LGBTI Inmates

The prison system and issues of LGBTI inmates in Turkey

LGBTI prisoner kept in isolation in type T prison of Erzincan stated that they have reached the level of committing suicide and asked to be transferred, in a letter they wrote

The LGBTI prisoner who has been kept in isolation stated that they have reached the level of committing suicide in a letter they wrote to the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CISST) and asked for help in order to be referred to a prison where more LGBTI prisoners are being held.

Source: Cansu Pişkin, “Tecritte tutulan LGBTİ mahpus: İntiharın eşiğine geldim,” Evrensel, May 8, 2018, https://www.evrensel.net/haber/351991/tecritte-tutulan-lgbti-mahpus-intiharin-esigine-geldim

Even though they are a criminal convict, they have been kept in solitary cells for political prisoners and convicts with aggravated sentences. The LGBTI prisoner wrote in their letter:

“After I came to the type T prison of Erzincan, I stayed in the infirmary room for five days. After that, I was put in a solitary cell where political prisoners and convicts with aggravated sentences are held. I’m only given one hour of leisure time. I’m not a political or aggravated prisoner; I’m a law offender. I don’t have access to the yard, nor do I have a place to hang my washed clothes. The bathroom and the shower are in the same place. I’m washing my dishes in the toilet. I suffer from chronic asthmatic bronchitis. I’m experiencing a violation of human rights. There is no one I can talk to, no other LGBTI prisoner. I’m psychologically drained. I’ve come to the stage of committing suicide.

Refusal to accommodate an LGBTI prisoner

This LGBTI prisoner has been making a request to be transferred to another prison since last year, and all their requests have been left unanswered. They write:

“First, I was supposed to be sent to the type L prison of Balikesir, but since there was no other LGBTI prisoner there my transfer request was not approved. Later came the type L prison of Rize and the type T No. 2 closed prison of Kayseri, respectively. They did not agree to the transfer, answering that they couldn’t accommodate such LGBTI prisoners. Later, two of our LGBTI friends were transferred to No. 2 prison of Kayseri. I was told there were LGBTI prisoners in the prison of Erzincan, which means I was literally tricked.”

The LGBTI prisoner briefly talked about how unjustly they are being treated, and that they had to spend about 2.000 Liras for the transfer procedures. The prisoner indicated they suffer from chronic asthmatic bronchitis and drew attention to the severe violation of human rights that they are experiencing. The prisoner said their family is living in Aydin-Kusadasi and due to the distance and health issues they can’t come visit them; they are asking for help:

“My father has undergone a heart operation; his situation is critical. Same for my mother, they are old. I have a disabled older brother who is in Kayseri. This means that for them it’s very hard to come here. I’m feeling worse psychologically day by day. I’m crammed in a small room. I’m supposed to be kept as an inmate in good conditions for seven years. I don’t want to jeopardise my case. I want to carry out the rest of my punishment where other queers in the same situation as me are being kept. I want assistance in order to be transferred for security reasons.”

Following the prisoner’s letter, CISST (Inmates in Penitentiary System) has taken action and applied for their referral to the authorities.

 

Istanbul LGBTI: We have news from Diren

Source: Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association, https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1599145250163198&id=143393965738341

On Feb. 21, the 27th day of Diren’s death fast, we, a group of Diren’s friends and lawyers, went to Tekirdağ No.2  F Type Penitentiary. We started the day with the news that Kıvılcım [Arat from Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association who joined Diren’s fast] was forbidden from visiting Diren.

Despite the bad news, we let Diren know that we as her family, friends and lawyers will continue to be active in achieving her demands. We then had a meeting with the prison administration about Diren’s primary demands regarding laser epilation, vegan meals and ending the wardens’ discriminatory attitudes towards Diren based on her trans identity.

In this meeting we agreed with the prison administration on the need to work together in achieving this and Diren has accordingly decided to put her death fast on hold while the prison administration continues to collaborate. Diren has thanked everyone who has shown solidarity with her and said that she wanted all her friends who had started a hunger strike and death fast to end their protests.

As the solidarity group for Diren, we will be publishing a more detailed update in the following days. We thank everyone who helped Diren’s voice be heard in this process.

#DirendenHaberVar (#NewsFromDiren)

 

#BeAVoiceForDiren

Friends of imprisoned LGBTI activist Diren Coşkun have started a campaign to support Diren who has started a death fast against the rights violations she has been enduring in a Turkish prison. The campaign urges supporters to sign a petition and to write e-letters, which will then be taken to Diren.

