Prisons as Educational sites

KARIANE WESTRHEIM is Research Fellow at the Department of Education and Health Promotion, University of Bergen, Norway. Her research interests include critical pedagogy, critical multiculturalism and education in marginal contexts. Her current PhD work focuses on the educational foundation of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

This paper is based on a qualitative study with four informants who have been sentenced to years of imprisonment because of their links to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), an armed guerrilla who waged war against Turkey between 1984 and 1999. In the aftermath of the 1980 military coup in Turkey, the Turkish left was prosecuted by the Turkish military. During this wave of mass detentions, 1790 suspected PKK members were captured, substantially more than from any other single Kurdish group1. The imprisoned members the party continued their political work from inside the brick walls. There are still more than 20 000 political prisoners in Turkish prisons. The informants in this study, who were imprisoned at various stages of the struggle, and in various prisons, emphasise the crucial role education and personal transformation played for political prisoners. This article also highlights how education in prison contributed to the overall struggle of the PKK as well as for the struggle of the Kurdish people.

1 McDowell 2000, p. 420

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