“HUMAN DIGNITY WILL DEFEAT TORTURE”

41

A cry, coming from the dungeons of Metris, is spreading across the country. “…It was one of the first days in May. When the officer came to count the prisoners and began to read the list of names, I felt they were going to transport us to Metris. We had expected something like this anyway… When my name was called, I wasn’t surprised. However, I can’t say I wasn’t excited at all. Although it was a rather weak emotion, I felt it inside of me. They were going to bring us to a new prison, a place we didn’t know what to expect from. … At last we arrived at the so-called Metris-dungeon. From the small holes in the transport bus I watched the outside of the prison. The building in front of us was two floors high, almost without windows, with a greyish-white plaster. With its barbed-wire, the four guarding towers, looking like the legs of a huge wild animal, its intertwined filthy-white blocks, resembling a labyrinth, Metris can not be distinguished from the concentration camps as we know them from television. The architecture of these concentration camps was specially planned to rob the political prisoners from their political identity.

We waited for hours. We had no more strength left to stand on our feet. Suddenly the doors of the bus were opened. They started to take us out of the bus in groups of two or four prisoners. Those who got out, suddenly disappeared out of sight, as if the earth had swallowed them…

Then it was my turn. I had bruises everywhere and I couldn’t even move my hands. I had just left the bus, took the first step into the door, when I was attacked from all directions. I was kicked from the right, the left. Truncheons hit on me. I tried not to fall, in vain…

On both sides the soldiers formed a “corridor”. We were led across this corridor, kicked, beaten, hit with electric sticks…”

That’s how the prison of Metris was opened in April, 1981. From now on it would be its name which was mentioned when torture, cruelty and resistance were the subject.

THE REVOLUTIONARIES WERE PREPARED FOR THE ATTACKS

The revolutionary prisoners knew what the opening of Metris meant. That’s why they were not unprepared. As soon as it became known that the Metris-prison was to be opened, the prisoners from DK (Revolutionary Liberation), P (Partisans), and EB (Labour Flag) decided, after a proposal by the Devrimci-Sol prisoners in Sultanahmet and other prisons, in case of a transportation to Metris: “We will not obey the orders. The prisoners who are moved there will immediately start a hunger strike in case of oppression, torture or decrees. Prisoners who are moved there later, will join the hunger strike”.

Despite all the disagreements, this decision was put into practice in Metris. From the first day 50 prisoners participated in the first hunger strike in Metris. The number of participants increased to more than 200 after the new prisoners arrived.

The torturers of the junta started their attacks against the revolutionary prisoners to break their will, to discourage them, and to cause a organisatorial chaos. But the consequent resistance against this attack crossed the plans of the junta in Metris. On the 18. day of the resistance the governor of the martial law saw himself forced to officially declare that the torture and oppression were going to be stopped.

This had been the main demand of the resistance. With the promise that this demand was going to be met, the hunger strike was ended. The first round of the struggle in the dungeon of Metris was won by the revolutionary prisoners.

THE SECOND LARGE HUNGER STRIKE

From the middle of June, 1981, the “forced haircut” was introduced. The constant oppression led to an uprising in the women’s block on July 10. The torturer major Adnan assaulted and insulted the women and he received the appropriate answer. The revolutionary women didn’t let this attack against their dignity go unanswered and the responded by hitting the major in his face.

At the end of July the attacks against the prisoners were increased under the pretext of the forced haircut. At this time it was a “legal” practice of the junta to move the prisoners from the prisons to police stations to torture them there. With the beginning of one of these transports to the police station, the police attacked the prisoners in cell V-11 and E-11 with gas grenades.

The first anniversary of the junta was celebrated by the prison administration of Metris with an attack. The TKP/ML prisoners were brutally beaten on their way to and from the court, their hair was cut with force. On September 14, the administration declared an ultimatum. Before September 21, all prisoners had to obey the rules and especially their hair had to be cut.

