The dire plight of ill prisoners in Turkey

The dire plight of ill prisoners in Turkey
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Despite international criticism, Turkey's prisons continue to overlook the welfare of sick inmates, especially women.

By Esra Ciftci

Turkey's prison system remains under scrutiny as human rights advocates and data reveal a lack of progress in addressing the plight of ill inmates. Among the 1,564 sick prisoners, 590 are critically ill, with an unspecified number of them being women, facing compounded hardships in detention.

Fatma Ozbay, born in 1964 and currently in Sakran Women's Prison, battles cancer. Her requests for medical help were continuously disregarded, resulting in a delayed diagnosis and treatment for cancer. Her condition worsened as she was denied doctor's visits for seven months during the pandemic. Despite her health issues and weakened immunity, her requests for release have been ignored because of bureaucratic indifference, making it difficult to get the biopsies.

Gulistan Abdo, who has been in prison since she was 20, suffers from severe physical consequences because of brutal torture, which includes losing her leg. Currently, in Gebze Women's Prison, she suffers from various health conditions and cannot meet her basic needs because of the prison's infrastructure. Despite doctors recommending more surgery, the harsh prison conditions have made her hesitant to seek treatment.

Ayfer Aycicek, who has bipolar disorder, has experienced multiple rights violations since her arrest in 2007, including solitary confinement and exposure to violence. Prison conditions and medication worsen her neglected condition. Even though she reveals signs of psychological distress, she remains in custody without receiving proper care.

Ozge Ozbek, who had a brain tumor, was imprisoned again shortly after undergoing surgery. Despite medical evaluations confirming her inability to handle prison conditions, contradictory accounts have led to her continued imprisonment. The tumor causes significant hearing loss and other complications, resulting in her health rapidly deteriorating.

These cases exemplify the critical state of healthcare and human rights in Turkish prisons. Urgent attention and reform are needed to address the lack of humane treatment, particularly for vulnerable groups such as sick women prisoners. The legislation, particularly the 'Law No. 5275 on the Execution of Penalties and Security Measures', has faced backlash for favoring security at the expense of fundamental human rights, resulting in severe circumstances. Turkey's performance in protecting the lives of those deprived of liberty falls far short of international obligations.