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July 15

ERDOGAN’S LONG ARMS: ABDUCTIONS IN TURKEY AND ABROAD

 

The Origins of the Problem

Turkey’s struggle to draw the country more in line with the pillars of the European Union faced a long and accelerating slide. The country’s Freedom in the World score has been in free fall since 2014 due to an escalating series of assaults on the press, social media users, protesters, political parties, the judiciary, and the electoral system, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fought to impose personalized control over the state and society in a deteriorating domestic and regional security environment.

Turkey’s drift into the grip of authoritarianism began before the failed 2016 coup. The government’s heavy-handed response to nationwide Gezi Park protests in 2013, the start of a purge against members Gülen community after the corruption investigation in December 2013 paved the way for the emergence of an illiberal government. Many observers and experts pinpoint this year, 2013, as the major turning point for Turkey’s drift away from liberal democracy. The steady descent into an autocratic system leads to the full breakdown of the rule of law, judicial independence, and corrosion of the integrity of Turkey’s bureaucratic institutions following the sweeping purge after the failed coup attempt in 2016.

The signs of the conflict first came to surface after Erdoğan made clear his intentions to establish a more authoritarian rule with the powers vested by the 2011 referendum. The battle lines were drawn after the infamous graft operations of 17 and 25 December, in 2013, where prosecutors rounded up some politicians and businessmen who were under surveillance in a longitudinal investigation. Erdoğan said the corruption files were nothing but a sham, perpetrated by the Gülen movement as a soft coup in line with the interests of the foreign powers, which were envious of the Turkish rise as a global power.

Hizmet had long been hailed as the soft power for the country with its huge focus on education and humanitarian aid activities as well as interfaith dialogue efforts. “Gülen schools portrayed Turkey as a mystical but adaptable and open-minded country, and became a place for building intimate connections with elites and their children in dozens of countries.” Erdoğan used the movement’s international prevalence as a proof for his claim that it became the tool for the foreign powers.

When President Goes to War

Erdoğan has vowed on many occasions to uproot the Gülen Movement wherever it is. He did everything in his capacity, banking on the state power, and striking new partnerships with his old enemies against the Hizmet, which Erdoğan started calling the Parallel Structure. Erdoğan declared a “witch-hunt” against the movement, purging Gülen’s followers from public services, crippling its media power, erecting red-tape obstacles, cowing its institutions and companies with interminable inspections, etc. Finally, on July 15, 2016, a coup attempt, which Erdoğan declared Hizmet as the main perpetrator and used this argument to justify his undemocratic measures.

Erdoğan said: “Neither in the East nor in the West is a single member of this organization comfortable as before, nor will they be. If not today, then tomorrow, one day every member of the FETO traitors’ front will pay for his treason against the country and the nation.2 ” FETÖ, the abbreviation for the Fetullahist Terror Organization, was chosen by him to demonize the movement.

A Cultural Genocide

Erdoğan was not simply flapping his jaws. He has already been doing everything to make life unbearable for the Gülen followers inside the country. The coup attempt, which the Hizmet never claimed involvement in and renounced from the first moment, gave him an unquestionable and unchallenged excuse to completely disregard the current laws, as well as some international laws like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, under a state of emergency. What ensued was a witch hunt at an unprecedented frantic intensity.

According to the research conducted by the AST as of February 2020, investigations have been carried out on more than 610,000 people. The number of people arrested as a result of these investigations has already gone above 160,000 and counting. Currently, about 63,000 political prisoners are behind bars in the Turkish prisons. A total of 780 children are inside these overcrowded prisons, where their mothers endure agonizing troubles to raise them. 6,021 academics were expelled from their universities; whereas 15 private universities, which had affiliations with the Hizmet were shut down. 3,003 schools and dormitories were closed, millions of books were burned. Roughly 200 media outlets were seized and were either converted to pro-government mouthpieces or muzzled completely. 161 journalists were imprisoned. 4,463 judges or prosecutors were dismissed from public service and some were incarcerated. Tens of thousands of polices officers were axed. The licenses of 1,539 attorneys are currently under trial and 580 of them are in jail. 11 people died under arrest or during interrogation. 93 prisoners were killed due to torture and ill-treatment.

Globalizing the Theatre of War

Erdoğan also attempted to convince countries through carrot and stick policies or more diplomatic means to join his personal fight and do the same to the Hizmet members within their borders without heeding too much about what the rule of law by its very own nature requires. Various governments didn’t hesitate to jump on the bandwagon and yielded to the diplomatic pressure from Erdoğan to arrest and deport members of the Gülen Movement active in their countries. Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Georgia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Myanmar, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Turkmenistan are some of these countries. In some countries, like Myanmar, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, and Sudan, the countries didn’t even follow their own laws while carrying out the deportations. In some countries, the local intelligence agencies cooperated to seize Gülen followers, while in some others, Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) didn’t even need to ask for permission to stage an operation.

In Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Malaysia, and Pakistan, the domestic authorities blatantly violated international laws by deliberately deporting or letting Turkish intel agents kidnap Erdoğan’s opponents, who had applied for asylum or had UN protection against persecution.

Vicious Methods Inside the Country and Abroad

Although ascertaining the exact number is not easy, an estimated total of 130 people (refer to AST’s research) were abducted inside and outside Turkey through nefarious methods, brushing away even the most basic rights to fair trial and defense. Some of these people whisked away abroad by clandestine operations, were under the protection of the United Nations. They were subjected to heavy tortures, made to sign fake testimonies, turned into the living dead, and even murdered. Ankara was even accused of exploiting the Interpol system by submitting extradition requests for over 40,0003 individuals with arbitrary terror charges, revoking passports of the dissidents who struggle to survive as expats, issuing arrest warrants on fake accusations, etc. MİT organized covert operations to abduct and bring to Turkey mostly people with alleged ties with the Gülen movement, sometimes in collaboration with the relevant authorities of the country and in some other cases without even bothering to inform them.

Inside the country, certain figures were abducted in broad daylight. 29 people (refer to AST’s research) were registered as victims of enforced disappearance. A majority of these people were released, while some are feared to have been killed since no news has been heard from them for years now. Some of the survivors found the courage to tell the gory details of the torture they had been subjected to. Almost all of the people who were turned over to the police and were arrested show signs of heavy physical and psychological damage.

The Scope of the Report

The report consists of three parts. The introductory part will first offer a consolidated approach towards the nature of the war Turkish State has initiated against the Gülen movement, with an emphasis on Erdoğan’s passion for vengeance which has exacerbated the conditions for the Gülen followers. A thorough discussion over the abductions and enforced disappearances within the framework of international law will also be presented in the first part.

The second part will shed light on how the Erdoğan administration extended its operations against the Gülen movement followers all around the world by stipulating and examining all known cases around the world. The third part will deal with the enforced abductions in Turkey, also called the Black Transporter cases.

Part 1- Introduction

It is no secret that Turkey’s authoritarian political Islamist regime, headed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ruler Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has long been suppressing opposition in the country. Hand in glove with the shady elements of the country’s former powerhouses, its fight against any kind of political dissent has been carried out through harsh measures that have often invoked the dark memories of the witch hunts of the Middle Ages.

As revealed in a myriad of incidents, the actions engaged by the Turkish state to squelch and muzzle the critics include a list of the most baleful forms of crimes against humanity. Hate crimes such as defamation and libel gush out in torrents every day from a colossal propaganda machine against any segment of the society that dares to position itself opposite the government. Once shunned as a despicable act even for the nation’s intelligence agency, profiling has become a daily routine of not only state institutions, but also some non-governmental organizations. The profiling files are published in national media outlets as if it is a most ordinary thing. Open or covert threats, physical attacks, and torture in the name of the state and for the “holy” purpose of saving the dignity of Erdoğan’s position are no longer counted as crimes. Nor is this all: those who use force towards this aim are revered and rewarded.

Among all these sinister crimes, this report will attempt to throw light upon one of the most contemptible, one that the state has been relentlessly committing recently under orders of Erdoğan: forced disappearances, abductions, and quid pro quo renditions of the dissidents in Turkey and abroad. It will also attempt to show how the autocratic regime has been employing state institutions as well as what appear to be non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as visible actors in the process of its persecutions.

Besides the fact that the magnitude of such efforts to silence, persecute the dissenting voices has not abated within the borders; the Turkish state has also escalated its cross-border operations against the dissenters. These unbridled and often reckless actions have caused in many cases problems in relationships with other governments since such engagements are a clear violation of international treaties. Such actions are considered a direct interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, as well as an unconcealed denial of their national sovereignty.

It goes without saying that these clandestine operations also pose a crime against humanity, and, as evident in the UN practices in similar cases, may become subject to international tribunal proceedings. Unfortunately, in this sense, Turkey has descended to become a part of the club of countries which hardly respect the foreign jurisdictions while conspiring against persons or communities they deem the enemy. North Korea stands out as a notorious example, as it uses enforced disappearances, abductions, renditions, and assassinations of political opponents as an ordinary practice to eradicate the figures it finds “inconvenient” for its stability. How unfortunate it is to see the public indifference in Turkey as Erdoğan steers the country, which had once been a regional model for its seemingly successful combination of Islam and democracy, towards the path of the most oppressive regimes of the world, with such despicable and inhumane actions of enforced disappearances, torture and murder.

