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Yes, dear friends, here we are togeth­er again. I’ve kept my promise, we have now reached the third part. This arti­cle reach­es you after a bit of a delay, but bet­ter late than never…

About my previous article concerning Tarsus

In my pre­vi­ous nar­ra­tion, I told you about the ill treat­ments to which I was sub­ject­ed in Tar­sus prison and of those respon­si­ble for them who remain unpun­ished. I lat­er noticed there were a few ele­ments miss­ing and my heart would be ill at ease if I did not com­plete my notes about them.

The direc­tor of the Tar­sus Women’s prison, that per­son who tor­ment­ed and tor­tured me dur­ing the peri­od of some fif­teen days I men­tioned in my arti­cle, also said to me on many occa­sions, “no one can pull you out of my grip, not the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic, nor the Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, nor your lawyers of so-called human rights”. When I answered “how calm­ly you speak about it, and how you allow your­self to behave ille­gal­ly”, he answered insis­tent­ly : “I have Fahret­tin Altun, advi­sor to the Pres­i­dent cov­er­ing my back, noth­ing will hap­pen to me!” Well, I have no way of know­ing if what he stat­ed is true, all I know is this is how he talked and that, he was right, noth­ing has hap­pened to him.

More­over, while I was in the cell, a woman was tak­en into the foam room, hand­cuffed in the back, to get beat­en up, a fact I expe­ri­enced through her cries and my attempts at inter­ven­tion by howl­ing through the trap­door in my cell. From what I learned lat­er, that poor woman had sunk into a deep depres­sion, and had attempt­ed to com­mit sui­cide, this being the rea­son why she was thrown into the foam room for a beat­ing. Fur­ther­more, at that time, Tar­sus prison was well-known for its suicides…

Oth­er than these miss­ing ele­ments, the best devel­op­ment is in the count­less returns I received for that arti­cle. First, from the girls who were in the cell next to mine when I was in iso­la­tion, who con­tact­ed me: “do you remem­ber us?” they asked. How could I for­get them? How could I not remem­ber them?

The, Doc­tor Cemil Gal­iğlu, a mem­ber of the admin­is­tra­tion board of the Asso­ci­a­tion for Human Rights and Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of the Mersin Order of Physi­cians called me. He asked me what he could do, looked into the file and came up with the let­ter I had sent them on July 27 2018. He explained that at the time, they had writ­ten exchanges with the Mersin İHD (Asso­ci­a­tion of Human Rights) about my state­ments but that they result­ed in the same dis­missal. Because the alle­ga­tions, com­ing as they did from an ordi­nary cit­i­zen attack­ing civ­il ser­vants had been viewed as “unseem­ly and abstruse” although “legit­i­mate and con­crete”. I wasn’t even sur­prised about this. And since a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, there was noth­ing he could do about it. How­ev­er, on this occa­sion, I learned that the Mersin Order of Physi­cians reg­u­lar­ly sent del­e­ga­tions to the Tar­sus prison. These vis­its are extreme­ly impor­tant in deal­ing with depri­va­tion of access to health care, as well as when the pris­on­ers at hos­pi­tal con­sul­ta­tions are kept hand­cuffed, and con­cern­ing the recent prac­tice of “mouth search­es” at the time of admis­sion into prison.   I wish to thank Cemil Gal­iğlu for his attention.

Was Sincan prison any better?

Lest I for­get, dear friends, I must say I was also incar­cer­at­ed in Sin­can women’s prison in Ankara, in 2016–2017. They have no cause for rejoic­ing in the fact I don’t write about them, this prison was also a prob­lem­at­ic estab­lish­ment. I have not for­got­ten, and nev­er will for­get how, on the day of the coup d’état on July 15 2016, they aban­doned the cor­ri­dors and fled, how, using the state of emer­gency as an ali­bi, they ran­sacked the blocks, con­fis­cat­ed almost every­thing, from books to plas­tic con­tain­ers, how they for­bade every­thing they could think of, how they grabbed and tore up a tiny inno­cent car­toon I had drawn and put up on the wall, and as a mat­ter of fact, how they imposed a dis­ci­pli­nary sanc­tion on me because of that draw­ing. And I have not for­got­ten nor will I ever for­get that deputy direc­tor who harassed me relent­less­ly, from the first day when I set foot in that prison, up until my forced trans­fer toward Tar­sus. Appar­ent­ly, he has also been side­lined since then, I hear. But let it be known that I will nev­er forget!

