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Looking for Magdalena de Winnaar?

(Bakırköy Cezaevi’nde ölen Magdalena de Winnaar’ı ülkesinden arayıp soran olursa diye, mektubunun İngilizce aslı ve durumu hakkında bilgidir.)

You are now viewing a blog made for the sick inmates in Turkey. If you are looking to find information about Magdalena Martha Sussanna de Winnaar, citizen of South Africa, she has been one of the prisoners kept in Bakırköy Prison, Istanbul, between May 2011 and September 2012. As the “Health in Prisons Initiative”, we had been corresponding with Magdalena de Winnaar and you can find her first letter to us, in the English original, below.

Ms. Magdalena de Winnaar has passed away due to lymph cancer (diagnosed much too late in prison) on Sept. 4th, 2012. We have been informed of her death by her friends in the prison dormitory, on Sept. 5th, 2012. They have found our address as her only contact connection in a letter addressed to us, among her personal belongings. Regarding her medical treatment in prison, we think there have been grave violations of basic human rights.

We will try to collect and keep information about Magdalena de Winnaar’s case, personal belongings and place of burial, in case somebody asks about her in the future. For any questions, please don’t hesitate to write to

Here is Magdalena’s letter:

July 27th 2012


 Dear Zeynep,

I was very surprised to hear from you. I had no idea that anybody knew about my case. I’m sorry it took me so long to reply but i had to get hold of a stamp first. I don’t normally write and don’t receive any post. On friday two gentleman came to see me which was another surprise. I told them i received the first letter that was in Turkish but that i will ask you to send it to me in English. They asked me a lot of questions but there where some things i would have told different but there where two müdürs [prison managers], the doctor & some other people present and i just did not felt free to answer honestly.

When the two gentlemen left, later i received a receipt for 50 lira. that one of them paid into my account. Please if possible could you thank them from me. It will really help me a lot there is so much i need to get here. Before i got sick i use to do some knitting & crochet work and earned so small money from that in winter. At least i could buy some toletries etc. we don’t receive nothing here, no water to drink no soap no toothpaste, sugar etc., only free tea. I don’t receive money from anybody as i have no family & my Embassy don’t help. Also i used to clean the corridor in my kügüs [koğuş – dormitory] for 3 girls for 5 lira each a month but now I’m not allowed to do any cleaning or any heavy work. Please thank the gentleman for me, i cried for not very people are kind in here.

I’m going to court again on 28th Sept. 2012. and have not been sentenced yet. I’ve been here since 7th may 2011 and hope to finish court soon. I told the gentlemen some facts and I’m sure they will fill you in. My crime was to bring 1 ½ kilogram cocaine into Turkey. I got caucht at the airport and the normal sentence for that is 12 ½ yrs. I’m 58 years old so i dont know how many years i will have to spent here. The doctor at the hospital told me that for now they controlling the cancer but in 2 years it will come back. I’m very scared sometimes and i don’t know what is going to happen to me. I’m scared that i will die here in Turkey. There is nobody that i can trust and talk to here. There are still some things that i can tell you about my case but i will answer your questions first if you can please send them to me in English.

You also write about the English-speaking lawyer from HYD that wants to be my contact. I would like that very much, but it is not permitted for me to phone anybody but family from here, no friends, lawyers without written permission from my Consulate and that will not happen. I don’t know if i am allowed to get any visitors here, that i will try and find out and let you know.

As for my health right now, I’m still getting chemo treatment and have to go back to hospital 4 times more (i must complete 8 chemo treatments). The swelling in my neck is gone and i am looking normal again. I don’t know if you saw a photo of me because when i went for a biopsy the doctor took some photos of my neck.

I came to the prison about a year and 3 months ago. Ater about two months i went to a doctor because i noticed a small lump behind my one ear and two lumps under my arm. She send me to the hospital for tests and a mamogram. I waited 2 months and went back to the doctor because by now i had about 6 lumps under my arm, and was send back for more tests. I heard nothing for months again. The in feb. or March i went back because i had pain in the back of my neck. The doctor told me i had inflamation in my neck muscles and gave me some painkillers & cream. After about one week my neck started to swell in the front and i had trouble swallowing. I went back for more tests but by then received no medicine. Afterward i was told i must wait for the results from the hospital before i get anything for the pain. I could not eat anymore and had difficulty sleeping and was in constant pain. I got so bad that i had to go for oxygen every few hours. One morning the girls here in my kögüs [koğuş – dormitory] rang for the guards & demanded that i be taken to hospital. They admitted me straight away because i could not breathe anymore & my neck had big lumps sticking out everywhere (it really looked scary!) Two days later the doctor told me i had lymph cancer. They started me with chemo the very next day. I stayed in the hospital for 3 weeks & received my 2nd chemo. The next day i came back to prison & must go now every 21 days for chemo at the hospital.

I lost a lot of weight and suffer some side effects but i am gratefull that i am alive. I don’t know what the future hold for me but i hope and pray that one day i can be back in South Africa. Next time i write to you i will tell you all about my case and maybe you or your lawyer friend can give me some advice. I wrote to my consulate about it but they did not even bother to answer my letter.

Please bear with my English because in South Africa English is my second language and i make a lot of mistakes.

Your friends that was here said they would send me some books to read because i have read all the English books here in my first 6 months here. Please remind them for me. Is it possible for you to send me some crosswords to do please it keeps my mind busy from thinking too much of other things. I am happy to hear about your baby. Good luck to you. Take care and i hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you again for everything you are trying to do for me. At least there is a bit of hope for me now and not just complete darkness. God bless & keep you & your family save.

Best wishes to all your friends.


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