Diren was arrested on Aug. 14, 2017 with the allegation of “propaganda for an illegal organization.”

Diren is a trans woman and has been put in isolation after she rejected to stay in the male ward of the prison. Demanding an end to her solitary confinement and access to trans-specific healthcare, Diren started the death fast on Jan. 25.

Kıvılcım Arat from Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association announced her own death fast on Feb. 6 in solidarity with Coşkun. (Read Arat’s account of life in prison for trans inmates on here.)

To support Diren, please sign the petition or join the social media campaign by sharing your messages of solidarity these hashtags:

#SeiEineStimmeFürDiren

#DireneSesVer

#BeAVoiceForDiren

#WeesEenStemVoorDiren #SoyesUneVoixPourDiren

#TransRights

 

LGBTI activist Kıvılcım Arat joins Diren Coskun’s death fast

Trans woman Diren Coşkun, incarcerated in Tekirdağ No.2 Prison, has been on a hunger strike for 13 days, asking for an end to rights violations in detention and for her right to surgery and treatment. Her friend Kıvılcım Arat, too, has announced her own hunger strike to help Coşkun’s voice be heard and to support her right to treatment.

This article was compiled from: ”Diren Coşkun 13 gündür ölüm orucunda, Kıvılcım Arat da aynı eyleme başladı”, Gazete Karınca, February 6, 2018, http://gazetekarinca.com/2018/02/diren-coskun-13-gundur-olum-orucunda-kivilcim-arat-da-ayni-eyleme-basladi/

Keskesor activist Diren Coskun, who was arrested in August 2017, has completed the 13th day of her hunger strike in Tekirdağ No.2 Prison.

Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association Board Member and spokesperson for Democratic Women Movement Kıvılcım Arat had announced that trans woman Coşkun has started a hunger strike against the prevention of her right to surgery and treatment, and the rights violations occurring in prison. Coşkun had declared her protest as follows:

“I’ve been subjected to many humiliating practices here. I lay my body to die, to gain my right to surgery and treatment, and to have this severe isolation abolished. I hereby declare to democratic public opinion that I have started a hunger strike as of January 25.”

As Coşkun’s death fast continues, Kıvılcım Arat announced that she has “started a death fast in order to reinforce Diren Coşkun’s voice and to make her demand for treatment heard”.

Kıvılcım Arat tweeted on February 6:

“In spite of our best efforts, we were not able to draw attention to Diren’s demand for access to treatment. Her trans identity cast a shadow over her protest and rendered it invisible. As of February 6 00:00, I have started a fast in order to reinforce Diren Coşkun’s voice and to make her demand for treatment heard.”

Arat stated that she will continue the fast until Diren Coşkun’s demands are met. Arat has criticized the LGBTI community for its lack of interest in Coşkun’s current situation and has emphasized that the oppression and violence against trans individuals remains invisible.

Arat: Two trans women or “sinners” in a Turkish prison

Diren is a trans woman who just entered her thirties. She will be subject to systematic torture inside an F-type prison cell coffin* for three more years. Buse, a trans woman in her forties, discovered her gender identity during her incarceration. She has been sentenced to life.

Source: Kıvılcım Arat, “Two sinners (!) at Tekirdağ No 2 [Prison] : Diren and Buse” (“Tekirdağ 2 Nolu’da İki Günahkar(!); Diren ve Buse”), Kıvılcım Arat, bianet, January 2, 2018, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/192911-tekirdag-2-nolu-da-iki-gunahkar-diren-ve-buse

On the road to Istanbul from Tekirdağ, I kept thinking about the value and meaning of our lives. I reflected on the struggle against the multiple discriminations we face, as well as how  limited and narrow the spaces of solidarity meant for empowering ourselves are.

The system and social life is designed through a binary gender regime. The problems generated by and the lives sacrificed in the name of this regime entangle not only trans women but also those who do not define themselves with binaries  in an inescapable spiral of violence.

Even though the imposed stereotypes of ideal men and women are not the same across communities, binary gender models are cultivated, spread, and institutionalized through a disparate array of social groups ranging from Islamists to Liberals, from Social Democrats to Socialists.

