“Unless you allow our sons, the journalists that you beat up, to come back here, you will have to move my dead body from this spot. They say there is democracy in this country — where? As if what they do to our people inside weren’t enough, they drag and beat us up, 70-year-old mothers and all. If I could, I’d pull up my skirt and show you my bruises…. We are afraid of nothing!”
These were the words of Didar Şensoy, moments before she collapsed following the police attempt to disperse the gathering of the Association of the Relatives of Detainees and Prisoners in front of the parliament in Ankara, on September 1,1987. The 53-year-old founding member of the Turkish Human Rights Organization, who recently appeared on the front cover of the Turkish weekly Yeni Gündem behind the banner “We won’t let them kill our children,” died later. She was an unlikely victim of the wave of hunger strikes and protests that have swept Turkey’s notorious prisons around the country.
An example of the conditions Didar Şensoy and others were protesting was recently disclosed in Yeni Gündem: the place is Diyarbakir prison in eastern Turkey, where, among others, alleged Kurdish separatists are held. Inmates, stripped naked and on all fours, are circling the concrete inner yard with lit cigarettes stuck into their anuses from the filter end. “What are you doing?” asks the commander. “We are taking a walk and smoking, commander,” answer the inmates.