Special populations

Female prisoners

4.3 % (9,985)

Women are held in exclusively dedicated facilities and dedicated districts. Eight closed and five open prison facilities are exclusively reserved for women, while some prisons have specifically designated areas. Some establishments for women are overcrowded. In Tarsus prison in 2017, 70 women were held in a cell designed for 17, according to a report by Platform for Peace and Justice (PPJ).

There is an effective separation between men and women


The fact that some gynaecologists are men can be problematic.

The prison staff is

Exclusively female

The surveillance officers in contact with female prisoners were all women. Police officers, who are mainly men, are in charge of transfers from court or hospital. Doctors ask for the police officers to be present during consultations. The doctors in contact with female prisoners can be either men or women.

The administration does not provide sanitary napkins. Some women with modest means cannot afford them.

Women have limited access to services and training in the facilities which also accommodate men.

Pregnant women are housed in specific units or cells

The conditions for pregnant women are particularly challenging.

Many pregnant women or women who have recently given birth have been arrested and/or imprisoned, according to a report by the Foundation of Journalists and Writers 2017.

Pregnant women receive proper prenatal care


Prenatal care is not always properly provided.

Childbirth takes place in

  • in an outside care facility
  • within the prison establishment
  • Şule Gümüşoluk, who was detained in Kayseri prison when she was eight and a half months’ pregnant, was kept in prison during childbirth due to a court order in May 2017. This decision was made in spite of the risk of a difficult childbirth.

Security staff is prohibited from entering the room during labour and childbirth


Mothers are allowed to keep their children with them

yes, until the age of six.

In August 2017 there were 668 children in prison1:

  • 149 under one year old
  • 140 one-year-olds
  • 124 two-year-olds
  • 117 three-year-olds
  • 77 four-year-olds
  • 44 five-year-olds
  • 6 six-year-olds
  • 11 children were of unknown age2

It is now quite often the case that both parents are imprisoned.

  1. There were 560 children in May 2017 (291 boys and 269 girls), according to the Journalists and Writers Foundation, “Women’s rights under attack”, 2017, p. 42. 

  2. Platform for Peace and Justice, “A comprehensive report on the prison conditions in Turkey – In Prison 2017”, p. 2. 

The children have access to childcare centres inside the prisons. The mothers are not permitted to go into them, nor are they allowed to speak to any staff in charge of their children. Often other female prisoners do not want children to be present in their areas.

The administration does not provide suitable food for children or extra mattresses for them. They have to share their mothers’ beds. Toys are not allowed in cells. Because of their isolation from family, foreign female prisoners have particular difficulties meeting their own needs and those of their children. Sometimes the children grow up without ever having left prison.

  • Aysun Aydemir gave birth to her baby on 12 May 2017. She was detained just after having given birth by Caesarean section, despite having difficulty walking. She was then detained with her three-day-old child in pre-trial detention in the province of Zonguldak. On 31 March 2017, Sezgin Tanrikulu, an opposition MP, challenged the Prime Minister over the case of a woman who gave birth alone in a police station in Ankara.

The law bans the imprisonment of minors


63.5% of these children were awaiting trial. Girls account for 3.2% of children in prison. Approximately 7% (197 children) are imprisoned for acts relating to terrorism.

Minimum age of imprisonment for minors

12 years old

The age of criminal liability is set at 12 years old.

Incarcerated minors

1 % (2,267)

Ministry in charge of incarcerated minors

Ministry of Justice

Minors are generally placed in common cells. They can be housed in:

  • Education centres
  • Prisons for minors, of which seven exist.
  • Special areas inside adult prisons

There is only one prison for convicted girls.

Minors in prison are separated from adults

in some institutions

On 1 August 2017, nearly 50% of imprisoned children were in areas designated for minors within adult establishments.
Prisons for minors are over-populated and very few in number. Young people are often placed in prisons for adults so that they are near their families. Girls are routinely placed with women when they are awaiting trial.

The law provides for single cell accommodation for minors


The encelling is generally collective.

The schooling of minors is compulsory


On 1 August 2017, approximately 39% of children had access to education:

  • 111 received lessons in basic literacy (4%)
  • 62 received lessons in high school literacy (2%)
  • 187 were enrolled in junior high school distance learning courses (7%)
  • 495 were enrolled in high school distance learning courses (18%) -219 were receiving regular education (8%)
  • One was studying at university

Since the establishment of the state of emergency, the authorities have banned children accused of terrorism from following school curricula. They are not authorized to take academic examinations. As of 1 August 2017, approximately 2% of these children participate in a formal educational programme, while 16.7% have access to informal schooling.

