CISST

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.

Civil Society Organizations: “LGBTI-only prison means institutionalizing discrimination!”

LGBTI organizations and CISST has stated that “LGBTI-only prison is the institutionalization of discrimination by the state” and reminded that mistreatment, molestation and rape are committed by prison personnel.

Source: “LGBTI hapishanesi, ayrımcılığı kurumsallaştırmaktır!”, (“LGBTI-only prison means institutionalizing discrimination!”), kaosGL.org, January 6, 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18413

In a published letter, LGBTI organizations including Kaos GL and the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CISST) issued a call to the Ministry of Justice regarding the planned LGBTI-only prison. The organizations expressed concern and summarized the process as follows:

“In their responses to a series of inquiries and requests for information, the Ministry of Justice announced that they will be building a special prison for LGBTI inmates and have continued to make announcements along the same lines. Most recently the response to a query by a trans inmate contains clearer information: “Our ministry has begun work on the project of building open and closed penal institutions where lesbians, gays, transsexuals and bisexuals will be held. The said project will be put out to tender and construction will commence in 2015 in Izmir province. Following the granting of tender and a construction site, the project will be completed within two years.’”

“The persistence of the Ministry of Justice has increased our concern”

Underlining the fact that the Ministry of Justice announcement foresees the completion of an LGBTI prison in 2017, the NGOs reminded the following points in their press statement:

“Every time the Ministry of Justice brings this issue on the agenda, we have made numerous statements in newspapers and magazines and we have participated in TV programs to express our concerns. The persistence of the Ministry of Justice on the project in utter disregard for these statements has further increased our concerns.”

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Avşa’s Letter: Transsexuals and Turkish Prisons

Zafer Kıraç and Mustafa Eren, “Avşa’nın Mektubu, Translar ve Türkiye Hapishaneleri” (“Avşa’s Letter: Transsexuals and Turkish Prisons”) LGBT Hapiste, 4 May 2014, http://lgbthapiste.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/avsanin-mektubu-translar-ve-turkiye-hapishaneleri/

“Homosexuals are denied work in prison workshops; they are denied visits to the clinic; as well opportunities to exercise, go to the library, seek religious instruction, access theater, concerts or classes.Homosexuals are denied the right to breathe…”

“It is free to assault, pressure, physically or psychologically pressure, sexually assault, harass, threaten or insult homosexuals.” (Avşa)

Avşa, the trans inmate, has been exposed to abuses, ill treatments, harassments and rapes in prisons for years. She was brave to report these violations of rights to authorities by criminal complaints many times, but this only increased threats and attacks against her. Avşa wrote a letter to our organization (Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation – CISST) about what she has been through.

Avşa states that she has been incarcerated since 2006. She talks about the time in the Çorum L-type Closed Prison, where she went through harassment as well as oppression and psychological pressure. At first she filed a complaint about these wrongful acts but had to retract it after she was “threatened and harassed” by the prison administration. This was followed by the addition of another 4.5 years to her sentence due to “insulting an officer.”

She was then transferred to the Giresun E-type Closed Prison. As attacks against her continued, she was also subjected to “aggravated sexual assault” by a correctional officer. In other words, she was raped. She also brought this incident to trial and the Giresun Criminal Court sentenced the correctional officer, who had sexually assaulted Avşa, to 10 years and 6 months of imprisonment.

Avşa’s prison life became even more unbearable after her rapist correctional officer got  imprisoned by the court. She concludes:

“After this ugly and unpleasant incident became known in other prisons across the Black Sea Region, other officers started to harass and threaten me, I officially petitioned our Ministry of Justice. Due to security concerns I was relocated to prisons in other cities; first in Tokat, then Niğde, Gümüşhane and Bafra.”

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“Instead of a Separate Prison, Conditions in Current Ones Should Be Improved”

Source: “LGBTİ’lere Ayrı Cezaevi Yerine Koşulları İyileştirsinler” (“Instead of a Separate Prison, Conditions in Current Ones Should Be Improved”) Kaosgl.com, 20 April 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=16376

The debate for “separate prisons” for LGBTI inmates continues. “Isolation is already a part of prison life. Their priority should be preventing harassment of inmates by correctional officers”, “Instead of a separate prison, conditions in existing ones should be improved.”

