Sunday, August 5, 2012

Eren Buğlalılar
When the AKP came to power in 2002, there were 59,429 prisoners in Turkey. The prison population has more than doubled since then. What happened? "The remains of the human beings, each weighing 70, 80, 90 kg when alive, fit into just five 20-kg plastic bags. I mean, even their bones had burned down. I am a lawyer and I have seen many autopsies after murders and accidents, but I have never seen anything like this. Even their teeth had melted down. What kind of conflagration is it? . . . ."These were the words of Necdet Edemen, who was the lawyer of five prisoners burnt alive in a prisoner transport vehicle in September 2011. When the vehicle started to burn on its way to Istanbul, the gendarmeries did not open the door, thinking that the prisoners might escape. The result was the plastic bags full of the carbonized corpses of the prisoners, who can be only identified after DNA tests.Those who are familiar with the conditions of the prisons in Turkey know that their concrete walls had witnessed charred bodies many times before. To take but one example, in 2000, the bodies of five revolutionary women were reduced to ashes by the firebombs of the army during the ironically named"Operation Return to Life." Thepicture of the charred remains of Seyhan Doğan has become an icon that reminds us of the price of being a revolutionary prisoner in a country like ours.Recurring prison fires do not let us forget about our prisoners. We were reminded of them again thanks to a recent prison fire in the Urfa E-Type Prison. It was a prison with a total capacity of 350 beds, but 1,057 prisoners were confined in the prison. Combined with the summer heat peculiar to that region, this overpopulation created very inhuman conditions for the prisoners.The Chair of the Urfa Barr Association İrfan Güven once wrote: "In Urfa Prison the conditions are so inhumane that they qualify as torture. There is a severe neglect of duty. Even animals cannot survive in this prison in the hot weather of Urfa." Each prison ward was only suitable for 10 people, but the prison administration put 20 to 30 prisoners in every ward, making the conditions more unbearable. The prisoners had even started to sleep in shifts because there were not enough beds for them.On June 16th, 2012 one of the wards started to burn. There were 18 people inside. Again the prison guards did not open the door to extinguish the fire. Result: 13 prisoners suffocated to death in smoke.What is actually going on behind the bars, despite all the talk of democratization and demilitarization in Turkey? Why is the prison population now double that of the September 1980 military coup period?Exploding Prison PopulationIf you just surf the Turkish and international corporate media, you might think that Turks have gone mad and suddenly started to commit more and more crimes while the Turkish government has been tirelessly bringing democracy and prosperity to the country.
This graph* shows the escalating prison population:

This sharp increase in the prison population caused some capacity problems as well. There are 377 prisons in Turkey with the capacity of 121,000. However, there are more than 132,000 in the prisons. This means that more than 10,000 people do not have proper places to live in."The government is just watching the prisoners burn alive in the transfer vehicles or in the cells, maybe because they are thinking that they have finally found a proper method to decrease the prison population," Lawyer Evrim Deniz Karatana, a member of the Progressive Lawyers' Association in Turkey, says bitingly. "Theft, illegal drug use and drug trade, and homicide constitute the top categories of charges," she notes. Recalling the fact thatTurkey has the largest number of political prisoners in the world, she adds: "For the government, poor people are as dangerous as revolutionaries, socialists, and Kurdish patriots."Behind this sharp increase, there is the AKP's fear of the popular opposition as well as the economic crisis. The upward trend that began in 2006 is partly attributable to a series of amendments to the Anti-Terror Law of Turkey. With these amendments, anything from organizing or participating in demonstrations to demand democratic rights, shouting slogans, to dancing, wearing a piece of clothing, or making a telephone call might be labeled as "terrorism" or "terrorist propaganda," and you can be arrested and prosecuted.The case of imprisoned students is an example of this AKP paranoia."Terrorists" with DiplomasThe 10-year rule of the AKP introduced a new reality to the prisons of Turkey. I don't know if we should be proud of it, but I can say that Turkey has the most educated political prisoners in the world. According to a report issued by the Solidarity Initiative for the Imprisoned Students, as of June 2012 there were 771 university students in the prisons of Turkey.
[ed notes:click link for whole article,these are just a few excerpts..

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