Strip searches of women prisoners sparks anger in Turkey

Strip searches of women prisoners sparks anger in Turkey
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Women take out a protest demonstration in Ankara against the growth of violence and persecution against women and the inaction of the authorities. (Reuters/File)
Strip searches of women prisoners sparks anger in Turkey
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Turkish soldiers stand guard in front of the Silivri Prison and Courthouse complex in Silivri, near Istanbul. (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 December 2020

Strip searches of women prisoners sparks anger in Turkey

Strip searches of women prisoners sparks anger in Turkey
  • Recently a group of female prisoners in Usak claimed they had been forced to undress before being searched
  • An MP was dubbed a “terrorist” after condemning police and prison harassment

ANKARA: Claims that Turkish police routinely strip search women detainees have sparked a war of words between the government and opposition MPs.
Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu recently said that female suspects and detainees had been subjected to humiliating strip searches by police in provinces across Turkey.
Recently a group of female prisoners in the Aegean province of Usak claimed they had been forced to undress before being searched.
However, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has denied the allegations and accused Gergerlioglu of being a “terrorist.”
“The person who casts such an aspersion on the Turkish police without proof is a rascal, dishonorable and low. Gergerlioglu is a terrorist,” Soylu said.
But Gergerlioglu, a member of parliamentary human rights investigation commission, said that he was being attacked for revealing the truth.
“I stand against sexual harassment of women, men and children,” he said.
The MP’s allegations have been supported by thousands of prisoners who told dissident media outlets about their experiences of systematic sexual violence at the hands of police.
Among the claims are that children of women detainees have had their diapers checked for contraband items.
An investigation was launched on Dec. 23 after women shared accounts on social media of being strip searched.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s prisons and detention authority has defended its controversial use of strip searching — or what it calls a “detailed search” — at its jails, calling it a “necessary” and “exceptional” practice to prevent the smuggling of forbidden items into prisons.
Strip searches are permitted under Turkish legislation if the detainee is believed to be carrying weapons or knives.
According to the Human Rights Association of Turkey, almost 170 women have been beaten in the past year after refusing to be searched.
Mustafa Yeneroglu, deputy chair of the DEVA Party, a breakaway from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said that he has been following up similar claims in recent months.
“The interior minister makes baseless allegations, and defends silencing Turkish people and subjecting them to ill-treatment. He even terrorizes the judiciary as he sees the rule of law as a burden for the government,” he told Arab News.

FASTFACT

MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu’s allegations have been supported by thousands of prisoners who told dissident media outlets about their experiences of systematic sexual violence at the hands of police.

Yeneroglu, who was previously the chair of the parliamentary human rights committee, said that the government should have investigated the allegations and “done whatever is necessary if there is a crime.”
He claimed that four women recently had been subjected to a strip search before being admitted into a detention facility in Usak province.
“If you brand these people terrorists, all such practices are being legitimized. They only search the bodies of political prisoners, not those convicted of drug dealing, for example” he said.
Some women from conservative family backgrounds needed psychological support afterwards, Yeneroglu claimed.
“They couldn’t even confess this traumatic experience to their own families. They cannot sue the authorities because they are also going through a terror investigation,” he said.
Yeneroglu described strip searches as “dehumanizing” and “a serious act of humiliation.”
“It is a violation of human dignity and now has become common practice on political prisoners,” he added.
The hashtag “don’t stay silent to strip searches” remained among trending topics on Twitter.
During his weekly parliamentary group meeting on Dec. 22, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, also said that he believed the claims were genuine.
A dissident female journalist, Aslihan Gencay, could spend an additional year in prison after objecting to a strip search when she was due to be transferred to another facility. She was placed in solitary confinement for three days and now faces a prison investigation.