While cursing this system and its founders, I think about the resistance of the two sinners staying in the coffins of Tekirdağ No 2. I think about their unheard, unknown, unwritten resistance… and how forlorn this resistance is…

As the wheel of history keeps turning, someone writes that history. This is the reason I’m writing this story to you. To document the resistance of these two sinner women and to render it known to the world, in spite of the power of those who miswrite the present and obfuscate history.

Diren is a trans woman who just entered her thirties and is child of a family from Dersim [Tunceli]. Until last August, she was trying to hold onto  life in Amed [Diyarbakir] with a public trans identity. She has such a kind heart that every cat, whether tortured, disabled or infirm has certainly stayed in her home. And hers is not just an ordinary love of animals… It’s a feeling molded with consciousness. She is a vegan who feels the cruelty of the human species as a personal conviction. Diren is an amazing human who has understood the connection between a slice of cheese she eats and slavery. She is also a brave woman who has declared her conscientious objection.

As Diren was trying to hold onto this life with all the sensitivity she carries inside her, she faced the accusation of spreading [terror] propaganda and, without any tangible evidence, was unfortunately convicted of this crime. As a result of this conviction, she will be subject to systematic torture and isolation in F-type coffins for three more years.

Buse is a trans woman in her forties who came to define her gender identity during her incarceration and is the child of a family from Ağrı. Convicted for life, Erzurum State Security Court** indicted Buse where she stood trial without a defense attorney present. She has been in prison for twenty years and has another seventeen more years to spend in that dark cell.

What brings Diren and Buse together in the same cell is that they were both sentenced based on charges related to the same crime. As one’s existence empowers the other’s, their unknown state casts them both into an endless abyss.

As a 30-year-old who has visited three different prisons forthree incarcerated women, I was aware of the violence I would be subjected to at the entrance to Tekirdağ No. 2. And, on my way, I decided not to complain. Thinking about what Diren went through at the hands of the soldiers and wardens, I tried to get used to the fact that I would be experiencing this violence for three more years. At the end of the day, I was a visitor and I was bound to go through the indignity they imposed on me once a month. My body was relatively freer than Diren’s.

Just like any other prison I saw, Tekirdağ No. 2 is also a structure built to break the human spirit. As I entered through its gate, I reminded myself not to let anything overshadow the joy of seeing Diren and I walked in. Those who have been there would know how it is–open visits are crowded, packed with many relatives, young or old, and children. I gave my passport to the officer, hoping that a passport not color-coded and gender neutral would allow for an insult-free, harassment-free passage.

After registration, I was able to pass through the first checkpoint with other women. Towards the second one, Diren’s brother warned me “Be careful, you won’t be seeing smiling faces after this point”. Not long after, the female warden asked loudly “Did you go through surgery?” in the middle of the crowd. And then she called the first checkpoint where I left my ID and asked what was written on my ID under the gender slot. After she hung up, pulling a wry face she ordered the male wardens: “I won’t search this. Take him to the other side”. Under the silence of tens of gazes the wardens touched every bit of my body from my breast to my hips, continuing their work with the joy of carrying out a patriotic duty.

As these events were happening at the gate, what were Buse and Diren going through?

Diren’s open visit takes place in a separate room. A policy of isolation within isolation. Two wardens hovering above us, listening to every word we utter. We can neither hug nor talk in peace.

As there are no vegan meals, Diren has been feeding on boiled potatoes and tomatoes for months. It is another trouble to get female clothes in. Her requests for bras and similar things have been denied. She talked about the indifference of the doctors at the infirmary. She said that the officers frequently refer to her with the name written on her ID and address her as “Sir”. This “Sir” title has become such a grave violence that she swallowed an entire box of hormone pills at once during past weeks. On the farewell note she wrote, she exposed the systematic violence she has experienced. After her stomach was pumped, she was handcuffed to the radiator at the public hospital in the state she was in. Fortunately, when her objections turned into a scream they brought her back to her cell. Even in this state, she thinks more about Buse than herself. What Buse has been going through for the last twenty years and what she will go through the next seventeen. Her operation has been denied in spite of permission for the surgery and this has made her psychological state deteriorate even more. Buse is planning to use the last weapon she has left, to starve her new body and to lay down to die.

We trans women, who are the decided sinners of society, try to exist through resistance. Our resistance is born out of an affront to humanity. This sin is deemed so great that even the mothers who carried the sinners for nine months stay away from their children.

