“Unfortunately, we are confronted more and more by the discriminating, marginalising, alienating and violent discourses and policies of the political administration in prisons, and these policies are getting worse and worse. As a result of the alliance between AKP and MHP, such policies are assuming a fascistic character,” writes Eren Keskin for Yeni Yaşam.
We are facing really major problems and rights violations inside the prisons in region we live in, and unfortunately we are not able to hear the voices of the prisoners as much as we need to.
Way back, on 19 December 2000, a large scale operation had been launched as a new isolation system was about to be introduced into the prisons. 42 people were murdered within a single day and the transition to that new isolation system was realised.
At the time, we, as human rights defenders, showed a very strong reaction to this. The isolation system in prisons became a very important issue for many people. We, as human rights defenders, said again and again how inhumane this was, that it was a violation of human rights, and that isolation could even cause deaths. And yet, the decision was already made by the state, and the transition to the system of isolation was concluded at the cost of the lives of many people who were killed.
There have been many problems for years, and these have now evolved to even bigger problems as they’ve been piled up on top of each other throughout so many years and after individuals have been jailed for such long periods of time.
There are critical problems especially concerning ill prisoners. The judiciary in Turkey unfortunately decides according to reports by the Forensic Medicine Institute [ATK] both in cases of torture and in cases involving sick prisoners: namely, in making decisions whether a prisoner’s health condition requires the prisoner to be released or not.
However the fact is, is that the Forensic medicine Institute is an institution of expertise that is indeed a part of the state; it is actually completely at the disposal of the political administration and issues reports in compliance with the expectations of the political administration. For this reason, many prisoners who are in critical condition are being kept behind bars with reference to ATK reports that state they can stay in prison.
According to the reports of the Human Rights Association (IHD), there are currently 1,605 sick prisoners and they are all suffering from serious sicknesses. Some have cardiovascular diseases, some have cancer, some are paralysed. This means that the number of people who are not supposed to be kept in prison is 1,605. This is a considerable number of people.
Unfortunately, some are getting out of prison only once their lives end, when their families come and collect their bodies.
Since international human rights week, six prisoners have passed away: Only since the 10 December. Some of these deaths are suspicious and some died after they were kept in prison with reference to ATK reports that concluded that they were ‘eligible to stay in prison’ although they were in critical conditions. But some are clearly suspicious.
One of these suspicious deaths was the case of our client Garibe Gezer; a death that occurred in Kandıra Prison. Garibe Gezer, as a consequence of a severe isolation punishments imposed upon her, and after being placed in a padded cell, decided to take her own life. On July 2021 she attempted suicide, but failed.
Even though the prison authorities were well aware of the trauma she had been experiencing, caused by isolation, torture and sexual assault, they kept on isolating her even more severely. And sadly, on 9 December 2021, her lifeless body was found in her isolated and padded cell in Kandıra Prison.
Garibe Gezer’s experiences, her resistance to what she’s been put through in prison and her reactions against isolation are all a rebellion. Her experiences are actually a summary of what other prisoners, the prisoners subjected to isolation, the ones who are critically sick, have been going through.
The fact that prisoners in isolation are constantly monitored with CCTV cameras, even during their most private moments, is extremely shameful and traumatic.
That’s why many female prisoners react to this, saying, “All instances of our lives are kept under extreme surveillance and we are feeling constantly harassed.”
Unfortunately, we are confronted more and more by the discriminating, marginalising, alienating and violent discourses and policies of the political administration in prisons and these policies are getting worse and worse. As a result of the alliance between AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party] and MHP [AKP’s partner Nationalist Movement Party], such policies are assuming a fascistic character.
The Republic of Turkey implements a system of isolation and solitary confinement, more or less in all prisons. It’s probably the prison at the island of İmralı that attracts most of the attention. The solitary confinement in the İmralı prison has been going on for years. In violation of both the domestic law and the international agreements signed by Turkey, Abdullah Öcalan [imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and the other inmates in the İmralı prison are being prevented from having contact with their families and even their attorneys.
All these cases and implementations are in great contradiction with domestic law and international agreements.
We believe that all human rights defenders shall act in solidarity in the face of this situation. We believe especially in the great value international solidarity has regarding these issues.