LGBTQ+ inmate raped, beaten and threatened in Turkey’s Eskişehir Prison

Memiş Akbaş, a LGBTQ+ man incarcerated in Eskişehir Prison, was raped, beaten and threatened, according to a recent report by the Association of Civil Society in the Correctional System (CISST).

According to the Duvar news website, Akbaş spoke out about the abuse he endured in prison in letters to nongovernmental organizations, but prison authorities prevented the letters from being mailed. Akbaş finally wrote to CISST, saying he just wanted to see a lawyer and did not mention his ordeal, upon which he was able to meet with lawyer Esra Erin.

According to Erin, Akbaş said he was on the verge of killing himself if a lawyer did not show up. “Akbaş said he could not stand the abuse and that prison was hell,” said Erin.

Akbaş told Erin he was repeatedly abused by other inmates and prison guards. According to Erin, Akbaş was put in a ward for LGBT+ inmates although he specifically told the administration that a person he had previous altercations with was in the ward.

Akbaş requested to be transferred to a different LGBT+ ward. Akbaş said he was subjected to physical and sexual violence by other people in the ward and that his request for a change was answered with threats by the prison administration.

“Prison guards told Akbaş that prison was not like other places, and they could turn life into hell for an LGBTQ person,” Erin said.

The guards told Akbaş the only way he could get out of the ward was to get a psychiatrist’s report saying he was not gay. Akbaş was transferred to a hospital although he did not want to go, and upon his return was placed in a (heterosexual) men’s ward.

At this point Akbaş said he became suicidal. “I wanted to meet with the warden, but the guards told me the only way I could get an appointment was to cut myself,” he said. “I cut my arms and chest just to meet the warden, and I was taken to a hospital.”

In his new cell Akbaş was once again raped. “Akbaş said he tried to act more masculine and keep it a secret that he was gay, but the plan did not work,” said Erin.

Despite being eventually transferred to different cells, Akbaş’s abuse did not end so he went on a hunger strike. After the prison psychologist said Akbaş could not remain in the men’s ward he was placed in solitary confinement.

However, Akbaş’s suffering did not end there as he was constantly subjected to homophobic behavior from the guards. “Akbaş is subjected to physical abuse and violence in places where there are no cameras,” said Erin. “He said the guards tied his feet and beat him.”

Akbaş also claimed one person from the prison administration said he “deserved to be mistreated, as God had already cursed him for being gay.”

Speaking to Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish service, Hilal Basak Demirbaş from CISST said the LGBT+ community suffered extensively in Turkish prisons.

“One of the most serious problems is that LGBT+ people are put in solitary confinement, especially if there are no other LGBT+ people in the same prison,” she said. “Sometimes these people spend more than eight months in solitary confinement — a length of time that is actually only meant to be imposed on dangerous criminals.”

According to a study by Demirbaş, LGBT+ people are subjected to humiliation, insults and sexual harassment in prisons.

The government in 2014 proposed setting up “pink blocks” for LGBT+ people in prisons. These special wings were intended to guarantee the safety of homosexual or transgender prisoners. The issue has been on the agenda ever since, but so far nothing has happened.

LGBT+ activists and the opposition sharply criticized the proposal — their objection at the time was that it would only do more to encourage the exclusion of sexual minorities from society.

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