September 12, 2017
As I walked I was acutely aware of the armed guards in watch towers high above me tracking my every step. I was on my way to meet my colleague and friend İdil Eser, in the highest security section of Turkey’s highest security prison. İdil, the Director of Amnesty International in Turkey, was arrested alongside nine other human rights defenders on absurd terrorism charges more than two months ago. Incredibly – other than her lawyers who see her for one hour each week, and a Member of Parliament – I will be İdil’s first visitor.
Provisions restricting prisoners detained under the state of emergency to visits by immediate family members have meant that İdil, who has no living relatives, has been entirely cut off from her friends.
I had attempted to visit İdil as soon as I arrived in Turkey some days earlier, but had been turned away at the prison gates. After meeting the Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül in Ankara, renewing our call to be granted a visit, I could finally see her.
Of all the prisons around the world I’ve been to, Silivri – the largest penal facility in Europe – is the most sophisticated and the most intimidating. After passing through its imposing entrance and being subjected by the courteous prison guards to body searches, metal detectors and an iris scan, I found myself in huge city of concrete.