Stores championing the sale of special coats for inmates

Stores championing the sale of special coats for inmates

“Human Landscapes from my Country” is one of the epic masterpieces of Turkey’s acclaimed poet Nazım Hikmet, written during the Second World War while Hikmet was serving a 13-year sentence as a political prisoner.

A lot has changed since then, though some things have remained the same, like the sad reality of political prisoners incarcerated for their views.

Journalist Kadri Gürsel is one of many political prisoners in Turkey, and he has been behind bars for 39 days now. His wife, Nazire Kalkan Gürsel, recently wrote a note on Facebook saying the following: 

“I really love Woody Allen’s movie ‘Scenes from a Mall.’ The film takes place in a shopping mall and presents a perfect X-Ray of American society. 

“Now let me tell you about a bitter shopping ‘landscape’ from our own country. 

“All the coats and boots we have taken to Silivri Prison for Kadri have been refused, (some because of their color, others because of their hood, etc.)

“We decided to buy new boots and a coat, so I went to a shopping mall (a prestigious one in Levent). In both of the stores I entered I explained specifically what I wanted. In response, the assistants asked very politely: ‘Are you planning to take these to prison?’

“Of course, I was very surprised. They explained: ‘A lot of people like you come here. We can recognize them as soon as we see them. A group of people entering a store and asking for a specific product is obviously not how women shop under normal circumstances.’

“They asked a second question: ‘Is your husband a journalist or an academic.’ When they learned about Kadri, they said they would like to have wrapped it up as a gift but they know prison administrators do not allow gift wrapping. 

“Well, they certainly were equipped with all the necessary information. 

“I don’t think there can be a better depiction of the state of the country.”

This is what Nazire wrote. She hopes that Kadri finally received his coat last Friday. 

Political resilience

There is not much to add to what she has written. 

Until recently, when we spoke about the resilience of Turkey, we were generally talking about Turks’ resilience in the face of economic hardships. The word “resilience” was most likely to be found in newspapers’ economy pages.

I know that a lot of people will laugh at me when I suggest that Turkey is now also developing a political resilience against anti-democratic practices. Indeed, while at least a third - if not half - of the country opposes the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, only a tiny minority dares raise their head to make their opposing views heard.

A lot of us are scared. We keep our heads down. We have lost hope, feel tired and frustrated. Many of us feel so helpless and sad to be losing our country that we have to seek professional help for depression. 

Feeling hopeless, we take an early mental retirement instead of looking for ways out.

For those who have lost their instinct for struggle, I suggest they talk to Nazire Kalkan Gürsel. Every time I speak to her, I am struck by the resoluteness of her voice, her self-confidence. There is not the slightest bit of frustration or desperation when she speaks.

We may be mistaken to wish for patience and strength to the families of political prisoners. On the contrary, those families should be wishing us patience and strength. They are stronger than many of us; their strength comes from knowing they have not committed a crime and they stand on the right side of history. At the end of the day, history has never been on the side of oppressive regimes.