The administration of Metris took a new step to force the prisoners to surrender. The Devrimci Sol prisoners proposed a hunger strike to cross this plan. This proposal was discussed in the prisons. However, many contributions to the discussion were not adequate for the situation. Some said: “You are exaggerating the development”. There were also some who stated that “they will be forced to drop it after a while.” The discussion was still without results by September 21. Regretfully, the enemy didn’t wait for the end of the discussions in the dungeon. As announced, the administration started their operations on September 21. Special units attacked the cells and they tortured the prisoners under the pretext that they had refused the haircut. Still most of the political groups hadn’t decided for the hunger strike. The prisoners from the trials of Devrimci Sol, KSD, Halkin Yolu and Partizan Yolu started the second large hunger strike of Metris on September 22. Meanwhile the administration started several manoeuvres to end the hunger strike and to set up the non-participants against the participants. But these manoeuvres were contra-productive. On the evening of September 27, all prisoners joined the hunger strike. As proposed by the new participants, action principles were decided and signed by all groups. “During the whole action, no water with sugar will be taken; no medical examination will be accepted; the action will only be ended in unison; when they talk to one representative, it will be demanded that the other are present as well and the agreement will only take effect when all representatives are present.”

On the 15. day of the resistance the commander of the 1. Army and the officials of the martial law announced: “From now on no one will be beaten again, visits by the lawyers may not be banned, whatever the pretext…” However, these were only some of the demands of the resistance, and besides, they knew what these promises, these “words of honour by the military” were really worth. The hunger strike was aimed at securing and expanding the rights of the prisoners. But those who had grudgingly joined the hunger strike wanted to stop immediately. They said “We can not achieve more” and “the participants are physically and psychologically totally exhausted”. The proposal by the Devrimci Sol prisoners to continue the hunger strike with some members of all the groups was not accepted. The EB and DY prisoners were the first to end the hunger strike, ignoring the principles of the action. Well, the action could also be continued without them. But they were not the only ones to quit! The prisoners from the DK-trial followed, and then the prisoners from the trials against the HK and P. On October 8, the hunger strike was ended, involuntary.

THE FAMILIES GET TO KNOW METRIS EVEN BETTER

It were the days of the second large hunger strike in Metris. Some 60 relatives of the prisoners went to the court advisory board in the Selimiye barracks to support the prisoners’ demands. The counsellor rejected to talk to them. Thereupon the relatives started a protest action in the barracks. The commander of the area under martial law ordered his soldiers to attack the families, to stop this “dangerous” development in its tracks and 10 families were arrested. The families were brought to Metris, to the prison were also their children were held imprisoned.

Metris, December 15, 1981. Visiting day. 10 days ago the prisoner Ismet Tas died, two days before he was to be released. He died because he wasn’t taken to hospital in time, despite his illness. He was the first victim of Metris. The administration tried to cover its guilt with a new wave of attacks. As the time of the attack they selected the beginning and the end of the visits. On December 15, they even attacked the prisoners during the visiting time. The soldiers attacked the prisoners while they were inside the visiting cabins. The families resisted this attack. Thereupon the soldiers attacked the relatives at the other side of the window as well. Mothers, fathers and children were mercilessly beaten.

Through these attacks the families got to know the reality of Metris even better. And the more they saw, the more their hatred grew against the tyranny. And the nearer they came to the ranks of the struggle.

THE “REFORMIST” PHASE IN METRIS

The public reactions to the 28 day long hunger strike resulted in ending the open attacks in the prisons of Istanbul for the time being.

With this the “reformist” phase in Metris began.

But of course, this period could not last forever.

In the time of November 17-20, 1982, the military prison in Davutpasa/Istanbul was evacuated. At the same time they closed the prison in Hasdal and the prisoners from there were moved to Metris. On May 2, 1983, the prison in Alemdag was evacuated. The newly arriving prisoners were not brought to the empty cells, but to the already completely packed cells to further worsen the situation of the prisoners. The prisoners were forced to share beds.

