"We Demand Accountability for Garibe's Death in a Turkish Prison": The Story of Garibe is the Story of Women Who Believe in the Struggle
Pero Dundar, HDP MP in the Turkish Parliament
Garibe, in Kurdish Xeribe, means "the stranger". But she was no stranger to the oppression of her people or of women. The struggle for women's freedom in Turkey and Kurdistan has come at a high price. We all know this from our own lives. All of us can say many things about the reasons for our struggle. However, the reason of every struggling woman can often be summed up in a single word.
It is where our lives experience the deepest cut that we make our promise. It unites with the promises of other women who together become a torrent. They become resistance, struggle, and nothing can stop them.
The story of Garibe Gezer is the story of women who believe that there is no other way than struggle. We know this because Garibe is Kurdish, because she is a woman. And whoever, on top of that, leads a struggle for freedom is targeted and becomes the central adversary of anti-women and anti-Kurdish male domination. What I mean: We can say this so clearly because her life was not one that was foreign to us. Garibe's life story has once again brought home to society the fact that there is a deep-seated misogyny, a deep-seated hostility towards Kurds. It is December 9, 2021, when the news of Garibe's death becomes public. The Kandıra prison administration calls Garibe's sister and informs her that Garibe committed suicide. Garibe is taken to the autopsy without waiting for the lawyers to arrive. To those who came to pick up the body, the state law enforcement officers casually say, "Take your body and get out of here." This reminds us of the words "What is your name, brother?" that were said by Turkish police men to the murderer who killed our comrade Deniz Poyraz in the HDP building in İzmir province.
All of you reading this article know more or less know what Garibe went through. But I would like to mention it here again, in case there are those who "don't know" after all.
Garibe was born in 1994 in Kerboran (tr. Dargeçit), near Mêrdîn, one of the major cities of the resistance. To be born here means to be born in the land of resistance and struggle. And that comes at a very high price. Every woman born in this area has paid this price in one way or another. Garibe was no exception.
When her older brother Bilal Gezer was murdered by unidentified people during the Kobanê protests from October 6 to 8, 2014, Garibe was only 21 years old. When her other brother, Mehmet Emin Gezer, went to the Kerboran district police station to learn about his brother Bilal's killers, special operations police opened fire before he could even enter the building. He was seriously injured and has been paralyzed from the waist down ever since.
Garibe was 23 years old when she was elected to the executive committee of the Democratic Regions Party (DBP). On March 3, 2016, she was arrested when she went to visit her brother who was studying in Kütahya. Her "crime" was being a DBP official when curfews were imposed in Kerboran in 2015! In addition, her older brother Haşim Gezer was sentenced to 22 years in prison. There would be so much to tell beyond that. The least is to pass on their deeds and words and to reveal the identities of those who were responsible for their deaths.
"Others need to know about my experiences"
Garibe was deported to Kandıra Prison No. 1 Type F after having been in several other prisons. Here she was subjected to outright blatant torture, to which all prisoners fighting the battle for freedom are subjected (torture is used particularly intensively on women). She tried to take her own life. The torture did not stop. Garibe, who experienced all kinds of torture, from beatings by prison guards to sexual violence, continued to raise her voice to be heard. The fact that she talked openly about her experiences was, of course, a reason for further torture. The level of torture increased as Garibe's voice found its way into the public. Even the prison doctors, who had sworn the Hippocratic Oath, were involved in these crimes.
Against the backdrop of these atrocities, Garibe attempted to set fire to her solitary cell and was convicted for this. She was punished for taking every opportunity to bring her voice to the outside world. Therefore, all avenues through which she could have communicated were cut off. However, Garibe did not give up. Despite the penal sanctions, she tried by all means. She did not give up, did not retreat one step. "I want others to know about my experiences," she said.
Yes, that she did not keep silent, this cost Garibe her life. Even after her death, the anti-women and anti-Kurdish government remains in power. When Garibe's body arrived at Mêrdîn airport, the enemy penal code was immediately applied. The hearse of the municipality under forced administration drove back without taking Garibe's body with it. Finally, despite all obstacles, she was sent to eternity on the shoulders of women.
While she was being laid to rest in her hometown in Mêrdîn province, women across the country took to the streets: "We demand accountability for Garibe's death." While women may not have known Garibe personally, they know well the tradition of the struggle from which she came. And let me end with the words heard on all sides in firm belief of this struggle:
We will bring to justice those who are to blame for the death of Garibe Gezer. It is up to us women to raise Garibe's voice, to continue her rebellion and her struggle!
This article was first published in the March/April2022 edition of the Kurdistan Report.