My first encounter with feminist sociologist and writer Pınar Selek happened in a hairdresser salon in 1998. I saw her on TV news while I was waiting for a haircut. The news introduced Pınar as ‘’the bomber of Spice Bazaar’’ as Pınar passed through the barred doors of a prison leaving a parade of colourful women behind. Pınar’s face lacked expression but her shiny eyes attracted my attention. Her eyes emanated exuberance. The woman waiting next to me in the salon said: ‘’There is no way that this woman can be a bomber.’’ I agreed.
On 9th of July 1998, an explosion happened at a kiosk in the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul where seven people died and hundred twenty people injured. After the explosion police officers and bomb experts investigated the crime scene. They prepared six separate crime scene investigation and criminal expertise reports indicating that they encountered no traces of bombs in the exploded area. Later on, in the court case a superintendent remarked that the explosion may have occurred because of the bottled gas leak spread to the floor.
In 1998, Pınar researched the root-bound conflict between Kurds and Turks focusing on this question: How can we weave the threads of peace in the virulent war atmosphere between Kurds and Turks? In those days, even to dare to talk about peace in Anatolia and Mesopotamia meant watering those barren territories with hope and bringing aliveness to the abandoned, burned down soil. ‘Pınar’ means water source in Turkish. Being true to her name, she became the source of healing water for the land; a real creator of peace.
Two days after the explosion in Spice Bazaar, Turkish police forces detained Pınar. They tortured her -which was later proved by reports- and interrogated her about her academic research regarding peace. They kept Pınar without allowing to see anyone, including her lawyer for the entire week. Strangely enough, in those seven days they did not bring any charges against her about the explosion.
Later, police forces detained a man called Abdülmecit Öztürk. They accused him of being a terrorist. Abdülmecit signed a statement indicating that he planned the bombing of the kiosk at Spice Bazaar together with Pınar. Then urgently another crime investigation group assembled and they gave a report declaring that the explosion might be related to a bomb.
Although later in the court Abdülmecit admitted that he does not know Pınar and he signed the declaration under torture, Turkish police forces and the mainstream media introduced Pınar as ‘’the bomber of Spice Bazaar’’.
Since 1998, local courts have acquitted Pınar FOUR times. Each time, the state attorney appealed against the acquittal and claimed an aggravated life sentence for her. In the meantime, Pınar had to leave Turkey. At the moment, she lives in France as a productive political and intellectual life force.
Unfortunately, the legal case still continues for 25 years. Recently, the authorities announced the next trial date as 31st of March, 2023.
Pınar’s story reminds me of a fairytale from Solomon Islands.
Daring to hunt the moon
Once upon a time, on an island in the Pacific sea a tribe lived, named after Simba. The Simba people seemed blessed. The most delicious fish grew in their region. Trees of the land fruited the most fragrant bananas and the juiciest coconuts. Plenty of herbs and plants sprang enthusiastically from the ground. The Simba people lived in abundance and they thanked Mother Earth for everything they had. Before fishing, they would ask permission from the sea. Before plucking fruit or herbs, they would ask Mother Earth, “Can we have it?”. Simba people would not fight with neighbouring tribes, they would not speak ill of anyone.
Many years have passed. Simba people have forgotten their tradition. The new generation of Simba did not ask permission from water and soil. They did not give thanks to fire and air at all. They have come to see their wealthy life as a natural right rather than a blessing. They looked down on neighbouring tribes and found fault with all beings around them.
One night, when the moon rose to the sky in her fullness, the board of aldermen in the Simba tribe gathered under the bright moonlight. They lit a fire on the beach and started arguing: “Why does the moon illuminate other tribes?” said someone. “Yeah, she should just enlighten us. We are the most important tribe in this world,” the other joined him. ”What does she think she is? We have to let her know her place.” another snapped.
As the discussions continued on for hours, the greed in the chief’s eyes became palpable. At last, he summoned Simba’s best fisherman, Ro. Despite his young age, this young man fished very well. Out of respect for the tribal elders, he got up from his warm bed at night and came to the beach.