In January 1983 the administrations of the military prisons were put under command of the prison co-ordination commission, under the responsibility of the general staff. The aim was achieving the subjugation of the prisoners in all prisons, before the junta of September 12 was to appoint a civilian government. In the beginning of 1983 the military prisons in Anatolia insisted on introducing the prison uniforms.

On March 9, there was a special search operation in the cells of Metris. On the orders of the commander of the 1. Army, Haydar Saltik, all ball-points, pens and paper were confiscated. The razor blades were confiscated as well. Only pencils were allowed. The prison administration could confiscate “proof”, needed for the defence. With this decree, they were able to block the legal defence. On March 14, the prisoners decided they would no longer write requests, letters, etcetera. They would no longer permit to be interrogated, be it in writing or verbal.

Then the visits were banned. From May 3, the prisoners in Metris were denied to receive books. The longer the books were held back, the larger the piles of books grew in the corridors. This procedure was “the living proof that fascism is the enemy of science and culture, of all human values”. With the denial of the books, the “interim phase” in Metris came to an end. In the corridors the sounds of the truncheons and the slogans reverberated again. Once again, Metris was showing its real face.

The Great Resistance, The Action Breakers And The Defeat

July started with transports from Metris. From July 6-8, 1983, dozens of revolutionaries were moved to Sagmalcilar/Istanbul. Sagmalcilar was the first prison that was quickly opened in that period. This prison was planned and built for isolation detention. Now especially the prisoners were moved there who came forward during the actions of the resistance. The enemy tried to isolate the heads of the resistance and to destroy the structures. This way they wanted to achieve their actual aim: forcing the prisoners to their knees.

After the announcement that the prison uniforms were to be introduced with the opening of Sagmalcilar, the prisoners decided they would start a hunger strike immediately. On July 8, the prisoners in Metris began their hunger strike. Three days later, they were joined by the prisoners in Sultanahmet, and a couple of days later by those in Kabakoz. This made the hunger strike the biggest action, until then, in the military prisons of Istanbul. In their reaction to the hunger strike, the prison administration in Metris concentrated more on psychological attacks, rather than physical ones. At first they started to play very loud music, 24 hours a day, through all the loudspeakers in the cells. The prisoners protested with several actions, but the music was not turned off. On the 6. day of the hunger strike they wanted to collect the tables and the chairs in the cells with the pretext that they had to be renewed. The prisoners refused to hand over the furniture. On July 15, the accused in the TIP-trial quit the hunger strike. They had joined the hunger strike rather by chance, their prisoners did not really back up the strike from the first place.

On July 20, the physicians in Metris began to announce the disadvantages of a hunger strike every hour. On the 17. day they announced the speeches of the deserters. On the 18. day they announced the decision by Haydar Saltik to reject all compromises with the prisoners.

In short their plan looked like this: first the marches, then the statements by the physicians, the speeches by the traitors, then the announcement by Haydar Saltik… Then it began all over again. This was done 24 hours a day, at the highest possible volume.

Of course, one can not say that these psychological attacks were completely without effect. After the TIP-prisoners ended the hunger strike, this was done as well by those who were accused in the TKP-trial. The announcement by Haydar Saltik made clear that it was going to be a long action. And some of the political groups had not been prepared for such a case. Because they had really believed that democracy would return after the elections of November 6, they imagined that the oppression would not last very long, albeit that they might have to wait four a couple of months.

The move of the EB-prisoners (Labour Flag) on the 20. day, “we should leave Sagmalcilar besides and concentrate on solving our own problems” met with approval by the opportunistic groups without any problems. And so the discussions about ending the hunger strike were on the agenda.

On the 19. day, contrary to the previous decision, and despite the opposition of the DS and other prisoners, it was decided to demand talks with the administration. They said: “Let’s meet with them, take whatever we can get, and end the action.” This could only be a sign of weakness towards the administration. And in the end it was. This information and the mood were eventually known to the administration. They rushed the transport of the leading prisoners.