Six children died in prison between November 2015 and June 2017: five in a fire and one from suicide.
The prison conditions are inadequate for children. The food rations are insufficient and of poor quality. The staff mistreats the children. Between November 2015 and June 2017, at least 133 children lodged 203 complaints including 111 for torture and ill-treatment. The majority of the complaints concern the prison for minors, Sincan.

Number and percentage of foreign prisoners

2.6 % (5,932)

Of these, 2,292 are Syrians.

Foreign prisoners are informed of their right to communicate with their consular representatives


Consular or diplomatic support varies according to the country of origin of those arrested and/or imprisoned.

The prison regulations are translated for foreign prisoners


In the majority of cases the rules and regulations of the prison are not translated.

Foreign prisoners can be assisted by an interpreter


Access to translators is usually problematic. The majority of the guards and health professionals do not speak other languages; English is notably lacking. Foreigners can sign up for courses to learn Turkish if they wish.

Foreign prisoners are allowed to work while incarcerated


Foreigner prisoners share the same right to work in prison as the Turks, however they are victims of discrimination. The CISST reported the case of a foreign prisoner who was refused the right to work in the kitchen because he was black.

Yes, foreign detainees can make phone calls in their country. International calls are very expensive. To call a Turkish number, one telephone card is usually needed while four are needed to phone abroad.

Close relatives of foreign prisoners are faced with a huge amount of red tape in order to obtain a visiting permit. Many official documents are required for this process and must be translated.

Some prisons accommodate a large number of foreigners. The type L prison in Maltepe houses 1,582, representing a total of 97 nationalities. Networks of mutual aid have been set up. The prison management has paid particular attention to granting certain rights, such as access to interpreters and maintaining links with family.

High extraditions costs are borne by the foreign prisoners. Delays for transferrals are often long.

Life sentences are banned


Custodial life sentences are set out by the Penal Code as follows:

  • Life imprisonment (müebbet hapis in Turkish, La peine de prison à perpétuité simple in French)1
  • Aggravated life imprisonment (a ğırlaştırılmışmüebbethapis in Turkish, la peine de prison à perpétuité aggravée in French) It is not applicable to minors.

  1. Article 48 of the Penal code 

People serving a life sentence

0.6 % (1,453)

Variation in the number of people serving a life sentence

Data not disclosed

126 were convicted of terrorism or organised crime. The Ministry of Justice has since ceased to communicate this kind of information to two organisations: Civil Society in the Penal System (CISST) and Turkey’s Center for Prison Studies (TCPS).

The detention regime for prisoners differs according to whether their life sentence is simple or aggravated.

** The law states that life imprisonment inmates should have the same conditions of detention and the same rights as other prisoners: **

  • The right to weekly visits from family members (up to third degree) and from three friends.
  • The right to weekly telephone calls
  • Access to fresh air during the day
  • The opportunity to communicate with other prisoners

Prisoners serving an aggravated life sentence are under a specific detention regime which is more restrictive:

  • The right to one-hour visits and fortnightly telephone calls. Family visits are allowed (up to second-degree family members only).1
  • One hour of access to fresh air
  • Isolation in cells normally used for disciplinary purposes.
  • Communication only possible with other prisoners serving an aggravated life sentence when on a walk or during activities. These are granted with good behaviour only.
  • Work is strictly forbidden. Prisoners are financially dependent exclusively on their close relatives. Their isolation prevents the exchange of goods with other prisoners. Some prisoners try to sell items to the outside world that they have made themselves.

These conditions of confinement notably affect prisoner’s mental and physical health (see section “health”).

  1. They do not have the right to see nieces and nephews, cousins or friends. 

** Conditional release on parole is possible[parole] for the following:**

  • prisoners age 24-30 sentenced to life imprisonment, depending on the crime committed.
  • prisoners age 30+ sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment who have committed only one crime.
  • prisoners age 36+ sentenced to life imprisonment for organized crime. A prisoner is released when the disciplinary and administrative council of the prison is in agreement. Parole may be delayed where disciplinary action is required.

Percentage of untried prisoners

38.6 %


In August 2017, the maximum duration of pre-trial imprisonment increased, from five to seven years. On October 30, 2017, about 150,000 people were arrested. Around 50,000 individuals were kept in prison, of which 7,500 were military.
From the coup attempt up until March 2017, 13 deputies were imprisoned. As of March 2017, a total of 83 mayors thought to be pro-PKK have been either suspended or arrested.
As of March 2016, there were 6,592 prisoners presumed to be members of the PKK.

