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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 release).

SELAM : When were you arrested?

Aslan : 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.

SELAM : How did you feel as a woman who wears hijab?

Aslan :: 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.

SELAM :Is this image Islamic or the creation of male dominant society ?

Aslan : 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 jailed woman.

SELAM :: You were a captive and a mother. How does it feel ?

Aslan : 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.

SELAM :: How did you suffer the most in the prison ?

Aslan : 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.

SELAM :You were in the same jail with your husband. Were you in contact with him ?

Aslan : 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.

SELAM : What is the effect of your captivity on your daughter ?

Aslan : 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.

SELAM : 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.

SELAM :: " Madrasa of Yusuf " Is it relevant to real life ?

Aslan : 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.

SELAM : You were a captive during the 28 February Process. Did this have a negative effect on you ?

Aslan : 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.

SELAM :: What was your first reaction when you were released ?

Aslan : 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.

SELAM :: What about your husband ?

Aslan : He was happy, of course. Also I have another friend in prison who was very happy when she heard that I had been released.

SELAM :How has the time you have spent in the prison, been reflected in your character?

Aslan : 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."

SELAM : 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?

Aslan : 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.

SELAM : How will you continue?

Aslan : 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 eradicate Islam.

SELAM :: What about your book ?

Aslan : 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.

SELAM :: What are you planning to do now?

Aslan : 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.