An enforced or involuntary disappearance is a direct assault on human rights, which cannot be legitimized on any grounds in terms of international law. Neither can it be conceivably acceptable in terms of humanity and conscience. The Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance provides a satisfactory definition for this crime. Proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 47/133 of 18 December 1992 as a body of principles for all States, the declaration defines an enforced disappearance as incidents in which “persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law”.4 How can one justify such a vicious act?

What is even worse is that the Turkish authorities have only rarely repudiated extreme and illegal measures to silence the opposition. On the contrary, the top government officials have boasted of them to win the favor of the masses for domestic political gains. Even bureaucrats from security and intelligence units have embraced such practices. The Turkish media, which has almost completely become a subservient tool of the government and a loyal amplifier to propagate Erdoğan’s messages to the masses, is brimming with success stories of how people are beaten and snatched in front of their children and wife or with “delightful” details of how these “bad guys” were whisked away from a foreign country — with or without the cooperation of the officials of that country — as if they were not talking about the devastation of real lives, but rather narrating fictional spy thrillers.

This report aims to put a particular focus on these devastated lives: to examine abductions and enforced disappearances by the Turkish state inside and outside its borders. It tries to include as many cases as possible by resorting to open resources, as well as by trying to get access to the personal accounts of those who survived.

Background

The Erdoğan’s regime has traditionally made the capital of such shady methods to attack its enemies and the groups it sees detrimental to its core establishment. The Kurdish opposition, for instance, has long been a usual target for surreptitious assaults and assassinations. Likewise, leftist groups, communists, and Alevites have also been subjected to similar underhanded actions. During its fight to exterminate the Kurdish separatist insurgency, thousands of victims were vanished, especially in eastern and southeastern Anatolia. Even today, two decades after their disappearance, the mothers of abducted and most likely killed children meet every Saturday in İstanbul to ask for at least a graveyard for their children. In recent years, however, the main victims of the extrajudicial practices have been the members of the Gülen movement or Hizmet.

Gülen movement’s supporters mostly agreed with AKP’s policies that strengthened the country’s democratic institutions while forcing the anti-democratic elements of the established state to retreat. However, as Erdoğan became increasingly more enthusiastic to fill the void left behind by the defeated ancient régime with his own dictatorial desires, the relations between the two groups deteriorated. Erdoğan accused Hizmet of perpetrating a plot to topple his government in December 2013 with two graft operations that implicated some businessmen close to him as well as a few members of his government and started a massive campaign against the movement.

Here, a paragraph must be inserted to briefly recall the dramatic overturn of the relations between the AKP and Hizmet, which also marks the time when the country started severing its already flimsy connections with the rule of law. When Erdoğan’s network of shady relations was laid bare by the corruption operations, the politician promptly declared that his government was under attack by the global powerhouses which didn’t want Turkey’s rise again as a regional actor and that these secret organizations assigned Hizmet to finish off his party, the only hope for the revival of the old magnificence of the country. His declaration paved the way to justify his undemocratic measures and dark propaganda against members of the movement. In just a couple of days, he changed his rhetoric utterly from praising how aloof a movement of sincerity and devotion the Hizmet is, to how fiendish a demon it actually is and that it is responsible for all evil in the country. Erdoğan said Hizmet volunteered to become a puppet of the nation’s foreign enemies and so it is also the enemy of the people and for this very reason, a total annihilation would be good for everyone. This reasoning, inspired suddenly by the corruption cases, interestingly convinced Turks, possibly owing to the extremely loyal media power Erdoğan has and to the general inclination of ordinary Turkish people towards accepting conspiracy theories. The further away the conspiracy theories are from reality, the more credible they become, especially when they are repeated by such a powerful figure as Erdoğan. The politician lost no time in hitting the roads and started public rallies all around Turkey, sometimes in three different cities in a single day, to tell the same lies to the masses, while every single message from his mouth was multiplied by the media to reach millions over and over again. At the same time, the prosecutors and law enforcement officers who had participated in the corruption operations were either demoted or assigned to insignificant units, contrary to current laws. Erdoğan’s next step would be to seek cooperation against the common enemy with the former actors of the deep state, who had been forced to retreat after their coup plans were exposed.

A systematic and sweeping purge of the critical figures in the state bureaucracy ensued; the victims were largely the people affiliated with the movement. Following the failed coup of July 15 in 2016, which Erdoğan blamed on Hizmet and its leader, the purge became even more widespread, and the methods turned more vicious.

