When a wife and mother decided to flee her troubled homeland and the prospect of years in jail, she started a journey which would change her family’s life.
Aysegul – a judge in her native Turkey – felt she had no option but to leave the country and make a new, safe life elsewhere, after the failed coup in 2016 – which killed 250 people and left more than 2,000 injured. More than 100,000 public officials were sacked, suspended or arrested, following the coup, including judges.
Aysegul and her husband (also a judge) were on a list uncovered by the Turkish regime. Arrest warrants were issued for all on the list – leaving the family with a huge decision to make: surrender to the authorities or flee overseas.
Although there was no evidence of wrongdoing on their part, Aysegul and her family decided to run. But that meant they lost their home, car and possessions, their bank accounts were frozen and their passports seized, leaving them with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
They were able to get by, but lived in fear that at any time they could be traced and caught, leaving two young daughters alone. “We were hearing horrible news from social media, but my husband decided that he would not surrender and that we should escape because we were subject to really bad treatment and we were hearing news of torture.”
Aysegul, who has degrees in law and economics and dedicated her life to education and building her career from an early age says: “It was at this moment that I realised that there was no life for me and my family in Turkey any more. We needed to leave.”
But as they started their escape, Aysegul’s husband was stopped and arrested. The rest of the family were travelling separately, and managed to get away, waiting as he was sentenced to almost eight years in prison just for being opponent to ruling government.
That was when the long journey began, starting out without documents, but with a conviction that the UK would be a safe place to rebuild the family’s life.
The family flew from Greece to the UK, seeking asylum as Turkish refugees. In just three months, they were granted asylum – meaning that Aysegul could go to university, send her children to school and put a roof over their heads. Beginning a new life together…
As the family began to settle in the UK, Aysegul felt that she needed assistance to go to university and pursue her ambition in law. It was her lifeline to getting back into the career she loved, thus she contacted Prisoners of Conscience. PoC awarded her the grant which enables her to transfer her legal qualification.
“I have always believed in that if you want something, you need to work for it as it won’t just be handed to you. I am very proud of what I have achieved so far and still will work very, and to be a judge in the future. I am totally sure that I have the dedication required to succeed and get back on my feet. That’s why I am extremley honoured to get the opportunity PoC has given me to study my course to be qualified as a lawyer.”
Now on the journey to being qualified as a solicitor, Aysegul is determined to stand on her own feet. She wants to be able to make a contribution to the UK and help those in need – showing gratitude to the country she now calls home.