81 years of Ulucanlar Prison...
The construction date of Ulucanlar Prison dates back to the first years of the Republic. The past of the prison built in 1925 almost presents sections of Turkish political life. According to the correspondence documents between Central Prison Directorate and Directorate of National Real Estate dated 1960 found in direction of the historical research made, Ulucanlar Prison was built in 1925 by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs as a “General Prison” with the proposal of German city planner Carl Christoph Lörcher. Carl Christoph Lörcher explained the reason for proposing this area as prison as “Deemed appropriate in terms of neighborhood settlement due to the presence of land and fields to be plowed that will encourage the prisoners to perform useful work, to provide for their improvement with work and to reintegrate them to the society.” The Prison was built on this land as proposed by Carl Christoph Lörcher; however, what went on in the prison did not go as hoped in those years. Built as the “General Prison” in 1925, Ulucanlar Prison could not be saved from witnessing the darkest pages of the Republican history.
The name changed, not what happened inside
Only one year after the prison that was first called Cebeci Prison was built and opened for service, it was a place where executions were carried out. From 1925 to 2006, when the prison was cleared by sending the prisoners to another prison in 2006, Ulucanlar Prison has been a cold and dark prison where people are imprisoned, executed inside and where the parents waited for news for days at the gate for 81 years… First called Cebeci Prison, the prison was called Cebeci General Prison, Ankara Prison, Ankara Cebeci Civilian Prison, Ankara Central Closed Prison and Ulucanlar Prison respectively. Before 1925, some parts were used for breeding horses and some other parts were used as gun storage. Prison was built on this land in 1925. Even though it was built by putting stones on stones, what happened there was done by people to people, not by the stones, the buildings, not the building called prison. Ulucanlar Prison witnessed 18 executions throughout 81 years it was in service… Some of them are Fethi Gürcan, Talat Aydemir, Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan, Hüseyin İnan, Necdet Adalı, Mustafa Pehlivanoğlu, Erdal Eren, Fikri Arıkan and Ali Bülent Orkan…
Even though they thought, spoke and wrote different things, their destiny has gathered them in Ulucanlar…
Ulucanlar Prison has made history with its famous prisoners as well as its executions. A lot of journalists and poets entered through its doors…Several writers, politicians, even filmmakers passed through Ulucanlar. Poets were never missing… Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, Nazım Hikmet, Ahmet Arif all stayed here as well as Hasan Hüseyin Kormazgil… If we list the journalists and writers who stayed in Ulucanlar, some of them are; Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, Nazım Hikmet Ran, Sami Cebeci, Yılmaz Güney, Ahmet Arif, Hasan Hüseyin Korkmazgil, Metin Peker, Oral Çalışlar, İpek Çalışlar, Beyhan Cenkçi Adnan Cemgil, Cüneyt Arcayürek, Fakir Baykurt, Hasan Hüseyin Korkmazgil and Metin Toker… Political prisoners also passed through the corridors of Ulucanlar Prison. Some of them are Bülent Ecevit, Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, Doğu Perinçek, Osman Yüksel Serdengeçti, Talat Aydemir, Akın Birdal, Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan, Hüseyin İnan, Mustafa Pehlivanoğlu, Fikri Arıkan, Ali Bülent Orkan and Muharrem Şemsek…
Ulucanlar opened its doors not to forget, but to hope
Always mentioned with executions, persecution and pain throughout the 81 years it was open for, Ulucanlar Prison now undertakes a brand new duty with all its realities. Ulucanlar Prison opened its doors to visitors to take a lesson, not to ignore; to hope again, not to forget… Ulucanlar Prison, where only convicts entered until a few years ago, now hosts its new visitors with all its past. Ulucanlar Prison emphasizes its uniqueness with its new mission to its visitors. In every corner, a different memory, a different story and 81 years of history awaits for the visitors at Ulucanlar Prison. Hosting its visitors with a brand new face together with all life experiences, Ulucanlar Prison takes us on an internal journey as well as to the close history of Turkey.
