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Turkey’s Human Rights Record in Numbers

Turkey, which was once touted as a model country, has now become a case study of what can happen to a country that moves away from the rule of law and human rights. The painful cries of people groaning at the face of oppression, cruelty and injustice are rising all over Turkey, and what’s worse is that the society in general is blind and deaf to these grievances. While Turkey’s once-faulty democratic regime is rapidly evolving into a one-man dictatorship, economic and social indicators show that the country is precipitating into a ditch.

Anyone who does not speak out against corruption, turns away from democratic principles, ignores unlawfulness, remains oblivious to human rights violations, and above all, supports them by either keeping silent or speaking, has an open or secret responsibility in the collapse of the country.

As Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), we are determined not to remain silent about this ominous aggravation of Turkey’s maladies. We see it as an undeniable duty to reveal the picture with all its nakedness and to warn those responsible. In this context, with the study in your hand, we tried to demonstrate with numbers how the AKP government and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to cover up corruption and unlawfulness with more corruption and lawlessness brought the country. Furthermore, we wanted to convey the cultural and social genocide carried out against the dissident segments of the society and the suffering of the victims, which we have tried to interpret with dozens of studies so far, once more with numbers. Numbers are bland by nature, yet the numbers in this study have the hue of grief and they represent how heavy the cost of straying from the law can be.


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RELEASE AHMET ÖZKAN IMMEDIATELY

RE: AST URGES TURKISH AUTHORITIES TO RELEASE AHMET ÖZKAN and ALL THE ELDERLY and SEVERELY SICK INMATES IN TURKEY’S PRISONS.

Ahmet Zeki Özkan, a 65-year-old stage 4 cancer patient, has been arbitrarily imprisoned despite the medical reports stressing the severity of his condition.

Ahmet Zeki Özkan was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison for his alleged ties with the Gülen Movement and taken to Antalya L-Type Prison, after the Supreme Court upheld the verdict. Özkan had to stay in the quarantine cell for a week and because there was no bed he had to lie down on the floor. He caught the flu there.

Antalya Forensic Medicine Institute’s report found that Özkan cannot stay in prison due to his severe illnesses yet İstanbul Forensic Medicine Institute issued a report that Özkan could stay “in a prison with a doctor and an infirmary.” Taking İstanbul Forensic Medicine’s report into consideration, the Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office rejected Ahmet Zeki Özkan’s request to postpone the execution on 14 December 2021. Apart from cancer, Özkan also has diseases such as heart, high blood pressure, prostate and hearing difficulties.

According to the data of the General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses, the number of detainees and convicts held in Turkey’s prisons as of January 31, 2022 reached the highest level in its history with 303,389. Beyond all these difficulties, sick and old prisoners live under much harder conditions in the grip of their medical troubles and old age. Although there is no clear information on how many seriously ill people are in prisons in Turkey, the Human Rights Association (İHD) found in a recent study that there were 1,605 sick prisoners, 604 of whom were seriously ill. As AST, we have always been drawing attention to this sensitive and urgent issue in the international human rights arena through different means including the recent report titled “Sick and Elderly Political Prisoners in Erdoğan’s Turkey.”

We, once again, call on the individuals and organizations in Turkey and the international community, who are concerned about grave human rights violations, to take immediate action and adopt a stand against these blatant violations of rights. Özkan’s arrest, which is the last of the painful news coming every day, reveals the urgent need to make effective improvements in this regard.

In consideration with Article 3 of the Criminal Procedure Law No. 6411 and Article 16 of the Law No. 5275 on the Execution of Penalties and Security Measures, AST urges Turkish authorities to release Ahmet Özkan and all the elderly and severely sick inmates in Turkey’s prisons. The law states: “The execution of the sentence of a prisoner who cannot maintain his life alone under the conditions of a penitentiary institution due to a serious illness or disability and is not considered to pose a serious and concrete danger in terms of public safety may be postponed until he recovers according to the procedure specified in the third paragraph.”

Hafza GIRDAP
Executive Director & Spokesperson


You can find the whole copy of the letter from the LINK to send the addresses below.


