Imprisoned in Turkey, woman who fought Islamic State asks French president for prison transfer

Ebru Firat fought against the Islamic State (Isis) group in Syria in 2015.

Ebru Firat, a 26 year old French student of Kurdish origin imprisoned in Turkey since September 2016, wrote a letter to President Francois Hollande asking for help in order to be transferred to a prison in France, reported the daily Le Parisien on Monday.

The student was taken into custody at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on 8 September 2016 as she was on her way to take a plane back to her hometown Toulouse in France, after an anonymous phone call to Istanbul police tipped her as a “suicide bomber.”

“I implore you Mr. President, to demand for my transfer to France from the Turkish state, in order not to give the Turkish state the freedom and opportunity to incarcerate other French and European volunteers for participating in the fight against the global enemy [Islamic State group] alongside Kurdish groups,” Firat said in a letter published by La Depeche du midi, a regional daily published in Toulouse and south-west France.

Firat was given a five year prison sentence by an Istanbul court for “membership to a terrorist organisation” in November 2016, after the original charges claiming she was a “suicide bomber” were dropped.

The Kurdish woman left her hometown to join the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Northern Iraq in 2009, when she was 18. After completing an 18-month medical training course in PKK ranks she started to work as a nurse, Firat explains in her letter to the French President.

In 2015, Firat joined The Women’s Defence Units (YPJ) in Syria and participated in the liberation of Kobani, after which she stayed in northern Syria and continued to fight against the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group.

The young woman had returned to France in 2016 but went to Diyarbakir province to visit her family who had moved back to Turkey while she was in Syria and whom she hadn’t seen for eight years.

“I have no intention of giving you a headache by writing dozens of pages or telling you about the political parties or the war that is going on in Syria. I only wish to make myself heard as a young woman of French nationality and Kurdish origin who set an example and went to places she did not know before only to be able to help a people in suffering,” said Firat, who has been in solitary confinement since her arrest.

Turkey views the PKK and YPG/YPJ as affiliated terrorist organisations, however the EU and US, which have also proscribed the PKK, provide support for the latter groups in Syria.