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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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