Hizmet had been labeled as a terror organization by Erdoğan’s cabinet as per the recommendations of the National Security Council (MGK), a still powerful unit of the former regime, but a considerable portion of the domestic public opinion was still in favor of Hizmet, as the movement had always praised peace over violence, dialogue over conflict and education over everything else. Gülen had frequently maligned anyone resorting to terror in the name of Allah as non-believers and the most dangerous enemies of Islam; therefore, many were still shrugging off Erdoğan’s defamation campaigns and his continuous attributions of terror to Gülen and his followers. But after the July 15th botched coup attempt, with the help of a torrential flood of a one-sided narration of the coup details, it didn’t take long until public opinion completely turned against Hizmet and its leader, even though they were disavowing the coup repeatedly from the first moment on. With the help of an enormous public outrage against anything and anyone related to the Gülen movement, Erdoğan found the strength and excuse to disregard any obligation to stick to laws, fairness, and mercy. When he shouted in public rallies that all Hizmet followers must be exterminated, he got applause. When he ordered the plunder of the properties of Hizmet members, he got cheers. When he asked people to snitch on their relatives and friends from Hizmet, he got standing ovations.

Profiling and persecution of members of the Gülen movement was now not only a leisure pursuit of ordinary people, but also a task assigned to the state’s institutions, government agencies, AKP bureaus, and elected and appointed local administrators from governors to chiefs of villages.

Embassies were also commissioned with coordinating the profiling and spying activities on the expat members of the Hizmet movement. These missions included a variety of operations from mere intelligence gathering and stalking to threatening, harassing, and even physically assaulting the critics of Erdogan. It is quite likely that embassies have also been actively involved in the preparation and logistics phases of abductions and renditions. The mastermind and executer of the operations was Turkey’s main spy body, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). The Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), as well as the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA), were also active participants in the covert intel operations around the world.

Ironically, the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) also joined the lynch party as a voluntary contributor to the assignment by the MİT to identify people critical of Erdoğan within expat communities, in clear contradiction to the obligatory assignment by the religion to help these people become brothers and friends.

Turkish preachers from the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) have been actively employed in these intelligence-gathering activities at the government’s request. Even though these were initially said to be “false media claims,” Secretary-General Bekir Alboğa later confessed that “a few” imams provided information to the Presidency of Religious Affairs.

Furthermore, as per later news, German police investigations revealed that these accusations may only be the tip of the iceberg, meaning that such efforts could be taking place across Europe, such as the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Belgium.

State-run news companies, Anatolia News Agency (AA) and Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), spared no effort to follow the dissenting figures and make sensational stories about them in the countries where they operated. The Yunus Emre Institute and the Maarif (Education) Foundation, which acted hand in glove with the Turkish government to forcibly seize the educational institutions built and operated by the Hizmet movement in various countries, were also active participants in the clandestine warfare against the Gülen movement across the world.

Last but not least, government-funded private think tanks and organizations like the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), and the Turkish Heritage Organization, must be counted among the essential actors. They organized panels, conferences, and events, as well as issued a variety of publications, to disseminate ideas designed to bleach the government’s extrajudicial, arbitrary, and inhumane actions as inevitable measures taken at extraordinary times. They have also vied to garner support for Erdoğan and his party among Turkish communities while at the same time collecting information about the owners of the voices against Erdoğan within these communities.

Based on such underhanded investigations and espionage, the Erdoğan’s regime would first ask the rendition of its critics from the countries they were lawfully residing in. Depending on the nature of its relations with them, Turkey first asks through legitimate channels for the deportation of the people it is seeking. If this step proves unsuccessful, Turkey then attempts to offer bribes or use its influence to pressure these countries to hand over the wanted persons. The different milestones of this path are formulated in a report by the EU’s Open Dialogue Foundation: “When non-democratic states do not succeed in attaining extradition by legitimate methods, extra procedural forced expulsions (case of the employees of the Turco-Moldovian lyceum Orizont) or abductions (case of Vladimir Yegorov, Aleksandr Frantskevich, Murdali Khalimov) of the wanted persons often take place. Such actions are implemented on the basis of cooperation between the law-enforcement agencies and special services of both states, in secret, without observing lawful procedures, thus depriving persons of the opportunity to defend their interests in court (cases of Abdullah Büyük, Aminat Babayeva, Yusuf İnan, Salih Zeki Yiğit, Alma Shalabayeva, Muratbek Tungishbayev, Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov).

Enforced Disappearances in International Law

Enforced disappearances have universally been categorized as some of the most heinous crimes that can possibly be committed by malicious state actors. All relevant instruments of international law expressly forbid enforced disappearances, given that the act entirely circumvents avenues of due process while inflicting undue trauma upon both the abducted and the relatives of the abducted.

In a straightforward definition of “forced disappearance”, the Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons states, “forced disappearance of persons is… a grave and abominable offense against the inherent dignity of the human being.” The Convention also adds, “forced disappearance of persons violates numerous non-derogable and essential human rights” and reaffirms that the systematic practice of disappearance “constitutes a crime against humanity.” The International Criminal Court expands upon this definition of enforced disappearance, detailing it as the “arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.”
Finally, one of the most recent instruments of international law, the 2006 Convention on Enforced Disappearance, Article 1, provides an indubitably worded right to all persons:

“No one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance.”

