Sabiha Temizkan Speaks About Her Mother Leyla Güven on 160th Day of Her Hunger Strike

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  • April 16, 2019
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“Our relationship is beyond a mother-daughter relationship. She is the person, with whom I share everything and I find peace. She is like my breath. There is a process that we are going through phase by phase.”

Sabiha Temizkan, the daughter of Leyla Güven, who has been on the 160th day of her hunger strike, describes their relationship in these words.

Güven is the Hakkari MP of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Co-Chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK).

However, her membership of parliament is a bit beyond submitting parliamentary questions or raising her hand in the polls. Though her election as an MP while she was still serving time in Diyarbakır Type E Prison is usually considered to be the reason for that, what makes her different from other MPs is that she went on a hunger strike 160 days ago.

Güven has been on a hunger strike with the demand that Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), can meet his family and attorneys. To put it differently, she is referring to the laws in effect in Turkey and demands their implementation.

Starting her hunger strike while she was still in prison, Leyla Güven was released on the 79th day of her hunger strike. Her daughter journalist Sabiha Temizkan has been on the side of her mother since then.

‘They left me no other way’

Speaking about her mother, Sabiha Temizkan says that she was afraid that her mother would be arrested when the Kurdish Women Movement started its struggle and reminds that Leyla Güven was indeed arrested in 2009:

“My mother was arrested pending trial for almost five years. She was in the fields after her release as well. During the curfews, she was now in Cizre [in Turkey’s southeastern province of Şırnak] to prevent deaths and I was going through a more difficult phase. This time, my wish was for the survival of my mother in the district under bombardment.

“Then, she was arrested again in 2018. She was not released though she was elected an MP on June 24. My mother was very disturbed by the unlawful practices she faced and the deadlock regarding the Kurdish question. If she had not been in prison as a parliamentarian, she would have continued her struggle with different methods, but she was prevented from doing politics.

“She found the solution in hunger strike. She says, ‘They left mo no other way, the only thing that I could do in prison was hunger strike.’ Though I tried to object to it, I could not stop her. But, in the current situation, I now have different concerns, seeing that her demands are not met.”

‘She is a woman with an immense heart’

Stating that she shares the belief of her mother in peace, Temizkan says that her mother is a woman with an immense heart:

“Though I try hard not to think of the possibility of losing my mother, I am very, very concerned. If you have such a mother – I mean, a mother who places the future of the people above her own life, a mother with an immense heart – then, life could become very meaningful, but also very difficult.

“And I am also trying to share my mother’s compassion and wish for keeping alive, which do not belong only to me, as well as her hope for peace.”

‘I hope that they will act with their conscience’

Before her mother went on a hunger strike, Sabiha Temizkan was working as a journalist in İstanbul. After she went to Diyarbakır to care for her mother, she has started to do her job in a different way. Instead of reporting news in front of cameras as she was doing in İstanbul, she is now sharing the latest developments about her mother from home via social media:

After Leila Khaled, an iconic figure of the Palestinian struggle, met Leyla Güven yesterday (April 15), Sabiha Temizkan tweeted the above message and said: “The photograph has found its voice, silencing the words.”

Commenting on the approach of mainstream media towards hunger strikes, Temizkan say that the media is “blind”, “deaf” and “mute” in the face of anything against the government:

“This silence is something that the government wishes for and, under the current circumstances, I do not have any expectations from the mainstream media. As for the silence of the government, it is infuriating me.

“Because my mother has a legal demand and instead of meeting this demand, they are watching her wasting away day by day. It is not possible to comprehend it. I hope that they will act in accordance with their conscience and end all this cruelty.” (EMK/SD)