Garibe Gezer, a prisoner at Kandıra F-Type High Security Prison No. 1, who had been systematically raped and subjected to sexual torture by prison officers, lost her life in a prison cell on 9 December under suspicious circumstances.
Campaigning on behalf of political prisoner Garibe Gezer, who was tortured and subjected to sexual assaults by the prison guards, women’s right organisations had already been following up on her condition and demanding an end to violations against her in prison for months before her death. The family and lawyers of Garibe Gezer (28) had also lodged a criminal complaint by reason of the torture, ill-treatment and assaults she had been exposed to.
In letters she wrote via her lawyers to JinNews agency, Garibe Gezer repeatedly stated that she was being tortured and sexually assaulted by wardens, and also that she was being held in solitary confinement.
In a later message, she said that her physical and mental condition was good, and the prison administration had “stopped the ill-treatment” as a result of public pressure following the incident being reported in the media.
She said, ”The pressures have stopped now but we never know what might happen next. I am not the only one being oppressed, oppression continues against all prisoners. They have stopped for now but they could still cause trouble for us at any moment. It is possible that they will start using more solitary confinement punishments in November.”
Gezer’s death under suspicious circumstances in prison and the developments in the aftermath of her death, such as her autopsy being rushed through by doctors at the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute before the arrival of her lawyers, have sparked debate among human rights activists and feminists around Turkey.
Turkey’s prominent human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin is one of those raising serious questions about Gezer’s death.
“This is a suspicious death. In any event it is a case of ”death being caused by others”. There are many people like Garibe in the prisons. They drive people to thoughts of giving up on life. The conditions are that bad. We’re not going to give up on this case. Garibe was in good mood because of the support given to her, no one expected this, we are so confused and so saddened,” she said to Jin News.
“In fact Garibe was a very lively, determined person with a fighting spirit. Her first suicide attempt was because she had been tortured in a padded cell and felt there was nothing she could do to stop it. But Garibe was not a suicidal girl, she was so determined and strong at our last meeting.”
The padded cell that Gezer was held in is one whose walls are covered with foam, and their use in prisons is considered to be a means of torture. Keskin drew attention to the systematic repression suffered by Gezer and previous acts of torture to which she had been subjected by officers at Kandıra Prison. She strongly condemned the fact that Gezer was more than once forced into padded cells.
“The main problem here is that prisoners are already in a High Security Prison, add to that being subjected to solitary confinement punishment. They must use this method so that everyone dies, I can’t think of any other reason. They are young people. What else do you want from them? And then you put them in solitary confinement as well,” she said.
Dilşat Canbaz, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP for Istanbul, agreed with her. She shared her view that Garibe’s death was a suspicious death.
“We consider the incident to be a suspicious death, not a suicide, because we don’t know what happened in the solitary confinement cell, whether she was really killed under yet another instance of torture, or whether she took her own life,” she said.
“The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior are responsible for this, because there are so many problems in the prisons. It should be recalled once again that the Ministry of Justice is the main responsible party.”
Canbaz said that the HDP MPs will not give up on Gezer’s case and that they will push until the responsible parties are brought to justice.