A signatory to the United Nations’ Conventions, the Republic of Turkey has violated international laws and the human rights of its victims in all countries detailed in this report. Furthermore, the Turkish administration has utilized baseless national security arguments to justify its egregious behavior across the world. The Turkish government’s unabashed attempts to terrorize Turkish nationals across the world has violated the sovereignty of states in 16 known cases detailed here. International law prohibits the use of enforced disappearance under all circumstances as follows:

“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.”

The Republic of Turkey, the current Turkish government is overseen by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and all relevant actors involved in the process of terrorizing, abducting, and transporting people around the world to further their objectives continually violate widely recognized international laws, national sovereignty of countries subject to such operations, and local rules and regulations of relevant countries. In sum, the Erdogan Regime and its constituent parts, especially members of the intelligence community taking part in worldwide operations have committed crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations.

Turkey’s extraterritorial incursions to kidnap dissidents and its similarly egregious actions in its own jurisdiction have been substantiated with many cases, and this report will attempt to shed light on as many cases as possible. Nonetheless, one needs to first examine the grounds the Turkish authorities base their actions on.

On April 17, 2014, the Turkish Parliament empowered the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) with the legal authority to conduct undercover missions outside Turkey’s borders with a critical change in Law number 2937. Another important change was introduced in 2017 with the decree-law number 694 that rendered the MİT subordinate directly to the presidency and the President was assigned as the chair of the National Intelligence Coordination Council (MİKK), which would become the main strategy-making body for MİT’s moves outside Turkey.11 MİT now became able to realize to-the-point operations without facing any impediments that could have arisen if parliament had not been bypassed by attaching the agency directly to the almighty presidential post.

As we will discuss in the proceeding parts, although the domestic reactions to the MİT’s covert operations inside and outside the country have been limited, they garnered huge repulsion from certain states and international organizations, as its actions were perceived as a form of deprivation of liberty.

An individual’s right to liberty can be compromised so long as it is in compliance with international law. Article 9 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights clearly defines the arbitrary deprivation of liberty as a lack of respect to grounds and procedures prescribed by law. Both articles provide in indisputable terms the conditions that any individual must be well informed, promptly or at the time of arrest, of the reasons for their arrest and of any charges against them in case of arresting. Furthermore, any individual must be brought before a judge or a similar judicial authority without delay.

However, in Turkey’s practice, people are abducted without even knowing what their crimes are or who exactly has captured them. They appear in court only after months of heavy tortures, if they are lucky to live long enough. Indeed, they can’t see even the faces of their abductors or torturers, much less their lawyers or families.

Turkey’s abduction operations abroad have in some cases been in cooperation with the hosting countries, while in others, the Turkish operational units simply utilized underhanded methods, drawing strong reactions from those countries. For example, the Mongolian Deputy Foreign Minister Battsetseg Batmunkh denounced the abduction attempt of the Turkish teacher Veysel Akçay on the grounds that “it is an unacceptable act of violation of Mongolia’s sovereignty and independence and Mongolia will strongly object it.” The Turkish Ambassador in Ulaanbaatar would, without a moment to spare, reject any kind of knowledge or involvement in the operation.

Another harsh backlash came from Kosovo after Turkey kidnapped five teachers and a medical doctor who had affiliations with the Gülen movement. Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj fired his interior minister and spy chief for their alleged complicity. Kosovo’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a stern statement in which it said, “the arrest and deportation of the Turkish citizens with a regular residence permit … is … in direct contradiction to international norms.”13 Erdoğan lambasted Kosovo’s PM, who had said the followers of the Gülen movement “were not deported but were stolen,” as if he was talking to one of his underlings or to any Turk who dared to question him, saying Haradinaj would “pay” for what he did. Enver Robelli, a prominent Kosovar journalist, told Al-Monitor about Erdoğan’s unbridled disparagement of the Kosovar PM: “People are irritated that Erdogan attacks the prime minister. Most [local] media [report that] Erdogan behaves as if he were the king of Kosovo.”

Nate Schenkkan from the Washington Post wrote, “The idea that Turkish intelligence would brazenly abduct its citizens from a country with which it has putatively good relations is a shocking offense against both international human rights standards and bilateral norms.”14 Schenkkan elaborated on Turkey’s flagrant “transnational repression.”15 He asserted that Turkey has pursued an aggressive policy to silence its perceived enemies in at least 46 countries.

