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As a reminder, both the lex­i­cal and the legal def­i­n­i­tions for the word “tor­ture” are sim­ple: “phys­i­cal and/or moral pain inflict­ed vol­un­tar­i­ly on some­one.” By exten­sion, “in order to obtain a con­sent or confessions.”

The sit­u­a­tion inside Turk­ish pris­ons becomes more com­pli­cat­ed dai­ly. Not a day goes by where we don’t receive com­plaints about mis­treat­ments and vio­la­tions of rights. Seri­ous cas­es such as that of Garibe Gez­er, pushed to sui­cide in prison, or that of sick pris­on­ers who are main­tained under incar­cer­a­tion despite med­ical advice tes­ti­fy­ing that these per­sons should not be kept under the adverse con­di­tions of prison, as is the case for Aysel Tuğluk, Mehmet Emin Özkan or yet again Ziya Ata­man, to name just a few. There are hun­dreds of them, and any num­ber of sick pris­on­ers leave prison in a coffin…

Com­plaints for mis­treat­ment, tor­ture, rape are reg­u­lar­ly filed by pris­on­ers with­out result as their let­ters are often “lost”…From time to time the name of cer­tain pris­ons appear in the news report­ing sor­did practices.

On Feb­ru­ary 2nd, we were advised of the tes­ti­mo­ny of a polit­i­cal pris­on­er, incar­cer­at­ed in the type T prison of Diyarbakır. A jour­nal­ist friend, Arat Barış, pro­vid­ed us with the few details he was able to obtain fro­ma rel­a­tive of pris­on­er Abdülaz­iz Tektaş.

Through a rel­a­tive who was able to speak to him dur­ing the week­ly autho­rized phone call, Abdülaz­iz Tek­taş stat­ed that on Janu­rary 31, their cell block was searched by the guards. The pris­on­ers were hand­cuffed in the back, brought to a spot out­side  cov­er­age by sur­veil­lance cam­eras and sub­ject­ed to cru­el treatment.

Here is the testimony.

Accord­ing to Abdülaz­iz, on the after­noon of Jan­u­ary 31, a pris­on­er was about to be trans­ferred to anoth­er prison.

It so hap­pens that the pris­on­er being trans­ferred was incar­cer­at­ed with his broth­er. See­ing that his old­er broth­er was being trans­ferred, he enquired about the des­ti­na­tion. But the guard pro­vid­ed no infor­ma­tion and avoid­ed answering.

As a reminder, the prac­tice of forced trans­fers, also known as « depor­ta­tions » in the pris­on­ers’ lin­go, often to pris­ons far removed from the fam­i­lies, is used as a means of iso­la­tion and repres­sion, this tech­nique of oppres­sion being wide­ly used in Turkey.

Abdülaz­iz’ rel­a­tive con­tin­ues: “My cousin and oth­er detainees protest­ed. An uproar broke out. The pris­on­ers were hand­cuffed in the back by the guards and tak­en to anoth­er loca­tion, out of view from the sur­veil­lance cam­eras. Where they were tortured.

The detainees were sent to hos­pi­tal and have med­ical reports record­ing the blows received. My cousin Abdülaz­iz Tek­taş has a head wound and a back wound. He also has a med­ical report. He called us on Tues­day Feb­ru­ary 1st to inform us.

My cousin and his com­rades filed request, demand­ing that their let­ters be reg­is­tered, but the admin­is­tra­tion is not communicating.

I only have the first names of two of the guards, Cihan and Uğur.”

More­over, Arat Barış, informs that, dur­ing the inci­dent, anoth­er detainee by the name of Serğe­bun was on the phone with his fam­i­ly and said: “Mam­ma, we’re still hear­ing cries, peo­ple are being tor­tured right now, can you hear them?” 

Despite efforts by jour­nal­ists and defendors of human rights, it has been almost impos­si­ble to obtain more infor­ma­tion. This being the case, Gülüs­tan Kılıç Koçy­iğit, a deputy of the Peo­ples’ Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (HDP) brought the mat­ter to the atten­tion of Par­lia­ment on Feb­ru­ary 4 2022.

She put the fol­low­ing ques­tions to Bekir Boz­dağ, recent­ly named to the post of Jus­tice Min­is­ter (on Jan­u­ary 29 2022).

