The practice of ‘strip searches’ in Turkey’s prisons remains a key concern of human rights defenders. Cemile Karakaya and Ayşenur Kizaroğlu, two human rights defenders from Turkey’s Human Rights Organisation (IHD), spoke to Jin News about the application of this practice which mistreats prisoners in the country, targeting their human dignity.
Regarding the debates that have been raging over this issue, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) MP Özlem Zengin said in a public statement that she does “not believe strip searches are conducted in Turkey”. She refused to accept claims that the practice exists and is applied in Turkey’s prisons. On the other hand, numerous human rights organisations and activists in Turkey as well as Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu have publicly stated on several occasions that strip searches are systematically applied in Turkey’s prisons.
Hundreds of people have shared their traumatic experiences of being forced to undergo strip searches with the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey – HRFT (also known as TIHV). The HRFT alone recorded 241 applications that reported strip searches between the years 2010 and 2019. The Human Rights Association’s (IHD’s) 2020 report noted that 167 people were subjected to strip searches in prison during 2020.
‘Strip searches have become part of the systematic state violence that is inflicted on women’
Cemile Karakaya, a human rights defender from the Izmir Branch of the IHD’s Women’s Commission stressed that the attacks on women have been carried out to the next level after debates took place regarding the Istanbul Convension. Strip searches have become part of the systematic state violence that is inflicted on women in Turkey.
“Many women applied to Izmir IHD regarding strip searches they had been subjected to in the police stations after they were detained”, she said. “As the human rights defenders from the IHD and the IHD’s Women’s Commission, we have declared that strip searches represent a form of torture that degrades human dignity. The Turkish Criminal Code No. 99 explicitly states that strip searches constitutes a form of torture. The perpetrators of strip searches should be brought to justice as the perpetrators of torture. Strip searches have been a way to torture and systematically target women”.
Strip searches should be seen as part of the ‘war politics on women’s bodies’
Strip searches should be seen as part of the ‘war politics on women’s bodies’, states Ayşenur Kizaroğlu, a human rights and women’s rights activist from Izmır IHD. “Amid war and the emergency state, strip searches have been used as a tool to oppress those who oppose the rulers. Strip searches, however, are a crime, regardless of whom it is imposed on”, she said.
“Strip searches have become systematic. We see that especially women’s bodies have become a battlefield and whenever the women’s movements rise up, the torture and related targeting of women begins to take on forms of increased sexual violence. We believe that the increasing numbers of strip searches should be evaluated within this context”.