140 pages report on “Sick and Elderly Political Prisoners in Erdogan’s Turkey”


RELEVANT CONTACTS

THE HONORABLE DUNJA MIJATOVIC

Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights Council of Europe
Avenue de I’Europe F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex, France
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 34 21
Fax: +33 (0)3 90 21 50 53
Email: commissioner@coe.int


COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE – PETITIONS AND INQUIRIES SECTION

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
E-mail: petitions@ohchr.orgTB-petitions@ohchr.orgcat@ohchr.orgregistry@ohchr.org


TOM LANTOS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

ouse Committee on Foreign Affairs 5100
O’Neill House Office Building 200 C Street SW Washington, D.C. 20515 United States of America
Phone: +1 (202) 225-3599
Fax: +1 (202) 226-6584
Email: TLHRC@mail.house.gov


US HELSINKI COMMISSION

234 Ford House Office Building 3rd and D Streets SW Washington, DC 20515
Email: info@csce.gov


UNITED NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE PETITIONS TEAM

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10 (Switzerland)
Fax: + 41 22 917 9022 (particularly for urgent matters)
E-mail: petitions@ohchr.org

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NUSRET MUGLA’S TRAGIC DEATH

ON THE OCCASION OF NUSRET MUGLA’S TRAGIC DEATH AST BRINGS THE URGENT SITUATION OF ELDERLY AND SERIOUSLY ILL PRISONERS TO ATTENTION AND URGES THE GOVERNMENT OF TURKEY TO RELEASE THEM EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY

84-year-old Nusret Sağlam died on February 14 due to COVID-19 he contracted in prison where he was held captive on the grounds of having an account at Bank Asya – one of the hundreds of companies shut down following the July coup attempt in 2016. States are obliged to protect the right to life of those deprived of their liberty and to ensure that they can benefit from health services at least as much as free individuals. The death of Sağlam, who struggled in the severely adverse conditions of prison despite his old age, is no different from a murder due to the reckless neglect of a most basic human right.

According to the data of the General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses, the number of detainees and convicts held in Turkey’s prisons as of January 31, 2022 reached the highest level in its history with 303,389. During the AKP era, Turkish prisons have become tools of political vengeance where violations of rights and inhumane practices are most prevalent. Thousands of complaints about dehumanizing treatment such as torture, beating and rape are unfortunately not taken into account by the political will. There are many other violations, such as arbitrary isolation, sending prisoners to prisons far from their families, restricting the right to visits of families, blocking their right to communicate, disciplinary penalties, and strip-searching. Worse still, persons imprisoned for political crimes are held in harsher conditions than those imprisoned for ordinary crimes.

Beyond all these difficulties, sick and old prisoners live under much harder conditions in the grip of their medical troubles and old age. Although there is no clear information on how many seriously ill people are in prisons in Turkey, the Human Rights Association (İHD) found in a recent study that there were 1,605 sick prisoners, 604 of whom were seriously ill. There is no doubt that the actual number is much higher than that. As AST, we have always been drawing attention to this sensitive and urgent issue in the international human rights arena through different means including the recent report titled “Sick and Elderly Political Prisoners in Erdoğan’s Turkey”.

We, once again, call on the individuals and organizations in Turkey and the international community, who are concerned about grave human rights violations, to take immediate action and adopt a stand against these blatant violations of rights. The tragic death of Nusret Muğla once again revealed the urgency of the issue strikingly. Muğla was arrested in October 2016 on the grounds of being a member of the Hizmet Movement, despite suffering from many health problems, including heart and kidney disease and prostate cancer. Angiography was performed while in prison and he was released after seven months for health reasons. However, he was later sentenced to six years and three months in prison and rearrested. Mugla was not released despite all the calls. He passed away due to an illness he caught in prison, where the heaters did not burn and he could not even find tea to warm himself when he wanted.

On the occasion of Nusret Mugla’s tragic death AST brings the urgent situation of elderly and seriously ill prisoners to attention and urges the government of Turkey to release them effective immediately.

Hafza GIRDAP
Executive Director & Spokesperson


You can find the whole copy of the letter from the LINK to send the addresses below.


140 pages report on “Sick and Elderly Political Prisoners in Erdogan’s Turkey”


RELEVANT CONTACTS

THE HONORABLE DUNJA MIJATOVIC

Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights Council of Europe
Avenue de I’Europe F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex, France
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 34 21
Fax: +33 (0)3 90 21 50 53
Email: commissioner@coe.int


COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE – PETITIONS AND INQUIRIES SECTION

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
E-mail: petitions@ohchr.org, TB-petitions@ohchr.org, cat@ohchr.org, registry@ohchr.org


TOM LANTOS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

ouse Committee on Foreign Affairs 5100
O’Neill House Office Building 200 C Street SW Washington, D.C. 20515 United States of America
Phone: +1 (202) 225-3599
Fax: +1 (202) 226-6584
Email: TLHRC@mail.house.gov


