A letter from 1989: internationalism of peoples against criminalization by states

The following prison letter from Kurdish revolutionary Hüseyin Çelebi on October 26th, 1989 to Christa Eckes was first published in German in the Kurdistan Report. This month marks thirtieth anniversary of the beginning of the so-called “Düsseldorf Trial” on October 24th, 1989 against a total of twenty Kurdish activists in Germany. This was the beginning of massive repression against the Kurdish freedom movement even before the PKK ban of 1993.

Hüseyin Çelebi was imprisoned in Germany in 1988 in the 129a trial against friends and members of the PKK in the Federal Republic of Germany under unworthy conditions and accused as the youngest “terrorist” in the largest “terrorist” trial. He had lived in Germany for a long time and had become a vital bridge between the internationalists of the prosperous western metropolises and the Kurdish liberation struggle. At that time, he was also part of the Kurdistan Report editorial team. He spent two years in the isolation tracts of German prisons. After his release, he went to the mountains in Kurdistan, where he was murdered in a battle with peshmergas of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP) in 1992 in the South War, the great war between the PKK and the forces of the KDP, the PUK and the Turkish army in South Kurdistan.


During his detention in Wuppertal, the imprisoned political activist Christa Eckes wrote to him for the first time on 24 April 1989. Christa was in prison for the first time from 1974-1981 and then from 1984-1992 for membership in the Red Army Faction (RAF). A lively exchange of letters followed, in which both exchanged their experiences in prison and in the resistance and their political views.
In the following. we document an unedited letter Hüseyin Çelebi wrote to her after the first day of the trial.


Dear Christa,

Here now, as promised, the reply letter to your long letter from 17.9. I have already received your card from 9.10. The trial began the day before yesterday and continued yesterday. I am still with my head with these two days. I can hardly describe my feelings. By the moment when I hugged the first comrade, who was still down by the cells, twenty months of tensions were released. I can hardly really describe how well I am feeling. We three came, arm in arm, into the hall where all the others already were. But nobody saw us, everyone was in each other’s arms. And every time you let go of one, you saw another and hugged him, forgetting everything around.

Erdem was the first to let go of one of his comrades, turned around and said a sentence to me, and we hugged each other tightly. Ali (Sapan) came from behind, grabbed me by the shoulder, whirled me around and embraced me. Our glasses got stuck and we had to laugh. Then I saw Meral. I went up to her and said “Merhaba Meral”, she turned around, looked at me uncertainly and said “Merhaba Heval” (hello Comrade). I asked her if she hadn’t recognized me, which she confirmed. We had never seen each other before. I said “I am Huseyin”. She thought very shortly and then her face brightened and we lay in each other’s arms. Then Ibrahim came, the same thing happened again, the greeting etc., otherwise we know each other.

It was like discovering a new treasure every time, in the double sense of the word. Treasure, something incredibly valuable and treasure, someone you love very much. And how excited I was when we went there. Like a fried fish before his first date, like a child expecting Santa Claus. I was longingly expectant and starved for my comrades. And everything I write is not enough to describe the joy and feelings I experienced. You would have to invent new terms to describe it. I only watched my friends for two days, absorbed them, swallowed every facial expression. I felt each one of them individually in me, was 17 times me and 17 times them and 17 times us and even now they are with me, filling my cell.

I see everyone walking around here, sitting here, lying here. I see every single one, with the movements typical for him, I talk to them. I see Selahattin (Celik) making his faxes, and we have to laugh. I feel Ali Haydar holding my hands and the warmth of his hands surrounding me. I see the always smiling face of Erol, like a portrait hanging on my wall, yet alive. I hear Erdem’s soft voice, soft but unwavering and steady. Next to me stands the never-quiet, lively Mustafa, always hopping around, from one foot to the other… as I said, the words are not enough to describe it. Forgive me if it sounds so confused, but it is very difficult to express the feelings of a total of 18 people who have united in one person. You have to imagine this letter as an uncanny rhythmic dance, full of different steps. Had there been enough room, we would have danced as a prelude.

