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Huda Kaya, and her three daughters Gul Intisaar, Nurilhaq & Nurcihan Saatcioglu last year faced the death penalty for various 'treasonable crimes' relating to their peaceful participation in a demonstration against the headscarf ban in Turkish universities. After extensive international campaigning on their behalf, the four women and others facing the death penalty were sentenced to short prison terms, and paroled. (This interview was printed in the 419th issue of Selam Weekly dated 12-18 December 1999, after their release).


SELAM : Can you tell us about the headscarf struggle in Malatya?

Huda Kaya : Bismillahirahmanirrahim. The headscarf atrocity has begun all over Turkey - Malatya was the last place. Before there was no problem in the universities, although there were problems in high schools, female students who wear headscarves faced really serious difficulties. In order to enter the classrooms they have to take a doctor's report saying the girl was bald. School administrations made some problems including not accepting the doctors' reports of the students. After all this one doctor's given health report was not approved. In order to have an approved doctor's report you have to be checked by a delegation of doctors. In fact these were indicators of the atrocities to come.

People were resisting this atrocity in our country. Before 1995 there was a big singing campaign against the headscarf atrocities that our sisters were facing in the other cities of Turkey. And also the year 1997 was dedicated as "Freedom for Headscarf" year by Mazlum-Der (a human rights association). There were some activities on this subject taking place in Malatya.

In Ankara " The Commission of Freedom for Headscarf " gathered for its third Shura and had taken some decisions. In Malatya we were gathering at the mosque for morning prayers every Sunday. There, we distributed the leaflets (the collected version of those decisions) to people. After that myself, Intisar and Nurcihan were judged by the court.

In May 1998 some of the sisters/nurses in Turgut Ozal Research Hospital were fired. Some demonstrations took place in order to support those sisters.

In 1998 - 1999 these atrocities were revealed in every school and every state institution. In 1998 in order to prevent this wild application I talked to the National Education Director and the Governor. Explaining that the Malatya People have own their beliefs. Two days later I talked to Governor Atilla Vural. Anti terror teams kidnapped me when I was walking to my home with my guests after the Friday Prayer. They questioned me and sent me to jail for 3.5 month saying that I tried to separate the people by using religious beliefs in one of my articles that was printed in Selam Weekly. They gave me 20 months for that.

After the ban on headscarves in Inonu University in Malatya, people began to resist against it in a demonstration. Here, my daughter Nurcihan read the "Freedom Oath" to the crowd and my daughter Intisar sang the "Freedom Song" to the same crowd.


SELAM : What are the contents of those poems ?

Huda Kaya :
We are born free
We will live freely
And we will die freely
We rise Jihad above our heads
We put struggle in the beginning of our morning prayers
For a free country
For a free school
For our honour
For our identity
Without any concession
We will resist!
Resist !
We will win!
We swear!
Be Our Witness O Lord !
Be Our Witness O Lord !
Be Our Witness O Lord !

Intisar :As many as over ten thousand people participated in those demonstrations. It can be viewed as the reaction to the position of Merve Kavacki*


SELAM : What was the effect on you, of being arrested as a whole family ?

Huda Kaya : As a family we take care of Muslims in the whole world, not only the ones in our country. Not only the ones in our country face atrocities. As we had known all of this we were already prepared for this kind of test. This test made us get closer to each other. When we were in jail, we were very busy. This test had more positive effects on my daughters.

Intisar : We have burnt all of our ships for our freedom. After we were arrested we met with 28 sisters who were arrested before us. We read books, magazines, newspapers and so on. We had 200 very intensive days. What makes us sad was our two brothers were out and we could not see them when we had wanted to. Our days were planned.

Nurulhak : We were listening to the radio programmes. We were reading books together and alone. We have made good friends there.

Nurcihan : We were arrested when we were in class on 18 May 1998. Then me and my sister were released but two days later we were arrested again. In fact I can say that we did not feel like strangers there.

