AIUSA posted a Holiday Card Action last month, a tradition of the winter holidays. My local AI group has its own tradition every December when we have a potluck and participate in the Holiday Card Action instead of holding a formal meeting like the rest of the year. Last month’s gathering was a busy one. In addition to the Holiday Card Action, we also incorporated the Global Write-a-thon. We were writing letters to the authorities of various countries and also greeting cards to prisoners.

Mehmet Desde, source: AIUSAThere were 10 cases in the Holiday Card Action. I randomly selected a bunch of cases to write greeting cards. The case of Mehmet Desde attracted my attention because the directions said he is only allowed to receive messages written in Turkish and a Turkish translation of the phrase, “We are with you in solidarity” was provided for copying. I wrote a few words in English, copied the Turkish phrase, put the greeting card in an envelope and didn’t think much about it afterwards. I have been sending cards and letters to prisoners for years and I never receive a reply. Frankly, the prisoners cannot reply to any letters unless they have access to pens, paper and stamps. But I believe in what AI tells everyone for years: some prisoners do receive their mail and those who are not given their mail could experience some improvements in their prison conditions. I have heard numerous times from former prisoners who said they received piles of letters in prison and the letters lifted up their spirits.

Turkish stamps from Mehmet's letterYesterday, I got home from work and was puzzled by a piece of mail addressed to me that came all the way from Turkey. I didn’t even recognize Mehmet’s name written in the returned address. I opened the envelope and found a postcard. Mehmet wrote:

I took your letter. Thank you very much. Thank you for your support and solidarity. Many people expressed solidarity with me. Whatever they think, I’m not guilty. I’m a political prisoner. I’m in a high security prison. I stay with three frinds in a room. We don’t see another prisoner. We live in complete isolation from the another prisoner.

I don’t take English letter but I write and send English letter.

Wishing you peace and happiness for the future.

I want to my liberty. Prisoner of freedom.

Mehmet Desde
10 January 2008
– much love –

The English writing is not perfect but he explained his prison condition clearly. His “three frinds” might mean three rodents. Having a few little creatures as “friends” is better than nothing at all, isn’t it? I am truly moved by this letter. It gives me a lift of motivation to continue to be a part of Amnesty International and fight for human rights. Other activists received letters from Mehmet, too. The rewards of human rights activism come up much less often than other volunteer work I’ve done in the past but it is the best reward when it does arrives.

mehmetdesdeletterstamp150dpi.jpgUpdate: I reported the letter to AIUSA staff and volunteers who work on Turkey.  I found out the ink stamp on the postcard indicates that the letter was inspected by the “letter-reading association of Alanya” – part of the prison bureaucracy before it was sent out.