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Debtor Prison in Turkey!

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Since the Republic of Turkey was founded, it has experienced Islamic and ethnical conflicts. Right-wing and left-wing conflicts that began in 1970s among the people continued for 20 years and more than ten thousand people died in these conflicts which were experienced in every city, county and even village of the country.

On September 12th, 1980, a military coup seized power, and the oppressive junta arrested tens of thousand people across the country and these conflicts between the people were terminated.

Turkey constructed many prisons to establish its authority in this environment of conflict which had continued for seventy years. There are prisons in every city and county of the country.

In recent years, Turkey has been catching up with developments which took place around the world in the last century. When the world is changing, Turkey takes part in that change. Furthermore, when the world is changing, Turkey experiences that change two times. While it experiences the change in the world, on the other hand it also experiences a capitalization process.

In the last 30 years, in Turkey’s process of capitalization, hundreds of thousands of businesses have been closed down, millions of people have lost their jobs, become impoverished or joined the ranks of the unemployed. A rapid monopolization is being experinced in the country and the people speedily become impoverished, and cannot pay their debts. A heavy prison sentence is applied for debtors in Turkey. In spite of the 38th article of the Turkish Constitution and the protocol provision in Annex 4 of European Convention on Human Rights, people are still imprisoned for up to 5 years in Turkey because of their debts. Hundereds of thousands of people are judged because they are debtor and imprisoned.

Turkey has a futures market system. Small sized businesses provide for their cash needs from companies called factoring (legal usurer) companies in consideration of a certain interest and sign an instrument called cheque showing that they are debtor. If repayment is not made by the business, factoring companies filing a criminal complaint to the attorney generalship and presenting the cheque to the attorney generalship are enough to arrest the debtor.
Çek Ma?durlar?
Hundres of thousands of people are judged because of their debts and imprisoned. Almost everyday suicides are reported on the news. The reactions of non-governmental organizations (NGO) are ignored by the members of parliament who are supported by factoring companies, and by the governmental authority.

Turkish laws have a great tolerance for ordinary crimes. The penalties for crimes such as burglary, rape, defraudation, actual bodily harm and coinage offence are far away from deterrence. Conditional release is applied for the crimes requiring a penalty of imprisonment up to 3 years and the criminals are released at the stage of judging. It is almost impossible to encounter persons that are in prisons due to these crimes. Terror criminals are released by a law which is called effective repentance law and they are not arrested.

Almost all of the prisons in Turkey which have a large number and capacity are full of people imprisoned because of their debts. No quarter is granted to debtors and they are improsoned where they are caught. Two types of dormitory system are applied in prisons. Some prisoners stay at the boss dormitory located at the upper floors of the prison and prisoners who do not have money stay at the dormitories located at the ground and basement floors at very bad conditions.

Prisoners at the boss dormitory are probably people who have large amounts of debt and who have the chance of living humanly in the prison. Most of the prisoners are people who are desperate, have no money and have small amounts of debts. The latter are subject to inhuman treatment and live at very bad conditions. Whether having large or small amounts of debts, having the chance of living humanly in the prison or not, people are deprived of their freedom because of their debts and if their money is not enough to pay their debts, they are subjected to inhuman torture.

But I would like to make a very important point!

Turkey is not the only country which has imprisoned debtors. When we make a search in the dusty racks of  history, we encounter the Fleet prison in London. It was a debtor prison in England, which caused big social discussions and was all the time brought to an end with mutinies.

I recommend  the documentary called “The Hardest Prison in History” on National Geographic tv channel. The documentary examines the Fleet Debtor Prison in London/England.

The year is: 1700s and earlier. That is we are talking about 300 years ago and much more earlier. We are wandering on the dusty pages of the history. We have not been able to find the place of Turkey in the Europe and world of the year of 2010. It is possible to say that Turkey is not at the year of 1700, which punishes its citizens for their debts and deems its citizens worthy of an imprisonment penalty that has no place in today’s world.

But Turkey is also not at the year of 2010! At which stage of the history is Turkey? What is the year in Turkey?

We are searching for that in historical books!

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About Msuvain

  • S

    HI,

    I have found out that my friend has been arrested for debts. He bankrupted about 3 years ago. How can I find out which prison is he in and how can i contact him?

  • Madeleine Kingston

    Msuvain, congratulations on an excellent article which I read a while ago and cited on Twitter in discussion with advocates and victims of Turkish policies.

    It is good to see that this issue is being addressed through active campaigning. As shown in my previous comment I was happy to sign the Petition started by the Transparency Association.

    It is time that banks exercised a higher sense of #CorporateSocialResponsibility #CSR and ceased to pursue debt claims in such a way as to ensure imprisonment for debt.

    I was under the impression that occurs nowhere else in the world.

    Harsh penalties that ignore Constitutional rights of citizens and universal human rights provisions should be globally condemned.

    As you have pointed out, “despite the 38th article of the Turkish Constitution and the protocol provision in Annex 4 of European Convention on Human Rights, debtors are still imprisoned in #turkey and harshly treated.

    I hope that many others will sign the Petition.

    Madeleine Kingston Victoria Australia 16 March 2013