Wife of former of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, Başak Demirtaş has announced that she quit her job as a schoolteacher since visitation schedules for her jailed husband have become increasingly hard to co-ordinate.
Başak Demirtaş told online broadcaster yeniden tv that she turned in her resignation to the Education Ministry two weeks ago, leaving her 20-year career as a teacher, 13 years of which she spent in different villages across Turkey.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life. It broke my heart but in some sense, I was forced into this decision,” Demirtaş said.
“As you know, Selahattin has been under arrest for almost four years now, and he’s being held captive in a prison 1,700 kilometers away from us.”
Arrested in late 2016, Selahattin Demirtaş has spent his entire pre-trial and trial process in custody, and has not been released despite the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that Ankara had violated his rights.
Başak Demirtaş and the couple’s two daughters need to take an hours-long drive to Edirne Prison to see the former co-chair, which has become even more difficult under pandemic guidelines, she said.
“I asked myself if I could really give my all to my students under these circumstances, and I couldn’t honestly say ‘yes.’ So I decided to quit,” Demirtaş said.
Demirtaş sent a letter to the Turkish Justice Ministry on Sept. 1, inquiring about why the former HDP co-chair wasn’t allowed socially distanced visitations with his daughters while in prison.
The Justice Ministry has also failed to provide video calls to inmates during the pandemic, a promise that was initially made as in-person visitations were ruled out.
Demirtaş said that her husband’s incarceration has also caused pro-government media outlets to target her as a teacher, as they have been asking students and colleagues questions about her.
“They couldn’t get a single bad word out of anyone, so they had to run a smear campaign,” Demirtaş said.
While she’s not thinking of starting an active political career, Demirtaş said that she will remain a teacher at heart her whole life.