Ulucanlar Prison Museum and Center of Arts and Culture Project is completed.
Ulucanlar Prison, where a lot of prisoners stayed for various crimes within the years it stayed open was transformed fully into a museum and center of arts and culture. Stating that they have realized a first in Turkey, Altındağ Municipality Mayor Veysel Tiryaki said, "Ulucanlar Prison is an important icon for Ankara. We could not let this building to be destroyed. I think we have provided an important monument to Ankara’s culture and tourism life” and emphasized the importance he attaches to the project. Ulucanlar Prison that hosted a lot of famous people from different views, witnessed execution of many people, where the cruelty, pain and shame is lived in the corridors, wards and cells, and that has an important place in Turkish political life was restored by Altındağ Municipality by being true to it’ state when he was built in 1925.
Old but not worn prison Ulucanlar
After transfer of the prisoners in closed prison to another prison, there was a lot of debate on how this place would be used. The debates ended after the whole area and some of the buildings herein were registered as “buildings that must be protected” by the Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board. This decision ensured granting of the works for restoring the prison and transforming it into a museum and center of arts and culture to Altındağ Municipality, a duty that they applied for several times before. . Altındağ Municipality initiated the restoration works in 2009 and completed the restoration in 2010.
Ulucanlar Prison was restored by Altındağ Municipality
Stating that Ulucanlar Prison is a very important icon for Ankara and Turkey, Altındağ Municipality Mayor Veysel Tiryaki expressed his sensitivity on the subject by saying "Certainly, what went on in Ulucanlar cannot be ignored or denied". Mayor Tiryaki said that those who will visit Ulucanlar will witness the process of the Republic and will understand the stages Turkey went through in the way of democracy and the point it is now at better and provides the following information: “We remained true to the original as much as possible in every stage of restoration. Ulucanlar’s closed prison section of 16 thousand square meters was put into service in June 2011. Wax statues of the prisoners, their belongings used in daily life, all details are exhibited in accordance with their originals in the museum. The famous prisoners who stayed here take place in the museum with their photos, documents and personal belongings. Therefore, we hope that what went on in Ulucanlar Prison is not forgotten so that the same pain is not lived through again and the parents will not cry."
What will you see on your trip to the past of Ulucanlar?
Several parts of the prison can be toured within a determined route. The visitors that are having an emotional journey to the past will pass through a dark, cold corridor with the smell of mold which reaches to the 9th and 10th Wards also called the "Hilton". At the end of the corridor, the visitors will see the “Hilton” ward. Hilton is known for hosting mostly the people well-known by all of us in terms of literature, poets, journalists and writers. Two of Hilton’s guests were Bülent Ecevit and Necip Fazıl Kısakürek. The solitary cells called "Müteferrika" (place to hold suspects) in the first years are reached from right by the Hilton. The prisoners whose conviction order is not finalized and the persons who committed a discipline crime inside or thought that must be separated from other prisoners due to the crime they committed outside were kept in these cells. This section’s narrow corridor, dim lights, iron gates and pitch dark solitary cells help to understand prison conditions better. While the sounds you hear on the corridor you think will never end give you the creeps, you will think of how the prisoners who stayed here coped with these hard conditions as you progress towards the yards reaching freedom in the dark, cold and deep halls.
Wards remind you of the old Turkish movies
After the cells, the wards are the next. Wards are also furnished in accordance with the conditions back then. The furnishings were completed with materials to tell the story of nearly all eras in the history of Ulucanlar, as a result of the comprehensive studies. Several things among the iron bunk beds and lockers, wooden table and chairs, and an old stove catch the eye in the wards furnished selectively. Visual enhancement of the wards is completed with wax statues. A prisoner hits the strings of his saz; you can almost hear a folk song. Another prisoner sips his tea with grief another one laying on his bed seems like he is dreaming of freedom. When all these things obtained with a fussy research combine with the impact of the wax statues, the wards look like the prison scenes in the old Turkish movies. You can easily feel like you are watching the movie Duvar (The Wall) made by Yılmaz Güney inspired by his own memories in Ulucanlar or Uçurtmayı Vurmasınlar (Don’t Let Them Shoot the Kite) made by Feride Çiçekoğlu in Ulucanlar. Besides the wards, the yards also act as an open-air exhibition for the photos of Ulucanlar Prison. The yards where the prisoners used to pace, count their beads and show off today features their photos. In the yard where photos related to the prison processes of famous prisoners are exhibited, the old photos taken related to some criminal prisoners in Ulucanlar Prison and information on the photos are also showcased. Photos designed and exhibited specifically in a film strip concept make the prison's history flash before your eyes.