On August 1, three representatives handed over the request to talk. The administration of Metris didn’t take this request seriously. Thereupon the opportunists were discouraged and their wavering increased. By that time the action became publicly known in the whole country and in the rest of the world, and its effects grew by the day, but some of the groups were just preoccupied with ending the action.

Now they proposed to end the action without a meeting with the administration. The prisoners from the DS-trial tried to get this idea out of their heads. But it was useless, because the dissolvement in the ranks of the political groups had already started. The DS-prisoners demanded a decision by the prisoners council to continue the action, at least till August 5, to achieve a half-way positive result at least. But the opportunists even rejected this. They didn’t even permit a prolongation of a couple of days. On Wednesday, at midnight, the action was ended under the leadership of the prisoners from the DY-, DK- and P-trials, without even warning the prisoners from DS. The main rule of the action, “without an end of the action in Sagmalcilar, the action in Metris will not be ended”, was broken. But this was not all. In time there were more and more ruptures in the structure. The prisoners of the DS-, DHB-, KSD-, PY, and TIKB-trials were all against the decision to end the action. But in that moment, when the action had been called of quite openly, it made no sense to continue the action alone. And so the fourth major hunger strike ended in defeat.

The first consequences of this defeat became obvious that same evening. The prison administration which normally offered special diet food after a hunger strike, now served a half-finished, sordid and spicy soup, and they were quite amused. And in the canteen they did not offer milk products.

The officers in Metris now behaved like commanders who won a victory against another army.

AFTER THE DEFEAT

The systematic attack started 6 days after ending the hunger strike with a general search. It was like a genuine pillage. All prisoner were driven to the prison yard. Everything, food, soap, etcetera, was made unusable on purpose. But besides this, all the books, school books, televisions, radio’s, medicines, glasses, flowers, court documents and letters were collected. Now there were no more papers, pencils, books, televisions, and radio’s anymore, and they would keep them for a very long time. While they had to wait till 9 p.m. in the prison yard, they were forced by the prison administration to take of their clothes. They resisted, and thus they were tortured.

And so the administration of Metris showed those who called of the hunger strike in a very short time, where they hadn’t been prepared for. On August 15, going out into the yard, and the possession of almost all newspapers were banned. Only magazines which spread the degenerate culture, like Hafta Sona, were allowed.

The prisoners were going to be forced to undress and get searched whenever they were visited, went to court, to hospital or were going to meet their lawyers. This humiliating practice was rejected by the prisoners. Thereupon the prisoners were denied all contacts with the outside world.

The prisoners form DS proposed a 10-point program to prevent the intensifying of the defeat. In almost all fields, orders had to be practically ignored. The beatings started again. This kind of torture was expanded and increased in such a way that discussions about a new hunger strike were soon on the agenda again. The prison administration, who knew about these discussions through their spies, decreased the measure of torture.

THE PRISONERS COUNCIL

Without doubt it was impossible to continue the struggle without forming organisations to build up the resistance and discipline life. Already during the first years of the junta joint organisations were formed in almost all prisons, even though they formally differed. Also in Metris there was a prisoners council organised in the summer months of 1981. In this prisoners council all revolutionary groups were organised who participated in the struggle against the prison administration and who represented the political identity of prisoners. This council took decisions and was an executive organ as well.

To speed up decisions and to constitute an initiative in the name of the prisoners, a committee of the prisoners council was formed which should take over the leadership in actions. Representatives of DS, DK, P, HK, and later on DY as well, participated in this committee.

The political groups who were in the council before the hunger strike from July till August 1983 were the following: DS, DK, HK, P, DY, GKK, TIKB, KSD, DHB, PY, Acilciler, HDO, Kawa, Emegin Birligi, Otonom, IS, CY, CS, THKP-C, Savascilari (this group split in three, all these were represented separately), Rizgari, Dev-Savas, HY, PK, EB and others.

