Forced to stay behind bars for 42 days, social activist Tayfun Yıldırım has talked about his arrest, backing up widespread allegations that victims of Turkey’s post-coup purge are being subjected to beatings, torture and other types of maltreatment by prison officers.
“Apart from what I experienced, I am telling you all the things I witnessed,” Yıldırım said hoping that his statement will reveal what he calls the systematised persecution at prisons across Turkey.
Turkey survived a military coup attempt that killed over 240 people and wounded a thousand others, on July 15. Immediately after the coup bid, the government along with the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have launched a widespread purge that aimed to cleanse sympathizers of the faith-based Gulen Movement from within the state institutions, dehumanize the popular figures of the movement and put them under custody.
A total of 81,494 people have been purged from state bodies, 40,029 detained and 20,355 arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees included journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian.
The Amnesty International said on July 24 that it gathered credible evidence that detainees in Turkey are being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, in official and unofficial detention centres in the country.
Arrested over making propaganda of a terrorist organisation on July 1, Yıldırım, a member of the rights group Halkevleri was released on August 12.
Here is the full translation of the letter sent by Yıldırım to the Turkish news portal, sendika.org.
“The State of Emergency, declared following the coup attempt has resulted in oppression, torture and rights abuses in prisons. Torturers have revived as if they were waiting for this moment, they feel secure about the consequences of what the deem proper to prisoners under the State of Emergency conditions. Even though democracy and reconciliation atmosphere appear outside the prison, such concepts are forced down on us [with] the quoted practices [in this letter].
It is a fact that all these practices are [a part of] systematic torture. Most basic rights usurped with banishments, abuses of right to free visitation, limitations on phone calls, bans on doing physical exercise and chat [among prisoners]. I am telling out all I witnessed apart from what I experienced as a detainee. What occurs in Tekirdağ F Type Prison will unroll the persecution imposed in all prisons across Turkey, all the inhumane practices. What I will tell out is under responsibility of the prison governor Sedat Tekin and the chief guardian Nalan Saygın.
It has been a full week since I was put in this prison, conditions are dreadful.
- Water, which is of vital importance, is provided once per 24 hours and for only an hour. (It was ordinary prisoners who were first to react. Dirty lunch boxes were thrown out from loopholes. They shouted: “Put our meals in clean plates!” Then the water was supplied for an additional hour.)
- Personal belongings of prisoners are missing when banishments took place. Nothing belonging to banished prisoner is returned. Prisoners are not allowed to recover them. They are deprived of the right to get basic items such as kettle and tea-urn.
- Access to books, newspapers and magazines from outside are blocked and books from prison’s library are not allowed. Ways to intellectual development that might increase people’s productivity are banned.
- Prisoners are stripped naked when guardians carry out search.Those whose resist to do so are battered and get tortured. Guardians attack prisoners on any reason they find to do so, they wipe the floor with prisoners. Guardians warn each other at certain spots where there are cameras. Despite this, prisoners in more than 30 cells were physically attacked in the past week, tens of prisoners were battered. They are denied right to visit sickroom in order to prevent them from getting medical report. Among prisoners denied access to sickroom are those with broken arms, those who had their heads and brows injured, those with bruises on the legs and the back and several others with simple injuries.
- There is specifically-designated ‘sponged’ corporal punishment room where prisoners are forced to wait with their hands and feet handcuffed. It is known that they whip feet of prisoners for 1 to 2 days.
- Those taken to this special room for corporal punishment are neither allowed to sickroom. They are prevented from getting medical report.
- Vent holes of all prison cells that are supposed to be shut at 20.00 are closed down at 16.00 [in practice] under the name of punishment. This leads prisoners to have only small talks between each other
- Loudspeakers assembled along the corridors play [nationalist] “Ölürüm Türkiyem” track. If slogans are chanted in response, an announcement speaks: “You do say: Long Live Turkish Republic!”
- 6 to 9 prisoners are forced to stay in 3-person-cells. They are made to lay on the ground although physical conditions are not suitable to do so. Forks and knives are not allowed during meal time. Only three chairs were provided in each cell where [sometimes] the total population is 6. Time to reach food is rotated and radiators are used to heat foods.
- Medical needs are not provided, those with chronic illnesses are left alone.
- While we keep records of all these cases, complaint petitions written by prisoners to prosecutors and the Parliament’s Human Rights Commission are not let outside. Our letters are tried to be destroyed, suspended or they send empty envelopes to the related addresses.
What I mean is that such incidents are yet to simmer down and do not seem likely to calm.
In reaction to this persecution, prisoners set fire on three beds in the past week. This is not a concentration camps established by Nazis, this is the AKP’s prison. We are going through a period that we will be ashamed of and thousands of prisoners are victims of this torture, persecution and rights abuses.
This is our oath to all politically liable parties: Your saying of “May Allah forgive us, May the nation forgive us,” has not cleaned you up and won’t.
We have not forgiven you and won’t!”