More­over, the only rea­son why I don’t write arti­cles ded­i­cat­ed to the open prison of Sivas is because, since my lib­er­a­tion in April 2021, I’ve giv­en many inter­views on what I endured over there.

Many read­ers know that as I had just been lib­er­at­ed, I was trapped in the mid­dle of the night by some fif­teen or so guards, inside an iso­lat­ed con­tain­er, I was undressed com­plete­ly, and since I refused three times to squat for a total strip-search, because I found this a dis­grace, a dis­ci­pli­nary inves­ti­ga­tion was opened against me. I was then sub­ject­ed to three days of iso­la­tion and, while await­ing the con­fir­ma­tion of the dis­ci­pli­nary sanc­tion, I was kept in this so-called open prison of Sivas for approx­i­mate­ly one month. As soon as the sanc­tion was approved, this time I was sent direct­ly to the closed prison of Sivas…Those who wish details will find numer­ous arti­cles on this top­ic on the Web.

In whom does one find honor and virtue?

That is where the nar­ra­tive part of this arti­cle begins, with this sanc­tion of three day impris­on­ment in an iso­la­tion cell, imposed in 2020, after I had just been liberated…

I must add that at the  Sivas Tri­bunal  for the exe­cu­tion of sen­tences where I appeared through SEGBIS (audio­vi­su­al sys­tem) for hav­ing con­test­ed this sanc­tion, the judge in per­son said to my lawyer “Sir, your client is the one being judged here, not the State’s civ­il ser­vants. More­over, strip-search­es appear as part of the leg­is­la­tion, the civ­il ser­vants were only doing their job. The fact of speak­ing up to say “I won’t let you do this belongs to the domain of refusals to obey”. Fol­low­ing which the guards declared they had want­ed to pro­ceed to a strip-search and that I had not accept­ed. Thus, for the judge, the strip-search was per­fect­ly nat­ur­al, although, appar­ent­ly the Min­istry of Jus­tice cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly denied its practice.

This tri­bunal also remind­ed me of anoth­er truth. Which one? I had called as wit­ness a com­mon law pris­on­er. Just as she did, the guards who had want­ed to strip-search me stood up before their tes­ti­mo­ny, and swore to “tell the truth on their hon­or and virtue.” then the hear­ing began. But what is this? The guards stat­ed that I had not refused the strip-search, but the ordi­nary one…This when the pris­on­er I did not even know per­son­al­ly until that day but on whom I had called to tes­ti­fy because she had been an eye wit­ness to the events, gave a cor­rect nar­ra­tion of the facts, with­out a sin­gle word too lit­tle or too many. Of course, since the judge con­sid­ered strip-search­es as per­fect­ly nor­mal and nat­ur­al, the guards then accept­ed to state instead that they had want­ed to pro­ceed to …a strip-search.

The pic­ture that emerged at this tri­al clear­ly demon­strat­ed for me that you can­not know in whom you will find hon­or and virtue. On the one hand, you had a woman sen­tenced for a crime, who you might con­sid­er as evil, on the oth­er, neat and prop­er civ­il ser­vants, liv­ing “cor­rect and respectable” lives. What should one do then? That dear Schopen­hauer men­tioned it in his writ­ings, many of the peo­ple walk around you with mur­der­ous feel­ings, which they don’t  act out for fear of sanc­tions. And fac­ing them, you have a Kabil, a per­son who com­mit­ted an unac­cept­able mur­der but who regret­ted it and exam­ined her own self… Which is accept­able? Schopen­hauer point­ed out the lat­ter. I total­ly share his opin­ion. And here, I spec­i­fy and I under­line: friends, I will speak here of peo­ple who both “think” and “act” and what is more, who are not in the least bit sanc­tioned for their behav­ior. What name should one give to these persons?

