Her name is Ayşe: Teacher heads to prison for defending children

It may seem ridiculous, but that is the reality in Turkey. Speaking against war is a crime in this country

Her name is Ayşe: Teacher heads to prison for defending children

Her name is Ayşe, she is a teacher. She devoted all her life to teach children about the world, how things work, and the beauty of life. We would not have even known her if it wasn’t for that fateful day when she called to comment on a TV show where the hosts and the guests were promoting war. She dared to comment on line and demand publicly on live broadcast, on live TV, “Children should not die.” That is it. She actually said that. “Children should not die.”

That was three years ago. That call changed her life. That demand for children not to be killed was not taken lightly in Turkey. She had to pay for those fateful words that echoed through the country, “Children should not die.”

The government, above all, howled vengeance for public uttering of such atrocity! How could a woman, a teacher, come on TV as a viewer and demand such absurdity? How dare she?

She was arrested with her little baby in her arms and put in prison. The government took her care and concern for children as “terrorist propaganda.” It may seem ridiculous, but that is the reality in Turkey. Speaking against war is a crime in this country. When a group of teachers and academicians published a public letter saying they will not be a part of the war crimes the government was committing on its own soil, more than 1000 academicians immediately lost their jobs, arrested, had their passports annulled, and prevented from getting another job. One is allowed to rally for war, for invading Iraq, for invading Syria, for attacking Greece, declaring war against Armenia, or occupying Cyprus, but you cannot whisper the possibility or the option of peace. One is simply not allowed to express opinion to stop unnecessary deaths, even for children.

Teacher Ayşe, as she is known across the country now, marched into prison last year with her 6-month-old baby. However, her legal counsel went to the higher court for her release. The Constitutional Court debated whether her constitutional right to a free and fair trial had been curtailed but did not come with a verdict on the case. During the proceedings, Teacher Ayşe was released for six months, pending a verdict. The postponement of her serving time ended few days ago and she was booked at the Diyarbakır Department of Justice and sent to prison to serve her term.

Ayşe Çelik, Teacher Ayşe, left her now 18 months old daughter with her mother as she entered prison. She said, “I feel awful. My baby is sick and the prison environment is not healthy for her.  I cannot even express my feelings. I am saddened. I have not lost my faith on justice. I believe one day this injustice I am living through will be eliminated. I keep thinking they will not allow a mother and her baby to be separated.”

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