Reporter’s Imprisonment Highlights Inmates’ Abuse

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Asiye Guzel

ISTANBUL, Turkey (WOMENSENEWS)–The two accusations central to Asiye Guzel’s life have come together. One, by the Turkish state, charges her with belonging to an armed terrorist organization. The other comes from Guzel.

The one-time editor of a radical leftist publication says she was raped by police during the interrogation following her 1997 arrest. In October, she was convicted of the first charge,in part based on statements she says she gave because of the events alleged in the second. Ifthe Supreme Court upholds the verdict when it rules next spring or summer, she will serve 12 and half years in prison.

“This is an unfair decision,” says her lawyer, Ercan Kanar. “They used the confession she made after being raped against her.”

Guzel’s case has received attention because she is a journalist and because she has written a book about her ordeal. Reporters Without Borders has taken up her cause. In 2000, the Swedish PEN Club awarded her its annual Tucholsky Award, given to writers who have been persecuted or threatened.

However, her case is not unique.

“Female detainees often face sexual humiliation and, less frequently, more severe forms of sexual torture,” reads a human rights report on Turkey by the U.S. State Department. “After being forced to strip in front of male security officers, female detainees often are touched, insulted and threatened with rape.”

Reporting Rape Is Difficult, Convicting Rapists Is Almost Impossible

Shame and fear of retribution makes firm numbers hard to come by. The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, a non-governmental organization that treats victims of torture, says that in 2000 about 2 percent of its applicants–men and women–reported being raped. One in four said they had been sexually harassed. These numbers, based on statements made when the victim first arrives at the foundation, are believed to be underestimates. Often, a victim will only talk about a rape after months or years. The U.S. State Department report estimates that one in six rape victims don’t report their experience at all.

Doing so often yields little result. Fatma Karakas, a human-rights lawyer, is handing 158 cases of women who have been sexually tortured by Turkey’s police. The treatment, she says, ranges from stripping a woman naked–a mortifying abasement in this predominantly Muslim country–to groping to electrical shocks applied to the genitals or nipples. Fifty-four of her clients say they were raped.

“It can be with a hand, with a branch, a truncheon or a man,” Karakas says. “It can be anal or vaginal.”

Many of Karakas’ cases are years old and none has resulted in a conviction. Several are still pending. Some were delayed until the statute of limitations ran out. Many women dropped the charges for fear of persecution. One killed herself after being tortured. Two were murdered by relatives bent on avenging the shame brought to their family.

The only legal success for Karakas has come from a single victory in the European Court of Human Rights. In 1997, Sukran Aydin, a Kurdish woman who was raped in front of her sister-in-law while in detention in 1993, was granted 25,000 English pounds from the Turkish government.

“We have nothing from the courts, but it’s very good for the women to overcome their fear” of speaking out and challenging the system, Karakas says.

Activists Use Turkey’s Desire to Join the EU as Leverage

Guzel has not done much better. Prosecutors have refused to open her case, despite a report from the Medical Faculty of Istanbul University which said that Guzel was “preoccupied with the traumatic experience she said she had experienced in February 1997.” A separate case on Guzel’s allegations, before the European Court of Human Rights, is moving slowly. Her lawyer doesn’t expect a decision for two years.

Meanwhile, until she was released in June, Guzel spent five and half years in prison awaiting the result of her trial. On Oct. 16, the confession she says she signed after being tortured was used to find her guilty of belonging to an armed terrorist organization. Though she has been sentenced to 12 and one-half years, she remains free while the Supreme Court considers her appeal.

Receiving little satisfaction from the courts, activists have focused on raising awareness, hoping that will pressure police to improve their treatment of detainees. Turkey is anxious to join the European Union, and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have seized on that, urging officials to take strong action against torture.

Turkey, they argue, should end incommunicado detention and help victims get independent medical reports. Though Turkey says it is “resolved to eradicate the isolated cases of torture and mistreatment in Turkey” and has launched a series of reforms, the human rights watchdogs continue to find and report torture cases.

In her books, Guzel describes her assault and the painful process of becoming comfortable enough to talk about it. She says that after it was published, other women would come to share similar experiences. In this she sees some hope.

“Because of the women’s silence, the police had been very brave,” she said. “But if the women get the courage to talk, maybe the police will be more careful.”

Stephan Faris is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, Turkey.

For more information:

State Department Human Rights Report:
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/eur/8358.htm

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey:
http://www.tihv.org.tr/eindex.html

PEN Honorary Member–Asiye Guzel Zeybek:
http://www.pen.org/freedom/hm/zeybek.htm

For more information:

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD):
http://www.chadd.org

National Institutes of Mental Health–
“Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/adhdmenu.cfm

Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General–
“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder:
http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/Library/MentalHealth/chapter3/sec4.html




Attention Deficit Disorder in Girls Often Missed

By Kathleen Nelson
WEnews correspondent

The largest study of preteen girls with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder indicates that it is more common in girls than previously thought. When undiagnosed, girls with the disorder are likely to face academic and social difficulties.

Stephen Hinshaw

(WOMENSENEWS)–The number of girls with a common disorder that can dramatically alter academic performance and peer relationships apparently has been significantly underestimated.