Strip-search in the Sivas closed prison

All right, I now set aside phi­los­o­phy and return to our main top­ic. Yes, so after about one month of wait­ing as a hostage in the Sivas open prison, and the con­fir­ma­tion of my sanc­tion of 3 days in iso­la­tion by the Penal Tri­bunal, the guards sud­den­ly appeared in the cell where I was kept in iso­la­tion and announced that I was being trans­ferred to the “closed” prison of Sivas. I was expect­ing it, think­ing to myself “let’s go and see what will now hap­pen to our hero­ine” as I stepped into the small vehicle.

First I received a PCR test in the Hafik health cen­ter then, we arrived at the “closed” prison of Sivas. Unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly, this estab­lish­ment was down­town and so I thought I would not be kept there very long. I still had six months of incar­cer­a­tion to serve and I thought I would prob­a­bly be tak­en to a max­i­mum secu­ri­ty prison. My per­son and my belong­ings were scanned by X‑ray and the moment of the search arrived. Three guards were wait­ing for me in front of the search room. I didn’t have to ask myself “why three?” I under­stood. It was as prepa­ra­tion for the “wel­com­ing par­ty”. How cour­te­ous, the only thing miss­ing was the red carpet!

We entered the small room and the expect­ed order fell: “Undress your­self!” A fuss start­ed up as soon as I said “I cer­tain­ly will not. I was tak­en here pre­cise­ly because I don’t accept strip search­es, and now, you would be the ones enforc­ing it?”“Lis­ten, you’ll receive sanc­tions here too. Six-month long sanc­tions will land one after the oth­er and you will nev­er get out of prison. Now undress your­self  like a good girl…” I asked them “accord­ing to the rules, those respon­si­ble for the estab­lish­ment are sup­posed to be present, where is the direc­tor?” The direc­tor wasn’t there, his deputy arrived. We left the room for a short meet­ing. Result? “The search is manda­to­ry.” Under duress, they decid­ed to pro­duce a writ­ten order. A state­ment was pre­pared under the sig­na­ture of a male civ­il ser­vant. So they were going to pro­ceed to a forced strip-search.

Lis­ten, nor­mal­ly, per­sons about to attack anoth­er, undress­ing her forcibly, can’t pos­si­bly be so moti­vat­ed and zeal­ous, such work can­not be done with plea­sure. And yet, what I read on the faces of the guards and in their dili­gence was that they were anx­ious to per­form the work of aggres­sion “lov­ing­ly”. Hence­forth what was to be would be and there was noth­ing fur­ther to be done about it. I began wait­ing for the end of the bureau­crat­ic pro­ce­dures and their assault. Sud­den­ly, a man arrived wear­ing a haz­mat suit. He was from the infir­mary. He was charged with stand­ing at the door while I was searched forcibly, in order to save me should I have a life-threat­en­ing asth­ma attack. Oh, such grace, such delicacy!

In short, all was com­plet­ed, sig­na­tures entered on doc­u­ments, my sav­ior took his posi­tion at the door and I was intro­duced into the room. The expect­ed tur­bu­lence began: one of the guards pinned my arms behind my back with a huge charge of hatred — don’t ask where that hatred came from, for a per­son she was see­ing for the first time. Per­haps she had gos­siped about me behind my back with her col­leagues from the open prison. The two oth­ers attempt­ed to remove my clothes, while I sat on the floor and while I said that under no con­di­tions would I undress myself, they man­aged to undress me forcibly.

What does that mean, undress­ing forcibly? Does such a duty exist? Is there such a moral­i­ty, a form of decen­cy in such a cul­ture? Per­haps you pos­sess these qual­i­ties, I don’t!  Well, one against three, with hands and arms locked behind my back, obvi­ous­ly they achieved their goal. Was it over? No. The rules says you must “squat three times”, so this they would do also? Two guards grabbed me under the arms and low­ered me three times, me, who had not left the ground since the begin­ning. Thus was their divine duty com­plet­ed. What was I doing dur­ing all that time? I was telling them “see­ing you, I’m ashamed to be a woman. If you are women, then I’m not one! Have you no shame?”  In oth­er words, like any oth­er human being with some sense of hon­or who would be sub­ject­ed to this kind of treat­ment, I became excit­ed, went crazy, howled and was beside myself. As for them, they felt no shame in com­mit­ting this ignominy, quite the con­trary, they were accus­ing me…

I’ll speak clear­ly: the rea­son for my refusal of strip-search­es is not because of shame. After all, it’s my body, my deci­sion. How­ev­er, since this prac­tice is intend­ed to break pris­on­ers, to humil­i­ate them as soon as they are admit­ted into the prison, in order to break their sense of hon­or and their pride, and since there are no neces­si­ties or log­i­cal rea­sons for it, I object­ed then and will always object to them.