Additionally, he recounted the allegations that it was abusing the Interpol as a political tool to target its opponents. “Ankara has revoked thousands of passports and achieved the arrest, deportation, or rendition of hundreds of Turkish citizens from at least 16 countries, including many who were under UN protection as asylum seekers. It has successfully pressured at least 20 countries to close or transfer to new owners dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Gülen movement schools,” he wrote.

The regime’s blatant moves against the followers of the Gülen movement have also been registered in detail by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its annual country reports since 2017. The report wrote under the Torture and Ill-Treatment in Custody section in 2017: “Cases of torture and ill-treatment in police custody were widely reported through 2017, especially by individuals detained under the anti-terror law, marking a reverse in long-standing progress, despite the government’s stated zero tolerance for torture policy. There were widespread reports of police beating detainees, subjecting them to prolonged stress positions and threats of rape, threats to lawyers, and interference with medical examinations.”17 The report mentioned the abductions by “unidentified perpetrators believed to be state agents” in at least six cases. The report for 2018 marked the continuation of allegations of torture, ill-treatment, and cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment in police custody and prison and the lack of any meaningful investigation into them as a source of deep concern. Furthermore, it would also lambaste the lack of any effective investigations into these serious assertions by the judiciary.

The same report for the next year recorded only exacerbation in these sources of concern without any sign of progress.19 Different from the previous reports, it would point to a pervasive culture of impunity for members of the security forces and public officials implicated. The report would also criticize in harsh terms Turkey’s barring of the publication of reports on the findings of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) in their two visits to detention places in Turkey. “Turkish authorities continued to seek the extradition of alleged Gülen supporters, many of them teachers, from countries around the world. Countries that complied with Turkey’s requests bypassed legal procedures and judicial review. Those illegally extradited in this way were detained and prosecuted on return to Turkey,” the report asserted.

Confessing Abductions

Despite undeniable evidence that the enforced disappearances were carried out openly or covertly by several state institutions, mainly by the intelligence and the security units, different government representatives and bodies have vehemently rejected accusations in their official statements. Despite that, their deliberate or on-impulse confessions are available even in the sources that are publicly accessible. Although it is universally accepted as a heinous transgression of the basic human rights and is widely shunned, Turkish authorities have interestingly defended abductions of dissidents in Turkey or abroad, not in blurted-out blunders but in deliberately stated confirmations. In the following paragraphs, some examples of such remarks will be highlighted.

Before proceeding with its abductions, Turkey first tried to capture the dissidents through formal mechanisms and within internationally approved norms, such as requesting the extradition of Gülen movement members. But as its demands were turned down in some countries, especially in the democratic world where the supremacy of law is respected, the Turkish government started to use extrajudicial ways like abductions to bring these people back.

Thinly-Veiled Threats by the Politicians

Turkish president Erdoğan has encouraged his loyalists time and again to make life unbearable for Hizmet followers and ordered law enforcement units and intelligence officers to kidnap his critics and punish them, even hinting vaguely of their murders. For instance, in one of his speeches, he said: “Some countries eliminate terrorists whom they consider as a threat to their national security, wherever they are. This means they accept that Turkey has the same right.” He then hinted about his target: “This includes the terrorists they shake hands with and praise. I hope we will have good news for the nation on this matter soon.”

In one of his early statements in September 2016, he would say that “no country or region around the world will ever be a safe haven for FETÖ and its militants.” The Turkish autocrat described the members of the Gülen movement as cancer cells that must be exterminated, leaving no remnants. “Those who fled abroad before or in the murky atmosphere of the coup d’état should never feel safe. … The children of this country should return and tell whatever they know to the relevant authorities. If they don’t, they’ll pay for it. At any rate, we won’t support them as our citizens. … We will take due action wherever they are captured,” he said.

Similar comments would spill from Erdoğan’s mouth during a joint press conference with Kosovar President Hashim Thaçi in Ankara on December 29, 201624: “Our crackdown on them both at home and abroad is underway and will continue to be the case in the future. Wherever they flee, we will be hot on the heels of the leaders and militants of terrorist organizations.”

Former Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ nonchalantly admitted that Ankara’s spy agency “bundled up and brought back” 80 suspects against their will, as part of their global response to so-called threats to Turkey’s security from the Hizmet movement. He also called the capture of Turkish dissident s from Kosovo, which had caused a serious commotion in that country, as “a great success.”

Commenting on the Kosovo abductions on the state-run TRT radio, Erdoğan’s lawyer Hüseyin Aydın also said similar abductions by the Turkish intelligence would continue. The Kosovo operation was not marking any “paradigm shift” for the MİT, and it wasn’t the first of its kind, said Aydın. “Fugitive Gülenists will walk looking behind their backs all the time. The National Intelligence Organization will continue its operations everywhere. After the government’s success at home, there was a need to carry out operations targeting the movement’s overseas network,” he threatened.