Teachers, parents and medical professionals often associate Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, known as ADHD, with hyperactive and impulsive behavior. Girls are more likely, however, to have a form of the disorder termed inattentive type ADHD, characterized by distractibility.

Recent research suggests teachers and parents may not recognize it the disorder in girls. Now, between 1 percent and 2 percent of girls ages 5 to 18 are thought to have ADHD, at least 30 percent to 40 percent higher than previously believed.

According to the advocacy organization Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD affects 3 percent to 5 percent of school-age children.

But some, particularly girls, minorities and rural residents, are under-diagnosed. However, white upper-class boys, who actually have the illness three times more often than girls, may be misdiagnosed as having the disorder five to ten times more often, said Stephen Hinshaw, a child psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley and author of a surprising new study appearing in the October issue of Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

“Girls with ADHD are impaired across multiple domains,” Hinshaw said. “Their behavior is less controlled. There is clear peer rejection. They achieve behind grade level academically and their parents report an uncertainty about how to discipline their girls.”

“This isn’t just troublesome girls,” Hinshaw added. “It’s a real condition with real consequences.”

Adding to the significance of Hinshaw’s findings, other research, announced in this month’s British Journal of Psychiatry, found that although more boys than girls are diagnosed ADHD, girls with ADHD are twice as likely to be hospitalized later with mental disorders.

Girls with ADHD were found almost seven times more likely than ADHD boys to develop schizophrenia as adults, and five times more likely to develop a mood disorder, such as depression, the study’s authors reported. The ADHD girls were found 18 times more likely to have a substance use disorder as adults.

“Early intervention . . . in childhood will reduce the risk of a later psychiatric admission, both in girls and boys,” said Dr. Soren Dalsgaard, the study’s lead author.

In the Hinshaw research, researchers coordinated a day camp in which counselors observed a mixed group of girls ages 6 to 12 as they interacted in art, drama, classroom and outdoor activities.

Information is Flying Right through Their Brains

“Historically girls have been taught to play the role of good student, which means looking like you’re paying attention,” says Jerome Schultz, a clinical neuro-psychologist who specializes in diagnosis of ADHD. “But information is flying right through their brains and they’re catching a small percentage of what the teacher or other kids are trying to deliver.”

Lori Berry’s daughter Shawna participated in the camp. “The thing I’m upset about is that parents don’t know their kids have ADHD and physicians don’t properly diagnose it, so the kids are ostracized and hammered at for being lazy,” Berry said. Shawna exhibited active and impulsive behavior problems before kindergarten, but was not diagnosed until age 11.

Schultz doesn’t think alternative school placement is necessary unless the condition is severe, but has two suggestions for mainstream classrooms: Teachers should be sensitive to the fact that girls are more likely to exhibit ADHD without hyperactivity and can look very good in the classroom until exam time; second, teachers should make girls diagnosed with ADHD aware they have this condition and empower them to develop individual strategies.

“Many young girls with ADHD have an outside shell that looks spacey or winsome and hide their insecurity, but inside they’re ready to fall apart or explode,” says Joan Teach, who runs the Lullwater School, a private school for students with ADHD in Decatur, Ga. She mentors students in brainstorming, analyzing tasks and segmenting projects, imparting both academic and life skills. “The biggest thing I want to teach the girls is self-advocacy.”

ADHD Girls Quickly Become Isolated

Beyond academic success, the ability to make friends is critical for young girls. Several times during Hinshaw’s summer camp, each girl confidentially nominated three campers she most liked and disliked, using photographs of her classmates.

“Within a week the girls with ADHD were the most disliked,” Hinshaw said. “If in elementary school you are consistently disliked, that is the best predictor of you becoming delinquent, of not finishing school, and of having mental-health problems in adulthood,” he said. “It predicts devastating outcomes and also points to the importance of social relationships for later development.”

But it does not have to be this way.

“Most girls with ADHD think they’re different or not as good as everybody else,” says Shawna Berry, now 16. A special education assistant helped her study and pay attention, as well as avoid confrontation. “I used to stay in a corner and keep to myself in elementary school,” she said, “but I learned that I could be just as popular as the next person.”

Accurate Diagnosis Is Critical

Much of Carol Sadler’s time is spent teaching parents to advocate for their daughters as coordinator of a Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder chapter in Atlanta. Managing their child’s needs, including meetings with schools, counselors, doctors, and lawyers, can be overwhelming. She helps them negotiate federal laws that entitle children with ADHD to “a free and appropriate public education,” which requires a customized individual education plan and may call for academic and behavioral tutoring from a classroom aide or modified instructions in class assignments and testing.

The cause of ADHD isn’t well understood, but those with it have altered brain activity, and there is a proven genetic component (Sadler and Teach were both diagnosed after their daughters were, and Berry describes herself as “the most disorganized and inconsistent person”). Parenting practices don’t cause ADHD, but can exacerbate or improve it.

In order to be accurate, “diagnosis should be confirmed on multiple, objective measures, rather than potentially biased parent or teacher reports,” said Hinshaw, “and it is important to study girls on their own terms without an explicit focus on differences from boys.” He is midway through a five-year continuation study of the summer camp girls.

Kathleen Nelson writes about health and medicine from New York City.


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