Pınar Yılmaz, a former political prisoner in Turkey and an executive of the Human Rights Organisation in the country’s eastern province of Hakkari (Colemêrg), described for Jin News the violations of rights she personally witnessed in prison.
Yılmaz was released from prison four months ago. She has continued with her political activism and continues to defend the rights of political prisoners in Turkey. She described her experiences whilst in prison: “There are always difficulties in accessing medical treatment in prisons and there is a shortage of doctors and health personnel in prison infirmaries. Some people end up waiting for weeks to visit the infirmary. The process of going to a hospital in Van region, for example, turns into a complete violation of rights for prisoners, because prisoners are kept handcuffed for hours during their transportation to the hospital and whilst waiting in hospital for treatment”.
“The situation in prisons has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic”, she said. “Now, there are very serious problems in prisons and all prisoners are at risk in terms of health. There is not enough treatment nor enough food available”.
Letter to the Ministry of Justice
Yılmaz, alongside other women prisoners, had written a letter to the Ministry of Justice to voice their complaints and concerns: “We wrote about all the pressures, the ban on letters, and the guards who constantly came into the wards to insult us. After that, the prison administrator visited us in response to our letter. ‘You complained about me to the Ministry of Justice. I have read your letter and I will send it to the ministry: it is your right. However, it will not change anything. I am the ruler in this prison’, he told us”.
Yilmaz: ‘The prison administration threatened us’
Yılmaz asserted that: “The prison administration threatened us”. She also described the manner in which other prisoners were harassing the political prisoners. “They threw rubbish into our wards. When we complained about it, the administration offered us the ‘solution’ of switching off the air conditioning. It is only a 10-metre square ward. That means cutting off all our contact with the sun and fresh air”, she said.
“The situation of seriously prisoners is the most worrisome as they are at high risk of being infected by the virus. In some prisons, in the quarantine wards, prisoners end up having to sleep on the floor with 20-30 people in the same ward. There are too many risks to face”.
Yilmaz: ‘The demands of the hunger striking prisoners are legitimate’
Yılmaz also drew attention to the ongoing hunger strikes in prisons against the prison isolation conditions of Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan. The hunger strikers have also been demanding an end to human rights violations taking place in the prisons. “The situation was already very bad in prisons and it has been worsened during the pandemic. Now, if we add the hunger strikes to this picture, we can be sure that there are more human rights violations taking place in the prisons now”, she said.
She made an appeal to the Ministry of Justice: “The demands of the hunger striking prisoners are legitimate and have to be accepted immediately. The Ministry of Justice should initiate a dialogue with the hunger striking prisoners. They should do it before it is too late and before anyone dies”.