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Garibe Gez­er, a 28 year old Kur­dish pris­on­er from Nusay­bin, incar­cer­at­ed in the Type F prison of Kandıra and who had revealed in Octo­ber 2021 being sub­ject­ed to phys­i­cal and sex­u­al aggres­sions, was found dead in the iso­la­tion cell where she was being held as a sanction.

The prison admin­is­tra­tion states this is a sui­cide and that Garibe hung her­self. Fol­low­ing Garibe’s rev­e­la­tions, the lawyer and defend­er of human rights Eren Keskin had tak­en on her case. She is the one who announced Garibe’s death on social net­works in ear­ly after­noon on Decem­ber 9th. “A few min­utes ago we were informed that our client Garibe Gez­er was said to have com­mit­ted sui­cide in the Kandıra prison. She was a vic­tim of tor­ture. She was serv­ing a sanc­tion in an iso­la­tion cell. The prison direc­tor called her sis­ter. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we have lost our Garibe.” She asked: “How can a per­son hang her­self in an iso­la­tion cell?” And added that the lawyers of the Human Rights Asso­ci­a­tion (IHD) and of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jurists for Free­dom (ÖHD) were on their way to be present at Garibe’s autopsy.

A few hours lat­er, Eren wrote again and denounced the fact the autop­sy had been con­duct­ed and ter­mi­nat­ed with­out await­ing the arrival of the lawyers. “Even in the 90s such a thing could not hap­pen!!!” she said.

Lawyers denied access to the premises

The lawyers who arrived on the premis­es at 22h45 told of the obsta­cles they encoun­tered: one per­son intro­duc­ing him­self as a com­man­dant of the gen­darmerie denied them access to the prison, alleg­ing there was no respon­si­ble per­son avail­able that he could con­tact. Lat­er, they were told that, accord­ing to the rules, access to the estab­lish­ment was for­bid­den after 23h. Their request for a state­ment in order to pro­vide an offi­cial char­ac­ter to the sit­u­a­tion was denied, alleg­ing the absence of a per­son autho­rised to pro­vide the counter-sig­na­ture. The lawyers were thus forced to write the state­ment unilaterally.

Only fol­low­ing protests on social net­works and media did the prison admin­is­tra­tion give in to pub­lic opin­ion and autho­rise entry to the estab­lish­ment to the lawyers.

Eren Keskin explains: “A few months ago, Garibe Gez­er had made a sui­cide attempt as a protest against the tor­ture inflict­ed in the foam room.1 When we spoke at the prison in Novem­ber, her morale was good. Dur­ing her last phone con­tact she told her sis­ter she had iso­la­tion cell sanc­tions of 5 days and 20 days. In this type of prison, iso­la­tion cell sanc­tions are a torture.”

Today, Decem­ber 10, Garibe’s remains were hand­ed over to her rel­a­tives at the hos­pi­tal. While they wait­ed, sup­port­ers and lawyers were treat­ed bru­tal­ly. Eren Keskin gives the fol­low­ing reminder: “And today, Decem­ber 10, is the Day of Human Rights!”

We learned on this occa­sion that the may­or of Mardin who is in real­i­ty a tutor-admin­is­tra­tor des­ig­nat­ed by the regime since the true co-may­ors were pushed aside, refused to pro­vide a vehi­cle for the repa­tri­a­tion of the body to Mardin. The fam­i­ly had to man­age alone…

A family history “like a summary of the persecution carried out on Kurds”

The jour­nal­ist Meltem Oktay writes: “I knew Garibe  when her old­er broth­er Bilal Gez­er was mur­dered in 2014 by gangs set loose by the State. As for her sec­ond broth­er, Mehmet Emin Gez­er, he was shot in the back with a bul­let fired from the com­mis­sari­at as he was protest­ing against the mur­der of his broth­er. He is now paral­ysed in both legs.”

The Gez­er family’s his­to­ry is like “a sum­ma­ry” of the per­se­cu­tion endured by Kurds says Eren Keskin “Irrel­e­vant, yes? Garibe’s broth­er was assas­si­nat­ed in 2014, her oth­er broth­er want­i­ng to denounce his younger brother’s fate, was wound­ed, paral­ysed. Anoth­er broth­er is in prison. The pains expe­ri­enced by Garibe and her fam­i­ly are but a ‘sum­ma­ry’. I think of her moth­er. I am ashamed. We could not do a thing.”

garibe gezerIn Garibe’s words

Last Octo­ber 24, Jiyan Tosun, lawyer at the Legal Aid Bureau Against Sex­u­al aggres­sions and Rapes gave Jin­news the ver­sion of the facts in Garibe’s words.

Garibe was arrest­ed in Nusay­bin in 2016 and impris­oned. Dur­ing 5 years, she was the vic­tim of a num­ber of vio­la­tions of her rights, and sub­ject­ed to dis­ci­pli­nary iso­la­tion sanc­tions. Fol­low­ing the last sanc­tion in the prison of Bünyan in Kay­seri, she was sub­ject­ed to a forced trans­fer to the Kandıra prison in Kocaeli. But the sanc­tions kept on rain­ing down…

After com­plet­ing a dis­ci­pli­nary action of 22 days in iso­la­tion, Garibe request­ed a trans­fer into a cell for three peo­ple with her friends. Garibe insist­ed on this trans­fer. She start­ed pro­ce­dures by send­ing let­ters to the direc­tion, she made requests. But her demand was denied. She was main­tained alone in a cell. She then protest­ed by “pound­ing on the door”, and reit­er­at­ed her demand. The guards warned her “if you keep this up we’ll put you in the foam room.” Garibe con­tin­ued. A larg­er team of guards arrived. At that time Garibe was wear­ing a sar­w­al. As the guards dragged her along forcibly her sar­w­al came undone. She was then dragged on the ground, all along the cor­ri­dors, half naked, sur­round­ed main­ly by male guards before being thrown into the foam room. She was held there for 24 hours. Then, she was returned to soli­tary where she was sub­ject­ed to search­es by female guards, and sex­u­al­ly assaulted…”

On the day of the inter­view, Jiyan Tosun stat­ed “even though we filed a com­plaint as soon as we heard of her case, we only man­aged to reach Garibe much too late.” She spec­i­fies that, faced with this type of com­plaint, the court should auto­mat­i­cal­ly open an inquest and exam­ine the tes­ti­mo­ny. “But noth­ing is done. Was she held in that cell for 24 hours? What became of the sur­veil­lance tapes?” 