The dog kennel” in the Sivas prison

The suf­fer­ing from the wel­com­ing cer­e­mo­ny giv­en to a woman by oth­er women was over with but my nerves were not calm­ing down. We left the room, I recu­per­at­ed some of my belong­ings and was tak­en to the part where I was to stay. I use the word “part” so as not to be mis­un­der­stood: it con­sist­ed of a cell 2 meters by 2 meters in which, just beside the toi­let, a bed was crammed in between two walls, a room you cov­ered in one step, where it was impos­si­ble to take two steps, a cell that resem­bled a dog ken­nel. And I seem to recall that on the door was writ­ten “Obser­va­tion 1”. My entrance and my exit were almost instan­ta­neous. “I can’t stay here, I’m asth­mat­ic, and there’s not even enough room to breathe, here!” There was real­ly no air, unless you con­sid­er the tiny open­ing cov­ered in barbed wire just above the toi­let. After exchanges such as “there is no oth­er space, you are under a sanc­tion  of an iso­la­tion cell”, I was forced to enter this ken­nel. So the ignominy was ongoing…

Of course, since I was sanc­tioned, fam­i­ly vis­its were for­bid­den, phone calls were for­bid­den, I was all alone, iso­lat­ed from the out­side world, aban­doned to the hands of these bar­bar­ians. Such was the picture.

The first thing I did in the ken­nel was to go to the win­dow above the toi­let. It gave out on the block prom­e­nade. And in this block were held com­mon law pris­on­ers. They imme­di­ate­ly heard that a new “neigh­bour” had arrived, they began going out on the prom­e­nade and took turns at putting ques­tions to me. Just as I was rea­son­ing myself by say­ing that, at least, there were peo­ple with whom I could talk, the door to the prom­e­nade opened sud­den­ly, the guards who had searched me start­ed to holler after the girls: “You don’t talk with her, you don’t com­mu­ni­cate!” The girls answered “yeah right” but of course they did noth­ing of the sort,  because no mat­ter the offence or the crime for which they were app there, those women knew what it meant to share a fate, and sol­i­dar­i­ty. My next four days were spent read­ing and dis­cussing with them, out­side the ter­ror­iz­ing attacks by the guards. And here, I’m betray­ing myself: just at the space between the win­dow and the wall, I carved out the plas­tered part and, by that tiny hole, me and my new friends kept a whole world cross­ing through. And we did well.

The guards would take me out one hour per day and had me walk in an unoc­cu­pied block prom­e­nade. My  iso­la­tion cell sanc­tion was for three days, but they kept me in this dog ken­nel for four.  Dur­ing that time, I spoke with the direc­tor of the estab­lish­ment and he told me that, since there were no quar­ters in which to incar­cer­ate me, they were going to trans­fer me again. And he told me that, accord­ing to the new law, polit­i­cal pris­on­ers could ben­e­fit from a year of uncon­di­tion­al free­dom before being incar­cer­at­ed in an open prison, so that, had I been impris­oned in the closed prison of Kay­seri with­out a trans­fer to the open prison of Sivas,  I would not have been sub­ject­ed to all that, and he was sor­ry about that for my sake. In any event, as I could not be kept in this ken­nel for the remain­ing 6 months, I also request­ed my trans­fer to Istan­bul, of course. But the male­dic­tion continued.

The solidarity among women

While await­ing my trans­fer, my iso­la­tion sanc­tion end­ed nonethe­less. On orders from the direc­tor, I was placed alone in a large and emp­ty block, on the upper floor. The win­dow also gave out on the same prom­e­nade and I con­tin­ued my con­ver­sa­tions with my new friends. In fact, this estab­lish­ment is a men’s prison and it only con­tained a few blocks for women. For this rea­son, the “can­teen” was also for the men and a num­ber of prod­ucts women need­ed were not on sale.

