Juveniles imprisoned at the Pozantı M TypePrison in Adana (eastern tip of the Mediterranean) were allegedly exposed to sexual violence. The juveniles were detained on the grounds of political issues but were put in cells together with convicts who were not political prisoners and who apparently abused them.
The Pozantı Prison made the headlines in previous years because of ill-treatment of juveniles. The new allegations are based on a news item of Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Zeynep Kuriş that was recently published in the Evrensel newspaper. According to the news, 15-year-old H.K. who stayed at the Pozantı Prison for four months claimed, "Some of our friends were raped by the ordinary prisoners dozens of times. They sometimes tried to force our trousers down. Our experiences cannot be described".
Juvenile H.K. explained that none of the convicts at the B-4 ward were political prisoners. He emphasized that the inmates were mostly detained on the grounds of murder, theft and drug use. He said that he witnessed rape and sexual harassment dozens of times in prison.
"They beat us because we did not kiss the flag"
17-year-old Ş.A. recalled that he was caught by the police when there was a demonstration in his neighbourhood and that he was beaten by the police. Ş.A. stated that he had been distributing material of an agency on that day. He asked, "Why? What for? I did not understand whose name they wanted". Ş.A. was then arrested and taken to the Pozantı Prison. "I experienced very bad things there. The prisoners put a rope around my neck and squeezed it. They were beating us. They called me a terrorist and forced my face towards the flag to kiss it. They beat me again when I refused to do so", Ş.A. said.
Ş.A. furthermore stated that he was woken up at five or six o'clock in the morning and forced to clean the cell. He said that he was still not able to get to terms with the impact of his experiences. Ş.A. indicated that many of his friends were not able to return to normal life after they had been released. "Our friends are embarrassed to hang out with us because they cannot forget what we experienced".
The juvenile noted that they informed the prison administration about the situation several times but the administration remained silent, Ş.A. emphasized. He stayed at the Pozantı Prison for two months and was released one month ago. "We requested to change our cells but our requests were not answered", he said.
'Sexual abuse was the worst problem'
17-year-old A.K. explained how he was taken into police custody. He was on his way home from work when he encountered a conflict between demonstrators and policemen. He was affected by a gas bomb and in a desperate attempt to save his life he tried to escape into a nearby house. The police allegedly entered the house and took him to the roof where they tied a keffiyeh around his head and took pictures of him. Apparently, the police said "You are a demonstrator" and made him enter a police car where he was beaten with a rifle butt. A.K. was arrested on various charges and taken to the Pozantı Prison.
At prison, the most pressing problem for them was sexual abuse, A.K. stated. However, he recalled further problems he experienced in prison, "The convicts forced our friends to get up in the middle of the night. They broke their heads right in front of our eyes. But the prison administration always tried to cover up the issue".
'Victims distance themselves from experiences'
Didem Gediz Glegen Türkmen is a general practitioner at the Akdeniz Municipality Women Counselling Centre. She applied to the Human Rights Foundation (İHD) after her talks with juveniles who experienced oppression and violence at the Pozantı Prison.
Türkmen reported that they paid a visit to Mersin in the context of the "Children and Justice" project of the Ankara Platform for Children's Rights in June 2011. There, she had the opportunity to talk to several juveniles. In the scope of her research, she listened to juveniles who had been exposed to oppression and violence up to sexual abuse. She noticed that the affected juveniles talked about sexual abuse as if it had happened to somebody else. "From the details they mentioned it was understood that they were talking about their own experiences", Türkmen said.
"Everybody has to follow up that case"
She emphasized the severity of the juveniles' experiences and their urgent need for counselling and support. On the other hand, they did not trust anybody, Türkmen said.
The practitioner indicated that especially education came to a standstill due to the experiences made in custody and prison. Therefore, the Turkey Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) is continuing talks with certain juveniles within the framework of psychological and social support. The juveniles started to open up a little bit more during these talks, Türkmen said. "One juvenile for instance told us how a very young child was forced into the bed of the ward manager and how he closed his ears in order not to hear the child's screams. These incidents all leave deep wounds in their souls and they leave deep wounds in the relations with each other and with the outside world".
Türkmen underlined that these juveniles also have difficulties in sharing their experiences with their family. Therefore, the identities of the children are not being disclosed and the research is being carried out anonymously. "Anyone who knows about what is happening in prison should follow up this case. If the state wants to prevent child crime, and if they want to prevent a rebellion of the children, this will not be achieved by establishing police stations. Places where traumata are being created have to be redesigned for the benefit of the traumatized. Instead of establishing police stations they should establish places where children and juveniles can develop themselves".
Trying o oobtain a comment about the allegations put forward by journalist Zeynep Kuriş, the vice director of the Pozantı Prison reportedly denied the allegations on the phone and said, "This kind of accusations are being reported continuously. They lack any base". (HK/VK)