On 14 January 2021, co-chair of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) Istanbul Branch and a member of the Central Executive Committee of Socialist Women’s Councils, Ezgi Bahçeci, was arrested along with Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) PM member Sıtkı Güngör, ESP executive Kerim Altınmakas, Limter-İş Union Organising executive Deniz Bakır and Gülşah Polat. They were accused of joining in protests and organising actions against the government.
In her first hearing, Ezgi Bahçeci stated that she spent her life following her socialist ideology and she defended her actions. She was detained in İzmir’s Şakran Women’s Closed Prison for six months for her political work. She was released at the second hearing of the case on 6 July.
Bahçeci spoke to Jin News after she was released and spoke about the current situation in prisons in Turkey. Speaking about her experiences, Ezgi Bahçeci confirmed that the claims about forced strip-searches are true even though officials reject the accusation.
“Prisoners are forced to accept strip-searches. I was subjected to a strip search too. Their reaction depends on how much you resist,” she stated.
Stating that there are also restrictions in books being allowed, Ezgi Bahceci noted that there is a restriction in book allowances. The exchange of books is limited to 5 books per month. There are other restrictions too.
“For example, you may want to spend your time inside by reading books, but the books, magazines that were sent from outside are not delivered to us. We can’t get any publications – not only political publications but also cultural and art publications which were sent by cargo.”
While Ezgi said that the letters sent to them from outside were either delivered late or not at all, she also drew attention to the fact that no other justification was presented for the letters that were not delivered, other than the claim that they were “not appropriate.”
She noted that a complaint had also been filed regarding the postcards that were sent to them by deputies for ‘8 March, International Women’s Day,’ which were never delivered to them. “We objected but received different answers. One statement said ‘the post-cards can be given’ and the other said ‘they cannot be given.’ Different decisions for the same postcards were given in the same ward,” she said.
Bahceci also spoke about the ongoing hunger strikes that were launched to protest against the isolation of Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan and the violations of rights that are taking place in Turkey’s prisons.
“One week after they began their action, hunger strikers received direct disciplinary punishments. They have tried to stop our right to react against the current situation by punishing us with constant disciplinary investigations.”
Bahceci added: “They act as if it is a prison in another country and it has a regulation of its own, not according to the laws of this country.They do this to impose repentance on political prisoners, to force them to stay in independent wards, to impose obedience. Since it does not work, political prisoners are exposed to increasingly oppressive practices.”