So try to imag­ine, women in need of san­i­tary nap­kins and none are sold at the can­teen. How were we to man­age? Fol­low­ing hues and cries, a civ­il ser­vant would come and take orders, obtain them from the out­side and dis­trib­ute them.

More­over on the prison library list, I found all the books by “my friend” Jean Christophe Grange that I hadn’t read yet, I request­ed them, and they were most wel­come. While await­ing my trans­fer, I trav­elled in this way from one mur­der to anoth­er. As there was no tele­vi­sion, no samovar and no ket­tle at the can­teen,  my only link to the out­side world was the women in the neigh­bour­ing block. One day, they got caught send­ing me a news­pa­per. The guard saw that I was draw­ing up the news­pa­per tied to a string, through the win­dow. Noth­ing was said to me but they went to their block and forced the women to admit “who did it? She must denounce her­self!” None of the girls said a word, you can believe it. A true omer­ta! Then a woman, despite the fact she had right-wing opin­ions and had been sen­tenced as leader of a crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion, took the blame on her­self. Luck­i­ly noth­ing hap­pened to her and she nev­er stopped send­ing me newspapers.

How did I manage to catch Covid on top of it all?

I had just learned from the direc­tor that I would be trans­ferred to the prison in Kay­seri because all the pris­ons in Istan­bul were over­flow­ing. Again, I was giv­en a PCR test after the results from which I would be sent on my way to Kay­seri. On the night of this same day, the block door opened. Civ­il ser­vants in haz­mats stormed in, “Aslıhan Gençay! Your PCR test is pos­i­tive, you’re going to emer­gen­cies!” Should mat­ters be announced in this way? I mean… Sur­prised and flip­ping out, I donned the haz­mat pro­vid­ed and climbed into the ambu­lance wait­ing at the door.

After the con­sul­ta­tions at the hos­pi­tal, they decid­ed I would spend the con­fine­ment peri­od in the block and we went back to the prison slot. But how did I man­age to catch Covid? Because, on arrival my PCR test had been neg­a­tive and I was held in iso­la­tion. Fol­low­ing a brief inves­ti­ga­tion, I learned that the com­mon law pris­on­er who occu­pied the “Obser­va­tion 1” ken­nel before I did had come down with Covid and I was placed in that cell imme­di­ate­ly after. That same detainee was also present in the block where I found myself, and then lib­er­at­ed because of a preg­nan­cy. Basi­cal­ly, I caught the virus in the cell or in the block in which they had locked me up with­out pro­ceed­ing to its disinfection.

Thus, the trans­fer would have to wait for the end of the 15 day quar­an­tine. I was now the hostage of the Sivas closed prison… Short­ly after, the Covid symp­toms appeared: breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, extreme fatigue, fever, etc… Cross­ing the long cor­ri­dor between the dor­mi­to­ry and the door to the block felt like death to me. They gave me med­ica­tion every morn­ing through the trap in the door which I reached almost crawl­ing. Now, tele­vi­sion samovar and ket­tle proved nec­es­sary. Once my Covid infec­tion was con­firmed and despite my trou­ble breath­ing, I sat down and wrote let­ters to every insti­tu­tion imag­in­able. I also demand­ed a tele­vi­sion and a samovar from the direc­tion, since the can­teen did not offer any. Final­ly, the direc­tor of the estab­lish­ment pro­vid­ed me with a small tv set and a samovar. Thus did civ­i­liza­tion reach my block.

