Eren Keskin is angry. And with good rea­sons. For months and months she has railed against the ill treat­ment and absence of med­ical care for pris­on­ers in Turk­ish jails suf­fer­ing from heavy patholo­gies. A sit­u­a­tion already relayed by numer­ous Human Rights asso­ci­a­tions and by ex-pris­on­ers, includ­ing nov­el­ist Aslı Erdoğan who spoke from per­son­al expe­ri­ence when she said in an inter­view : « Med­ical aid is the most dif­fi­cult aspect of jail. » So Eren Keskin is launch­ing an offi­cial appeal to the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO). Urg­ing the orga­ni­za­tion to con­duct an urgent inves­ti­ga­tion into the sit­u­a­tion of sick pris­on­ers in Turk­ish jails.

Eren Keskin

Eren Keskin

Born from a Kur­dish father from Sivas and a moth­er from Istan­bul, Eren was deeply shocked by the exe­cu­tion of three young poe­ple dur­ing her teen age years. When her stud­ies toward a law degree were inter­rupt­ed by the mil­i­tary coup of 1980, she choose involve­ment in the Turk­ish Human Rights Asso­ci­a­tion of which she is now co-chair rather than in polit­i­cal par­ties which she con­sid­ers « too mil­i­taris­tic and not very open toward women. » She then launched inves­ti­ga­tions into burned Kur­dish vil­lages, puni­tive raids, dis­ap­pear­ances… And had close escapes from two attacks that tar­get­ed her in 1994 and 2001. Her pub­lic dec­la­ra­tions and the sim­ple fact she used the word « Kur­dis­tan » in an arti­cle led to her impris­on­ment for sev­er­al months, her ban­ning from the prac­tice of law and over a hun­dred law­suits – the most recent for her texts in Özgür Gün­dem, as was the case for Aslı Erdoğan. And she is still at risk of being sent back to jail for a very long time. Nonethe­less, she car­ries on her fight.

Her asso­ci­a­tion is well posi­tioned to know : the sit­u­a­tion wors­ens days after day for those who have the mis­for­tune of being ill heath in jails emp­tied of com­mon law pris­on­ers, to make way for thou­sands of jour­nal­ists, teach­ers, jurists or plain civ­il ser­vants. « We as the Human Rights Asso­ci­a­tion has issued calls con­stant­ly » Eren Keskin said recent­ly in an inter­view to a press agency, «  But this crit­i­cal issue needs to be addressed by the UN World Health Orga­ni­za­tion. There are inter­na­tion­al con­ven­tions that Turkey has signed. How­ev­er, Turkey has not been com­ply­ing with them. The inter­na­tion­al audits are also insuf­fi­cient. Again, I call on the inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions to ful­fill their duties as soon as possible. » 

Accord­ing to the jurist, one of the pris­on­ers’ prob­lems stems from the atti­tude of the Turk­ish Foren­sic Med­i­cine Insti­tute, an offi­cial body that works close­ly with gov­ern­ment author­i­ties. Among oth­er things, the insti­tute omits the pub­li­ca­tion of reports on seri­ous­ly ill pris­on­ers who should be hos­pi­tal­ized rather than rot in cells lack­ing in basic hygiene, and in which the cold expos­es them to the worst. Fail­ings unfor­tu­nate­ly demon­strat­ed in all of these aspects in the case of Sibel Çapraz, impris­oned since March 2016, and of Ahmet Türk, arrest­ed last November.

A peti­tion is launched for Sibel’s release. To sign, click here

Sibel Çapraz’s ordeal began a bit over a year ago. At that time, in Novem­ber 2015, she was a mem­ber of the City Coun­cil Hakkari. On the 27th, while par­tic­i­pat­ing in a demon­stra­tion in the streets of Yük­seko­va, she found her­self in the cross­fire between secu­ri­ty forces and armed mem­bers of the PKK. Wound­ed in the arm and in the stom­ach, she was hos­pi­tal­ized on the fol­low­ing day. Fif­teen sur­gi­cal oper­a­tions fol­lowed. Among them, pal­lia­tive surgery for her dam­aged intes­tine : a colosto­my, mean­ing an exter­nal pouch con­nect­ed to the colon, to col­lect fecal mat­ter. That’s noth­ing ! But, appar­ent­ly, such health prob­lems are neg­li­gi­ble for the Insti­tute of Legal Medecine. As evi­dence ? On March 4 2016, while hos­pi­tal­ized in Istan­bul for an inter­ven­tion end­ing the colosto­my, police­men seized her and brought her to the tri­bunal in Çağlayan, where the judge imme­di­ate­ly ordered her pro­vi­sion­al impris­on­ment. Since then, she has sur­vived as best she can in Bakırköy prison where the oth­er women help her every day with the emp­ty­ing of the pouch, with no hope to receive this oh-so-nec­es­sary oper­a­tion, and where her arm keeps her in con­stant pain. « I vis­it­ed her recent­ly, explains Eren Keskin. She is kept in a sin­gle-per­son cell with the toi­let inside the cell. Where­as, she should be in a ster­il­ized envi­ron­ment  » Of course, the Turk­ish Asso­ci­a­tion for Human Rights made an appli­ca­tion to the Gen­er­al Direc­torate of Pris­ons and Deten­tion Hous­es request­ing that she receive the urgent oper­a­tion and con­tin­ues the treat­ment on her arm. As sole reply, the asso­ci­a­tion was informed that Sibel was receiv­ing the required all the treat­ment she needs. Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al is now cam­paign­ing to invite every­one to exert pressure…

