Hit Your Heels
The last time Elif, a judge in Turkey, wears her high-heeled shoes, the police are coming. She knows she cannot run in them, but as she is handcuffed and accused of being a terrorist, she keeps them on as an act of defiance all through her detention and interrogation. In Toronto since 2017, she hopes to be a lawyer and to continue fighting for justice as she did in Turkey.
The last time I wore these high-heeled shoes was on a Monday. I was walking down the hallway of my workplace, the Council of State, the highest administrative court of Turkey. I was in handcuffs, surrounded by police officers. And I have never worn these shoes since that day.
Do you think my shoes make me ashamed of being arrested as a terrorist?
No, they don’t. They made me feel proud before that day, on that day, and after that day. Going to the court in my high heels, wearing my suit, on that Monday, as if it were a regular day, was my way of showing everybody that I didn’t accept the accusations against me. I trusted my impartiality, integrity, and innocence. I had been working there as a judge for almost ten years.
That Monday would have been a regular day if there had been no coup attack two days before. The alleged coup started at around 10:00 p.m. on July 15, 2016, while we were having family dinner at home. Suddenly, we heard very loud sounds like bomb explosions. We felt our apartment shake. It went on and on. My son and daughter slept on the floor beside their bed against the danger of any collapse. It lasted until the early morning of the next day.
In a matter of hours, the list of judges accused of supporting the attempted coup spread via the Internet. My name was on the list, alongside approximately 3,500 other judges. Although it said we would be arrested and fired, I went to work as usual because I still had confidence in the judiciary and myself.
When I got to my office, some of my colleagues came to my door and said they were surprised when they saw my name on the list. Were they just surprised for me? Or for all that was happening? They asked how the police allowed me to come in instead of taking me at the entrance of the building. They advised me to go to the police. Otherwise, I could be considered a fugitive. I was surprised. Would I really try to escape wearing my high-heeled shoes? And why would I come to my workplace?
Around an hour later, three policemen came to my office and put handcuffs on me. I was passed through the long hallways with officers on my right, my left, and behind me. Only the sound of my heels broke the silence. The sound reflected the rebellion in my heart. Normally, I try to walk softly, but that day I hit my heels harder than ever. This sound made me feel strong and confident.
The police collected and put us in small buses in front of the building. We were kept in those buses for 12 hours in the heat of July. Then I was put in a cell, the size of a king-sized bed, with 16 other women judges. I saw a few pairs of high heels by the cell door.
Six months later, my family and I risked our lives by escaping our country over the Maritsa River. I left everything behind me, including these high-heeled shoes. They were packed in one of the trunks containing all our household goods, sent to my mother’s home, and stacked in her basement. When I needed them to show you, they were found by my sister and forwarded to my mother-in-law to bring here.
Now, we, the women judges, are looking forward to the time when we can wear our high-heeled shoes again and bring justice back.
ELIF DERIN came from Turkey with her family in 2017. She is a judge in exile and a lifetime student. She is studying Computer Programing and Analysis at a college and dreaming of studying law.