The chief widened his eyes and brought his face close to Ro’s and asked: “Are you ready to hunt for your tribe Simba?” “Sure,” said Ro proudly. The chief brought his big nose close to Ro’s face and said: “Only this time, we don’t want you to fish. For the sake of Simba, you will hunt the moon.”
As the chief spoke, Ro got smaller, and the chief’s eyes got bigger, as if they would pop out of their sockets and would fall on Ro: “The moon in the sky should only illuminate the members of the Simba tribe. It should not enlighten other people. Also, the moon doesn’t illuminate the Simba people enough. For a tribe like us, which is certainly superior to all neighbouring tribes, this careless attitude of the moon is unacceptable. The moon should bring her brilliance only to us. Our request from you is to catch the moon and to bring it to us. We’ll handle the rest.”
Ro did not want to argue with the elders of the tribe. Although he didn’t believe he could catch the moon, he prepared his best fishing rods to hunt the moon.
The next day, after the sun left the earth, Ro climbed up to the highest peak of the island and waited. A few hours later, the moon rose into the sky like a huge silver tray. Ro threw the longest fishing rod he had ever prepared into the air. The tip of the fishing line rose so high that it almost reached the moon. The moon looked at the fishing rod and she smiled. She then passed by the fishing rod and continued her way on her own orbit. The fishing line fell rapidly and landed on the ground with an empty hook.
Ro climbed on a rock over the hill and threw his fishing rod from there. The rod rose so high that it slightly passed the orbit of the moon. Ro thought he’d catch the moon while the fishing line would fall down. The moon looked at the fishing rod and she smiled. She then passed by the fishing rod and continued her way on her own orbit.
Although Ro again ended up with an empty hook, he didn’t give up. He climbed to the highest point of a tree on the hill and swung his fishing rod into the sky. The fishing rod rose so high that it passed the moon’s orbit and curled up in the air. Ro thought that this time the rod would wrap the moon. The moon neither changed her smile nor changed her direction. She passed through the circular rope of the fishing line and continued to illuminate the sky on her own orbit.
The empty hook fell to the ground again. Ro finally understood that he would not be able to catch the moon. His already low hope has melted away.
As Ro told the tribal elders that he could not succeed, the chief’s big nose became red with anger. He picked up a piece of muddy soil from the ground. He rolled the mud with his hands and hurled it at the moon. The mud ball rose so high that it crashed onto the moon’s surface and exploded. The moon neither changed her smile nor her direction. She didn’t even wipe the mud marks on her surface. She continued to illuminate the sky on her own orbit.
Intending to buddy up to the chief, a few tribesmen also threw mud balls at the moon. Some even have managed to hit the moon’s surface. However, no one could spoil the smile and radiance of the moon. To this day, she still continues to illuminate the sky on her own orbit.
Witnessing makes a difference
In the upcoming years after my first encounter with Pınar on TV, she became a dear friend and a torchlight in my life. I witnessed how she kept her light shine and let her healing water flow despite the consistent harassment by the dark forces.
Someone who is familiar with Turkish state history would know that the dark forces happened to be on end in action. They frequently would arrange conspiracies, crimes, bad rap and torture towards well-respected thinkers, journalists, and activists. They would ignore the laws, break the rules, and dismiss authorities to achieve their intentions.
Reimagining justice in the midst of this atmosphere might sound naive but it is still possible. According to quantum physics, observers can influence the incident just by observing the situation. Like me, there are so many people from all over the world who continue to witness Pınar’s case for decades. We even have a solidarity platform called ‘’We are still witnesses’’*. I believe we already influenced this legal case by just being there and witnessing.
On 31st of March we will again be in court; witnessing, reimagining justice and hoping that this long winded harassment story gains its fifth and this time final happy ending.
*For more information about Pınar’s work and the platform, you could check this link: https://pinarselek.com/public/page.aspx?id=241