I’ll nev­er for­get the first time I watched tv, the evening news was on and they were talk­ing about the fight that had bro­ken out dur­ing the talks over the bud­get at the Min­istry of Jus­tice. I looked at the images but I sim­ply couldn’t put them in con­text. Then, I learned that Ömer Faruk Gerg­er­lioğlu, the deputy from the Peo­ples’ Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (HDP) had raised the issue of my per­se­cu­tion before Par­lia­ment and had ques­tioned the Min­is­ter con­cern­ing strip-search­es. As the Min­is­ter was deny­ing the real­i­ty of strip-search­es, an argu­ment broke out…

Dur­ing that peri­od, I also learned that I had received let­ters from var­i­ous pris­ons. Through the trap in the door, I was hand­ed a doc­u­ment announc­ing that the Dis­ci­pli­nary Board had decid­ed not to give me the let­ters addressed to me because “they con­tained insults against civ­il ser­vants”. Let­ters I was unable to read, that my fam­i­ly could not see, phone calls I could not make… All my means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion were cut off, for­bid­den because of Covid. I was thus in “iso­la­tion” in every sense of the term, apart for the small bits of con­ver­sa­tion with the girls in the neigh­bour­ing block.

Persecution from the guards as a supplement…

At each chang­ing of the guard, even in ear­ly morn­ing, the ones start­ing their ser­vice would burst into the emp­ty block to look at me. As if I was a mon­key in the cir­cus?  Despite the fact there were a few kinder ones among them, and even one who with a mater­nal atti­tude spoke about me as a “kid”, most of them were women with prej­u­dices. One of them, one morn­ing, push­ing the med­ica­tion through the trap door hollered at me “shove that into your­self!” Yes, this was in the ear­ly morn­ing I was ill and I was angry. I stum­bled across this cor­ri­dor and hollered back at her the answer she deserved. Because I’ve always been con­vinced of this: no mat­ter who it may be, when some­one behaves in a cer­tain way, you answer in a sim­i­lar fash­ion. Respect for respect, reac­tion against reaction.

That woman could not behave that way with me, she could not have that atti­tude. My voice woke up the girls in the neigh­bour­ing block and the guard left enraged, almost run­ning, and I think she head­ed to the direc­tor. That same day, a bit lat­er, that same guard accom­pa­ny­ing girls from next door must have shown the same atti­tude toward them and I heard them say “you can’t talk that way to us!” I admit to a sly smile. In the after­noon, the guard came to the trap and said to me “that’s my way of talk­ing, I didn’t have any bad inten­tions”…She was a woman who wore the head scarf. I looked at her and gave the mat­ter some thought. You should know I have no prob­lems with reli­gious beliefs, eth­nic­i­ty, a person’s lifestyle. And dur­ing all the time I spent in “open” or “closed” pris­ons in Sivas, I saw how, no mat­ter whether the detainees were com­mon law, polit­i­cal, from the Left, from the Right, inas­much as the pos­si­bil­i­ty exists to estab­lish a cor­rect dia­logue, I can get along and be in sol­i­dar­i­ty with all of them. So I then said to this woman that in this envi­ron­ment, where there was only the two of us with no wit­ness­es nor cam­eras, still, accord­ing to her beliefs, some­one could see per­fect­ly well the ill treat­ment she was dis­play­ing toward me. She didn’t say any­thing, but judg­ing from the fact she lat­er sent me herbal teas, I pre­sume she under­stood what I meant..

I spent my time tak­ing med­ica­tion morn­ing and night, in Grange’s com­pa­ny, and talk­ing with the girls. I even wrote a let­ter addressed to the Court of Appeals for a woman sen­tenced to 15 years. In oth­er words, I found “cus­tomers” here also… We exchanged address­es and phone num­bers with my new friends, for lat­er. In this way, we reached the end of the quar­an­tine. This time, dou­ble PCR tests, both negative.

On the morn­ing when I left the block where I had spent those hor­ri­ble days pri­or to my trans­fer, I was first tak­en to the director’s office. There, I learned that fol­low­ing the let­ters I had writ­ten, an inves­ti­ga­tion was opened against the guards and I was to make my state­ment. Even though I knew it would lead to noth­ing, I did so. Not in the least bit sad to quit the place, I offered my detainee friends a book by Boris Vian and left Sivas.

Upon return­ing to the closed women’s prison of Kay­seri, I learned that a cam­paign had been launched con­cern­ing strip-search­es and that a num­ber of pris­on­ers had tes­ti­fied about their expe­ri­ence, but that the Min­istry was turn­ing a blind eye to the issue. Here, I wish to thank Ömer Faruk Gerg­er­lioğlu for hav­ing car­ried out his duties of deputy as they should be per­formed, with courage, and for hav­ing sup­port­ed me through the hard times. Anoth­er per­son I will nev­er for­get is Eren Keskin who fills her friends with con­fi­dence, instils fear in her ene­mies, my pre­cious friend I called from the open prison in Sivas and whose voice always revived my hope. She is one of these invalu­able peo­ple, a fight­er and oh so beautiful!