Intisar : When we got out of the class the assistant headmaster approached us and said that the cops were waiting for us. Then we understood what it was that was waiting for us. We waved goodbye to our class mates and went away.


SELAM : What about your good and bad memories in the jail ?

Huda Kaya : Two things were disturbing us in the jail. One of them is the very loud volume of the TVs and tapes and the other thing is the cigarette smoke. We tried to find a way that both sides could agree.

And also some prisoners began to argue and fight for very little things, for nonsense. We tried to develop our relations. We were developing our relations by telling them about the teachings of Islam. We had a good atmosphere. Some learned to pray, some began to pray and began to wear the headscarf. We tried to tell them about Tavhid. Our Lord was so merciful to us. Some of them wanted to learn Quran and my daughters helped them. It seemed like you were in a Quran Course. Some prisoners began to read Quran.

We established a library. Sometimes we were reading together and other times they were reading alone. In fact we were doing what we are always doing outside.

We developed good relations with the believers in the jail. We had such beautiful friendships that they would be never forgotten.. God bless them all. Our friends never left me alone and they supported us by their letters and prayers. Here I want to say something. There is a lack of relation between the "judicial" and "political" prisoners. It has been unattended to for so long.

Nurcihan : Our class mates never left us alone. But the cartel media did not care about the issue enough as they did with the Manisa issue, but that was what we were expecting.


SELAM : They wanted to punish you with the death penalty. What was the effect of it on the other prisoners?

Huda Kaya : We had never thought that they would want the death penalty for us. We were expecting at most 312. We learnt it from the newspapers that we had received it in jail. It was written " DEATH PENALTY FOR HEADSCARF ". We knew that by doing so they wanted to annihilate the hijab resistance. In fact we were not surprised. We began to pray for SHAHADEH more than ever. We prayed to our Lord to make us good examples for male and female believers.

In fact that was the reason why I got sad when I had learnt that the public prosecutor decided to change the article we were judged on, and make it 312 instead of 146. - the article of death penalty. While some were afraid of the death penalty, more of them woke up and tried to learn Islam. We are in a very difficult process of being tested and naturally some were leaving the right path and some being selected.

Nurcihan : The words of death penalty frightened our friends but we have never got scared.


SELAM : How many years were you sentenced and your feelings about them ?

Nurulhak : I participated in those demonstrations as a press representative but I was sentenced to two years and nine months.

Intisar : I was sentenced from articles 312 and 2911. This is a contradiction in the constitutional process. A prisoner cannot be sentenced from two articles at the same time for the same issue. Totally I have three years and fifteen months. I believe that all those are unjustified sentences.

Nurcihan : I was also sentenced from articles 312 and 2911 like my sister Intisar. But being underage they made it one year, ten months, fourteen days and a fine.

I have never got scared of these sentences and what I do want is to gain the love and approval of my Lord. God bless all the ones who face oppressions.


SELAM : Your last words...

Huda Kaya : I recommend everybody to believe in Allah as Allah wished us to. I think that our basic problem is the lack of that belief in every area, in all of our resistance, our actions and our practices. If we solve that problem we will solve every problem.

And we have to develop our relations with our sisters and brothers without thinking where we are. We have to give our brothers and sisters a shoulder without thinking where they are. We have to call for help from ALLAH with our PRAYERS. We have to put our trust in Allah.

Nurulhak : We have to show patience for our belief without thinking how hard the conditions are.

Intisar : Prisons are not so horrible as seen from the outside. I want to remind a word of Shahid Malcolm X " If a man needs to think, the best place he can go is a prison after a university."

Nurcihan : Do not get scared of the increasing oppressions and do not forget that " the darkest side of the dark is the nearest side to the enlightenment. "


* Merve Kavacki was the Virtue Party MP who was refused entry into parliament in 1999 unless she removed her headscarf. She was subsequently stripped of Turkish citizenship.