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Women in Turkey call for networks of solidarity after suspicious death of Kurdish political prisoner

KURDISH human rights officials urged women in Britain to build networks of solidarity today after the mysterious death of Garibe Gezer in a Turkish prison last week.

Speaking exclusively to the Morning Star, Lawyers for Freedom Association spokeswoman Jiyan Tosun called on trade unionists and progressives to support those resisting state misogyny in Turkey.

She holds prison guards and managers culpable after Ms Gezer allegedly committed suicide in Kocaeli High Security Prison.

Her death came while she was being held in solitary confinement after raising allegations of rape, systematic torture and sexual assault by prison guards.

Ms Gezer’s last letter took aim at Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe treaty aimed at protecting women from gender-based violence. 

“Our voices are only heard when we die,” she wrote as she detailed the abuse of women in prison.

But suspicions have been raised as to how Ms Gezer was able to take her own life as claimed by the prison authorities, despite her cell being closely monitored.

Human Rights Association co-chair and lawyer for Ms Gezer Eren Keskin said: “How could a person in a cell hang herself? Shame on you.”

Ms Tosun, who helped carry Ms Gezer’s body from the prison morgue, said that there was huge pressure being placed on all opposition groups in Turkey.

“Women, especially Kurdish women, are resisting with all their strength in the face of oppression in all areas of life. 

“This resistance causes those who want to destroy the women’s struggle to become more aggressive,” she told the Star.

She appealed to British women’s organisations and trade unionists to “expand networks of solidarity with those resisting the increased violence and oppression against women in Turkey.”

Ms Tosun also called for increased efforts to improve conditions for women prisoners.

The opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) warned yesterday that Turkish prisons have become “centres of torture and ill-treatment” under the rule of authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It highlighted the deaths of at least 59 prisoners due to medical negligence since 2020 and called for urgent action from the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the European Union and other institutions.

The party launched a letter writing campaign earlier this week in solidarity with its members currently behind bars.

At least 20,000 HDP supporters have been detained since 2016, with at least 10,000 jailed in what is seen as the biggest attack on a legal political party since World War II.

Those wishing to write to a political prisoner can find a name on the list here.

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