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Asiye's Story

Political activist Asiye Guzel has chosen not to tell the reader everything that happened to her during the two weeks she was held at ‘Security HQ’ by the Turkish security police in 1997. She goes only so far – describing the ‘suspension’ torture that preceded the rape – and then simply acknowledges that the rape followed. I think this was a wise decision: it encourages readers to shift their focus from what rape is physically to the bigger issue of what rape can do to a person’s psyche and why any state’s use of it to quell political opposition must be opposed. Guzel recreates the debilitating self-loathing she felt after the assault – offering a graphic portrayal of the ‘classic’ situation in which the victim blames herself. After her time at Security HQ she was sent to prison and initially hid the fact that she had been raped.

In Asiye’s Story, Guzel paints a vivid picture of the emotional states she went through. She tells of periods of desperate sociability that were followed by extreme withdrawal and a desire for death. Terrible nightmares were a recurring problem. Eventually, she admitted to friends that she’d been raped and she spoke of it in court, turning her case into a national sensation. Although this short book is about Guzel’s individual experience, it’s clear that she has written it not just as a form of catharsis but because ‘it is vital for people to demand retribution from a state where torture and rape are matters of policy’.

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