US HELSINKI COMMISSION

234 Ford House Office Building 3rd and D Streets SW Washington, DC 20515
Email: info@csce.gov


UNITED NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE PETITIONS TEAM

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10 (Switzerland)
Fax: + 41 22 917 9022 (particularly for urgent matters)
E-mail: petitions@ohchr.org

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Call on the Government of Greece to investigate and end the push-backs of Turkish refugees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RE: PUSHBACK INCIDENTS AT THE GREEK BORDER

“We have a legal and moral obligation to protect people fleeing bombs, bullets and tyrants, and throughout history those people have enriched our society.” —Juliet Stevenson

Thousands of refugees fleeing their homeland due to violence, terror, or political prosecution use Greece as an entry gate to Europe. Since the beginning of 2014, over 1.1 million refugees have crossed the borders of Greece. (1) Growing numbers of refugees have begun to use Evros as a passage from Turkey to Greece.

In the last couple of years, a significant number of Turkish citizens have also begun to cross the border between Turkey and Greece and sought asylum due to the Turkish government’s targeting of dissidents belonging to different ideologies, particularly the Gulen Movement. Advocates of Silenced Turkey appreciates all the Greek government did to welcome genuine Turkish refugees, who have escaped in fear of their life and freedom. It is important to understand that those who are not able to leave are subjected to social death and are not accepted as fully human by the wider society.

However, it is also important to note number of recent heartbreaking incidents has been reported from the Greek – Turkey border.

Just over four months ago, 22 immigrants, who were mostly Turkish citizens and alleged members of the Gulen movement, wanted to cross to the Greek island of Lesbos from Canakkale, Turkey. According to a news report, they were pushed back to Turkish territorial waters by Greek Coast Guards. Turkish Coast Guard teams went to the region and captured immigrants in inflatable boats. (2)

Last December, a speedboat capsized while it was trying to cross into Greece from Turkey. It was discovered that two people drowned, and three people were rescued by the Greek coast guard. According to a news report by Kronos, the accident occurred when the speedboat, which was moving towards the Greek island of Kos at midnight, was noticed by the Greek Coast Guard teams, and the captain made a quick turn towards Turkey. Caught in the reverse wave, the speedboat rolled over and the accident occurred. While the Greek Coast Guard teams, who reached the scene, rescued the captain and two judges alive, the married prosecutor and teacher couple lost their lives.(3)

Ahmet Güngör, a Turkish citizen fleeing from political persecution in Turkey passed from Evros river to Greece two weeks ago. According to a Twitter message from Mehmet Ali Uludag, it was discovered a week later that he was pushed back to Turkey, where he remains in custody. (4)

More recently – according to another Twitter message from Mehmet Ali Uludag – Güven Bozkurt, a teacher dismissed by decree law, passed through Evros river on January 12 and has not been heard from since that day. The last point of contact was from Orestias, Greece and his family remains worried. (5)

It is important to note push-back news creates an alarming situation in terms of international human rights law and refugee law and raises concerns among human rights groups. Members of the Hizmet Movement fleeing from the Turkish government’s harsh persecutions fulfill the definition of a refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention and have right to demand protection from deportation to Turkey.

We underline once again that people leave their countries in search of a more secure and dignified future by escaping life-threatening conditions, political imprisonment, and torture. We have full faith that the Greek authorities will review their border security procedures and give serious consideration to maintaining the safety of asylum seekers to remain in compliance with international laws and regulations.

References

1. Konstantinou, A.& Georgopoulou, A.(2019). Asylum Information Database, Country Report: Greece. European Council on Refugees and Exiles.
2. https://m.ensonhaber.com/gundem/13-fetocu-yunanistana-kacmak-isterken-yakalandi
3. https://www.tr724.com/egede-siginmacilari-tasiyan-surat-teknesi-batti-khkli-savci-ogretmen-ciftoldu/
4. https://twitter.com/MAliuludag_/status/1484155421598363650?cxt=HHwWhMC5_cLf45gpAAAA
5. https://twitter.com/MAliuludag_/status/1485241368058515464?cxt=HHwWkMCzfbJ0ZwpAAAA

Hafza GIRDAP
Executive Director & Spokesperson


You can find the whole copy of the letter from the LINK to send the addresses below.