Towards the end of my visit, Diren said that Buse got ready in the morning and put on makeup. When she asked her what she was getting ready for, Buse answered “You never know, maybe my brother will come”. A brother who was expected and who never arrived for years! Buse’s answer became a thorn in my flesh and invigorated my struggle. This sin which bars relatives from coming to open visit should be society’s cross to bear.

Buse has been trying to exist in incarceration without anyone by her side for twenty years. She thinks she has been forgotten. Fortunately, at the end of 20 years, IHD (Human Rights Association) Co-Chair and attorney Eren Keskin took charge of the entire judicial process and will follow up on the unlawful practices Buse has endured, including the right to operation she was denied. This Thursday, Keskin will go to Tekirdağ No.2 as Buse’s legal representative to clarify her demands for justice. The commission set up for Buse and Diren at İHD will share the rights violations with the public in a press statement released next week.*** The past twenty years of isolation will at least be subdued. Historians writing from their dignified perspectives may perhaps take little note of what’s happening, but this will be a thousand hopes for trans people to come.

As two sinners of Tekirdağ write their histories through resistance, the solitude we left them in will one day find us too. The only way out of the hell of a binary regime is not to participate in its norms but to dismantle the norm. What is imposed with the norm leads to darkness and the resistance of the trans women lead to light.

*Translator’s note: “Coffin” is an unofficial term which denotes isolation cells where many political prisoners stay in F-type prisons. 

**State Security Courts (Devlet Güvenlik Mahkemeleri): Designed after the State Security Courts of De Gaulle era in France, DGMs first originated after the military coup of 1971, equipped with extraordinary authority regarding the cases that “endangered the existence of the state”. Its judges and prosecutors were assigned by military authorities, which is why it was seen as a “martial law without the declaration of martial law”. DGMs were shut down in the mid 1970s, only to be resurrected after the military coup of 1980. They remained active until 2004.

***  İHD held a press conference on January 10, see bianet article for more info.

BIANET: LGBTI Activist Coşkun Detained on Remand Stays in Solitary Cell

Source: BIANET, Diyarbakır – BIA News Desk, http://bianet.org/english/lgbti/189192-lgbti-activist-diren-coskun-stays-in-solitary-cell, 17 August 2017.

Being arrested over “illegal organization membership”, Keskesor activist Diren Coşkun has been sent to Diyarbakır Type D Closed Prison. Coşkun has been staying in a solitary cell since she refused to stay with men.

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Keskesor LGBTI has announced that LGBTI Amed activist Diren Coşkun has been sent to Diyarbakır Type D Closed Prison by the prison administration who ignore Coşkun’s gender identity.

Coşkun was arrested during an ID check at the Diyarbakır Courthouse where she went to get password for E-devlet (E-government) on August 14 after being told that there was a definitive judgement against her on charges of “being a member of an illegal organization” and “propagandizing for an illegal organization”.

Issuing a statement about Diren Coşkun, Keskesor LGBTI said “We’ve learned that the Supreme Court upheld the decision during her ID check at the courthouse. She now stays in a solitary cell in Diyarbakır Type D Prison”.

“First of all, we have to say that she was subjected to verbal and physical harassment by the gendarmerie while she was being taken to prison. On the other hand, the attitude of the guards and executions towards Diren is very nice. They address Diren as ‘Mrs. Diren’”, the statement added.

Coşkun was first sent to Diyarbakır Type E Closed Women’s Prison, then she was transferred to Diyarbakır Type D Closed Prison by the prison administration. Not willing to stay in the same ward as men, Coşkun stays in a solitary cell.

Her cats stay with her friends

Coşkun had made a call for her two cats to be taken care of. According to the information we obtained from Coşkun’s friends, the treatment for the sick one continues whereas the other one stays with a friend of Coşkun. (EA/TK)

Gay inmate: “It wears me down to be penalized on top of my sentence”

“Some of us only wish for a cup of tea.”

Source: “Hücre cezası uygulanan eşcinsel: Ceza içinde ceza yatmak beni çok yıpratıyor” (“Gay inmate: It wears me down to be penalized on top of my sentence”), T24, 1 December 2015, http://t24.com.tr/haber/hucre-cezasi-uygulanan-escinsel-ceza-icinde-ceza-yatmak-beni-cok-yipratiyor,318524

14 LGBTI inmates in Alanya L-Type Closed Prison are serving time in solitary cells – a practice that only applies to convicts sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment – and are denied a special ward despite their numbers. Lawyers affiliated with the Alanya Board of Women’s Rights say, “The convicts are held in confinement 23 hours a day and are let out for fresh air for only an hour.” The convicts reported on their situation in letters that they sent to non-governmental organizations:

“I feel suffocated. It wears me down to be in a situation I did not deserve and to be penalized on top of my sentence. … I am only allowed to get fresh air in the yard for an hour a day as if I am sentenced to solitary confinement. If I were, it would not feel this horrible.”

