NGO reports widespread discrimination, violence targeting LGBT individuals in Turkish prisons

Incarcerated LGBT individuals in Turkey frequently face violence, isolation, slander and discrimination during their time behind bars, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported, citing the Civil Society in the Penal System (CISST), a Turkey-based NGO focusing on prison conditions in the country.

Ayşe Ceyhun, a lawyer from the NGO, told DW that LGBT inmates face life threatening violence and discrimination when their identity is discovered, which has led the authorities to put them in isolation.

Some prisons have wards for LGBT prisoners and in others the inmates are held in one-person cells, according to the report.

Ceyhun said isolated inmates are not allowed to participate in social activities or benefit from video calls with relatives and have more restrictions on their open-air time.

Those held in one-person cells do not have access to television or radio the way other inmates do.

According to the NGO’s figures, at least 311 alleged rights violations took place involving LGBT inmates throughout 2023.

Many prisoners conceal their identity due to risks associated with being known as an LGBT individual in prison, the report said.

Ceyhun said the discrimination even impacts inmates’ access to healthcare and that they have observed an increased risk of suicide among prisoners experiencing it.

While the Turkish government does not publish statistics on gender identity or sexual orientation of prisoners, a 2022 activity report that Ankara submitted as part of a case overseen by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) put the number of prisoners with non-conforming sexual orientation at 255.

In 2012, the Strasbourg faulted Turkey over the eight-month-long isolation of an LGBT inmate on security grounds, concluding that the prisoner’s treatment amounted to a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture, as well as Article 14 on non-discrimination.

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