RELEVANT CONTACTS

AITIMA

Tripou 4-6, corner to Gennaiou Kolokotroni Athens, Greece

E-mail: aitima@freemail.gr


ARSIS

Tenedou 21B (near Amerikis Square), Athens

E-mail: info@arsis.gr


Ecumenical Refugee Progamme

Moschonision 5, Kipseli, Athens, Greece

E-mail: ecrpath@gmail.com


Central Administration of Asylum Service

2, P. Kanellopoulou Avenue, 101 77 Athens

Email: asylo@asylo.gov.gr


Regional Asylum Office of Thrace

1-Β, Makris Avenue, 68100 Nea Chili Alexandroupolis,

Email: pga.alexandroupolis@asylo.gov.gr


Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees

Lontou 6 & Mesologiou (Exarhia), Second floor

E-mail: omadadikigorwn@lists.riseup.net


Solidarity Centre

Domokou St. 2 & Filadelfeias Av., 2nd floor, Athens

E-mail: arsisathina.legalaid@gmail.com


Dunja Mijatovic: Avrupa Konseyi Insan Haklari Komiseri

E-mail: commissioner@coe.int


Ursula von der Leyen: Avrupa Komisyonu Baskani

E-mail: ec-president-vdl@ec.europa.eu


Charles Michael: Avrupa Birligi Konseyi Baskani

E-mail gondermek icin link: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/contact/general-enquiries/send-message/?IsPresident=true
E-mail: charles.michel@consilium.europa.eu


David Sassoli: Avrupa Parlamentosu Baskani

E-mail: david.sassoli@europarl.europa.eu


Marie Arene: Avrupa Parelementosu Insan Haklari Komitesi Baskani

E-mail: maria.arena@europarl.europa.eu


David McAllister (AFET Baskani)

E-mail: david.mcallister@europarl.europa.eu


Nacho Amor Sanchez: AP’nin Turkiye Raportoru

E-mail: nacho.sanchezamor@europarl.europa.eu


Sergey Lagodinsky: AB-Turkiye Karma Parlamento Komisyonu Es Baskani

E-mail: sergey.lagodinsky@europarl.europa.eu


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“SONGS SUNG FOR THE OPPRESSED” – SONG CONTEST 2022

Grievances in Turkey and other countries within the scape of human rights violations can be expressed with art especially song as a powerful method.

In this context, AST is organizing a song contest to raise awareness about human rights violations in Turkey.

This competition aims to raise awareness with the power of art about political prisoners, torture, deprivation of fundamental human rights. Another goal of this competition is to bring individuals in the field of art to speak out; reflect aesthetic skills, present the message clearly to the listener; to engage in artistic activities for human rights.


SECTION I


1. INTRODUCTION

A contest with the title “SONGS SUNG FOR THE OPPRESSED” will be organized by Advocates of Silenced Turkey.

The contest will be held according to the application terms and conditions listed in this document.

2. OBJECTIVES

a) To raise awareness on human rights violations.

b) Using art as a medium to maintain consciousness on human rights and express solidarity with the victims of oppression.

c) To encourage composers and singers to convey ideas on human rights and contribute to advancement of fine arts.


SECTION II


1. RULES AND REGULATIONS

a) There are no restrictions on the musical genre of the compositions.

b) Entries should display original and innovative endeavors.

c) Entries must not carry obvious resemblance to any other previously published works and contest submission must not breach any contractual obligation to any person or company.

d) The participants can submit up to 3 entries.

e) Only one entry of a participant can advance to the finale. When and if more than one entry from a single contestant is voted for the finals, only the entry with the highest score shall proceed to the final round.


SECTION III


1. MUTUAL AGREEMENTS

a) AST has the right to broadcast the submitted songs to the public on social media, radio, TV and other forms of media, as well as to send it to broadcasting organizations, educational and cultural institutions.

b) AST has unlimited right to use the submissions on every kind of media and social media channels


SECTION IV


1. ENTRY SUBMISSION

Submission deadline is May 1st, 2022.

All participants must;

a) Register through AST website, www.silencedturkey.org

b) Submit the lyrics to songcontest@silencedturkey.org

c) Submit the recording of the entry in mp3 file format

d) Submit a video clip for the entry.

e) Information of the composer (songwriter, singer, player of the instrument/s, recorders.) composer’s biography and contact information to songcontest@silencedturkey.org

2. CALENDER

• Due Date: May 1st, 2022

• Announcement of the Winners will be at the award ceremony in June, 2022.

3. AWARDS

First Place: $3,000

Second Place: $2,000

Third Place: $1,000

Honorable Mention Awards to 5 winners.

