Notorious Diyarbakır Prison to become history

August 24, 2009, Monday/ 17:05:00
The Diyarbakır Prison, infamously known as a torture house, especially in the aftermath of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d'état, will be closed and turned into an educational complex, the government has announced.

The government is trying to erase the traces of pain and tears of the past as part of the democratization package it announced last month, which aims to answer the long-standing Kurdish question. The Diyarbakır Prison, associated with torture and maltreatment particularly in the post-1980 period, will be no more, according to a statement from Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker. Eker also announced that the prison grounds, spanning some 45 acres, will be the new home of an educational facility, much needed in the region. “We will be moving the prison, which is not remembered fondly in Diyarbakır's collective psyche and which has left major wounds on our democracy.”

He said the government would be allocating TL 24 million for the new complex, which is planned to include an Anatolian high school, a regular high school, an elementary school, a kindergarten and sports facilities.

A large number of inmates locked up in the prison after the 1980 coup were subject to atrocious acts of torture. The prison was listed among the 10 most notorious prisons in the world by the British daily the Times. Many of post-1980 inmates never made it out of the prison alive, while dozens of others were maimed for life. The prison was the scene of many an uprising and hunger strike.

Some of the more well-known figures who served time in the prison include Democratic Society Party (DTP) leader Ahmet Türk and former DTP deputies Nurettin Yılmaz, Celal Paydaş, Mustafa Çakmak and former mayor Mehdi Zana as well as Kurdish writer and intellectual Orhan Miroğlu and poet Yılmaz Odabaşı. The father of Kurdish writer Altan Tan, Bedii Tan, lost his life in this prison as a result of torture. A gendarmerie private found responsible for his death was sentenced to six years, eight months in prison.

Tan said he was not satisfied with the decision to shut down the prison, calling for the prison to be turned into a museum or to be demolished with a monument to its victims erected in its place. Tan said: “The decision [to close the prison] is a move to erase memories. Everyone who is a human being has two wishes: That this will either be made a museum or demolished. There should be a monument erected in honor of all the victims and the innocent, including our soldier brothers or PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] militants or those who were killed under torture in prisons. ”

Diyarbakır Prison a reason  for PKK's struggle

Meanwhile, Selahattin Demirtaş, head of the DTP's parliamentary group, also seemed to agree with Tan, saying: “The Diyarbakır Prison, associated with torture, is one of the reasons for the PKK's existence. The brutality and torture of that prison should be passed on to the next generation as a cautionary monument. It should be turned into a human rights museum. They found this solution because the Provincial National Education Directorate is having problems finding land in the city. This is not part of the Kurdish initiative. But we support it. The Diyarbakır Prison should be emptied, turned into a museum, and its inmates should be released. If it is really part of a Kurdish initiative, the prison should not be moved to another place, but truly closed down.”

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