Here we go for another sentence without judgment!

Arriv­ing in Kay­seri meant renew­ing with old friends in the same block. But don’t think my tor­ments were fin­ished. No, no, I still had stuff to endure.

Per­haps the open prison in Sivas had not con­sid­ered the three days in iso­la­tion and the 6 addi­tion­al months of prison I had earned for my refusal to the strip-search suf­fi­cient pun­ish­ment, because it also want­ed me put on tri­al before the Low­er Court. I was accused of “resist­ing the civ­il ser­vants in order to keep them from per­form­ing their duty” and of “ser­i­al threats”. Do you know what these “ser­i­al threats” con­sist­ed of? The fact I told them “I’ll com­plain about you to the Min­istry of Jus­tice”. Does this call for laugh­ter or tears?

I made a dis­tance appear­ance at the hear­ing via the audio­vi­su­al sys­tem (SEGBIS).  My lawyer was to con­nect from Adana. Two select­ed female civ­il ser­vants took place behind their SEGBIS cam­era in the open prison of Sivas. They con­nect­ed me a bit too ear­ly, I think, and I wait­ed in front of the cam­era. On the screen I could see the civ­il ser­vants in Sivas and could also hear their con­ver­sa­tions. They were set­ting out their plans “I’ll say this, you’ll say that…” and I lis­tened. Appar­ent­ly, they were unaware of it.

After putting up with this absur­di­ty for a while, the hear­ing room appeared on screen, the pros­e­cu­tor and the judges took their seats. We wait­ed for my lawyer to con­nect. At that moment, the judge turned toward the pros­e­cu­tor and told him “in any case, there’s no need for a tri­al, we’ll hear the two wit­ness­es from the Sivas prison, and that will set­tle the mat­ter.” So then, the deci­sion had already been tak­en, since they con­sid­ered it suf­fi­cient to hear one of the two par­ties, which annulled the need for a tri­al, and that was that!

So there you are, I heard all this, all the maneu­ver­ing tak­ing place in my back, the ver­dicts hand­ed down with­out judg­ment… Then my lawyer con­nect­ed up and the tri­al — the ver­dict of which had already been decid­ed — began nonethe­less. The judge asked for my defence, as if noth­ing unto­ward was going on. Respons­es were read as if we were in a play and final­ly the pre­vi­ous­ly decid­ed deci­sion was announced: 6 months and 7 days of prison. This deci­sion is cur­rent­ly being appealed at the local appeal court (isti­naf), it will be annulled or con­firmed, we’ll dis­cov­er this together!

[NDLR : (Editor’s note: In the past few years, the mat­ter of strip-search­es has pro­duced the flow­ing of a lot of ink. Despite tes­ti­mo­ni­als, depo­si­tion of com­plaints, the Min­istry of Jus­tice and the author­i­ties con­stant­ly deny the exis­tence of the prac­tice. In Novem­ber 2021, strip-search­es that had been declared thus far as “inex­is­tant” by the Min­istry were nonethe­less sup­pressed from the leg­is­la­tion. Thus on Jan­u­ary 20 2022, Aslıhan Gençay was acquit­ted in this trial.]

Change of regulation

While we were await­ing the deci­sion of the court of appeal, in Novem­ber 2021, a deci­sion was pub­lished in the Offi­cial Jour­nal by which “strip search­es” were removed from the leg­is­la­tion as prison prac­tices and replaced by “detailed search­es”. Were also added “pre­ci­sions” such as “to be employed if no oth­er meth­ods can be used”. Here, I would like to remind every­one that the equip­ment for X‑ray inspec­tions is avail­able in almost all pris­ons in Turkey. The pub­li­ca­tion also men­tions a state­ment that would be signed by the per­son con­duct­ing the search and the per­son sub­ject­ed to the search­ing. In this way at least, pris­on­er sub­ject­ed to a humil­i­at­ing treat­ment could offi­cial­ize it in this doc­u­ment. Where­as, for­mer­ly, the doc­u­ments were estab­lished sole­ly by the civ­il ser­vants who, of course, wrote what­ev­er they wanted.

