Anatolia's "Alcatraz": The Sinop Prison

12/26/23

5 Minute

Anatolia's "Alcatraz": The Sinop Prison

 

In recent times, a motivation to travel has come to the fore that was not very pronounced in the past. It has been understood that people do not only travel the world for purposes such as entertainment, relaxation and exploration. In addition to the joy of happiness and discovering new places, people also wanted to deal with the pain of history and see the places where tragic events had taken place that had cost the lives of others. Perhaps by visiting such places they wanted to confront the dark side of human history and in some way atone for the suffering of the past by preventing a repetition of the same pain. Perhaps they wanted to touch the souls of those who had experienced these tragedies, breathe the air they had once breathed, and rediscover the meaning of life for themselves by sharing the great pain. Whatever the reason, people wanted to see these places, and this desire was expressed through the concept of dark tourism. The city of Pripyat, where the Chernobyl disaster occurred, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where millions of people were murdered, are among the first places that come to mind when talking about dark tourism worldwide. In Türkiye, the historic Sinop Prison, known as the "Alcatraz" of Anatolia and converted into a museum in 2000, is one of these places.

 

"They Don't Even Let Birds Fly"

 

The history of Sinop Prison, which is located in the inner part of Sinop Castle and dates back to the 6th century BC, goes back to the beginning of its use as a dungeon in 1560. Evliya Çelebi described it as "a large and terrifying castle with 300 iron doors, huge guards with arms tied to iron bars, each of whom could hang ten men by their mustaches". In 1887, the dungeon was officially converted into a prison.

 

In fact, it is very difficult to escape from here. This is because the facility is not only located behind the towers of Sinop Castle, but also behind the towers of the inner castle, so you have to negotiate a double tower to get out. One of the last guards of Sinop Prison, before it was converted into a museum, tells of three escape attempts that he knew about. In one of them, a prisoner escaped by cutting the bars with a hacksaw hidden in the sole of his shoe and jumping into the sea, and was caught three days later when he entered a policeman's house to ask for bread. Another prisoner managed to reach the sea by swimming through the sewers. The third prisoner, who tried to do the same as his predecessor, drowned because the exit of the sewer had been closed with bars after the last escape.

 

"Crazy Waves Outside"

 

One of the most difficult aspects for the inmates of Sinop Prison is the wall thickness of the building, the distance of about one wall thickness between the building and the sea. Those who have to endure the seemingly endless time of incarceration must constantly listen to the sound of the waves, which reminds them of the vast sea right next to them. Furthermore, those who are forced to stay in the areas where the floor is at sea level are exposed to excessive humidity, and even if they are released from prison one day, they know that they will never regain their former health.

 

In the long and melancholy history of Sinop Prison, many famous personalities have spent their time in the wards and cells of Sinop Prison. The memories of the writers who have stayed here are reflected in their works in different ways. Perhaps the most memorable are the poems of Sabahattin Ali, which have gained great popularity, especially the version of the poem "Aldırma Gönül" set to music, which is almost like an anonymous folk song in Türkiye. Kerim Korcan's "Tatar Ramazan"," which was written and filmed based on his experiences in Sinop Prison, has also become one of the unforgettable classics of Turkish cinema.


Perhaps Sabahattin Ali's lines best evoke Sinop Prison: "Crazy waves outside / Come and lick the walls / They distract you with these noises / Do not care, my heart, do not care." To see the ward where the poet spent these unique days, you can visit the historic Sinop Prison.

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