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June 19, 2012, Tuesday

Prison conditions in Turkey

Turkey was shaken on Saturday by the news that a fire had broken out after a fight among prisoners in a Şanlıurfa prison, claiming the lives of 13 inmates. Several columnists as well as a number of civil society organizations have indicated that the government has been ignoring their continuous warnings in regards to horrific conditions in overcrowded Turkish prisons, so they are not surprised about the fire.

Every time such tragic incidents occur, related associations and ministries announce statistics to demonstrate how awful the situation is in Turkey, some of them comparing the figures with those of other countries. Yet, after some time passes over the issue, all those figures and suggestions about what should be improved are easily forgotten, says Okay Gönensin from the Vatan daily, adding that the issue of prison conditions in Turkey should not be one of them. The reason for not paying enough attention to the issue of prison conditions is the belief that prisons are places where criminals are placed and so these places should be equal to the hell of the afterlife; they should make the criminals suffer as much as possible. This belief alone is greatly wrong and dangerous, says Gönensin. Being restrained within four walls and deprived of any private or social life outside is the real punishment meted out to the prisoners. Wanting them to suffer in prisons has nothing to do with justice; it is mere cruelty, the columnist says.

It is also a fact that our country has a problem with long detentions and an excessive number of detainees. Keeping people who may be found to be innocent in prison is horribly wrong and the issue of the long and excessive number of detentions is the very reason why the number of prisons in Turkey is inadequate. Lastly, Gönensin says the issue of prison conditions is of utmost significance as prisons are the first places to look at to find out how civilized a country is.

In his article “Time for deep suspicions,” Star’s Fehmi Koru says the reason for the fires might be negligence, poor conditions in prisons or because of a fight among inmates. But while investigating the reasons, we should keep our “ability of suspecting” alive as Turkey has once again entered a phase of “anything can happen at any time.” When Turkey attempts to take some serious steps in solving the Kurdish issue, it sees some shocking and tragic incidents happen. Whatever the reason for the fire, there is a high probability that this tragedy will be used by certain groups.

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