The iconification of political prisoners enhances their visibility, credibility, and power. Nevertheless, iconification may also reduce, reimagine, or otherwise distort the biographies and experiences of political prisoners. Moreover, iconicity’s blurring of prisoners’ views and activities may result in the recirculation of their stories in the service of political projects that do not fully align with their own. The incarceration of the Islamist icon Şule Yüksel Şenler (1938–2019) in 1971 presents an excellent vantage point from which to analyze these dynamics and how gender informs them in fundamental ways. The diverse media representations of Şule Yüksel Şenler demonstrate how historical tropes became entangled with critical references to the law, religion, and the discourses of freedom and democracy in the iconification of an Islamist political prisoner in Cold War Turkey. Şenler’s legacy and the recent references to her story show how the tendency of iconification to occlude or distort prisoners’ ideological investments and activities may in fact enhance their ability to integrate into new political projects. This case study of a right-wing political prisoner exposes how the histories of political incarceration, combined with the discourses of injustice and victimization, may also be used to legitimize authoritarian political regimes and new incarcerations.

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