LGBT inmates in Turkey

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

Queer Documentaries

Trans Inmate Funda’s Letter on Prisons in Turkey

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.

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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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Trans Prisoner on Hunger Strike: “I realized I was not alone, Thank You!”

Kaos GL, “Açlık Grevindeki Trans Mahpus: Yalnız Olmadığımın Farkına Vardım, Teşekkürler!“ (“Trans Prisoner on Hunger Strike: “I realized I was not alone, Thank You!””) Kaosgl.com, 24 April 2014, http://www.kaosgl.com/sayfa.php?id=16407

Avşa, the trans convict who went on hunger strike after repeated violations of her rights, ended her strike on April 13th when she was promised that her demands would be heard. Attorney Banu Güveren, who met her on Monday, April 21st, said she was currently under medical treatment.

Avşa, whose hunger strike we were made aware of by her letter to us on April 10th, told Attorney Banu Güveren that she had not imagined her voice being heard as swiftly as it did.

“I Realized I was not Alone”

Avşa said that she was very moved by all the help and had realized that she was not alone. She expressed her gratitude to everyone who had helped in getting her voice heard. She also thanked the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) MP Halil Aksoy, who had submitted an official query to the Ministry of Justice on Avşa’s situation.

Avşa and other inmates had started their hunger strike after repeatedly being subjected to insults, threats, sexual harassment, rape and violence as well as other violations of their rights, such as refusing the inmates requests to be taken to the infirmary or hospital and refusing to submit inmates’ petitions.

After some of these events various LGBTI inmates, including Avşa, attempted suicide.

Avşa, who had recently been transferred to Kocaeli 2 T-type Prison, ended her hunger strike only after the prosecutor in charge of Kandıra Prison offered to listen to her demands and help her. Avşa is currently in Kocaeli Prison, staying in a ward reserved for LGBTI inmates and says she has not encountered any problems since her arrival.

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T1-D6, 93 Days in the “Transvestite Ward”

Source: T1-D6, “Travesti Koğuşu”nda 93 Gün (T1-D6, 93 Days in the “Transvestite Ward”). 2014. Kaos GL. 19 April 2014. http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=16372

I have only been in jail once in my life and I stayed in one of those wards for three months. Mine was in Metris; Ward T1-D6. In other words: The Transvestite Ward. And I spent exactly 93 days with other transvestites and a few homosexual men. There were eight of us  in total.

Yiğit Karaahmet, a columnist for the daily newspaper Taraf, featured Trans convict Avşa’s letter in his column. Karaahmet, who states that the most basic problem that LGBTIs face in prisons is isolation, shared his experiences in the prison he stayed.

Here is Karaahmet’s article in full:

Trans convict Avşa’s letter to Kaos GL concludes as follows “…I went to prison before I could blossom.” Avşa is currently on hunger strike due to countless rights violations, harassment and excommunication because of her sexual orientation. After Avşa’s rebellion, Turkey has started to talk about the conditions of LGBTs in prison, which they hadn’t seen and did not want to see, in a quiet voice.

The Transvestite Wards of my beautiful homeland.

I have only been in jail once in my life and I stayed in one of those wards for three months.. Mine was in Metris; Ward T1-D6. In other words: The Transvestite Ward. And I spent exactly 93 days with other transvestites and a few homosexual men. There were eight of us in total.

The most basic problem all LGBTs come across in prison is isolation. During the time that I stayed there, neither seeing people other than these eight, nor sharing the same environment with others was possible.

Lists of weekly use of the gym were hung up.… While all the other wards were holding matches and arranging tournaments, we were doing sports by ourselves as well. 8-people volleyball matches, 8 people work-outs… After a while, we would get bored of holding a match and walk around the field arm-in-arm gossiping about the coach.

Prisons hold courses for the prisoners. Our ward was not allowed to participate in them either. I organized the whole ward to participate in a chess tournament. Of course, just for us. Our girls’ interest for chess did not last long. After the second week when we were reduced by wastage, it blew up in our faces too. The ones who stay in that ward could also not participate in work such as cleaning, cooking and library duty.

People who stay in the transvestite ward stay in a separate prison within a prison. Staying in a transvestite ward is like living in a micro-Turkey. Since they cannot provide your security, taking away your basic rights and freedoms is the easiest way.

This situation also has an economic dimension. Most of LGBT convicts do not speak to their families, nor do they have someone to get financial aid; some had to support themselves as sex workers. There are some convicts who cannot pay their share of the electricity bill of 50 kuruş (about 20 US cents) and those same people have to be in for yet another five years.

