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The knitting needles of Ayşe Düzkan


İnan Kızılkaya 

“What are you mumbling about? The prosecutor won’t eat you,” said the lawyer. He did not seem to understand why I was nervous as he tried to drag me to the prosecutor’s room. I wanted to say all the prayers I knew, but couldn’t remember any of them, so I just prayed to God to be content. 

On May 3, 2016 – World Press Freedom Day – a solidarity campaign was launched with Özgür Gündem newspaper. But as a result of the campaign, in which guests became editors-in-chief for a day, we soon began beating a frequent path to Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse, our second home. In the end, the campaign failed to ease the pressure on the newspaper, attracting the prosecutors’ anger instead. There was no let-up in the number of investigations and new cases. Still, I was happy because the number of my common-cause friends was increasing!

The sense of loneliness was overcome by the sense of fellowship.

Participants in the campaign, supporters and groups of journalists held a short press briefing in front of the courthouse on May 23, 2016. I followed journalists Faruk Eren and Ertuğrul Mavioğlu through the X-ray check. Ayşe Düzkan was behind me. As I was picking up my belongings from a plastic basket after the check, the officer who was monitoring the screen told Düzkan to open her bag. She did, revealing a computer, books, a toilet bag, keys, a ball of wool and some knitting needles with an unfinished piece attached to it.  

The officer gave the ball of wool a spin and gave it back after deciding that it was not dangerous. But he looked at the needles ravenously. He took the needles out of the knit, played with them for some time before showing them to another officer with a look of wonder in his eyes. The duo kept inspecting the needles, without figuring out what they had managed to seize. I watched them curiously. It was obvious that they were trying to understand whether the needless could be used to stab or cut someone and, therefore, whether they were too dangerous to allow in.

Düzkan looked like she did not care at all. I was sure that she was making fun of the two men who were having a hard time with the knitting needles of a woman. But there was no sign of an expression on her face. She was in the mood of “Give me my needles back and let me go.” Failing to figure out a way to impute any crime, the officers looked at each other and involuntarily gave Düzkan the needles back.

“What are you going to do with those needles?” I asked Düzkan as we climbed up the stairs. What would she do, indeed? Would she defend herself with a needle in each hand if the prosecutor of the state asked her to open her bag? Would she say that “one of the needles symbolizes press freedom, while the other stands for a civil resolution to the Kurdish issue?”

We would be toast if the prosecutor detected an “element of a threat.” This is what I interpreted from her comfort: “I know about the state, men and the judiciary. I grew up with sources of power; I have got to know them, I lived with them and now I’ve come here with my armor against them.” A very tiny smile of sarcasm accompanied her silence. She exuded a level of self-confidence that could inspire an academic thesis on how people can cope with negative energy.

Then came her turn for testimony in the prosecutor’s office after Eren and Mavioğlu. As the two journalists came out of the room, we talked about the stance of the prosecutor. Mavioğlu said he told the prosecutor that the judiciary was not the right place to judge journalism, adding that he spoke about the nature of news reporting. Eren said he made a brief summary on the conditions of the country before adding that press freedom was a must for democracy. We nodded in affirmation. My mind stayed with Düzkan as she went inside. I wondered if she had any arguments with the prosecutors about the needles. Did the prosecutor ask her, “What is your business with this gang of leftists and separatists?” If he showed her photos from burned and ruined Cizre, Silopi, Sur and Nusaybin and asked her, “Aren’t you ashamed to humiliate the security forces of the state?” citing news reports on the clashes, then I would be toast again. This is because I pay for each word, photograph or article as the editor of the newspaper.

Then I started thinking whether it would work if she testified and said: “The editor is not guilty. I know İnan, he is a good boy.” I wasn’t sure, but I was sure that she carefully inspected the “women” page, where her name was printed as part of the masthead on the day that she came to the newspaper, and said “There’s not a big enough female point of view here.” She could even stab the editorial cadre of the newspaper with her needle in front of the prosecutors.

“God, keep me sane,” I prayed. It was time she came out and told about what happened inside. While walking up and down the corridor, my lawyer called me over. I asked what was going on and he told me that the prosecutor wanted to have a word with me. “I have nothing to do with Ayşe’s needles,” I mumbled. The lawyer had a hearing problem, so he said: “If you have to take a leak, do it later.”

I told him that Düzkan was still inside. “What’s it to you about Ayşe?” he responded.

Needles, prosecutors, justice, newspapers, censorship, spots, headlines, layouts, sources, fiction, agencies, statements, circulation, distance from proportional and non-proportional violence, facts, manipulation, remarks, microphones, interviews, states… These were the thing that went through my mind.

“What are you mumbling about? The prosecutor won’t eat you,” said the lawyer. He did not seem to understand why I was nervous as he tried to drag me to the prosecutor’s room. I wanted to say all the prayers I knew, but couldn’t remember any of them, so I just prayed to God to be content. “Please skip me this time and I will testify next week,” I told the lawyer, just like a little boy who begs not to be circumcised. The lawyer thought I was joking and blinked at me. Is it the right time for coyness? Then Ayşe came out of the prosecutor’s room, smiling. “Good luck,” she told me. But this made me even tenser. The lawyer stepped inside but I hesitated, since I was stuck by one question: “Why was Ayşe laughing?”  

I felt like chanting that I had dedicated my life to this issue, but I couldn’t. I could hardly respond to the prosecutor’s questions. And he suddenly asked if I was okay. What a surprise that the prosecutor of the state was curious about my health condition. How lucky I was! When the prosecutor began going through the pages of the investigation, I asked if it would be decrease my sentence if I started knitting with needles.

Before I confessed that “I do not know where she took the needles from and on whose directions,” the prosecutor told the lawyer to me out since I was “not in a good mental condition.”

“He’s not normally like this,” the lawyer responded, finding common ground with the prosecutor.

The lawyer took me out hastily and asked: “Why did you mock the prosecutor?”

“The needles,” I responded. “Ayşe,” I said, “I saw them with my own eyes.”

“You’re out of sorts because you’re hungry,” the lawyer said. He believed that I was suffering from a gastrospasm.

“Let’s go to the canteen and eat something,” he said. 


This article was published as part of “Stories of Justice,” a project supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.