Serkan Alan/ DUVAR

Members of the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission on Nov. 8, 2019 paid a visit to the Diyarbakır Prison in southeastern Turkey and then prepared a report concerning the rights violations that the prisoners were facing.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ebru Günay was one of the members of the commission that listened to the problems of the women inmates at the prison.

During a commission meeting held to discuss the report, Günay conveyed to other members that inmates had told her the prison management had been withholding some of the books from them, one of which was renowned novelist Elif Şafak’s book “Mahrem” (“The Gaze” in English).

The prison management gave the copies of the book to the inmates who wished to read it, but then only a week later, they collected them back citing no reason, Günay said. This occurred despite the book being in the Justice Ministry’s “allowed” books list, the HDP deputy said.

“The Gaze” won the prize of the best novel by the Union of Turkish Writers in 2000. Imbued with fantastic elements and satire, the novel tells an unusual love story between an overweight woman and her lover, a dwarf.

The inmates also told Günay that if a book is in anyway thought to be making a reference to the Kurdish issue, it is banned at the prison. “We asked them ‘Are you getting [Kurdish author and poet] Yılmaz Odabaşı’s book?’ They said ‘No,’” Günay said.

The HDP deputy also said that there is a ban on the book of veteran Kurdish politician Gültan Kışanak — “The Color Purple of Kurdish Politics” (“Siyasetin Mor Rengi” in Turkish). Kışanak, a former lawmaker of the HDP and the former co-mayor of Diyarbakır, is currently imprisoned on “terrorism” charges. She wrote her book in prison together with other female prisoners. The book is about women’s struggle in political parties in Turkey.

“It is quite interesting that a book which has been penned in a prison is not being given to another prison,” said Günay.

The commission’s report also touched upon the problems of inmate mothers residing with their children in the prison. Many of such women complained about the prison management not allocating a separate bed for their children and the two therefore having to sleep together in the same single bed.

Director General of Prisons and Detention Houses Yılmaz Çiftçi, who was invited to the commission meeting to answer the deputies’ questions regarding the rights violations, said that the reason why the mothers had not been provided with children’s beds was because they had not “demanded” so from the prison management.

“There are currently nine children [in the Diyarbakır Prison], and we had previously bought 15 children’s beds in the form of folding beds, meaning there are unused children’s beds right now. We have not given them because they did not ask; if they do demand, of course we can give them,” Çiftçi said.