As President Erdoğan and his ultranationalist allies are gradually building a dictatorial rule under conditions of emergency rule, militarization and populist nationalism, prisons and detention centers have become key areas for brutally oppressive government policies. Since the ruling AKP came to power in 2002, prison population has dramatically increased in the country. Following the abortive coup in 2016, grave human rights violations have become even more rampant and massive arrests have filled Turkish prisons with countless political dissidents.
Over-population is not the only problem in prisons.
Prisoners are physically abused on a regular basis. Prisoners are beaten up and sometimes killed, when they refuse to roll-call standing up, give military salute, reject strip searches, or ask to see a doctor.
The most recent dreadful death was that of Ulaş Yurdakul, a Kurdish man who was sleeping on a mat under the stairs due to lack of space. Prisoners and prison guards beat him up regularly. Eventually, he was beaten to death. There are audio records of lynching prisoners who bragged about how the guards covered up their crime and how they managed to kill “a terrorist” without having to do military service.
Terminally-ill prisoners are other victims of the failing prison system in Turkey. Even though there is not death sentence in Turkey, many prisoners die in prisons as they are not treated properly or are denied hospital visits. Celal Şeker, who was ruled to be ‘unfit to stay in prison’ by many medical authorities, died in prison after a heart attack. Murat Saat, sentenced to aggravated life sentence 21 years ago, also died due to lack of medical services. Ahmet Bayar, arrested for attending a protest, died 3 months after his release.
Prison guards and staff are encouraged with impunity.
In February 2018, alarming news about the torture of prisoners have come from many prisons across the country. In some prisons torture and ill treatment have peaked and become routinized. In particular, Elazığ Prison, Bursa H Type Prison, Rize Kalkandere L Type Prison, Tarsus Prison Complex, Sincan Prison and Balıkesir Kepsut Prison are centers where torture and ill treatment of prisoners by prison staff and guards is met with total impunity.
In an exemplary case in the last week of February 2018, prison guards ordered the prisoners in Bursa H Type to do a roll-call standing up and give a military salute beforehand. When prisoners, most of whom are jailed HDP officials, refused to do so, they were first cuffed in the back and then beaten up brutally, and then kept in solitary confinement with their hands cuffed in the back for eight hours.
Government officials remain silent to any dialogue attempt.
As our deputies and officials receive allegations on human rights violations in prisons, they first attempt to talk to relevant ministers or officials. However, they are either left without a response or face complete disregard despite severe and shocking allegations. Not a single prison guard or staff has been removed from his/her position for using violence against prisoners, while many prisoners have received extra punishment for demanding to file a complaint on torture or ill treatment they face.
As if prison conditions are not already bad, the government has decided to impose prison uniforms on those charged with “terrorism,” a broad and ambiguous term in Turkey that includes almost any dissident voice – politicians, members of parliament, mayors, activists, human rights advocates, trade unionists, journalists, intellectuals, academics and the like.
We call upon all democratic and human rights institutions and relevant international entities to urgently take action against alarming levels of torture and ill treatment in Turkish prisons.
Peoples’ Democratic Party