4. THE JURY AND EVALUATION

a) The jurors act based on confidentiality and Impartiality. Decisions are final.

b) The jury evaluates the songs according to vocal technique and performance

c) The top 15 songs will be chosen by the evaluation of the jury. The top 3 will be chosen by the public vote during the award ceremony.


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FREEDOM CONVENTION 2021: GRAVE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN TURKEY

Freedom Convention Turkey 2021; that will address injustices, inequalities, human rights violations taking place under the current regime in Turkey; will be held virtually on December 10th, Human Rights Day.

Consisting of three panels, the convention will shed a light on human rights violations in Turkey.

Mark your calendars to hear from exclusive voices on these topics.

Violations of civil and political rights, aspects of dictatorships, stigmatizations and persecution are among the issues that will be touched on in the first panel.

The panelist in the second session will discuss enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture in custody and detention, elderly and sick inmates’ situations in Turkey’s jails.

In the last session of the convention, speakers will talk about ethnic-based discrimination, gender-based oppression, Turkey’s Syria policies & more.


Speakers:

  • David Phillips
  • Emre Turkut
  • Arbana Xharra
  • Dr Kemal Sahin
  • Serdar Celebi
  • Despina Syrri
  • Anjel Dikme
  • Cynthia Butler
  • Arat Baris
  • Ruth Ben-Ghiat
  • Barbaros Sansal
  • Meltem Arikan
  • Yasemin Mamaloglu
  • Busra Sarac
  • Mfana Gwala

Panel 1:

Panel 2:

Panel 3:


Freedom Convention Docs

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THE CURRENT SITUATION OF PRISONS

Under the political Islamist Erdoğan regime, which has been ruling Turkey since 2002, the number of prisons reached the highest level in history. With Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) abandoning libertarian discourse and policies and turning to one-man rule in the country, it is striking that prison populations have also increased. The prisons were filled with political prisoners far exceeding their current capacity especially after the failed coup attempt in 2015, with the crackdown carried out against the members of the Gülen movement, an international, voluntary-based education and dialogue community, which the Turkish government designated as a terror organization after the corruption allegations in 2013.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle. Erdoğan dismissed the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government. He initiated a massive witch hunt against the members of the movement, also known as Hizmet, all across the country and even the world. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The Turkish Statistical Institute’s (TurkStat) numbers demonstrate that the number of detainees and convicts, which was 59,429 in 2002, increased approximately fivefold in 2019. As detailed in Table 1, there were 56,000 detainees and convicts in prisons in 1970, while in 1972 the number was 64,889. The number of detainees and convicts, which was 70,172 in 1980, when the 12 September Military Coup took place, increased to 79,786 in 1981. If it is taken into account that the prison population remained below 80,000 even after the 1980 coup, which took place after intense internal conflicts, the awfulness of the current situation of the prisons will be more clearly comprehended.

To put it more concretely, with respect to Turkey’s population in 1980-81, 1,813 out of every 1 million people were in prison. Nevertheless, as of today, 2,625 people out of every 1 million are living behind bars.

According to the data of the Ministry of Justice the total number of all detainees and convicts in Turkish prisons was 287,094 as of the end of June 2021. Another set of data, announced by the Ministry of Justice as of April 2021, shows that there are a total of 371 penal institutions in Turkey and the capacity of these institutions is 250,576 people, indicating an approximate figure of 15 percent overcapacity that causes prison wards to be overpacked for the most part. Of these prisons, 264 are closed prisons, 80 are independent open prisons, 4 are children’s education centers, 9 are closed for women, 7 are for women and 7 are closed for children.

The Turkish state doesn’t pay attention to objections to violations of rights in prisons that house detainees/convicts above their capacity. In a way that can be interpreted as an indication of the politicization of the judiciary in Turkey, individual applications to the Constitutional Court (AYM) cannot yield legal and humanitarian results. For instance, Mehmet Hanefi Baki, who was detained in Osmaniye No. 1 T-Type Closed Prison, made an individual application to the AYM after his formal complaints that the A-38 ward where he was detained housed more detainees than its capacity were not heeded. Baki claimed that the ban on ill-treatment was violated because he was kept in a crowded room in the Penitentiary Institution. The prison administration’s defense was to say that “The average number of rooms A-38 is 25, the per capita usage area is 4.25 square meters, the number of bunk beds allocated for sleeping and resting in the ward is 16, and about nine detainees had to sleep on floor beds due to overcapacity.” Although the administration admitted that the ward was hosting detainees beyond its capacity, the Constitutional Court did not give a decision of violation of rights in the hearing dated 27 July 2018.