“There are 15-20 of us here with reports that identify us as gays. But they don’t open a ward for us. We are serving our time like our friends who are sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment. The well-off ones among us have things like a TV, a fridge, or an electric teapot. Others don’t have anything and only wish for a cup of tea. If there was a ward and we all lived there, we would at least have an environment to share things among us.”

“They only let us out for an hour a day and they let us out one by one. I can’t sit down and have a conversation with any one of my gay friends. You could guess that we are already ostracized by our families because we’re gay. Our mental state is already off. We need to support each other at times like these, but we’re further banished by the government instead.”

Turkey had been convicted

Turkey was convicted by the European Court of Human Rights as a result of a lawsuit known as “X v. Turkey” about a gay individual who was confined to a solitary cell for 8 months. It is also against Turkish law to confine an inmate to a solitary cell without a sentence to that effect.

“The capacity is much higher [than stated]”

During the lawyers’ visit, prison director Ali Şeref Gül reportedly said, “The prison has a capacity of 480 inmates, though it currently holds more than 1600 convicts and detainees. So it is difficult to assign a special ward for people suffering from homosexuality.”

The capacity of the prison is stated as 1820 inmates on the website of the Ministry of Justice. The prison authorities that we were able to reach stated that the capacity is higher than 1820 inmates.

Several NGOs are collecting signatures for a petition to lift the solitary confinement penalty on gay inmates and vowed to follow up with the petition. The following is a list of the NGOs behind the petition:

 

Afyon LGBTİ Kuruluşu

Akdeniz Pembe Caretta LGBTQ

Bilgi Gökkuşağı

Boğaziçi Üniversitesi LGBTİ Çalışmaları Kulübü (BÜLGBTİ)

Boğaziçi Üniversitesi Sosyal Hizmet Kulübü (BUSOS)

Bursa Özgür Renkler LGBTİ

Ceza İnfaz Sisteminde Sivil Toplum Derneği (CİSST)

Cinsel Şiddetle Mücadele Derneği

Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği İstanbul Şubesi

Dokuz Eylül Üniversitesi Eşit Şerit Topluğu

Edirne LGBTİ Çalışma Grubu

Erktolia

Erzincan Katre Kadın Oluşumu

Flu Baykuş

Görülmüştür

Hebun LGBT Diyarbakır

Hevi LGBTİ

İnsan Hakları Derneği Genel Merkez

İnsan Hakları Derneği İstanbul Şubesi

İnsan Hakları Derneği Sakarya Şubesi

İstanbul LGBTİ Dayanışma Derneği

İzmir LGBTİ İnisiyatifi

Kaos GL

KESK Kadın Meclisi

Keskesor LGBTİ Diyarbakır Oluşumu

Kırmızı Şemsiye Cinsel Sağlık ve İnsan Hakları Derneği

Lambda İstanbul Derneği

LGBTİ Aileleri ve Yakınları Derneği (LİSTAG)

Liseli LGBTİ

Mahsus Mahal

Malatya Gökkuşağı LGBTİ İnisiyatifi

Mersin 7 Renk LGBTİ Derneği

Moira Kadın Dayanışma Derneği

MorEL LGBTİ

Muş Kadın Derneği (Mukadder)

Özgürlükçü Hukukçular Derneği

Pembe Hayat LGBTT Dayanışma Derneği

Pozitif Yaşam Derneği

Sınır Tanımayan Kadınlar / Göçmen Kadınlarla Dayanışma Grubu

Siyah Pembe Üçgen İzmir

Sosyal Politikalar Cinsiyet Kimliği ve Cinsel Yönelim Çalışmaları Derneği (SPoD)

T-Klüp

Toplumsal Dayanışma İçin Psikologlar Derneği

Toplumsal Haklar ve Araştırmalar Derneği

Trabzon Mor Balık LGBT

Yeni Demokrat Kadın

Yoğurtçu Kadın Forumu

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