinar, after the demand of the public prosecutor of the Supreme Court for the reversal of the fourth acquittal, the appeal will be decided by the Supreme Court Criminal Chamber.

Until then, the campaign committee is closely following the case, what many of her supporters have defined a ‘’legal scandal’’.

‘’She was seen as a threat to be punished because she saw the game and she said that she had seen it’’, commented Atak who wrote and staged a play dedicated to Pinar in 2010.

Despite 19 years of trial and all that she has been exposed to, Pinar keeps researching, writing and resisting.

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Alessandra Bajec is a freelance journalist based in Cairo. Between 2010 and 2011, she lived in Palestine. Her articles have appeared in the European Journalism Centre’s magazine, IRIN and The Majalla among others. She can be followed on Twitter at @AlessandraBajec

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