There is no official data on how many of them are sick with chronic and severe diseases or how many inmates are too old to stay in prisons. However, there is some data that certain civil society organizations have mustered through their own research. For example, the Human Rights Association (İHD), one of the associations that carries out the most serious and comprehensive studies on the victimization of prisoners, says that 1,605 patients, 604 of whom are seriously ill, are fighting for their lives in prisons across Turkey. The already very negative approach and indifference towards sick and old prisoners became much more severe, especially during the new type of coronavirus epidemic called COVID 19, which affected the whole world throughout 2020 and most of 2021. A report launched by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) showed that the number of prisoners who lost their lives in prisons between 2002 and 2018 was 3,432. A relatively limited list, compiled from media coverage of deaths of prisoners, can be found in Table 3 at the end of this report.

Deputy Gergerlioğlu, who was at the forefront of the fight against the unlawfulness of the political power in general to suppress the opposition, and especially against the injustices in prisons, and who himself was imprisoned by the Erdoğan regime for this cause in 2021, was also at the forefront of creating public opinion about the suffering of sick prisoners. According to him, the deaths occurred due to the failure of timely release of sick convicts. “The deaths are murders. The perpetrator is political power, state institutions that share evil, and the Ministry of Justice itself,” he said.
Gergerlioğlu said that, “Prison administrations, judiciary organs, deputies, Ministry of Justice officials and doctors of some hospitals treat prisoners ‘according to the type of crime.’ ” The following words of the deputy reveal the picture with all its clarity: “People are dying in plain sight. This shows that there is no human value. Detainees are not released due to political considerations. The situation of sick prisoners is left to the discretion of the prison managers and no one questions them. Courts do not release people despite medical reports. We tell the Ministry, we speak in the Parliament, we convey it to the prison administrations, we call the judges and prosecutors, but it is as if there is a wall in front of us. This wall is the state with all its institutions. We see the most concrete countenance of the state, which never takes a step back, never regrets, and says ‘it can happen’ even in the face of a most painful event. We see a great injustice.”

An extensive report by the Platform for Peace and Justice demonstrated how far the Turkish prisons are from meeting the internationally accepted standards to accommodate detainees and prisoners. The report stated: “It has been observed that the facilities in 72 out of 80 prisons are inadequate. To name a few examples: the gym in the Karabuk Prison is used as a ward and there are only 3 shower facilities and 3 toilets in a ward where 100 detainees are staying together. In the women’s section of the Tarsus Prison, 70 women are de- tained in a ward for 17 people, and in the men’s section, 60 detainees are staying in a ward for 26 people. In the Düzce Prison, 25 people are detained in a ward for 8 people; in the Bursa TYPE H Prison, 18 detain- ees are staying in a ward for 8 people; in the Bandirma Type T Prison, 42 detainees are staying in a ward for 22 people, in the Izmir Aliaga Closed Prison, 28 detainees are staying in a ward for 12 people; in the Manisa Type T Closed Prison, 30 detainees are staying in a ward for 14 people; in the Osmaniye Type E T Closed Prison, 24 people are detained in a ward for 10 people; 42 detainees are staying in a ward for 15 people in the Burdur Type E Closed Prison; …while in the Manisa Type E Closed Prison for women, in a space of 33 square meters, 30 inmates are being detained, which means only 1 square meter is allowed per person. Since the number of toilets and shower facilities were built for the ideal capacity of the prisons and because the number of detainees staying in one ward is well over that capacity, every 25-30 detainees have to share 1 toilet and 1 shower and this causes long queues. Taking into consideration the limited availability of hot water as well, the opportunity for taking a shower is very limited. For instance, in some prisons, such as the Bandırma Type T Prison, each detainee can only take a shower once a week, and for only 5 minutes. In prisons with poor conditions, due to the shortage of beds, some detainees have to sleep on bedding laid out on the floor.”

Prisons under such poor conditions are particularly hard to tackle for prisoners who are already struggling with the frailties of various health problems and old age.

Sick and Elderly Political Prisoners IN ERDOGAN’S TURKEY – Special Report

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Sick and Elderly Political Prisoners IN ERDOGAN’S TURKEY – Special Report

Introduction

The jails in Turkey have long been mentioned in the same breath as inhumane actions and the breach of even the most basic rights, especially against the political prisoners. The violations have reached to unprecedented levels in parallel with the emergence of the current political-Islamist authoritarianism. The oppressive regime under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rule instrumentalized the country’s legal system to muzzle the political dissidence, turning the prisons into concentration camps. The number of inmates behind the bars has reached historic highs. Hosting convicts much more than their capacities, the prisons, which were already substantially subpar, have fallen way below the minimum acceptable standards for human dignity. Patients in particular bore the most of the brunt of this precipitated deterioration of the prison conditions and the wrath of the Turkish regime against its opponents.