You’ll have read the press reports. That’s why I’ll limit myself to those things that weren’t in the press or are misrepresented. The solidarity outside is really fantastic. The demonstration on the previous Saturday with 18000 people, which was initiated by a broad alliance of Turkish, German and Kurdish groups. But it is also very good inside. There are trial observers from Greece, Cyprus, France, Sweden and the Netherlands. Among them are parliamentarians, judges and journalists. Martin Hirsch, the former constitutional judge, symbolically took over the defence of a comrade (Erdem), but unfortunately he was not there because he was ill. International press has appeared numerously, some reports are really good. Only the local press here agitates and the taz brings really stupid reports. A French judge called the case a scandal. There will also be trial observers in the future. Two public defenders have asked for their dispensation out of solidarity with the cause of the Kurdish people. Outside, there were several buses full of children, who unfortunately were not allowed into the hall and sent us greetings. Also in the future Kurds from all over Europe want to appear in large numbers at the trial days. This solidarity is really very good, there is so much strength. The tenderness of the peoples is practically palpable to us, we feel it.

A newspaper recently wrote that this process would lead to solidarity among the 400,000 Kurds in Germany. But the solidarity goes far beyond these people, it is international. In the last special edition of the K. Report Ali Haydar is said to have been quoted as saying, “I am firmly convinced that through this process of the FRG the cry of the Kurdish people for freedom will be heard all over the world. Mankind should witness it”. This is exactly what is happening now.

A few more words about the attack of the doorkeepers and the problem with the translation: the doorkeepers in the glass box are a serious threat to us. On the first day the judge called Ali (Aktas) to his place. His headphones were broken and he was still talking to his defender when suddenly two doorkeepers grabbed him from behind, threw him to the ground, beat him and strangled him. When some of his comrades tried to protect him, the doorkeepers also attacked them. Meral was dragged into the air, beaten and pulled out, Ali was pulled out. When I tried to get a comrade away so that he wouldn’t get into a riot, a doorkeeper punched me in the face, deliberately so that my glasses fell off. Then he dragged me over the table. I then lifted myself against it and pulled him to my side with a tug, whereupon I fell to the ground on one of the doorkeepers. This one then hit me in the abdomen with his elbow. Then Ali Haydar pulled me to one side, where it was quieter, and we chanted slogans and protested against this attack. They tortured our friend Ali before our eyes. Only then did the situation calm down and Ali and Meral were brought back. Both had traces of torture on their bodies.

Later, the guard who hit me in the abdomen tried to provoke me. When I greeted a visitor with “Good morning”, he told me to shut up. I asked him if he wanted to provoke me. He replied, “Shut up, or I’ll punch you in the mouth.” At that moment, my lawyer, whom I told about the incident, came and when I showed him to her, he just turned his face away and covered it with his hands. He also shoved me again on the way out and beat me on the hand. Fortunately a lawyer saw this and intervened immediately. Down by the cells, these provocations against other comrades continued. We protest against the glass box and the door closers, so we all refuse to sit down except Yasemin. This glass box is really impossible. The whole installation for the lawyers is not working. We have to shout for them because some of them are 20 meters away from us. There are a few holes in the glass wall. When we talk, the closing men hear the defense conversations. It gets even worse when the witnesses come, because we need the contact to the defenders.
The translations are also difficult. Especially since there is an expert opinion which states that it is not possible to translate from German into Turkish simultaneously. In addition, the court interpreters who are present are not in a position to translate a political text, which has been reported in the press. On the second day, Ali Haydar was supposed to read a statement, which was not possible. We did not get over half a page because the translation was wrong. Then the public prosecutor suggested that he should give me the statement and I should translate it in prison. It’s a method you can work with and help speed up the process, but for this we want to be united. Ali, Ali Haydar and I would then be able to translate and present the statement. That applies to all statements, Ali and I could be put together with anyone who wants to make a statement. That is also necessary so that statements with current relevance can be prepared. That has now been requested. In addition, a text that is difficult to understand may also be consulted. The way things are now proceeding is not going any further.

So much for the trial. The developments in Kurdistan you surely were able to follow in the press, there is a lot to come. Especially the article of the Turkey correspondent of the taz was incredibly good. The demonstration of 12.9. on the anniversary of the coup is an expression of the increasing solidarity of the various groups. These alliances have their basis in the resistance of the political prisoners and the prisoners of war and in the war in Kurdistan, which is now really running very successfully and which reveals the hitherto hidden support of the population. I don’t know why that was with the banners, but I didn’t hear anything about it from others either, maybe it was something local. Also the brochure of Cedri is unknown to me, because we get nothing written about our process. One must also consider the rather opaque politics of this Cedri. To this day I have not understood why they actually support us.

That letter you’re citing was interesting. I had also read all the other articles in the taz that had appeared.

So, dear Christa, I wish you all the best and good, of course the others too.

With many greetings,

The article from the Frankfurter Rundschau was taken, but I also receive the paper.