Following suit, the other members of the Turkish government, as well as loyal followers of the president, have expressed similar thoughts. There have been repeated calls for kidnapping, killing and torturing of Gülen followers from these circles; nevertheless, even though these are heinous hate crimes, prosecutors simply turn a deaf ear to any such threats if they are leveled against Hizmet members. This is a public craze, an unfathomable intemperance that is hardly tolerated even under actual war conditions. Even warring sides try to avoid atrocities against civilians, especially children, the elderly and women. However, different units of the state and the civilians, chiefly Erdoğan himself and his zealot loyalists, have repeatedly called for abduction and torture, even murder, of any Hizmet member in Turkey or abroad — even if they are elderly or women — and the plunder of their properties.

Erdoğan’s son-in-law even publicly encouraged the AKP zealots to kill Gülen movement followers, saying he would butcher them wherever he sees them without even batting an eyelid.27 While talking to a group of students that were granted scholarships to study abroad, Berat Albayrak said, “This gang of traitors is now pouring their poison and treason in cooperation with a disgusting ‘diaspora network’ all around the world to smear and betray this nation and this religion abroad. … If I were you, I would not have been able to restrain myself, I would have butchered them wherever I saw them. … These fugitives, stateless traitors, live very normal lives,” he added.

Erdoğan’s spokesperson İbrahim Kalın, as he was answering questions from the press on September 21, 2018, said, “Now, look, it may be the US or some other places, other countries in which the FETÖ nested, or some other regions, the operations by our relevant units and institutions in these places will continue uninterrupted. Therefore, they will continue feeling the breath of the state of the Turkish Republic on their necks. No one must ever doubt about this. Of course, I am not able to give you any details as to which countries, here or there, but anything may happen at any place. Let me express that our president has a clear order on this matter and that our units have been conducting professional efforts at the fullest possible extent. There may be operations in other regions, too, similar to the one in Kosovo. The Turkish Republic will not allow FETÖ to inhale a peaceful breath, everyone must know this.”28 The Kosovo operation he was referring to had stirred a huge backlash in the Balkan country as its Prime Minister stepped up to sack the internal minister and the head of the security forces for their negligence, which tainted the country’s sovereignty and made Kosovo seem like an unchecked and unprotected field where the agents of other countries could freely do whatever they want.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on April 4, 2017, “We do not stop chasing after them [Gülen movement participants] at home and abroad. We are breathing down their necks. We won’t give these traitors and dishonorable people room to breathe.”29 He would repeat the same threats over and over again by using the exact same words in a venomous tone as he spoke in Antalya in February 2019: “We are breathing down their necks. We will grab their necks and bring them back to Turkey. We will make the whole world a dungeon for them. We are hot on their heels all across the world. We are closing their associations, schools. We are closing down them all, or we are making them closed down. Lastly, Pakistan Constitutional Court declared them a terror organization.”

In some other incidents, the Turkish authorities revealed their plans to resort to underhanded operations against the members of the Gülen movement. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, for example, asserted on March 2017 that the Turkish state units have plans to whisk away the opposition figures, who had escaped the AKP persecution and sought refuge in Germany as political asylees. “One day, these FETÖ terrorists may be shocked to see where they are located, you know. I’m telling you from here, it is not that easy.”31 In one of the most famous such incidents that also kicked up a row in the US, the US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Mike Flynn allegedly discussed with representatives from the Turkish government a $15-million offer in exchange for delivering Fethullah Gülen to Turkey.32 This single case alone depicts the exorbitant plots the Turkish government has schemed and ventured even in the US, much less the countries with less established democratic institutions. Within its own borders and abroad, the Turkish government will continue to round up and bring in the dissidents to fill its currently-under-construction 228 new prisons.

Threats From Loyalists

Pro-government figures not only from politics but also from the media, also encouraged abduction, torture, and killing of government dissidents in Turkey and abroad. Erdoğan’s former speechwriter Aydın Ünal, for instance, penned threats bluntly against the Hizmet members in his column in a pro-government media outlet. The following quote is taken verbatim from his column in Erdoğan’s Yeni Şafak newspaper: “Certain Fetullahists continuing to live does not serve the interests of neither Gülen nor U.S. intelligence. They should prepare for the extrajudicial organization executions approaching, rather than conduct an operation through the judicial theater.”34 When he wrote these lines, he was also an MP of Erdoğan’s party. He claimed that the Hizmet would do something like this to journalists in exile since their lives would no longer “serve the interests of the movement.” These lines, however, were nothing but providing an early excuse for the MİT’s covert operations to assassinate these dissidents.

