Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP for Kocaeli in Turkey, spoke to Mesopotamia Agency about the violations of human rights that are taking place in prisons in the country. He also commented on the ongoing hunger strike in Turkey – which is into its 57th day – and the prison isolation conditions of Abdullah Öcalan at Imralı.
Gergerlioğlu called for support for the hunger strike launched by the political prisoners of the Kurdistan Workers’s Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK). They are protesting against the isolation of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and the increasing violations of rights in prisons in Turkey. “There are nearly 2,000 parliamentary questions submitted to the Ministry of Justice, but the Ministry does not provide us with a response. Everyone should be sensitive. The authorities should make efforts to end the isolation taking place by all means”, he said.
Conditions in the prisons
Gergerlioğlu stated that around 200 new prisons have been built in the past five years in Turkey. The physical conditions in the prisons are exceptionally poor and the prisons remain over-crowded. “Prisoners cannot go to hospital for medical treatment due to quarantine measures. We currently do not know how many prisoners have been tested positive for Covid-19 or died due to Covid-19. The Ministry has not issued any official statement since June”, he observed.
Seriously ill prisoners are on the verge of dying
Gergerlioğlu further reported that seriously ill prisoners’ applications for release keep being denied by the courts. “The health institution’s report is not accepted by them. The prisoners who have made these applications are on the verge of death”, he noted. “The number of pregnant women or women with babies in prisons are not known as well. The Ministry does not specifically reveal the number of pregnant women or numbers of babies in prisons. These women encounter serious problems in prisons”.
“Strip-searches in prisons are a fact”
Gergerlioğlu stated that prisoners are being subjected to ill-treatment, assault and strip-searches in Turkish prisons. “Strip-searches in prisons are a fact but the state is trying to cover this up. We have reported that this situation exists. We have received many applications from women about this issue. We know of extremely disturbing instances such as the ‘searching’ of pads of women who are menstruating or ‘searching’ children’s diapers”, he said.
“The prisoners were already in isolation, but the isolation has doubled in intensity due to the pandemic measures in prisons. With the pandemic, all rights have been suspended. Transfers between prisons have also been halted”.
‘Prison isolation conditions should be ended’
Pointing to the hunger strike campaign in prisons, Gergerlioğlu said: “In this context, a hunger strike initiative has been launched again. The hunger strike brings with it several risks, in terms of prisoners’ health, during the pandemic. Politically, the widespread nature of the hunger strike in many prisons and any possible deaths that may arise from it poses great risks in terms of social tensions that may increase. We hope that the government will end the isolation policies and take steps towards engaging in a dialogue over the Kurdish issue”.
Gergelioğlu emphasized that the ‘Kurdish problem’ should be solved by ending the prison isolation conditions on Imralı Island: “Öcalan should be involved in the process of finding a solution in order for peace to become a reality. In that sense, human rights issues constitute a very important step. During the solution process, many violations of human rights were halted and deaths had come to an end. To end the isolation is a very important step that needs to be undertaken in order to arrive at a solution to the Kurdish issue”, he said.