Interview

Turkey: a life in isolation

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) prisoners represent a minority. Their protection is not ensured at all levels and their specific needs are neglected.

The number of LGBTI prisoners in the country is unclear, but a 2018 figure1 showed that they were at least 200. Aggression, isolation, human rights violations: their experience of imprisonment is particularly tough as their specific needs are not met by the penitentiary system. They regularly face attacks and discrimination. For their own safety, many end up in total isolation. In 2013, the government suggested to create a special facility dedicated to LGBTI prisoners. This project of “pink blocks” was deemed counterproductive and highly criticised by activists.

The Civil Society in the Penal System association (CISST) promotes human rights in prison and protects those who are at-risk by running advocacy campaigns, filing petitions, advising and directing to associations/services.

Hilal Basak Demirbas works at the CISST. She regularly exchanges letters with LGBTI prisoners and files complaints to protect their rights. Prison Insider asked her three questions.


  1. Blog by Hilal Basak Demirbas: LGBT Hapiste “There are Around 200 LGBTI People In Prisons”, 2018. 

Lesbian, bisexual, trans men and intersex prisoners voluntarily keep their identity hidden in order not to be discriminated.

Their placement in such a facility would lead them to be forcibly outed, and would put them in danger

We receive frequent requests from foreign prisoners

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The Civil Society in the Penal System Association

NGO

The CISST is based in Istanbul. It aims at mobilising civil society to bring Turkey’s prisons in line with international standards, and to help Turkey’s penal system to become transparent and better connected to civil society. The organisation adresses the rights of specific populations in prison (women, children, students, foreigners, LGBTI), health in prison and long-term sentences. The CISST established a research center called Turkey’s Center for Prison Studies (TCPS) whose aims is to strengthen ties between civil society and the academics.

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