The public discussion on the project to build separate prisons for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) individuals still continues in the press.  A reporter from the daily “Milliyet”, Aydil Durgun, asked the organizations Kaos GL, Hêvî LGBTİ, T-Der and SPoD LGBT for their thoughts on the debate started by the Ministry of Justice.

“Isolation is already a part of prison life”

Hayriye KARA, Attorney at Law (Kaos GL): “In Turkish Prisons, LGBTI individuals are already segregated due to their sexual orientations and sexual identities. They are, in a way, re-imprisoned in the prison population. Especially trans inmates are segregated citing “security” concerns. They are isolated, shunned and deprived of social activities. They are also kept from working; thus, left without income for personal items during their sentence.  Besides, Turkey has already been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for its present treatment of LGBTI inmates.”

“There is no mention of rights violations committed by correctional officers.”

“Planning a separate prison project for LGBTI inmates before even considering improving the existing conditions in prisons is only a step to further isolate LGBTI individuals from society. Instead of combating social prejudices and striving for the human rights of LGBTI individuals, the government plans to build a separate prison not unlike a concentration camp citing ‘the security of LGBTI people.’

There is no mention of rights violations by correctional officers or ways to fight these occurrences in the project description. This proves their sincerity on the so-called ‘security’ aspect. A separate LGBTI prison is only another way to isolate, brand, expose and discriminate. This application is brazenly in violation of human rights as well as local and international laws. It is the institutionalization of the discrimination against LGBTI individuals.”

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CISST: Our Critiques of the LGBTI Prison and Suggestions for Solving the Problem

Source: Mustafa Eren, “LGBTİ Hapishanesine Yönelik Eleştirilerimiz ve Sorunun Çözümüne Dair Önerilerimiz” (“Our Critiques of the LGBTI Prison and Suggestions for Solving the Problem,”) 15 April 2014, http://lgbthapiste.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/lgbti-hapishanesine-iliskin-goruslerimiz-ve-onerilerimiz/

The Ministry of Justice responded to the Republican People’s Party Member of Parliament Veli Ağbaba’s inquiry by stating that they will establish a separate prison for inmates with “different sexual orientations.” This is not the first statement on this issue by the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice had previously stated that “a special penal institution is being planned for those convicts and detainees in the condition of being LGBT.”

As the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CISST), we conducted a research project “Inmates with Special Needs” between November 2012- November 2013. Within this research, we submitted an application, within the right to information, to the ministry regarding LGBTI inmates. The Ministry responded on 24 July 2013 declaring that they will establish a separate prison for LGBTI inmates. We shared this information with the public and stated our critique of the issue.

When the Ministry declared its plan, we submitted a new application asking when and where the prison would be established. Their answer from 16 September 2013 stated that “it is not certain where and when the penal institution would be established, however, the project continues.”

We think it is necessary to share our critiques with the public again.

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Trans Prisoners are on Hunger Strike!

Source: “Trans Mahpuslar Açlık Grevinde!” (“Trans Prisoners are on Hunger Strike!”), kaosGL.org, 29 March 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=16186

Trans prisoners in Samsun Bafra T-Type Prison have been on an indefinite hunger strike for 29 days to protest the transphobic attitudes of the prison administration.

Samsun Bafra T-Type Prison has previously been in the public arena for rights infringements directed at vegan anarchist prisoner Osman Evcan. The prison continues to expand its record of rights breaches.

Trans inmates began an indefinite hunger strike against the prison administration’s transphobic attitudes and rights breaches. Today (29 March 2014) is the 29th day of the strike.

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Trans Inmates

Source: Önder Abay, “Hapishanedeki Translar,” (“Trans Inmates,”) BİRGÜN, 13 January 2014, http://birgun.net/haber/hapishanedeki-translar-9848.html

“It is hard to find high-heels in size 42 (9.5) in prison. Even though we pay the price, the officials cannot bring them in. Here our warden understands us; but the inmates in Ankara are not even given tweezers and the others are complaining about personnel violence. What I ask of you is to send me high-heels.” (A note from Deniz’s Letter)

The law states, “The primary reason for incarceration is to rehabilitate,” which means that the state regards every inmate as unhealthy. Considering the recent arbitrary arrests, prisons can be seen as places where anyone could potentially end up. Because of rights violations and bad treatment, one can get much worse rather than becoming a rehabilitated person. Trans inmates face further unfairness and discrimination. We talked about the situation of trans people with Mustafa Eren from the Civil Society in the Penal System, who has been closely following the rights violations in prisons.

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