I’m sure they did something to her”

Asya Gez­er, Garibe’s sis­ter  repeats over and over again that she spoke with her for the last time on Novem­ber 16 and that she was fine: “She told me the oppres­sion had dimin­ished and that her morale was hold­ing. I told her I would come vis­it her in Jan­u­ary. She was very pleased and answered she was look­ing for­ward to it. I even sent her three parcels. She asked me for pho­tos of my chil­dren and clothing.”

Asya states that some­one pre­sent­ing him­self as deputy direc­tor (of the prison) called her. “This per­son told me my sis­ter had com­mit­ted sui­cide. I react­ed by telling him I did not believe that. And when I said I would file a com­plaint, he answered  “when you come here, we’ll talk about it in detail”. He also informed me that her body was trans­ferred to the foren­sic Insti­tute. I’m cur­rent­ly on my way from Mardin toward Kandıra. I do not believe in my sister’s sui­cide. I’m sure they did some­thing to her.” 

Garibe’s moth­er, Hal­ime Gez­er,  had launched an appeal on Novem­ber 15 dur­ing women’s demon­stra­tion, and felt faint at the end of her inter­ven­tion: “They are not even afraid of God. They tor­ture my chil­dren. Why? With what right? You have no right to tor­ture my daugh­ter. She was only 20 years old, you impris­oned her you tor­tured her. You dragged her on the ground, raped her. With what right? I also send a greet­ing to my son who is in Elazığ prison. I send greet­ings to all those who are in prison. I send greet­ings to all those sub­ject­ed to tor­ture. Our pres­i­dent [Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş] is sub­ject­ed to waterboarding…”

22 attempts at a question in Parliament

Mer­al Danış Beş­taş, vice-pres­i­dent of the group of the Peo­ples’ Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (HDP) spoke at the Assem­bly. She remind­ed the assem­bly that on Octo­ber 25 the HDP’s women’s group had tabled a proposal/question about the pris­on­er Garibe Gez­er. “She had just been trans­ferred from the prison in Kay­seri to Kandıra and dur­ing that trans­fer she had been sub­ject­ed to seri­ous tor­ture, aggres­sions and rapes (…) We reit­er­at­ed our ques­tion 22 times. From the prison admin­is­tra­tion to the Min­istry, through the Gen­er­al Direc­torate of Carcer­al Estab­lish­ments, all the author­i­ties have attempt­ed to hush up this affair. (…) Those in posi­tions of respon­si­bil­i­ty have their sig­na­ture under Garibe’s death. We are deeply sad­dened. If only the Min­istry had deigned to read and answer our ques­tion, had warned the prison admin­is­tra­tion, Garibe Gez­er would not be dead today.” 

Mer­al Danış Beş­taş won­ders  how some­one iso­lat­ed in a cell can com­mit sui­cide. “She was said to have made an attempt. To have a ten­den­cy. Assum­ing she did com­mit sui­cide, what does the prison direc­tion do? Is not the safe­ty of these per­sons’ lives hand­ed over to the State? Are they not respon­si­ble for their pro­tec­tion? Every day there is talk here of dif­fer­ent inci­dents in pris­ons. Truth­ful­ly, this one is a mur­der. Those in posi­tions of respon­si­bil­i­ty at the prison in Kandıra must be imme­di­ate­ly removed from their duties. We demand the arrest of those respon­si­ble and the open­ing of an emer­gency inquest.”

Garibe’s death is yet anoth­er of the hun­dreds of vic­tims, denounced or fall­en into obliv­ion in Turkey’s carcer­al sys­tem in less than a decade. The cur­rent regime in Turkey where the judi­cia­ry is direct­ly under the sole will of the auto­crat­ic regime con­stant­ly con­demn­ing and incar­cer­at­ing on the basic of gener­ic accu­sa­tions such as “belong­ing to”, “ter­ror­ism”, for all oppo­nents, impris­ons as much as did those that pre­ced­ed it. If the staged coup d’état of 2016 some­times allows for talk of the mas­si­fi­ca­tion of repres­sion, this is only for­get­ting the decades of 1980 and 1990 where vic­tims num­bered by the thou­sands, well before Erdoğan. Tor­tured women then were not called Garibe, but Sakine. For one, her death has now been dis­guised as a sui­cide, the oth­er was assas­si­nat­ed in the heart of Paris.

La poli­tique nation­al­iste anti kurde, la turcité meur­trière, se trans­met au sein des régimes qui se suc­cè­dent, et se suc­cèderont sans doute.

The anti Kur­dish nation­al­is­tic pol­i­cy with its mur­der­ous Turci­ty is trans­mit­ted from one regime to the next, as it will no doubt be trans­mit­ted to the one following.

By her per­son­al and fam­i­ly his­to­ry, Garibe becomes an addi­tion­al mar­tyr in the people’s cause. But the cir­cum­stances that brought on her death, the aggres­sions on her woman’s body, also make of it a State feminicide.

Pho­to : Hal­ime Gez­er, Garibe’s mother.

Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.