Ulucanlar Prison Museum
While Ottomans were ruling the world from Istanbul (as some of you like to call Constantinople), the young Republic of Turkey decided to move the capital to Ankara on October 13th, 1923. As a result of this, bunch of new buildings showed up in the city and the Ulucanlar Prison was one of them, being the first prison of the Turkish Republic. Although its name changed couple of times, this recent one comes from the name of the neighborhood.
The Ulucanlar Prison was established in 1925 and served till 2006. Its location was an offer by German city planner Carl Christoph Lörcher as he was thinking the neighborhood with empty fields would encourage the prisoners to perform useful works, by which will help to reintegrate them to the society.
When we are looking back now to the history of the prison, we can tell that this mindful approach did not go well as it was hoped.
During its 81 years of existence, quite amount of intellectuals was imprisoned or detained in this building. The prison sorely created one of the darkest pages of the Republican history, while witnessing 18 executions* during its history.
In 2011 the building was restored and turned into the Ulucanlar Prison Museum, to remember the saddest days of this place. This I find as an extremely important decision. Being able to face with your history and mistakes takes a lot of courage but it is the correct thing to do. Hiding them doesn’t give us anything.
Among 18 executions, three of them became a spiritual symbol for some non-governmental organizations. Exactly 47 years ago today, on 6th of May 1972, Marxist–Leninist revolutionary and political activists Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan and Hüseyin İnan were hung in the Ulucanlar Prison and now this day is being called as a remembrance day to commemorate their reformist ideas.
There were some artists as well among the people who were imprisoned in here like Nazım Hikmet Ran, Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, director Yılmaz Güney, Yaşar Kemal, Metin Toker, Fakir Baykurt, Kemal Tahir and many others.
The movie Uçurtmayı Vurmasınlar (Don’t Let Them Shoot the Kite) by Tunç Başaran was shot in the prison in 1989 and Yılmaz Güney himself was inspired from Ulucanlar Prison in his movie Duvar (the Wall) in 1983.
* Turkey removed the death penalty from the constitution in 2004 and the last one was executed in 1984.