I assert and under­line twice: the “detailed search­es” in ques­tion are car­ried out with mali­cious intent, and noth­ing will change. Yet, I also know that this amend­ment in the leg­is­la­tion is the min­i­mum result­ing from the strug­gles car­ried out, and of the prices paid for them.

And now we come to the questions…
Mis­ter Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic, Mis­ter Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Abdül­hamid Gül, I have described for you from the pris­ons of Sin­can, of Tar­sus, and from the open and closed pris­ons of Sivas, on a num­ber of occa­sions and in detail, all the injus­tices, ille­gal­i­ties, ill treat­ment and tor­tures to which I was sub­ject­ed. But, for some rea­son, their per­pe­tra­tors are still sit­ting in all impuni­ty despite what they com­mit­ted. You have cer­tain­ly not giv­en any con­sid­er­a­tion to all that, but per­son­al­ly, I will nev­er for­get them.

Nat­u­ral­ly, human beings are curi­ous and ask them­selves “what did they attempt to achieve exact­ly?”. Per­haps the thought behind it was “let’s break her, let’s force her to accept humil­i­at­ing treat­ments so that once she’s out­side, she won’t dare to con­test, she won’t be in a con­di­tion to write, to speak, she will dis­ap­pear and be qui­et in her cor­ner.” But you see, that’s not how it played out

Why was I sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly sub­ject­ed to a sen­tence with­in a sen­tence? I ask again : when I was sen­tenced to 5 years in prison — which is in itself the astro­nom­i­cal residue of a sen­tence imposed in the 1990s by the State Secu­ri­ty Courts (DGM)1with­out my being present at the hear­ings or allowed to use my right to defence. Why were per­se­cu­tions and ill treat­ments added on to this?

If none of this con­cerns you, why then have those respon­si­ble remained unpun­ished? My demand is sim­ply that those who are respon­si­ble be pun­ished to the height of the tears that fell from my mother’s eyes, she who cried dur­ing those five years, say­ing “they are going to kill my daugh­ter”. And, if pos­si­ble, I claim the right to answers to my questions.

Friends, in con­clu­sion, I give infi­nite thanks to those whose names I can­not reveal but who stood by me dur­ing these last five years of cal­vary. May they not be wor­ried, those who know­ing me or not — do you need to know a per­son in order to stand by her? — were not with me. Those who, accord­ing to Ahmet Kaya’s expres­sion “deprived me of a lit­tle hel­lo” 2and yet when the top­ics of human rights, of strug­gle etc, are raised, they weave their speech­es with grand words. They need not wor­ry. I have noth­ing to say to them, except to leave them in a tête-à-tête with their conscience.

NOTE: We have now reached the end of my prison notes. But I would like to share with pub­lic opin­ion and the Min­istry of Jus­tice a fur­ther arti­cle con­cern­ing my demands and pro­pos­als con­cern­ing carcer­al con­di­tions and the prob­lems I observed and per­son­al­ly expe­ri­enced in prison.

And so, here’s to anoth­er meet­ing soon.

Aslıhan Gençay

For other “Prison Notes”, follow this link.


Aslıhan Gençay

Aslıhan Gençay was born in 1974 and obtained a diploma from the Economic and Administrative Sciences Faculty of Izmir’s Dokuz Eylül University. Because of her identity as a leftist opponent, she was imprisoned for 10 years in 1992. She still bears the sequels of her “fast to the death”, hunger strikes, carried out in prisons in the year 2000. Following her liberation for health reasons, she began working as a a journalist. She wrote for the Radikal, Milliyet Sanat and edited the art and culture pages in Özgür Gündem. In 2016, a reprieve by the European Court of Human Rights was annulled and she was re-imprisoned for five years to carry out the rest of her sentence in the prisons of Sincan (Ankara), Tarsus, Kayseri and Sivas. She regained her freedom in May 2021. She is currently a chronicler for Davul Gazetesi and editor for an NGO.

Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges

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