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Prisons: An Instrument of Submission to Imperialism

November 11, 2005

from Prison Art Newsletter, August 2005


The history of prisons, which means punishment by being incarcerated, goes way back to the formation of classes, and the split of society into oppressor and oppressed. Clearly punishment through imprisonment, aims to strike at the individual’s dignity. However, the main aspect of it has always been directed against those dissenting against the system. In every historical period, the rulers have used imprisonment as a tool to induce capitulation towards the outspoken representatives and leaders of the oppressed classes.

Even though in time some prison policies and procedures may have under gone change, what has not changed is the fact that it is mainly used as a scheme to force the capitulation of those that wage struggle against the exploiting system in order to crush and silence the people’s resistance to oppression.

Today as the imperialist powers and their puppets intensify their wars of aggression committing heinous acts of barbarity, genocide, massacres and torture against the masses of people aiming to force their surrender, prisons continue to be the main place used to suppress the dissidents and those that challenge the system of oppression and plunder.

For years the imperialist powers have used isolation-cell system of the punishment. IN many countries this has become normal practice regarding political dissidents. The general practice of such a ruthless system of punishment was first developed and advanced in imperialist countries and then exported to countries which directly or indirectly are dependent on imperialism. Today such ill-treatments of political prisoners are a daily practice in the dependent countries, aiming to erase the political identity and force the subjugation of the militants and dissidents.

The methods or schemes that are being practiced today are a product of sophisticated laboratory experiments and combined experiences of the imperialist powers and reactionaries in ways of breaking down the human will and the resistance to oppression and injustice by an individual.


While all over the world the imperialist wars of aggression led by US imperialism is increasing, the struggle for social and national liberation is also intensifying. The exploited peoples and the masses are advancing the struggle against imperialism and the reactionary rulers in their own countries.

· It is a fact that the ruling classes for centuries have used intimidation, disappearances, torture and execution, and other methods to exploit and oppress the people and to suppress their struggles.

· It is also a fact that the most effective places for this kind of oppression are the prisons where torture and the worst form of ill treatment and abuse are practiced in the most brutal way. From the chains of the middle age towers to the punishment of the quarry- (the so-called stone-break workers) prisoners, to the underground chain gangs till today’s most “modern” and sophisticated cells the prisons have been an important weapon for the ruling class. We can recount many cases of torture and describe the condition sin prisons, but the following just indicates some of the worst cases.

· Turkey and Turkey-Kurdistan has a long history of resistance in the prisons. It is one of the ‘clashing points’ between political state power and the political prisoner’s. Since many years in Turkey the issue of isolation or solidarity confinement has been stated, the resistance in the prisons in Turkey and Turkey-Kurdistan has a long tradition. Until today many prisoners have lost their lives in the F-type cells. Now with new laws like one type uniform, obligatory work the state tries to create a new wave of attack.

· There are the pictures of the base in Guantanamo how Afghan prisoners are being treated, the photos which showed the situation in the Abu Garib prison in Iraq under occupation and still we always hear about other prisons in that area where people have been tortured and even killed.

· In Nepal, while the people are waging an intense struggle for national and social liberation against the Monarchist regime and some of the Maoist leaders have been arrested by the Indian government without giving any kind of legal justification or explanation.

· The only news about the situation of the captive leaders of Nepal’s revolutionary movement in the Indian prisons comes from democratic people.

· On August 15th, 2004, thousands of Palestinian prisoners went on hunger strike in the prisons of the Zionist state of Israel, demanding their basic rights.

· Not only in countries that depend on imperialism, but also in industrial advanced countries the cell-isolation is/has been practiced. Until today, against the RAF prisoners in Germany, the IRA prisoners in Ireland, the ETA prisoners in Spain, BASK in France, the Red Brigades in Italy and in the US against the BLA and the Black Panther Party, these isolation methods were used.

· Recently the lawyer of the Cuban five, Leonard Weinglass stated that his clients have been tortured in the different prisons in the US, where they are being held captive.

The need for unity

Of course we can continue to recount the numerous examples of human rights abuse and torture and ill treatment of political prisoners by the imperialist powers and other reactionaries across the world.

However, clearly there is a need to focus attention on the plight of the political prisoners on an international level.

The ILPS is an international anti-imperialist coalition of over 350 mass organizations from 40 countries considers its duty and is in a favorable position to address the need to unify and concentrate attention on such an important question. During the Second International Assembly of the ILPS held in November 2004, a decision was taken to hold an international symposium on the issue of political prisoners. It was held in Istanbul/Turkey on the first weekend of June 2005. Renowned intellectuals, democratic mass organizations, associations for family and friends of political prisoners will be invited to join together to address some of the main aspects of the issues relating to the conditions and struggles of the political prisoners. Delegations representing associations and organizations were invited from all over the world to join and participate as speakers or as resource persons in the symposium or to join us simply as observers.

For more information, contact ILPS Turkey-section,

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