Çetin Çiftçi, a 55-year-old former inmate who was released on January 19, said in an interview that inmates in southeastern Turkey’s Van F-type prison could not access proper healthcare and were left to die.
Speaking to the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), Çiftçi said during his time in prison he was not taken to the hospital or given medications although he suffered from complications due to hypertension and gout.
“My feet were swollen and I could barely walk. I asked for a cane, but the prison administration refused,” he said. “I could only walk with the help of my cellmates.”
Çiftçi said he frequently fainted but was never treated. “I was only taken to the hospital once after my cellmates insisted on my behalf, but the doctor just sent me back without prescribing any medication,” he added.
According to Çiftçi it takes up to a month for inmates to visit the prison doctor, and by that time their conditions have often worsened. Prison doctors were also not understanding, often insulting and humiliating inmates.
Çiftçi was arrested in November 2016 for allegedly aiding and abetting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and was handed down a two year, one month prison sentence.
He pointed out that political prisoners in particular were not taken seriously when they were sick. “The prison administration deliberately prevents political prisoners from accessing health care, and many are left to die. Ramazan Turan, a 70-year-old prisoner, was put in a solitary cell despite being old and sick,” Çiftçi said.
Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Züleyha Gülüm, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said Turkish prisons were turning into scenes of massacre and that political prisoners were the most disadvantaged.
According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), as of June 2020 there were more than 1,605 sick inmates in Turkish prisons, approximately 600 of whom were critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients had forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they were not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society. In the first eight months of 2020, five critically ill prisoners passed away because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment.