21 years ago, the ‘Return to Life’ operation was carried out in several prisons in Turkey that aimed to ‘solve’ the so-called “prison problem” and end the death fast of prisoners who had protested against their scheduled transfers to F-type prisons.
Security forces violently ended the ‘death fasts’ of hundreds of political prisoners who had protested against their transfer from large wards to F-type prison cells with only three or four prisoners in them.
The operation began simultaneously in 20 prisons on 19 December 2000 at 4.30 am and involved 10,000 security personnel.
Thirty two people died in the operation, among them two soldiers. Hundreds of detainees and convicts were injured.
In the F-type prisons that were opened after the operation, the death fasts continued and prisoners continued to protest at their transfer to small wards that imposed isolation conditions against political prisoners.
One hundred and twenty two people died while fasting for death inside and outside the prisons, and hundreds suffered permanent or temporary injuries.
Various protests were held in the streets protesting against the operation and 2,145 protesters were detained, 58 arrested, 18 cultural centres and associations were raided, and two associations were closed during the period.
In most of the investigations and trials, the detainees and convicts who survived the operation were indicted on charges of rioting and damage to public property, and only four cases were filed against the soldiers involved in the operation.
A lawsuit was filed regarding what happened in Bayrampasa Prison, but it was limited to the private soldiers involved in the operation. Those in command and those responsible for the massacres were protected with impunity.