Authorities of a high-security prison in the Aegean province of İzmir have been pressuring inmates to attend Islamic activities, a prisoner told the daily Cumhuriyet.
Güven Usta penned a letter to the daily and said that Islamic activities are organized in the facility almost every day and that programs on the TV channel of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) are being aired very frequently.
“During the Islamic ‘Kandil’ celebrations, additional special broadcasts are made. The person responsible for religious matters constantly offers so-called ‘spiritual guidance’ services,” the inmate said.
In his letter to Cumhuriyet, Güven Usta wrote that in the course of the past year, the prison has been turned into a “tekke," the traditional house of worship for Sufi brotherhoods. He said that announcements for religious activities, such as sermons or Quran readings, were made several times a day and that despite the prohibition of collective activities due to the pandemic, a Quran reading course had been launched inside the prison.
Usta said that after that course had started, he and other inmates had claimed their right to meet with 10 people for a total duration of 10 hours every week. The inmate said that their demands had been rejected on the grounds that such activities couldn’t be held under the pandemic.
Turkish prison authorities have been citing the COVID-19 pandemic when preventing inmates from accessing their rights. Most recently, former Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said that prisoners are fed up with the limitations imposed on lawyer and family visitations.