Teacher sentenced after calling for end to violence back in prison

Ayşe Çelik, the young Turkish teacher who received a jail sentence after making an emotional call for peace during a phone call to a popular television show, has returned to prison after a delay to her sentence, Turkish pro-government news outlet HaberTürk reported on Wednesday.

Çelik’s sentence had been suspended temporarily after she applied for it to be delayed.

“What a pity! Don’t let people die. Don’t let children die. Don’t let mothers cry,” Çelik said during a call-in to the popular Beyaz Show in January 2016.

At the time fierce fighting was ongoing between security forces and Kurdish militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an organisation that has sought Kurdish self-rule through armed struggle in Turkey for decades.

Peace talks between Turkey’s Justice and Development Party government and the PKK broke down in 2015, leading to heavy fighting in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, including in Çelik’s home province of Diyarbakır.

“What is happening here is misrepresented on television. I cannot really say more, please don’t stay silent. Please show more sensitivity as human beings,” Çelik said during the phone call.

This is all I can say. I want to say more, but my emotions are mounting, my voice is shaking. Sounds of bombs, gunfire... People grapple with hunger and thirst here, especially babies and children. Please do more, and don’t stay silent, please,” she said.

Çelik was charged with “praising terrorism” shortly after the phone call was broadcast, resulting in a guilty verdict and 15-month prison sentence passed in December 2017.

The guilty verdict was viewed by many as a suppression of free speech, and images of Çelik preparing to start her prison term with her five-month-old baby sparked outrage.

Çelik successfully applied for delays to her sentence three times, and was released from prison after the last application was accepted.

The teacher’s lawyer, Mahsuni Karaman, tweeted on Wednesday that an appeal had been lodged with Turkey’s highest legal body, the Constitutional Court, which was yet to reach a decision.