The Kids of Pozanti Prison: No Happy Ending
By: Ece Temelkuran
Published Friday, March 9, 2012
This story that I am about to tell you does not have a happy ending.
It all started two weeks ago. The news first appeared on the Dicle News Agency, an independent news website, based in Turkey, which mostly covers the Kurdish issue. The news itself was actually one year old. It was about a little town named Pozantı, in Adana, Southern Turkey. The events described in the report are alleged to have taken place in a juvenile prison with mostly Kurdish kids as inmates.
The horrifying story was actually documented one year ago by the Human Rights Association (HRA). This organization offered detailed descriptions of the torture that some children were subjected to during their term in prison. Seven children have produced their own written testimonies about their rape, sexual harassment, and torture by prison staff and other people at the prison. Some of these kids were in the prison under the anti-terror law that treats minors as adults.
After the preliminary reports last June, Human Rights Foundation (HRF) this time, prepared another report about 8 children with the same allegations against the prison administration. Until last July, HRA and HRF applied to the Turkish Ministry of Justice presenting the testimonies and health reports of 25 children. In these applications the children were testifying that they had been raped by adult detainees, soldiers, and the guards. Some of the children were not even able to describe what happened to them. One of the children's testimonies ends like this: "I was going to commit suicide but I thought of my mother and couldn't."
It is not only sexual crimes that were committed against these kids. The horrific treatment included periodic beatings by the guards, ethnic humiliation, forced labor, and bastinado (a very popular and ancient torture method known as “falaka” in Turkish which involves whipping the bottom of one’s feet). They were also barred from receiving medical attention and were hung from a basketball hoop until the they begin to choke as another form of torture.
The news about children of Pozantı Prison was not even an issue for the main stream media. It was a Kurdish issue and the media already knew that the government didn't want to hear anything of that nature. The silence was unbearable. So the people on Twitter started a campaign to become the voice of Pozantı kids. Under pressure, the main stream media had to leave its fear of the government aside and started publishing news about Pozantı Prison. Almost one year after the torture has been reported, the Minister of Justice made a statement about the incident.
The solution that they came up with was “brilliant.” They were going to move the children to another prison and this time the prison was going to be newly painted! The ministry made a big media show about the new prison in Sincan- Ankara, in central Anatolia. The walls were painted in green. There were ridiculous pictures of dolphins and flowers on the walls just to cheer up the tortured kids. Moreover, this time they were supposed to stay in separate, camera monitored cells, each kid on his own, in solitary confinement. So this was the delicate treatment that Ministry of Justice thought would be suitable for raped and tortured kids. Last Tuesday, 218 kids from Pozantı were transferred to Sincan which is an 8 hour drive from Adana, where the kids' families live.
Had the story ended here, it would have been only another very disturbing story about Kurdish kids. But for many years now the word "disturbing" has a whole new meaning in Turkey. Therefore, we learned through a report released by the main opposition party CHP that the administrator of Pozantı was already appointed to Sincan Prison by the Ministry of Justice. So he was there already waiting for the kids when they arrived. The second administrator of Pozantı, who the kids talked about the most in their testimonies was appointed to another Kurdish town Van, to carry on with his accomplishments (as a promotion nonetheless). Yet there was more to come.
On the same Tuesday, a massive police operation was directed against the Dicle News Agency. The three correspondents who wrote the news of the Pozantı kids were detained on allegations of being the members of the KCK, allegedly the urban branch of the PKK Kurdish armed movement.
It didn't end there. It was reported that a young man, known as T.T., one of the former prisoners in Pozantı, was detained as well. He was the source that informed the Dicle News Agency correspondents of the case.
So everybody who raised his voice about Pozantı is safely locked up in prison. The kids are definitely enjoying their greenish solitary cells with dolphin pictures on the walls. Or so we thought, until a letter from Çağdaş Ersöz was published on sendika.org, a leftist news website. He was prosecuted for several months for protesting against the Hydro Electric Power Turbines and in his letter he was telling about his two months stay in Sincan. Although there were similar rape and torture stories in Sincan, the prison was actually famous for its original invention: The soft room!
According to Çağdaş, everybody in the prison, including the doctors, knew about this room. Since those under the age of 18 can not be punished by depriving them of receiving letters from visitors, the guardians punish them with their own special ways in this so-called secret room. Beating, bastinado (falaka), being stripping naked, and keeping inmates in the cold are just a few methods among many other versions of violence. Çağdaş says that on the day of his arrival, a child committed suicide in his cell and another was raped by an older detainee. So we at least now know that the Pozanti kids have their greenish cells to rest and pictures of dolphins to dream about after the soft room session.
You know those scripts that appear after such movies end. For instance, they say: "The people responsible for the horror at Pozantı were found guilty and sentenced to such and such years of imprisonment.” Then as the script keeps going you find some relief. Something will appear on the screen saying: "The kids were released and received proper psychological treatment." It is at this point that you will be able to go to bed in peace. You cannot sleep without knowing that humanity triumphs and the good overcomes the evil. That is human nature. But in Turkey, you sleep anyway. You sleep just to wake up to another day to see how much further it can go and just assume that this has to stop somewhere. But it does not.