"Foreign nationals can't access basic services in prison"
The chairwoman of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), who had recently been held in custody for two and a half months over "terror" charges, said that prisoners are forced to live in bad health conditions at where she was incarcerated, that many foreign nationals are even unable to ask for help on health issues because of language barriers, and that many are unable to have access to health services.
Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci was released on 11 January even as she was sentenced to 2 years and 8 months for "terrorism propaganda," because she had told a broadcaster that a person shown in a video might be a victim of a toxic chemical gas. She will serve her remaining term and be removed from her post at TTB in case the local court's decision in upheld by the appeal court.
In an account of the days she was held in a women's prison in Istanbul, she wrote in daily Evrensel:
"I met people who have served an extra two years simply because they do not have legal counsel, those who were unable to get the items they needed because they do not have the money, those who could not receive health services because of language barriers."
"The prisons impose on inmates not only conditions of severe isolation, but also difficulties in accessing health services, an exploitation of labor through low payments, as well as bad health conditions exacerbated by mold and pests in old buildings. For foreign nationals who found themselves in prison here, the situation is worse. If they do not have legal counsel it gets even more serious, for they are now unable to solve a problem that could be solved by contacting the prison administration."
Noting that her observations reflected only the tip of the iceberg, she said:
"You may remember that I had told in the previous episodes of my prison diary that I could not have access to a kettle, that I could not have a cup of tea in breakfast. Several friends expressed their sorrow over that after I have been released. I kindly ask all of you to feel sympathy for those women prisoners who are not deprived of it for only a couple of days, but permanently. They do not have the money to buy a kettle, or tea and coffee, or food for breakfast. They usually can't afford bottled water, or hygiene items."
"Considering officials who have tried to defame me and the Turkish Medial Association and other human rights defenders with insults and threats, it will not be surprising to see how they'll respond to my accounts. Like I have earlier said in my statements in the court sessions, citizenship is a form of collective existence, and when one of us has been forced out of this existence the remaining ones can no longer continue to be citizens as subjects of rights. For this reason, our struggle for others to remain in the domain of citizenship is a prerequisite for our own existence."
Photo credit: Eylem Nazlier, Evrensel