  • Civil society actors are also being targeted. The president of the Turkish branch of Amnesty International, Taner Kiliç, was arrested on June 6, 2017. He has since been imprisoned. The director from the same organization, Idil Eser, was also arrested (in French) during training with 11 other civil society organizations in July 2017. She was freed in October 2017. The authorities also target journalists and lawyers. Investigations on human rights violations are very heavily reprimanded. According to the “Turkey Purge” website, between the coup attempt and February 5, 2018, 319 journalists have been arrested.
    According to the Arrested Lawyers’ Initiative, between July 2016 and December 2017, 570 lawyers were arrested, while 1,486 were prosecuted. Seventy of them are serving prison sentences.
    Osman Kavala, a Turkish businessman, philanthropist, and advocate for intercultural dialogue, was arrested (in French) on October 18, 2017 at the Atatürk airport in Istanbul. He had just returned from a meeting held in partnership with the Goethe Institute and the Kurds. He has, since then, been held in prison.

The appeal proceedings are dealt with by the second criminal high court. The duration of these proceedings is often long and the number of prisoners awaiting a decision by the court of appeal (called hükümözlü) is high.

Minority or indigenous backgrounds are criteria for specific cell or unit assignment


LGBTQI+ persons are separated from other prisoners

in most cases

LGBTI inmates are usually placed either in isolation or in distinct cells to avoid any aggression towards them. This measure is taken particularly for the transgender women being held in men’s prisons. In order to be placed in a prison or quarters that match the gender they identify with, they must go through gender reassignment surgery in a public hospital. The procedure lasts at least one year.

  • At the Tekirdağ men’s prison, there is an imprisoned trans person who has been awaiting surgery for five years.

Many people in the LGBTI community hide their sexual identities in order to protect themselves from acts of violence either from other prisoners or from prison staff. This results in a lack of accurate information about the LGBTI population in Turkish prisons.

  • In 2014/2015, the Turkish government planned on dedicating an entire building to LGBTI prisoners. The aim, according to the authorities, is to protect them from possible acts of violence. LGBTI organizations argue that this arrangement could cause disruption to families because of how far the building would be, and the fact that this project would institutionalize the discrimination of a minority. The authorities have yet to confirm the realization of this project.

Assignment of transgender prisoners to a specific facility depends on

  • their own identification
  • their civil status
  • their biological sex

Once their sexual orientation is discovered, homosexual men are placed either in solitary confinement or with transgender people.
Bisexual and homosexual women are placed in distinct quarters once their sexual orientation is known. In certain cases, they are mocked or discriminated against by the heterosexual inmates.
Appointing trans people in specific cells or quarters falls under the jurisdiction of the state. A trans person can only change their civil status once they have had gender reassignment surgery.

Transgender prisoners benefit from specific health care


  • Diren Coşkun has also been imprisoned at the Tekirdağ men’s prison since 2017. She is currently conducting a hunger strike in protest of her isolation as well as the mistreatments she has experienced with regards to the way staff treat her and her medical needs.

Conjugal visits are allowed for LGBTQI+ prisoners


Number and percentage of elderly prisoners



They are not provided with an adequate living environment or necessary adaptive care. At the Silivri prison, prescribed medical treatments are either denied or are provided weeks later.

Older prisoners will not get early release due to their age.

Prison facilities are adapted to the needs of prisoners with disabilities

some establishments

Type R institutions accommodate prisoners with grave illnesses in need of significant medical assistance. Individuals with disabilities or mental illness are placed in these facilities. As of 2015, there are two buildings:

  • Metris in Istanbul
  • Menemen in Izmir (west)
    Access to care seems guaranteed and the prisoners receive assistance with their daily needs. The quality of care is judged as “corrigible”.

The infrastructures of the other prisons are not adapted. The living conditions are even more difficult for people with disabilities who are dependent on the help of other prisoners. Abuse is constant. Prisoners with disabilities suffer particularly when it comes to difficult access to care (see “Health” rubric).

  • Civil Society in the Penal System (CISST) found that in May 2015 there were no wheelchairs modified to go through metal detecting doors.1

    1. Civil Society In the Penal System, “Beeing a disabled, foreign or LGBTI prisoner”, Juin 2015, p.15. 

Death penalty is abolished

yes, abolished since May 7, 2004

The last execution took place in 1984.1

  1. Between 1920 and 1984, 712 people were executed. Hıdır Aslan was the last person to be executed on the 25 October 1984. 

  • The reintroduction of the death penalty has been debated publicly for several years. A referendum aimed at strengthening the president’s power took place on the 16 April 2017.When the “Yes” vote won, crowds in Istanbul chanted “Death Penalty”. On this occasion President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, he was prepared to hold a referendum on the reinstatement of the death penalty.