The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-Chair Selahattin Demirtas sent a letter from prison condemning the latest Decree-Laws which compel prisoners to wear a single-type uniform. Two statutory decrees No. 695 and 696 concerning these changes were prepared under the State of Emergency and were published in the Official Gazette.
According to statutory decree No. 696, those who are convicted or arrested over “terror crimes” will have to wear almond and grey uniforms should they be taken outside of a penal institution. Within the scope of this decree, any who are convicted or arrested for crimes that fall under the fifth chapter entitled “Crimes Against Constitutional Order and Its Operation” will all have this clause imposed upon them.
The statutory decree also comes with exceptions, women convicts and prisoners may nor wear prison jumpsuits. Children and pregnant women are also exempt from the new regulation.
To Selahattin Demirtas, these new laws constitute attempts to normalize the Turkish Government’s ongoing state of emergency since the failed coup attempt of 2016. According to official data, over 240 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured in the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016.
Furthermore, since the State of Emergency was declared in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt, over 50,000 people have been arrested in a sweeping crackdown targeting alleged coup supporters, opposition figures, teachers, journalists and civil servants. Over 150,000 soldiers, police officers and officials have also been dismissed or suspended from their posts.
"We will not surrender to fascism and we will die if necessary but we will not accept the single-type uniform policy.” Demirtas wrote in his letter, “We will never accept the government's attempts to convert into a fascist regime through an uninterrupted State of Emergency and a Decree-law system.”
Demirtas further lamented on the deteriorating power of civil institutions and the threats that the ongoing purge has had on the rule of law in Turkey.
"The conditions of judicial independence and fair trial, which have already been abolished, have been transformed into a complete lawlessness which manifests in this single-type uniform policy," Demirtas wrote in the letter shared by the official HDP social media account.
"But we will never accept this dishonour, which equates tens of thousands of political prisoners with those who attempted to conduct the 15th July coup. We will tear apart those uniforms and throw them away", the letter reads.
Demirtas also proposed that the judicial system of Turkey is riddled with inconsistencies.
"Turkey's judiciary system rewards rapists by reducing their sentences even for wearing a tie in court.” He wrote "But tens of thousands of honourable children of the poor, journalists, opposition politicians and academics will be forced to wear the single-type uniforms. We will protect the honour of our people."
"This is neither America nor Abu Ghraib*"
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has defended the single-type uniform policy, citing the decision by the U.S. to implement similar practices in its own prisons, including Guantanamo. “This is not exclusive to Turkey,” Erdogan said, “The US practices it [as well]”. Claiming that this practice was a response to the demands of victims’ families, Erdogan also sought to emphasize the precedent set by the United States: “I can further say: They even imposed a lifestyle where prisoners wear identical uniforms in Guantanamo.”
In response to these statements, Demirtas struck back in the letter condemning the single-type uniforms. "Let us recall the resistances of Diyarbakir, Mamak, Metris, Umraniye, Ulucanlar prisons to those who remind us of Guantanamo,” he wrote.
“Turkey is neither America nor Abu Ghraib," Demirtas concluded.
*During the war in Iraq that began in March 2003, personnel of the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency committed a series of human rights violations against detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. These violations included physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy, and murder. The abuses came to widespread public attention with the publication of photographs of the abuse by CBS News in April 2004.