People are suffering from torments of negligence; even some have died as authorities have turned deaf ears to their cries of anguish while diseases and hardships of old age were gnawing at their flesh and bones. Stories of tragedies, heart-rending images of the victims who died in solitary confinement cells alone, miserable outcries of prisoners who sent letters after letters to human rights watch associations or reactions from international bodies were not enough to cause even a slightest move in the needle of the moral compass of the Turkish authorities. Erdoğan and his political allies, as well as their supporters, even demanded an increase in the pressure on the political prisoners. Even some judges who released a number of journalists due to the lack of evidence were expelled from their duties,1 while their replacements hastily ordered the arrest of these journalists even before they were let leave the prisons.

Even the photograph showing the frozen body of Mustafa Kabakçıoğlu, who was a deputy policy inspector dismissed in September 2016 for alleged membership to the Gülen movement and who died on a plastic chair in a cold, damp, single-person cell in the basement of Gümüşhane Penitentiary Institution2, did not cause any reaction other than weak public reactions. The photo, which was announced in a Parliamentary general session by HDP Kocaeli Deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who spent almost his entire life fighting against human rights violations in Turkey, could not find its place even as news in the mainstream media under the intense pressure of the country’s autocratic administration. The Ministry of Justice did not even respond to a lawmaker’s questions. Let alone inspecting the negligence that led to the death of Kabakçıoğlu, the prosecution instead started an investigation into how his pictures were leaked.

In other occasions, no one was found responsible for the deaths of journalist Mevlüt Öztaş and director Fatih Terzioğlu, who caught cancer in prisons. They were not treated, were not given a timely postponement of execution and their release was delayed despite the reports that they could not stay in prisons. They both died. Old people in their 80s, incapable of taking care of their needs on their own and in need of someone’s care at any moment, have been ruthlessly left at the mercy of death in prisons, despite no serious charges being brought against them.

There is a banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt conceptualized it. Officials don’t even think about whether their actions are evil. They do torture with a great sense of duty, enthusiasm, and civic consciousness. Every political prisoner they cause their suffering, misery, even death, is just another brick in the wall of patriotism.

The power partnership led by Erdoğan is acting with such an approach in which cruelty towards certain groups has become so banal and common. In Turkish prisons, complaints that the right to life of prisoners, especially political convicts, are disregarded, and that prison administrations are mostly indifferent in the face of their health problems, can only cause muffled reverberations in the domestic and international public opinion. In general, the report in your hand aims to contribute to the chorus to shatter the exasperating silence against the agonies of the ailing prisoners. It aims to raise a voice on behalf of the silenced masses captive in the Turkish prisons from all walks of life. In particular, this report aims to carve a mark in the history, registering the records of atrocities against the people who had no crime other than refusing to bow to authoritarianism. All in all, this report aims to hold a magnifying glass on the problems experienced by sick prisoners by compiling the information reflected in the media, the activities and reports of the associations operating in this field, official and unofficial statistics as well as the opinions and experiences of the prisoners and their relatives.

THE CURRENT SITUATION OF PRISONS

Under the political Islamist Erdoğan regime, which has been ruling Turkey since 2002, the number of prisons reached the highest level in history. With Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) abandoning libertarian discourse and policies and turning to one-man rule in the country, it is striking that prison populations have also increased. The prisons were filled with political prisoners far exceeding their current capacity especially after the failed coup attempt in 2015, with the crackdown carried out against the members of the Gülen movement, an international, voluntary-based education and dialogue community, which the Turkish government designated as a terror organization after the corruption allegations in 2013.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle. Erdoğan dismissed the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government. He initiated a massive witch hunt against the members of the movement, also known as Hizmet, all across the country and even the world. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The Turkish Statistical Institute’s (TurkStat) numbers demonstrate that the number of detainees and convicts, which was 59,429 in 2002, increased approximately fivefold in 2019.3 As detailed in Table 1, there were 56,000 detainees and convicts in prisons in 1970, while in 1972 the number was 64,889. The number of detainees and convicts, which was 70,172 in 1980, when the 12 September Military Coup took place, increased to 79,786 in 1981. If it is taken into account that the prison population remained below 80,000 even after the 1980 coup, which took place after intense internal conflicts, the awfulness of the current situation of the prisons will be more clearly comprehended.