What is that? What kind of life routine and justice mentality is that?

It is said that separate prisons will be built for homosexual convicts. There are some reasonable points here. However, where will this prison be? For instance if a convict who was caught in Istanbul [and has all their friends and the people who can support them there] is put in a special prison in Mardin just for being LGBT, who will assist them and how will they be visited?

I think the right thing is that those prisoners should be provided with the environment they are entitled to in the location that they are imprisoned. These people are already imprisoned in a dark well outside of  prison; they should be provided with proper social and economic rights in prison. What is the state for? What is it good for? Its incompetence in providing them with proper security is no reason to ask them to give up their rights.

What will happen to Avşa? Do you think it is easy to be a transvestite on hunger strike in prison all by yourself? Is it considered normal that she was harassed and insulted all the way as she was exiled from Giresun to Bafra, from Tokat to Niğde? Is it considered normal that she went from 82 kilos (180 pounds)to 62 kilos (136 pounds) during her struggle?

Avşa; my beautiful, bold, courageous, intelligent friend… You are so gorgeous. You think you were put into prison before you could blossom, but I promise that you will also blossom one day. Just like the plums blossoming these spring days, one day you will flourish too; you will wander around the streets of the city as you flick your hair. Never lose your hope. It is this state and this conception of morality, this darkness, that did not let you flourish. Just to spite them, please never give up, wait for the spring.

Let your resistance be our guide and your rebellion our hope.

BDP MP Queries Minister About Trans Prisoner’s Condition

Kaos GL, “BDP’li Aksoy Trans Mahkumun Durumunu Bakan’a Sordu,” (“BDP MP Queries Minister About Trans Prisoner’s Condition”) kaosGL.org, 17 April 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=16358

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) MP from Ağrı District has made an inquiry on Avşa’s, a trans prisoner on hunger strike, condition to the Minister of Justice.

Halil Aksoy, a Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) MP from Ağrı, has submitted a query to the Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdağ, on the situation of Avşa Erkuşan, a trans convict who has repeatedly been subjected to sexual harassment and assault in various prisons during her sentence and who, for the past two months, has been on a hunger strike.

Aksoy, after expressing that several human rights infringements remain in correctional institutions, mentioned that trans inmates in Bafra T-type Prison had started a hunger strike after many rights violations and sexual assaults.

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Separate Prison for the LGBTI, Collective Isolation

Source: “LGBTİ’lere Ayrı Cezaevi, Toplu Tecrit,” (“Separate Prison for the LGBTI, Collective Isolation,”) kaosGL.org, 15 April 2014, http://www.kaosgl.com/sayfa.php?id=16329

LGBTI organizations, lawyers and MPs from Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Republican People’s Party (CHP) offer their assessment on the project for separate prisons for the LGBTI: “collective isolation,” “concentration camp,” “labelling,” “against the ECHR”

Bekir Bozdağ, the Minister of Justice, stated that plans were underway for the project to construct separate prisons for inmates with different sexual orientations and gender identities.

Bozdağ’s announcement triggered a public debate. According to the report by Ümran Avcı and Şerife Güzel from Habertürk, while some approve of the policy, LGBTI organizations have reacted and described the project as “isolation/quarantine” and “concentration camp.”

Here are some of the opinions expressed:

“This is actually collective isolation, total medieval mentality”

Murat Köylü, Kaos GL Foreign Affairs Coordinator:

We believe this exposes a very important reflex of this government. Not only with regards to the rights of gay and trans citizens, but also, in the context of national and international dynamics, its perspective on topics like human rights, the primacy of law and democratic criteria. We can see that a government that denies the existence of LGBT people when it comes to discrimination and protection from violence, can take special measures when it comes to imprisoning them. When you look at the issue from the perspective of human rights, democracy and the primacy of law, this is actually a collective quarantine. A medieval mentality. 1.5-2 years ago, Turkey was found guilty at the ECtHR in a case where a gay inmate in Izmir was placed in a separate prison for their “own safety.” Now they will be separating all the LGBT people “for their own safety.” Isolation is one of the heaviest penalties. This means, in effect, the institutionalization of social discrimination. LGBT people want to live like everybody else without being subjected to discrimination. What kind of reasoning are these policies based on? Most LGBT people have to hide their gender identity in the absence of a policy of protection. How are they going to protect those who do not want to be out in normal prisons?

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