Recently released prisoner, Hamdullah Çelik shared information about Kurdish prisoners who have been abducted in Syria and illegally transferred to Turkey from the sieged town Afrin (Efrîn) in North East Syria. Çelik was an eye witness to the maltreatment of all political prisoners, including the prisoners from Afrin, in Tarsus Prison located in Turkey’s southern province of Mersin
Çelik was sent to Tarsus Type-T No.1 High Security Prison five years ago. Having recently been released, he spoke to Mesopotamia Agency regarding the violations of human rights in the prison and especially called for solidarity with the prisoners from Afrin.
‘Prisoners from Afrin especially need support’
Turkey has already been exposed by human rights organisations for illegally transferring people detained in Syria to Turkey.
“Turkey and the Syrian National Army have arrested and illegally transferred at least 63 Syrian nationals from northeast Syria to Turkey to face trial on serious charges that could lead to life in prison,” Human Rights Watch said on 3 February 2021.
The case of Çiçek Kobanê who was captured during fighting when she was defending her homeland from Turkish affiliated jihadist gangs and was paraded in front of cameras against all human rights conventions and then illegally transferred to Turkey has been widely reported in recent days. Çiçek Kobanê was sentenced to life imprisonment in Turkey against all international laws.
Hamdullah Çelik recently released from Tarsus Type-T No.1 High Security Prison says that he witnessed three people from Afrin, Muhammed Şex Hesen, Muhammed İbrahim and Sileman Xelo Cemil, who have also been illegaly transferred to Turkey from Syria, be kept as prisoners in Tarsus Prison.
“Three people from Afrin were captured and arrested on 20 January 2018 during clashes in Afrin. .’When they were arrested, they were taken to Hatay Prison on Turkey’s border town with Syria. They told us that they were subjected to intense torture there and subjected to heavy beatings three times a day,” Çelik said.
“Prisoners from Afrin especially need our support,” he said. “Muhammed Şex Hesen, Muhammed İbrahim and Sileman Xelo Cemil have been sentenced to aggreviated life sentences. Their families could will never able to come and visit them. They have no visitors. The authorities do not let their families send money or any clothes for them either. All three of these prisoners from Afrin were sentenced to life imprisonment without a lawyer to defend them. They need legal representation.”
Lack of nutrition, 22 prisoners in one ward
There is intense pressure on the prisoners in Tarsus Prison, Çelik said, “The prison is overcrowded, 22 prisoners are stuffed into one ward. The guards bring food that would normally be barely enough for 5 people, but 22 prisoners have to share that meal.”
Çelik said that they could not have a shower or wash their clothes properly for about 3 months. “The prison management kept saying, there was a system breakdown. We have collected signatures demanding that the problem be solved, but our petition was not responded to.”
Prisoners are mistreated on the grounds that they are ‘PKK members’
Çelik said that the guards would speak amongst each other as to why their demands were not even responded to. “This is the prison where PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) members stay. The administration will not want to fullfill their demands,”
The pressure is very intense, Çelik noted, “They look for the tiniest excuse to send the prisoners to a solitary confement cell.”
The wards are searched three days a week and during these searches the guards search through the personal belongings of the prisoners in minute detail, the former prisoner said. “The guards would confiscate any extra bits food and materials we had legally bought from the canteen. The canteen was already very expensive, once they take an item, it is not easy to afford to buy another from the canteen,” he said.
Prisoners are banned to say “hello” to the prisoners in the other wards
Çelik described the physical conditions of the isolation policies in the prison, Tarsus Prison includes different yards which are connected to each other with corridors. The only occasion that prisoners from different wards will see each other is when prisoners go out from their ward for telephone calls or visits or health checks as such, that does not happen very often.
“But we were banned to even say ‘hello’ to each other in the corridor. When some prisoners broke this so-called ban and greeted another prisoner in the corridor, the guards would try to silence him and threaten him. When we asked why, the guards would say, ‘because it is prohibited’ and that was always the only explanation they would give for all the things they arbitrarily ban,” Çelik said.
The life inside a Turkish prison for political prisoners include many daily routines as has been known and practised for many years and often described in the memories by all political prisoners even years after release as memories. To struggle against the isolation policies, political prisoners in Turkey organise daily life inside in a disciplined and dedicated manner.
Çelik gave some examples of those routines that they had in Tarsus Prison. “On some occasions, we would chant our slogans, depending on which agenda and our demands. Sometimes we danced ‘halay’ dances together. These are the collective actions for us in the prison,” he said, “But all of these became a topic of investigation that turned against us, because the adminsitration watches our each and every move with survelliance cameras. They recorded our slogans and dancing and included them in the investigation files opened against us during the time we served in prison.”
Ill-prisoners, Covid-19, hunger strikes…
Regarding health conditions, Çelik said that there was “literally no measures at all taken in Tarsus Prison to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. We were not given any hygene materials, we were not supplied with disinfenctants or protective materials. We were given nothing.”
Under such circumstances, the situation of ill-prisoners were not good either, Çelik said, “They were at high risk of catching any virus and they were not being treated for their current illnesses, their treatmens were always being postponed.”
Çelik also pointed out that hunger strikes protesting against the violations of rights the prisoners face as political prisoners in Turkey continues on to its 120th day.
He said that hunger striking prisoners are not even given “sugar and lemon” to supplement their hunger strike in Tarsus Prison. ”Our friends on hunger strike have decided to continue the hunger strike strike until they receive news from Abdullah Öcalan. Now they are on rotating hunger strike, but they say they will begin an indefinite hunger strike if their demands are not accepted.,” he said.
Giving one final message message from the hunger striking prisoners in Tarsus Prison, Çelik said, “The friends also had one request for the people outside. They want our people to speak up on their behalf and defend and protect the rights of the prisoners.”