After the hunger strike, which ended in defeat in 1983, or better: which was defeated because of breaking the action, the DS-prisoners declared they would continue to participate in the council, together with the action breakers DK, P and DY, as if nothing had happened. In fact a council evolved whit two leaderships. While one side aimed at maintaining the status quo, the other side pursued the strategy of resistance, constantly developing new tactics and politics.

After the hunger strike in 1983, also the Trotzkists, TKEH and the PKK participated in the council. Because EB, Rizgari and the Trotzkists accepted the prison uniforms on February 4, 1984, they were excluded from the council.

In April and June 1984, during the hunger strike till death, the representatives of the status quo apparently found an excuse to break the relations between the prisoners council and Devrimci Sol and the TIKB, accusing them of separatists tendencies. THE LAST ATTACKS BEFORE THE FIRST “CIVILIAN GOVERNMENT”. Before the elections the junta of September 12 multiplied its oppression and its terror in all prisons. Thereupon the prisoners started a hunger strike, at first in September in the prison of Diyarbakir. The prisoners in Metris started a solidarity hunger strike.

In the middle of October, new sanctions were imposed in Metris as well. But the internal developments in the prisons constituted the real attacks against the resistance. In this manner they started to give up the successes of the resistance, achieved by the 10-point program. At first they dropped the rule not to by writing material in the prison shops, without any discussion. Then the rule not the send letters or telegrams was dropped, an initiative by DK, agreed upon by a very small majority.

The struggle in the prisons has always been a psychological struggle as well. And it was a tactical war. Seen from this point, the decision to drop these rules only served the enemy. The enemy, observing that the prisoners constantly withdrew further after increased attacks, intensified his attacks.

THE TEST OF THE PRISON UNIFORMS

On November 28, the prison of Metris was searched in a way what had not been seen since August 14. The operation was directed by the head of the torturers in Metris, major Muzaffer Akkaya himself. The prisoners, who were brought to the corridors, were stripped naked and their hands were cuffed behind their backs. For hours they had to stand this way in the corridor. Then they tried to put them in the prison uniform. The reaction was fierce, for the first time the prisoners shouted the slogan “The torture major will beheld responsible!’. The prison administration had to drop its intention to implement the prison uniforms for the time being because of the unforeseen resistance. But this was just for the time being, because Metris was one of their tactical targets. The enemy had no intention to stop the attacks and to cancel the prison uniforms, they tried to force the prisoners in Metris on their knees by all means. Everybody knew the subjugation of Metris would play in major role for all prisons in Turkey. The prisons administration just changed their tactics and extended their manoeuvring space by taking new measures. And so they began to use isolation detention massively.

TWO PROPOSALS, TWO LINES.

The enemy insisted on the prison uniforms. The prisoners had to be determined and prepared. A dignified resistance was to be developed in the history of Metris. From this perspective the prisoners from the DS-trial proposed a program, outlining the resistance after the attack of November 28. This program, which rejected the prison uniform decisively, was approved – with slight alterations – by the majority. Against this common decision, the prisoners from the DK-trial tried to push trough another proposal. They succeeded in poisoning the atmosphere in the council by suggesting to take up negotiations with the prison administration at all times to solve the situation in this way. Even worse, They rejected to go on hunger strike, despite the torture and oppression, but stated this could be discussed. The prisoners from HK, P and DY joined this view. The fronts were clear, but the necessary determined stand against the prison uniforms was endangered because of this tactic by the representatives of the status quo.

The prison administration knew about these discussions, and about the both lines. The torturers of Metris used this situation to split the prisoners. At the same time they hastened the move from leading cadres from the DS-trial to Sagmalcilar/Istanbul. Because they were the main target for the state.

In the council there were two decisions, one form the block of HK, DY, P and DK On the other there were the prisoners from DS, KSD, as well as the TIKB. The other political groups either ignored the differences between the two programs, or they behaved neutral to be represented on both sides.

This dead-end could only be overcome by a HUNGER STRIKE TILL DEATH.