The Diyarbakır No.1 and No. 2 high security prison administrations based in Diyarbakır (Amed), in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority south-east, are reportedly applying extreme measures using the excuse of “security” precautions in prisons, Mesopotamia News Agency (MA) reports.
Family members, who are the official visitors of their imprisoned loved ones, have been facing increasing oppression from the Diyarbakır Prison administrations. The Yildiz family, for example, has been banned from visiting their son in prison on the grounds that they also greeted prisoners other than their son, Hamza Yıldız.
“When we go to visit him, we are not allowed to talk to any of his friends, even just to say ‘hello.’ When we attempt to say ‘hello’ to other prisoners, ‘Do not greet the friends of your children here, otherwise you will be given a penalty,’ they informed us,” Türkan Yıldız, mother of Hamza Yıldız, said.
Despite such threats, she added, they greeted the other prisoners. “So, let them impose a penalty on us. No matter what, these are all our children,” she said.
Normally, the prison visits are supposed to be an hour and thirty minutes long, based upon a decision which was approved by the Ministry of Justice. However, Diyarbakır Prison administrations have limited ‘visit durations’ to just 45 minutes, Yıldız stated.
Her son Hamza told her in their last phone call that if one day they cannot reach him, the responsibility will be on the shoulders of the prison administration.
“If we had risen up and taken to the streets with the photographs of our children in our hands, none of these things would be happening to our children. There would be no oppression and torture in prisons like this,” she said.
“We do not want to receive the coffins of our children from the prison. We are extremely worried about their well-being. Our children are under such terrible oppression in prison.”
Another distressed parent is Abdullah Kırık, father of Mehmet Kırık, a prisoner in Diyarbakır No. 1 Prison who was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment.
His son’s health has already worsened due to the hunger strike he launched in 2018 to protest against the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“We send our children books, clothing and all necessary things they need inside, but they keep sending these back to us, on the grounds that they are ‘unacceptable.’ We send them letters, but these are never handed to them for months,” Kırık said.
Due to such oppressive measures, Kırık states he and other parents have been trying to reach the prosecutor via petitions, but all their requests to see the prosecutor have been rejected.
Prison conditions in Turkey have long been a contorversial matter for human rights defenders and family members of prisoners in Turkey, as tens of thousands of inmates suffer from countless unlawful measures imposed in the prisons, ranging from strip searches to limitations in communicating with the outside world.
Ilhan Ongor, who heads Turkey’s Human Rights Association’s penal system committee, stated in an interview with DW in March that, for months, lawyers have been banned from visiting clients in jail and family members have not been allowed to see their loves ones either.
Turkey topped 47 Council of Europe (CoE) countries as of January 2020 with the highest incarceration rate. There are 297,019 inmates in Turkish penal institutions, which indicates that the total incarceration rate remains above the capacity of Turkey’s prisons, according to CoE’s annual report.