Turkey’s Ministry of Justice

Rights Organizations in Turkey: End the Unjust Suffering of LGBTI Prisoners

Twenty-eight LGBTI and human rights organizations* released a statement regarding the isolation of trans women who are not Turkish citizens at Maltepe Prison and demanded that the prisoners’ suffering be ended by bringing them together again.

Source: “Hak Örgütleri: LGBTİ Mahpusların Mağduriyetini Giderin” (“Rights Organizations: End the Unjust Suffering of LGBTI Prisoners”), Bianet, 14 July 2015, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/166036-hak-orgutleri-lgbti-mahpuslarin-magduriyetini-giderin

Twenty-eight LGBTI and human rights organizations released a statement related to the transfer of non-Turkish-citizen trans women at Maltepe Prison to another prison on the same campus.

Addressing the Ministry of Justice’s General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses, the rights organizations requested that these prisoners be reunited and that an end be put to their unjust suffering.

The organizations’ statement is as follows:

In June, twenty-one LGBTI prisoners in the Maltepe Type-L Penal Institution Number 2 were transferred to the Maltepe Type-L Penal Institution Number 1. Later LGBTI prisoners from Turkey and non-citizen trans woman prisoners were separated from one another and five prisoners were brought to the Maltepe Type-L Penal Institution Number 3.

In light of this situation, the LGBTI prisoners from Turkey and the foreign trans woman prisoners wrote letters criticizing the transfers and sent them to civil society organizations.

The prisoners indicated that there was no separation among themselves, as from Turkey or as foreigners, and that the prisoners who did not receive money from outside could rely on the help of the other prisoners to meet their needs, but said that following the transfers this solidarity had disappeared and that they had been made to suffer.

Most notably, one Azerbaijani and four Brazilian trans women prisoners who were transferred to Penal Institution Number 3 express that they can no longer meet any of their needs. They also wrote that until some of the Turkish and foreign trans woman prisoners are brought together again they will go on hunger strike:

‘We had been living with them for about four years. After all, all of us are homosexual [sic]. Currently we are on hunger strike. We are suffering a lot here. The Turkish homosexuals [sic] were giving us financial and moral support. I am doing very badly now. I am on hunger strike, and my strike will continue until I return to my Turkish friends. If it goes on like this I am going to die here; I want you to help me. There are four of us. I want you to help us reunite with the Turkish homosexuals [sic].’

‘We LGBTI individuals were brought from L-Type Number 2 to here, Number 1. As a matter of fact, before our Brazilian friends who we lived with could stay with us for even ten days, they came to take them saying that because they were foreigners they would be transferred to Number 3. And now a letter from Rafael Q. Alves De Souza has come to me. She expressed that her situation was dire, that because of her location she had been assimilated and that she needed my help, and that she could not eat and was in very poor mental state. She stated that the Consulate had not come to see her [or her compatriots] and that they could not reach them. Additionally, we had been sharing a common fate as a dormitory, staying in the same one together for two and a half years. We used to help her communicate with her family. The economic and social aspects [of our life here] were based on our unity and we are very upset by this now. We are prepared to do whatever we need to do. This situation has worn us out too and our mental wellbeing has broken down.’

‘We were twenty-one prisoners, now we are sixteen. We were already living completely isolated from the others for safety reasons. Between the twenty-one of us fighting and making peace we had created a world. Now our world is even smaller. Please explain this to the Ministry; we are small in number and alone, do not let them separate us more and leave us on our own. Have them return [our friends] to us again.’

When the characteristics of prisons are considered it is understood that the foreign trans prisoners were brought to Maltepe Type-L Department of Corrections Number 3 so they could be placed with other foreign prisoners. The General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses and the prison management may have put a transfer like this one on the agenda to allow prisoners to be visited by their consulates. However this transfer was undertaken despite not having taken the prisoners’ opinions into consideration, and the possible hardships were not foreseen.

So that similar undue suffering is not experienced again, when making decisions about prisoners, the opinions of the prisoners and relevant civil society organizations should be taken into account and a mechanism for them to present their views in these decision-making processes should be created.

Signatories: Afyon LGBTI Foundation, Civil Society in the Penal System (CİSST), Edirne LGBTI Work Group, Association for Monitoring Equal Rights (ESHİD), Initiative for Health in Prison, Hebun LGBT, Hevi LGBTI, Human Rights Association Headquarters, Foundation for Women’s Solidarity, Kaos GL, Kars Platform Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Keskesor LGBT, Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association, Lambdaistanbul, Families of LGBTs in Istanbul (LİSTAG), Limbo Concept, Mahsus Mahal Association, Malatya Rainbow LGBTI Initiative, Liberal Lawyers Association, Pink Life LGBTT Solidarity Association, Positive Living Association, Human Rights in Mental Health Association (RUSİHAK), Black Pink Triangle İzmir Association, Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD), Trabzon Purple Figh LGBT, Trans Solidarity Center (T-Der), Turkey Human Rights Foundation (TİHV), Queer Documentaries.

*The number of signatories is now 29 with Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association.