Dilek Yücel: "We are fighting an invisible monster"

For seven and a half months now, the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel is held in solitary confinement in a Turkish prison. In a very personal interview his wife Dilek Mayatürk-Yücel talks about her visits, letters to her husband and her outlook for the future.

Dilek and Deniz Yücel Happy days. Dilek and Deniz Yücel before the journalist was jailed.

Is Deniz Yücel still in solitary confinement? What are the effects on him?

Yes he is. Our requests for him to be allowed to share the cell or be transferred to a ward have been denied. They cite “security and order” as the reason for this denial. He can leave his cell to do exercise. But even during open visiting times (by the way, open visiting takes place in a room where visitors come in to see their jailed relatives) they do not bring any other jailed person into the room if Deniz is coming. So right now, apart from his visitors (his family) and his lawyers, Deniz doesn’t see anybody else apart from the prison guards.

I cannot talk about a tangible effect of this solitary confinement right now, but I can talk about what I observe. It has been more than 220 days. For the past 7.5 months, Deniz has been living alone under circumstances that would be unimaginable for you to live under for even one day. But I see that Deniz is well. He always lives in a different world when he writes. He writes a lot nowadays, so he is very focused. His mind is occupied with beautiful things. But of course, the reality is obvious. A human being is put under conditions that were designed to destroy a person mentally and physically. Solitary confinement has not only mental but also physical effects; such as being extremely sensitive to sounds and damage to his ability to see far away objects. Solitary confinement and what it brings is like an invisible monster. We are fighting an invisible monster. Did this confinement have any visible impact? Perhaps I will experience it when Deniz is out.

When you visit him on Mondays in jail, how do the visits go? What do you talk about? You mentioned in your open letter that you have to talk to him through glass, Can you tell us how hard is it to hold a proper conversation as husband and wife?

The visiting time is only one hour every week. You cannot imagine how fast it passes. Usually Deniz tells me things and I listen. We talk about mundane things, ordinary things. I think talking about these things is also a necessity. It is not easy. None of our ways to communicate is normal; because you know that somebody is watching and listening to you. You don’t have any privacy. The atmosphere in the prison makes you realise the existence of boundaries and everything that is contrary to human nature. It’s in the air, the smell, the way it looks. But we have gone beyond that. We don’t care any more where we are while we talk.

How has your life changed since he has been put in jail? Are you able to carry on as normal? Is it possible to carry on as normal?

Everything has changed, I don’t have to count one by one. If he wasn’t jailed, I would be at work today in Munich. Perhaps Deniz would be visiting me at work today. But let’s say I somehow found my own way. Let’s put it that way. Time teaches you things so well that you don’t have to think about anything, you find yourself already educated. This is then called experience. I try to carry on as normal and keep my life in its normal rhythm. This is the only way for me to run this marathon. I constantly read books and write. I love books and notebooks more than I love people. They are the only things that make me feel good.

How much contact does or can Deniz have with the outside world?

He receives six newspapers everyday and he also has a television. So, he is knowledgeable about what is going on in Turkey. I and his lawyers bring him news from outside during our visits. At first, he couldn’t receive any letters. We overcame this problem during his third month in prison. He can now receive letters written in Turkey but not all of them are given to him. Die Welt translates letters into Turkish and sends them back to the people who wrote them. They then send the letters to Deniz. But he didn’t receive some of these letters so I’m chasing the prison authorities to see what happened with them. I believe that we will overcome these difficulties. So please, continue to write letters to Deniz in Turkish. I can only fight for his right to receive letters if you send them. Also, we would like to say thanks for all the magnificent letters you sent so far.

Apart from seeing you every week, is he allowed other visitors, for example from his family and lawyers? How frequent are the visits for others?

There is still a state of emergency in Turkey so under these circumstances only his first degree relatives can visit him. This means mother, father, siblings and spouse. I go to visit him together with his mother and father. It’s not possible to visit him separately anyway. There is a set time on a set day every week. You don’t have the luxury to say “I’ll visit later”. If you’re ten minutes late than your visiting time is ten minutes shorter. For lawyers, there is no limitation on visiting days or times. Deniz sees his lawyers twice a week. Sometimes members of parliament also visit him.

Does Deniz know that people all over Germany are holding motorcades for him, and protests and solidarity events?

Yes, of course, he knows all about it. I and his lawyers tell him during visits.

What is your message to the Turkish government?

I would like to change this question and answer with my message to the German and Turkish governments. Deniz is not a political tool that a country can twist, pull or play with whenever they want. He shouldn’t be a scapegoat fort he tensions between countries. I will stand against every thought, every statement, and every action that directly or indirectly serves this purpose. What is happening now is the unjust arrest of a human being, a journalist. What is at stake is a person’s life and freedom. Nobody should forget this. 

As we are entering our eighth months without an indictment, the fact that Deniz is in solitary confinement, that he is in jail, completely due to his journalistic activities leaves me speechless. Deniz needs to go free today. Immediately. Now. 

Dilek Mayatürk-Yücel's husband Deniz will be awarded with the Price for the Freedom and Future of the media of Medienstiftung der Sparkasse. This ECPMF interview also appears in the "Leipziger Volkszeitung".

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