Foreign LGBTI inmates are on hunger strike in Turkey

Brazilian and Azerbaijani trans women were separated from LGBTI inmates from Turkey in Maltepe Prison and transferred to a different section. The women say they have been deprived of their friends’ financial and psychological help and have started a hunger strike for being kept in isolation.

Source: Ayça Söylemez, “Trans Kadın Mahpuslara Tecrit İçinde Tecrit”, (“Isolation within Isolation for Trans Women Inmates”), July 6, 2015, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/165825-trans-kadin-mahpuslara-tecrit-icinde-tecrit

Non-Turkish citizen trans women at Maltepe Prison were taken to a different section in the same prison. Five of the 21 LGBTI inmates, four Brazilian, one Azerbaijani citizen, have started a hunger strike on the grounds that they were separated from their friends and “are living in isolation within isolation”.

On June 8, LGBTI inmates were taken from Maltepe C Type No 1 Prison to L Type No 3 Closed Prison, to ward B-9. The inmates have written that their Turkish friends had been helping them, and with this transfer they were left on their own, that they have no financial income and that their psychological state has deteriorated.

Among the trans women transferred to another section, Brazilian citizen Rafael Q. Alves de Sousa has told in her letter dated June 9, that they have been staying together with LGBTI inmates for the last four years and now were victimized.

Sousa, writing that the Turkish [trans inmates] have been helping them both financially and spiritually, told that the hunger strike will continue until they are taken back to their friends.

trbuyuk“I don’t even have money to buy water”

Azerbaijani trans woman inmate, who does not wish her name to be disclosed, has told Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CİSST) her experience and has written the following in her letter dated June 17:

“I’m in solitary here, I’m sentenced to 30 years 6 months. My sentence is too long, I can’t stay here on my own. I’m severely victimized, I don’t have a dime. When we were in the same ward, my friends would cover all my needs, now I’m psychologically traumatized. I’m in a very small space here.”

“They should take me back to Prison No.1. I wrote to the Ministry of Justice but there were no replies, I’m in an awful state. I’ve been on hunger strike since June 8. It’s very bad here, they are treating me very bad, they make fun of me, it is not suitable for me at all. I used to eat everything but now I don’t even have money for water. I drink from the tap.”

The inmate, who has tried to commit suicide when her demands were not fulfilled, wrote that her friends in her former ward understood her well but now she is alone.

“Our world got even smaller”

This is what the Turkish trans female inmate wrote to CİSST:

“We used to be 21 inmates, we are down to 16. We already lived in complete isolation on the grounds of security. We built a world of our own, 21 one of us, fighting and making truce. Now our world got even smaller. Please tell the Ministry, we are only a handful and alone, they shouldn’t separate us and make us lonelier. They should give our friends back to us.”

İHD: Isolation, psychological torture

The Human Rights Association (İHD) Prison Commission of Istanbul Branch has demanded that the isolation be ended in a July 4 press release about the trans women inmates:

“We consider this legally ungrounded situation as exile, isolation and psychological torture. The inmates have indicated in their letter that they were in dire straits economically and that they have solidarity when in the company of their friends.”

“The trans female inmate has written to us that the Azerbaijani Consulate has not taken care of the matter, that the lawyer appointed by the bar did not show up at court giving an excuse, that she gave her own defense against the prosecutor’s arguments, receiving a sentence of 30 years 6 months for murder in the first degree in spite of the incident being a case of self-defense. Their only wish is to go back being together with their Turkish friends.”

LGBTI inmates

According to the latest report of CİSST, the number of LGBTI inmates in Turkey remains unknown because the Ministry does not disclose this information, on the grounds of the “right to privacy”. Here is some information from the report on LGBTI inmates:

In Turkish prisons people are assigned to places based on the gender defined by their ID cards, which means that trans women who have not gone through a gender reassignment surgery are kept in a men’s prison, trans men in a women’s prison.

Gay inmates who are known to be or who have declared that they are gay or bisexual are assigned to the trans women’s ward in the men’s prison or remain in solitary cells. The women who are “understood” to be lesbians or bisexuals in women’s prisons may be taken to separate wards.

LGBTI inmates, especially trans women kept in men’s prisons are kept in separate wards or rooms on the grounds that they can be harmed by male inmates, they are not taken out to the workshops or courses, they cannot use the common spaces. The isolation is more severe in places where LGBTI inmates are fewer.

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