Source: LGBT Hapiste,Trans Mahpus Funda’nin Türkiye Hapishanelerini Anlattığı Mektubu (Trans Inmate Funda’s Letter on Prisons in Turkey), LGBT Hapiste, May 6, 2014, http://lgbthapiste.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/trans-mahpus-fundanin-turkiye-hapishanelerini-anlattigi-mektubu/
Funda, a trans prisoner incarcerated for the past ten years, describes her experiences in various prisons. Corresponding with the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation, Funda testifies about the early years of her sentence and says that she will continue her story in her letters to come.
Some of the abusive practices described in Funda’s letter are:
- Forced stripping and genitalia searches when entering the prison.
- Forced haircuts.
Not being allowed to wear women’s clothing.
Being forced to wear men’s clothing.
Being kept in a solitary cell, without a shower or warm water.
Reading about these practices from Funda’s point of view will help with understanding how trans inmates are made to suffer.
Note: Funda ends her letter by saying that their situation is quite difficult and they need any help they can get. Those who want to send letters and/or help to trans prisoners can call 0542 336 75 67 for more information.
In your letter, you requested that I tell you about what a trans individual is likely to live through in prison. Of course, I share your opinion and please feel free to publish this on your websites or magazines. But only with my pen name, Funda.
My prison life started on 09.04.2004. For ten years and three days, I have been trying to survive as a trans individual in prison.
Since I was apprehended in Salihli, Manisa, I was incarcerated in Salihli Prison as a trans inmate. The prison administration had never seen a trans individual before and when they first met the police at the gate and came to take me in through the door, they were dumbfounded. My hair was long and I was a trans. They said they had to do a search. Before asking if I preferred a female or male correctional officer to do the search, they demanded that I take off all my clothes and stand in my underwear. I was afraid and anxious because there were so many officers in the room, but I let them frisk me. Then they wanted me to take my underwear off. Even though I protested, they got their way and I stood naked before them. An officer with gloves on came to check if I had genitals. I felt horrible but there was nothing I could do. After the search, they put me in a cell which had no other prisoners inside. I cried till the morning. In the morning, when the shifts changed, new officers came in. They started giving me strange looks and talking among themselves in profane language saying “Is this the man dressed as a woman?” before walking away. The day had begun. My hair was dyed blonde and was quite long. The warden called me to his room and told me that he could not let me stay in prison this way. When I asked why, he told me that one could not tell what I was and that I was neither a man nor a woman. I went crazy when he told me that he was going to have my hair cut, but I was surrounded by so many officers, and two of them took me by the arms and dragged me to the barber. My head was shaved to no more than an inch long. My protests were useless and I tried to stay optimistic, saying that this was not the end of the world. They would not give me any clothes that my housemate sent from the outside, telling me that those were ladies’ clothes and it was unthinkable for me to wear them in prison.
The Prison Administration had normal men’s clothing brought to me but I did not wear any of it. I went for days without changing the clothes I was wearing the day I was incarcerated. I was held in a cold cell all by myself for days without a shower, latrine or hot water. I was on the verge of committing suicide. I was making plans to end my life when one of the officers advised me to write my account to the Ministry. I did, but my petition was not sent. For days I bathed in cold water, I was ostracized, and I finally understood how a trans individual would suffer in prison. After 40 days, I stood at my preliminary trial and told the court how difficult it was for a trans person to spend time in Salihli Prison. The court took note of what happened and wrote to the Ministry. That is how I was transferred to a different prison in Ödemiş. I was overjoyed to be relocating to Ödemiş, but the joy did not last long. They did not assign me to a ward, but an airless solitary cell without windows. The bed, pillow and blanket smelled foul. The ward next to me held political prisoners and none of us were allowed in the yard because we were supposed to be “high security inmates.” I was officially declared a political prisoner. Everyday psychological pressure was applied, and why? Because of my sexual choices. By whom? The Prison Administration.
I was not able to move comfortably in the cell. I was afraid that they would attack me. I could not sleep at night, and could only doze off during the day. Some of the political inmates in the cell next to mine helped me draft a petition to the Ministry, in which I requested my transfer to another prison with other trans inmates in it. After 37 days, I was relocated to Manisa Prison.
I have only described a few problems I went through in Salihli and Ödemiş Prisons. I have so many other issues to write about and if I mention them I am afraid that this letter will not be allowed to leave prison. I am sure you are able to make guesses as to some things that I am not able to write about. In my next letter, I will tell you about Manisa and Eskişehir Prisons. I can prove everything I have told you about. There is documentation on the cells and my living conditions which I will photocopy and send to your attention so that you can publish them in your magazine or on the internet. But only as Funda (my trans name). My intention is to put down all of my experiences as an incarcerated trans individual in a book and publish it with ……..’s support. As the editor of ………. Prison, I hope you will help me with this. I have seen everything in prison. The riots, the torture directed towards trans individuals by other inmates with the door of the ward left open intentionally by officers. I have evidence of all torture and maltreatment. I will write to you about everything that I went through.
However, Bafra Correctional Facility is a much much better place for trans prisoners. Trans inmates are not being ostracized and are allowed to participate in some of the social activities. We try to avoid any difficulties with the prison administration, and do the rest of our time.
I have received the picture you sent me. I believe you are older than me and I apologize for addressing you as “abi” [older brother] but you are family to all of us here. You have taken us as your cause and I have no idea how to thank you.
All the girls here (my fellow inmates) send you their regards. They are all grateful to you.
I have to mention this again. Anybody, like your friends or other trans individuals, who wish to help by sending us boxes (of clothing etc), should address them to my name. Ceyda is transferring soon so anything sent to her will not reach us.
I have to end my letter here. I will let you know about anything I receive from any of your friends. Please encourage them to help us. Our circumstances are hard. Thanks again to all of you. Take care of yourselves.