Ahmet Türk

Anoth­er emblem­at­ic case : that of Ahmet Türk. Aged 74, this for­mer may­or of the province of Mardin was arrest­ed last Novem­ber 24th. He suf­fers from hearth fail­ure among oth­er things, and his lawyer expect­ed this would lead to his release. Not at all. Not only has the Insti­tute of Foren­sic Medecine Insti­tute not pub­lished the required report on his con­di­tion but he was trans­ferred to an hos­pi­tal – which caused a scan­dal even in the ranks of the AKP, so appre­ci­at­ed is he for his calm and cour­tesy. « He is not in a com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion, says Eren Keskin. They are keep­ing him in prison by the polit­i­cal pow­er, despite his age and ill­ness­es. The judi­cial sys­tem has divorced itself com­plete­ly from moral norms. » 

We could men­tion many oth­er cas­es. Such as that of Mustafa Gök, for­mer news cor­re­spon­dant for the left-lean­ing news­pa­per Ekmek and Adalet. Arrest­ed and tor­tured in 1993, he was released in Octo­ber 2001, then again in Feb­ru­ary 2004, and sen­tenced to a num­ber of penal­ties, includ­ing a life sen­tence for alleged mem­ber­ship in the DHKP, The Rev­o­lu­tion­ary People’s Lib­er­a­tion Front, etc. His lawyer nev­er fails to point out that his client was impris­oned with­out a sin­gle men­tion of his dis­ease. Mustafa Gök suf­fers from Wer­nicke-Kor­sakoff syn­drome, a dis­ease that can cause a num­ber of symp­toms includ­ing loss of short term mem­o­ry, loss of voice, paral­y­sis and uncon­tro­lable eye pal­sy, but also coma and death, in the absence of treat­ment. After vis­it­ing him in Sep­tem­ber 2016, Ayşe Arap­girli who is close to him, spec­i­fied that Mustafa suf­fered from paral­y­sis in his arms and legs and could not man­age his dai­ly rou­tine with­out out­side assistance.

In oth­er words, his life is in dan­ger in prison — even if there is no need to reach such extrem­i­ties for impris­on­ment to prove dan­ger­ous, as Asli Erdo­gan so apt­ly remind­ed us : « I had 4 cer­vi­cal her­nias, they removed one disk and replaced it with a pros­the­sis. I can turn my head to the right, but not to the left. With the cold in jail, it got worse. Apart from which I suf­fer from Raynaud’s dis­ease to a cer­tain extent. Blood doesn’t flow to my hands and feet. I have cir­cu­la­to­ry prob­lems. And the cold didn’t help with that either. My intes­tine is also dis­eased. I have asth­ma and I’m dia­bet­ic. None of that is life-threat­en­ing, but all those prob­lems com­bined can be dan­ger­ous. The cold, stress… I’m sur­prised myself that I man­aged to hold on. »

Aslı ErdoğanThe nov­el­ist also opened our eyes to anoth­er real­i­ty : the appre­hen­sion expe­ri­enced by pris­on­ers when they request an hos­pi­tal appoint­ment, because of the con­di­tions of their trans­fer. Not only because of the hand­cuffs but because of a very pecu­liar vehi­cle, the « ring »: «I’ve nev­er seen any­thing as inhu­man as this vehi­cle.   They sit six hand­cuffed women, side by side, is a space no larg­er than a cof­fin. The door slams shut on you. The win­dow is hard­ly big­ger than the palm of a hand. In sum­mer, it’s extreme­ly hot, in win­ter it’s cold, and there’s no air. You are jos­tled so much that peo­ple vomit. »

To the lack of med­ical his­to­ries pri­or to incar­cer­a­tion, to the absence of ade­quate care and deplorable hygiene, are thus added the restraints the pris­on­ers self-inflict to their own treat­ment. This is with­out men­tion­ing that, accord­ing to pri­vate sources, it would appear some lawyers do not encour­age their clients to take bet­ter care of them­selves, rely­ing on their ill­ness as an argu­ment towards their release. So clear­ly, it is more than time for the WHO to look into the ques­tion of Turk­ish pris­ons close­ly. Accord­ing to the Turk­ish Min­istry of Jus­tice, there would now be 387 pris­on­ers in very poor health, includ­ing 114 suf­fer­ing from can­cer. It is hard to give cre­dence to this infor­ma­tion as long as there are no med­ical insti­tu­tions and med­ical doc­tors doc­u­ment­ing the sit­u­a­tion in full inde­pen­dence as it is the case in a demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­try. The urgency is undeniable…

Trans­la­tion by Renée Lucie Bourges.
French ver­sion > Pris­ons turques : L’OMS doit enquêter !

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