In the face of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s brutal authoritarian escalation in Turkey, on December 10, 2021—International Human Rights Day—the Human Rights Association of Turkey jointly with the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey issued a statement:
“Torture has remained the most dominant human rights problem in 2021 in Turkey as well in spite of the fact that it is a crime against humanity and is absolutely prohibited by the Constitution and universal law, which Turkey is a part of. Acts of torture and ill-treatment at official custodial places as well as extra-custodial places, in the streets and outdoors or in spaces like homes and offices along with the “extreme and disproportionate intervention” of the law enforcement amounting to the level of “torture” in assemblies and demonstrations have come to bear a novel dimension and intensity. One can argue that the whole country has virtually become a space of torture today as a result of the political power’s mode of government based on repression and control (…) It is also quite alarming that enforced disappearances/abductions, which account for one of the most disgraceful human rights violations in recent history and qualify as a crime against humanity, have also been witnessed in 2021 and the number of such cases has gone up again since 2016 when the state of emergency was declared (…) Prisons are places where gross and serious violations are committed ranging from the right to life to torture, to right of access to healthcare.”
And on December 30, 2021, the Diyarbakir Bar Association revealed in its report “Rights Violations in Prisons in 2021” that in Turkish prisons:
“…all kinds of inhuman and degrading treatment, especially violations of the right to life (…) violations of rights in Turkey’s prisons, such as deaths, deportations and exiles, torture and ill-treatment, isolation and isolation (…) keeping sick prisoners in prison.”
Garibe Gezer was the most recent Kurdish political prisoner to die in a political prison. Her relatives and lawyers had denounced that she had been subjected to months of torture and recurrent rape.
The Kandıra prison administration officially notified the Gezer family on December 9, 2021, that she had been “found dead in her cell.” Kandıra Prison in Kocaeli is one of Turkey’s main detention and torture centers for political prisoners.
Gezer had informed her lawyers that after her conviction she was kept in a solitary cell where prison officers repeatedly tortured and raped her for months. The official version is that Gezer committed suicide, but the Koaceali prosecutor’s office issued a suspicious confidentiality order on the investigation into her death. In Kandira, “disciplinary” measures were applied against prisoners who protested Gezer’s death.
Gazer’s body was rushed to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Kocaeli for an autopsy without the presence of his lawyers. The cause of death was not reported in the preliminary autopsy report and on January 4 the prosecutor’s office declined to investigate allegations of torture and sexual assault prior to her death.
On December 10, Kurdish, human rights and women’s rights activists went to remove Gezer’s body under a police blockade. Turkish police responded aggressively to Kurdish women shouting “Şehid namirin”, ie. “martyrs are immortal.” The body was eventually transferred to Mardin by the family and the police set up an unusually high number of checkpoints along the way.
Gezer’s was not an isolated or extraordinary case, in December 2021 six other convicted Kurdish political prisoners, Ilyas Demir, Abdülerezak Suyur, Halil Güneş, Bangin Muhammed, Salih Tuğrul and Vedat Erkmen died in Turkish prisons.
With Erkmen’s death the Turkish government’s procedures were the same as with Gezer’s. The official version was suicide, but the body was quickly transferred for autopsy without the presence of his lawyers; and everything related to the funeral suffered aggressive police surveillance, as indicated by Saim Erkmen brother of Vedat.