Ulucanlar is now an 81 Years Old Archive..!!
The next stop in the tour is the wards where the information, documents and belongings of the famous prisoners are located. Data in these wards that almost act as an archive for the prison’s history of 81 years were obtained as a result of the comprehensive research. The information, documents and belongings obtained as a result of the interviews with prisoners' families as well as the data scattered in various institutions of Turkey were gathered in these wards in the prison. Politicians, journalists, writers, filmmakers, poets are among the people who were convicted to prison time for almost the same reason, for thinking and for speaking or writing their thoughts despite their different political views. Common trait of all these famous people who made it into Turkey's history is that they have stayed in Ulucanlar even though in different times and periods. Wards that contain information on these people are also furnished according to the conditions of the day. Would you like a break? You can take a break at the recreation are close to the wards and yards and drink a cup of tea or coffee. Museum library is a historical archive filled with the books written by the unforgettable people of Turkey’s struggle for democracy, important publications of various eras, court records of the actors of the day, imprisonment reports and with the first issues of exclusively valuable publications which are hard to find today. The next stop is the prison hammam (bath). The hammam where the prisoners used to bathe was also furnished in accordance with the original after being restored. Hammam is not only an area for the prisoners to bath; it also acted as a vessel for escape plans of prisoners for several times in the past, it has been a pass between captivity and freedom. Don’t leave without seeing the art gallery after the hammam. The art gallery in the main building will fulfill an important need of Ankara. Signed under important studies in culture and arts in Ankara, Altındağ Municipality aims to be one of the exemplary places of the Capital in this field with Ulucanlar Prison Center of Arts and Culture. Stating that the Prison has several suitable places for holding meetings, organizing conferences and exhibitions, Altındağ Municipality Mayor Veysel Tiryaki adds that the doors are open to anyone.
We Imprisoned the Scaffold for Life..!!
The scaffold where the executions were held is also exhibited in Ulucanlar Prison Museum. The scaffold that hung 18 people is placed at the back of the tree called "Ulu Kavak" (Large Aspen) in front of which it was usually placed. The scaffold is placed in an iron bar cell in order to emphasize the fact that death sentence was abandoned in 2004 in Turkey and there is also a text stating that this penalty is no longer applied. Mayor Veysel Tiryaki said that they found the scaffold at the roof during restoration and stated that they tried to stay true to all details from the halter to the color of the gallows and that they only applied protective varnish. Another tree attracts the attention in the museum where the photos, documents and information of the famous people who stayed in Ulucanlar Prison. The tree located right beside the aspen tree, in front of which the executions are carried out, is arranged as a memorial tree for the arrestees with small aluminum plates with the photos and names of the famous people who stayed here.
Personal belongings of the famous prisoners are also on display at the museum
6th ward is furnished as the ward containing the information, documents and belongings of the famous persons who stayed in Ulucanlar. Photos and biographies of these persons are placed at the bedhead of each bunk bed. Belongings of the journalists, writers, poets, politicians and artists who stayed in Ulucanlar Prison at different times are also displayed at the same ward. Personal belongings such as Bülent Ecevit’s hat and tie, Deniz Gezmiş’s Roman Law lecture notes in his own hand writing, his cigarettes and money from his pocket, Yusuf Aslan's scarf, Hüseyin İnan's flannel, Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu’s prayer cap and rug, Mustafa Arıkan’s letter to his brother and clothes of Fikri Arıkan are placed in this ward.