To put it more concretely, with respect to Turkey’s population in 1980-81, 1,813 out of every 1 million people were in prison. Nevertheless, as of today, 2,625 people out of every 1 million are living behind bars.

According to the data of the Ministry of Justice the total number of all detainees and convicts in Turkish prisons was 287,094 as of the end of June 2021. Another set of data, announced by the Ministry of Justice as of April 2021, shows that there are a total of 371 penal institutions in Turkey and the capacity of these institutions is 250,576 people, indicating an approximate f igure of 15 percent overcapacity that causes prison wards to be overpacked for the most part. Of these prisons, 264 are closed prisons, 80 are independent open prisons, 4 are children’s education centers, 9 are closed for women, 7 are for women and 7 are closed for children.

The Turkish state doesn’t pay attention to objections to violations of rights in prisons that house detainees/convicts above their capacity. In a way that can be interpreted as an indication of the politicization of the judiciary in Turkey, individual applications to the Constitutional Court (AYM) cannot yield legal and humanitarian results. For instance, Mehmet Hanefi Baki, who was detained in Osmaniye No. 1 T-Type Closed Prison, made an individual application to the AYM after his formal complaints that the A-38 ward where he was detained housed more detainees than its capacity were not heeded. Baki claimed that the ban on ill-treatment was violated because he was kept in a crowded room in the Penitentiary Institution. The prison administration’s defense was to say that “The average number of rooms A-38 is 25, the per capita usage area is 4.25 square meters, the number of bunk beds allocated for sleeping and resting in the ward is 16, and about nine detainees had to sleep on floor beds due to overcapacity.” Although the administration admitted that the ward was hosting detainees beyond its capacity, the Constitutional Court did not give a decision of violation of rights in the hearing dated 27 July 2018.

There is no official data on how many of them are sick with chronic and severe diseases or how many inmates are too old to stay in prisons. However, there is some data that certain civil society organizations have mustered through their own research. For example, the Human Rights Association (İHD), one of the associations that carries out the most serious and comprehensive studies on the victimization of prisoners, says that 1,605 patients, 604 of whom are seriously ill, are fighting for their lives in prisons across Turkey. The already very negative approach and indifference towards sick and old prisoners became much more severe, especially during the new type of coronavirus epidemic called COVID 19, which affected the whole world throughout 2020 and most of 2021. A report launched by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) showed that the number of prisoners who lost their lives in prisons between 2002 and 2018 was 3,432. A relatively limited list, compiled from media coverage of deaths of prisoners, can be found in Table 3 at the end of this report.


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SILENT SCREAM: True Stories of Oppression in Turkey

“The three true stories in this book are about the three of the countless brave women in Turkey who fought against extreme and systemic political injustice and oppression, who did everything they could to protect their families and took enormous risks in pursuit of their quest for freedom.”


SILENT SCREAM:

You will burst into tears when you read how a young woman had to give birth in a janitor’s small apartment without making any single sound, and what happened then to the newborn baby in the land of oppression.

ANGELS OF THE AEGEAN SEA:
On that night, the Aegean Sea has become the grave of many innocent lives. One woman, even though she didn’t know how to swim, has survived. But unfortunately, it was in her destiny to witness the last minutes of her husband and her two tiny babies that she was holding in her arms. Meanwhile, the conscience of humanity was silent!

FOR GOD’S SAKE, JUST SHOOT ME!:
After finding herself in prison without any evidence of a crime, the young woman had a severe nervous breakdown because she was unable to bear the separation from her two little children. When the head guard in prison threatened her with sending her to a mental hospital, she never shed a tear again.

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ESCAPE FROM TURKEY

You know how it goes in fairy tales… The dark sorcerer who gets angry at the prince uses magic to turn him into a frog. The frog-turned-prince cannot talk anymore, so only a miracle can save him now. This is pretty much what happened to the volunteers of the Hizmet Movement. Using a staged fake coup, the patriots of this country were framed in just one night as traitors by the evil corrupt political power and their names were added into the lists of torture and death. All their properties have been seized and they were left no other choice but to escape from their homeland.

What you will read below are the true stories of the Hizmet volunteers, one of them is a past lawyer of Bank Asya and the other is a distinguished scientist. You will witness how their lives have been taken from them after that ominous night of coup and how they fought back to save their families from evil.

The only difference between these stories and those fairy tales is that… Everything in this story is true!

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