Fatma Töre is a 54-year-old woman living in Akkavak (Sipîndarok) village, located in Şemdinli (Şemzînan), a small district in Turkey’s easternmost corner of Hakkari (Colemêrg), between the Iranian and Iraq borders.
Fatma is one of thousands of Kurdish mothers who has at least one of her children in Turkish prisons. Fatma’s two sons, Mikail and Mehmet Emin Töre, have been jailed for five years in such faraway cities to their home village that it has been impossible for Fatma to visit them for the past four years, Mezopotamia News Agency (MA) reports.
Having not been able to see her beloved sons due to the significant-distances between her village and the prisons they are in (where one is located 2,000 km away, the other 1,900 km away), Fatma’s right to visit her family members has been practically stolen from her.
“I have become sick due to this longing,” she said and continued: “All my health problems are caused by stress. I have high blood pressure, now my feet are unable to carry me: I cannot walk. In such a desperate situation, I am waiting to see the faces of my children once again.”
Mikail is currently imprisoned in Bandırma Prison, in Turkey’s western Balıkesir province which is 2,000 km away from Hakkari. Gülistan Kılıç Koçyiğit, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) MP for Muş, warned in April in a petition addressed to Turkey’s Justice Ministry that there are dangerous overcrowding conditions in the wards of Bandırma Prison.
Koçyiğit stated that prisoners in Bandırma Prison have been facing hygiene problems and serious risks of coronavirus infections as well as many other diseases.
Mehmet Emin has been jailed in Silivri Prison, a prison known for its political prisoners, consisting of activists, politicians and intellectuals. It is located in İstanbul’s Silivri district, 1,900 km from Hakkari.
Fatma asks why her two sons are jailed in separate prisons.
“All I want, at least, is for my sons to be in the same prison. I want my voice to be heard. My sons did not commit a crime, they are political prisoners,” she said.
Political prisoners in Turkey have long been suffering from abuses of human rights in prison as their rights to be visited by their lawyers and members of their families have been arbitrarily blocked by the authorities, either by ‘disciplinary penalties’ or physical conditions that make it impossible for their families to visit them, as Fatma’s case highlights.
The Council of Europe’s (CoE’s) annual report revealed that Turkey had the highest incarceration rate of the 47 member countries in 2020, with 357 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants.
Prison administrations reported having 30,524 prisoners convicted for ‘terrorism offences,’ most of them in Turkey, with a political prisoner population of 29,827, the report found.
There are reportedly 297,019 inmates in Turkish penal institutions, despite the fact that the stated prison capacity is supposed to be 233,194, the CoE reported. Turkey had the most crowded prisons in Europe with 127 inmates per 100 available places as of 31 January 2020, according to the report.