If you are a homosexual in prison, there is both punishment and beating

“Violence Stories from Turkey” is a project by Intercultural Research Association that aims to archive and document the phenomenon of violence in Turkey; to prevent events of violence and their victims from “becoming ordinary” and “turning into statistics”; to investigate the conditions of violence in order to make future projections; and to bring together NGOs, civil society, and advocates for the defense of victims’ rights. The project publishes photographs and interviews with victims or witnesses in a simple and flexible format that allows the interviewees to express themselves.

Source: Cankız Çevik, “Cezaevinde eşcinselsen ceza da var, dayak da,” (“If you are a homosexual in prison, there is both punishment and beating,”) Türkiye’den Şiddet Hikayeleri, 12 December 2012, http://www.siddethikayeleri.com/cezaevinde-escinselsen-ceza-da-var-dayak-da/

Suzi, who was discriminated against and bullied because of his sexual orientation during his 12 years in prison, could not get a job because of his record. Suzi talks about discrimination in the prisons and his fight for equality:

You can call me Suzi.  I was in prison for 12 years and got out approximately 2 and a half months ago. My crime was fraud. At that time my business went bankrupt and I, unwillingly, used fraud. I committed a crime and I deserved to go to prison. It was a lesson to me. And of course I lost everything I had during this time.

Where were you living before you went to prison?

I was in Ankara before that too. My business was here. But when I went to prison, everything  fell apart. My mother passed away, my wife and I divorced, I have nobody.  Two of my kids are here, the other one is in France. I am trying to start over but the state does not help at all. I had nowhere to go for 2 months, I went wherever they told me to. I am trying to find a job but nobody trusts me because of my shameful crime. Making a mistake in the past does not mean that I am going to do it again in my new job. If I thought that I would, I would not bother applying to jobs properly. I want to stay away from all of this, fit into society and I want to do something good for the people as long as my strength and age allows me to. But it never happens. Never. I went to all the state departments, I even went to the Presidential Palace today. It was around 4 PM, the police at the door said, “You are late. You cannot find any officials who can help you.” I explained my situation but he said, “You came here for nothing, if the Prime Minister cannot help you, what can these people do for you?”  I am stuck. I have been staying with a transsexual friend for 10-15 days, she opened her house to me.

You cannot rent a house because you cannot afford it, right?

Of course, everyone starts negotiating around 500-1000 Turkish Lira. Because of that, I am staying in hotels or in friends’ houses. But it is really bad- staying in a place as a guest. For example, last night I did not come back here, and I could not let my host know because I do not have a cell phone. They worried about me and I am not comfortable either. Prison life has already ruined me.

In which prison and in which conditions were you staying?

The longest was in Tokat Prison. I was staying with transsexual and transvestite friends. The discrimination we faced was huge. For example, we had no workshops, no jobs in prison, no hairdresser, no sports, and no computer lessons. Why? Because I am bisexual, the other one is a transvestite, and another, gay.

How was this situation officially explained to you?

We petitioned the prison management and their official response was: “You are homosexuals, we cannot put you among normal people.” We were excluded. If you resist, they come into the ward and beat you. I reported this treatment and especially the Tokat Prison to the Ministry of Justice as soon as I got out. I do not know what will happen. People are being discriminated against and they are under pressure, especially homosexuals, transvestites and transsexuals…They do not put them near heterosexuals, men or women. For example, the guardians give jobs to the convicts: when we go to the administration or infirmary, they say “Attack!” and make them beat us. It never happened to me but my friends went through this. Transsexuals especially do not have any support, they are excluded by their families, they are alone. We are always under pressure. I faced this problem in Tokat and Istanbul Metris Prison the most. Officers torture us. They beat you until you fall into a coma. For example, 15 days prior to my release, they broke my nose. But when I reported it to the director, he said “You swore at to my officer.” But there was nothing like that.

Where did you apply to regarding the experiences you have just shared with us?

Inside, I told everyone that I was going to report them when I got out. I reported them to the Human Rights Commission, to the Ministry of Justice, to the Prime Minister, to the Republican People’s Party (CHP), to Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). I petitioned to them all. It has only been a month and a half so I am still waiting for a response. But I am going to follow up on it.

While you are waiting for a response to your complaints and demands, how will you find a job and make a living?

This is my situation. I have been begging for days saying “Please help me find a place in society.” But the government is so stubborn, they never listen. What should I do, should I commit a crime? I do not have a family. They checked my family index, nobody is alive. We are not on good terms with my ex-wife so I cannot see my children either. I have not seen my children for 4 years. I am 50 years old. Even if I said “I will hit the streets and become a sex worker,” I would not be able to do it.

How did you meet the person you’re staying with?

She is a friend of my transsexual friend from prison. She spoke highly of her. She said “She is from Adana, she is really honest and reliable.” After that I found her. But of course I do not want to bother her. She has a life too, and I am trying to make it on my own as soon as possible. I never talk about my sexual orientation in my job interviews. If I share that as well, then nobody would ever give me a job.

Related Translations:

To be an LGBT inmate in Turkey

Homophobia is both “inside” and “outside”

What are the rights of LGBT people in prison?

Ministry of Justice on LGBT Inmates in Turkey

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