A fire that broke out in the Kürkçüler F-Type Prison in Turkey’s southern Adana province on 5 June was started by inmates in two separate cells in protest at worsening prison conditions, Nazım Göker, another inmate in the prison, said in a letter to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Meral Danış Beştaş, Mezopotamya Agency reported on Wednesday.
The inmates were heard to shout “Revolt!” before setting themselves on fire, Göker said, adding that other prisoners suspected that there had been casualties in the incident. More such incidents might occur at due to the rapidly worsening conditions, he said, and called on the HDP to push for a committee to inspect the prison.
Mezopotamya reported on the prison fire though they did not know the reason for it. The prison administration had not made a statement at the time.
The inmates who started the protest fire were not political prisoners, Göker said. However, political prisoners have also been experiencing serious issues in the prison. Inmates with “completely opposing views” are forced to share the same corridor, Göker said, which means they share an exercise yard at the same time as well.
Göker said he and his friends were forced to share an exercise yard with Islamic State (ISIS) prisoners, and petitions they have submitted to change cells have been rejected for arbitrary reasons. In addition, during searches inmates are forced out of their cells and wards into the corridors, where they are insulted by prison guards in front of all who share the corridor.
According to law, inmates must be allowed 10 hours socialising a week, but Göker said they were unable to socialise for even a quarter of this time.
Meanwhile, prison guards have been attempting to search inside the mouths of inmates every time they are to be taken to the infirmary or out of the prison for hearings. “Hospital referrals and court days have turned into days of torture and indignity,” he said.
Prisoners have been refusing to comply with this unreasonable demand, resulting in the administration refusing to allow them to see doctors or attend court hearings, according to Göker.
Some prisoners are kept in cage-like structures, he said. “There are six cages in the exercise yard, with very narrow slits in the top. There is no legal basis for this.”
As Turkey’s prisons continue to experience overcrowding, inmates in the Kürkçüler prison have been receiving drastically reduced food rations. “The per person bread allowance was reduced to one loaf from two, and then the canteen started to sell bread for 2.5 lira ($0.15) a loaf. … A five-person dormitory receives just enough food to fill one person’s plate. Shortly after this reduction in food rations, the administration announced the canteen would be selling ready-meals, and that political prisoners would also be allowed to purchase them.”
Inmates are charged 150 lira ($8.5) every month for the electricity they consume, despite not having any appliances other than a fridge, television and electric kettle, Göker added. “This prison is run with a commercial mentality.”
Turkey has 384 prison facilities throughout the country, with a total capacity of 271,000 inmates. As of March 2022, there are at least 314,000 convicts and remand prisoners in these facilities, according to the Ministry of Justice.
Beştaş has taken the matter to the Parliamentary Human Rights Investigatory Commission.
İbrahim Karakaş, a journalist held in the same prison, reported on Tuesday that the prisoners had not been referred to hospitals for 10 months. Prisoners’ petitions submitted to the Ministry of Justice have remained unanswered, and the ministry has been issuing statements alleging that political prisoners are exaggerating their circumstances. Karakaş also corroborated Göker’s account that the 5 June fire had been started by inmates in protest at prison conditions.