  • Will your min­istry issue a dec­la­ra­tion con­cern­ing arbi­trary, ille­gal and non statu­to­ry prac­tices by guards in the type T prison of Diyarbakır?
  • Has an inquest been opened con­cern­ing the prac­tice of tor­ture in the type T prison of Diyarbakır?
  • Con­cern­ing the inci­dent of tor­ture that occurred in the type T prison of Diyarbakır on Jan­u­ary 31, were cam­era record­ings and staff lists estab­lished? Were the pris­on­ers’ and wit­ness­es’ state­ments used? Were the pen­i­ten­tiary staff asso­ci­at­ed with the inci­dent identified?
  • It appears that the pris­on­ers filed a request fol­low­ing the inci­dent of tor­ture but that they have not been informed of a fol­low-up. Has an inquest been opened by your min­istry con­cern­ing the obsta­cles to the exer­cise of the rights of request by the prisoners?
  • How many requests, demands and leg­isla­tives activ­i­ties have reached your min­istry con­cern­ing vio­la­tions of rights in pen­i­ten­tiaries occur­ring fre­quent­ly these days?
  • Has an inquest been opened con­cern­ing the arbi­trary atti­tudes of staff per­form­ing activ­i­ties under your min­istry? What types of sanc­tions are applied fol­low­ing such investigations?
  • Up until now, has a train­ing pro­gram on human rights and lib­er­ties as per­tains to the treat­ment of detainees been fol­lowed by staff under the respon­si­bil­i­ty of your ministry?
  • What are the sta­tis­tics con­cern­ing detainees in the type T prison of Diyarbakır, in terms of gen­der, age, pro­fes­sion, eco­nom­ic sta­tus and penal qualifications?

Need­less to say, none of those ques­tion will receive any kind of response…

Even though the Turk­ish Par­lia­ment has become prac­ti­cal­ly use­less, the HDP, sole pro­gres­sist par­ty wor­thy of a true oppo­si­tion, is muz­zled, under threat of pro­hi­bi­tion, and a num­ber of its elect­ed mem­bers and admin­is­tra­tors in prison or in exile… Those of its deputees still occu­py­ing their ejectable seats in Par­lia­ment try to do all they can, as best they can…

It may be use­ful to sum­ma­rize to what kind of Min­is­ter deputy Gülüs­tan Kılıç Koçy­iğit was address­ing her questions.

The Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, Bekir Boz­dağ is no begin­ner. He had already occu­pied this post from 2014 to 2018. Dur­ing that man­date, more than judges and pros­e­cu­tors were dis­missed by decree, for “belong­ing” to the Broth­er­hood of Fetul­lah Gülen, a preach­er, for­mer friend and now cur­rent ene­my n° 1 of Erdo­gan. The now new min­is­ter was also a sus­pect in the affair of ille­gal weapon ship­ments to al-Qai­da and the sub­ject of an inquest by the antiter­ror­ist pros­e­cu­tors in 2014 “for aid­ing and sup­port­ing” this organization.

Bekir Bozdağ’s affec­ta­tion has brought to the fore­front its load of scan­dals, notably his igno­ble com­ments con­cern­ing a rape on a minor, “the lit­tle girl con­sent­ed, the fam­i­ly agreed “.

There is such a thing as col­lec­tive mem­o­ry, and pub­lic opin­ion has not forgotten.

Numer­ous jour­nal­ists and defendors of human rights relayed this case, notably on Twit­ter with the hash­tag #Diyarbakır­daİşkenceV­ar and found them­selves imme­di­ate­ly attacked by the regime’s trolls. Here is one exam­ple of tweets by Dilek Aykan a mem­ber of the edi­to­r­i­al team at Kedis­tan:

The prison of Diyarbakır has a sin­is­ter rep­u­ta­tion dat­ing back far before today. Even if the Amed gaol, prison N°5 has known refur­bish­ments and changes of appel­la­tion run­ning through the alpha­bet, its walls have echoed with the cries of tor­ture for decades, under pre­ced­ing Kemal­ist and nation­al­ist regimes.

One should not be sur­prised if guards, encour­aged by a pen­i­ten­tiary admin­is­tra­tion and a State with fascis­tic prac­tices, renew with tor­ture meth­ods, espe­cial­ly since the gaols are crammed with polit­i­cal pris­on­er con­sid­ered to be “State ene­mies”. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, per­ma­nent­ly denounc­ing this remains a cur­rent need in Turkey.


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Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges

Lead­ing pho­to: A scene from the film “Kan­lı Postal” (Blood­ied boots). The sto­ry in this film direct­ed by Muham­met A.B. Arslan, released on Sep­tem­ber 11 2015, takes place in the Diyarbakır prison dur­ing the mil­i­tary coup d’Etat of Sep­tem­ber 12 1980.

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