Seeking
Project info

It is Turkey of the 90s. It is the story of a woman's loss. The loss of her father who was shot dead during a raid by the government militia, one of many such attacks on Kurdish population centers in what was called a "Low intensity war" by the highest military commander of the time, followed by the loss of her husband who "disappeared" while under police custody. It's the story of her pain coming back with every news story of lost lives since then, and of her struggle to reclaim what was stolen from her, so she can gift it to humanity.

Hanim Tosun was born in 1964 in Licok (Cavindir), a village within the Lice municipality of the city of Diyarbakir, in Turkey's south east region. She is the third of four children born to a middle class family of tobacco farmers. Like all the other girls in the village, she is not sent to school, spending her childhood with house and farm work. She is arranged to marry Fehmi Tosun when she reaches 16; her husband is 24 at the time. At 17, she is a mother.

When her husband is taken into custody in 1991 with the charge of "supporting terrorist organization PKK" she is 27 and a mother of five.
Two years later, their village Licok is razed by government backed militia; a frequently used tactic of the time to deny PKK logistical support from local population. Her 64 year old father is shot in the head while resisting the militia as they burn down the family homestead.

Homeless, their livelihoods destroyed, and with their patriarch dead, the family emigrates to the city of Diyarbakir, where Hanim's husband Fehmi is held under arrest. He gets released in June of 1994 and they emigrate again, this time to Istanbul, seeking better economic prospects and to be closer to their relatives.

Evening of October 18, 1995: Fehmi Tosun, on the way back home from work, is forced into an unmarked police car at the corner of the street where they live. Nobody hears from him again.

After fruitless searches and inquiries with the authorities, Hanim Tosun and her relatives seek help from IHD (Human Rights Foundation). IHD lawyer Mustafa Ayzid goes to court to find answers. The government attorney decides not to prosecute, without ever conducting an investigation. Their appeal is rejected by a higher court. In 1996, they escalate the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Hanim Tosun becomes a regular participant of the Saturday Mothers, a peaceful protest and vigil organized by IHD, for people who disappeared under government custody, of whom there are many. She holds a picture of her husband, with her children by her side.

Hanim becomes the breadwinner of her family as she starts working as a nanny. It is during this time she completes an adult literacy course run by HADEP (the political voice of the Kurdish minority) in 1996. By the next year she is an active member of the women's branch of HADEP.

Between 1998 and 1999 she represents Saturday Mothers in a meeting of solidarity with Plaza de Mayo Mothers of Argentina.

In 2001, she is a founding member of YAKAYDER, an organization that offers support to people who have missing relatives.

In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights reaches a verdict and finds the Turkish government guilty of denying her husband the right to live. Following the verdict another appeal is made to the authorities to open an investigation into the case, which gets rejected due to statute of limitations. Hanim and her lawyer appeal to a higher court, arguing that according to the Human Rights laws, the statute of limitations does not apply in cases where the fate of the victim remains undetermined and that the state remains responsible in such cases. Their appeal gets rejected yet again. In 2016, the case is taken to the Supreme Court of Turkey.

Mother of five, and grandmother of two, Hanim Tosun is currently a board member for IHD, a member of the women's branch of HDP (continuation of HADEP), and YAKAYDER. She is but one of the thousands of people who protest peacefully every Saturday in Galatasaray Square of Istanbul, holding the government accountable for people lost in custody.