Another pro-government journalist, Cem Küçük, made an even direr statement. During a live television program, he insisted Turkish intelligence agencies kill family members of people who were arrested over their (alleged) affiliations with the Gülen movement. He was very critical even about the prosecutors, who had notoriously been very tough on the followers of the Gülen movement, accusing these prosecutors of being excessively lenient. He suggested that instead of asking questions and taking answers in conventional ways, the detained people must be subjected to a variety of tortures during their enforced stays in prisons. One of his suggestions to effectively convince Hizmet members to confess their attributed crimes was to “to hang them out of the window by their legs.”

Unfortunately, the Turkish state is already executing much worse cruelty against the alleged members of the movement. There are innumerable grueling accounts of how Hizmet members are treated in prisons.

The threats that come from Erdoğan’s zealot followers must also be noted. There have been countless physical assaults against members of the Hizmet movement inside Turkey, but there are concrete signs that the acts of intimidation and cannonade are being deliberately organized in other countries as well. For example, some German press outlets reported that AKP MP Metin Külünk was ostensibly providing funds for the Turkish “Ottoman Germania” gangs. There are surveillance camera records showing this politician in contact with the gang members while allegedly giving them money. A ZDF news reported evidence that Ottoman Germania was indeed assigned to carry out attacks on the Turkish dissidents living in the country. A former member of the European Parliament Ozan Ceyhun wrote on social media, “Gülenists in Germany will have many sleepless nights. We owe that to our martyrs.” Likewise, Dursun Baş, the chairman of the German branch of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), addressed two members of Stiftung Dialog und Bildung via Twitter, saying, “How do you dare to go out on the streets? For you, there will be no easy death.”

Sedat Peker, a mafia leader who was released from prison by Erdoğan in 2014, openly threatened dissidents with death but was acquitted by the court without even a slight warning, much less due to punishment. Peker, who was embraced by Erdoğan on many occasions and has very close relations with the youth of Erdoğan’s party, said, “We will force into the jails after hanging all of whomever we catch on the trees, flag poles. We will hang them in the jails as well. We will hang them on the poles from their necks,” and the court accepted these words as nothing more than normal expression of one’s opinions. People quit attending mosques for regular prayers due to the fear of getting assaulted by partisans, and their buildings were stoned or burnt by arson even in major European countries. Turkish businessman Ali Ekrem Kaynak was killed in Amsterdam sometime after he was verbally and physically assaulted by Erdoğan loyalists over his proximity to the Hizmet movement. There have been similar incidents in the US as well.

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TÜRKİYEDEKİ ZULÜMDEN KURTULAN KADINLAR

Bu Çizgiroman Türkiyedeki zulüm altında uzun bir süreç yaşayıp, ülkesini terketmek zorunda kalan kadınları anlatmaktadır.

15 temmuz 2016 tarihli darbe girişiminden sonra binlerce kişi işlerini kaybetti ve hizmet hareketine mensup oldukları gerekçesiyle davalara ve yargılanmalara maruz kaldı. Türkiye’de bu korkunç atmosferde yaşama umudu olmayan binlerce insan, özgürce yaşamak için sınırı geçme ve ölümle yüzleşme riskine girerek ülkeyi terk etmeye çalışıyor. Bu zor ve sert yolculukta hayatını kaybeden insanlar var. Başarabilenler, yeni bir hayat kurmak için diğer, nice zorluklarlada baş edebilmek zorundalar.

Gönüllülük esasıyla hareket eden bir sivil toplum kuruluşu olarak, Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), uluslararasi insan hakları ve demokratik normlar Türkiye Cumhuriyetinin en büyük prensipleri olana dek, susturulmuş Türkiye’nin haklarını savunmayı bir misyon haline getirmiştir.

Bu çizgiroman APH projelerinde derlenen mağdur hikayelerinden esinlenen lise öğrencisi bir mağdur tarafından tasarlanmıştır.

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THE WOMEN WHO SURVIVED THE TURKEY PURGE

A Graphic Novel about the women who survived after the long journey in Turkey’s dictatorial regime.

After the alleged coup attempt of July 15, 2016, thousands of people lost their jobs and were subjected to court trials and proceedings on the grounds that they were Hizmet Movement followers. Hundreds of people, who do not have a hope to survive in this grueling atmosphere in Turkey, are striving to leave the country illegally by venturing into the risk of crossing the border and facing death in order to live freely. There were people who drowned in this difficult and harsh journey.

Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), as a non-governmental organization that runs its activities on a voluntary basis, has made it a mission to champion the rights of Silenced Turkey until universal human rights and democratic governance are established and sustained as the utmost priorities of the Republic of Turkey.

This graphic novel was created by a high school student with inspiration from real stories on the APH project.

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THE ILLUSTRATIONS OF A TEACHER IN PRISON

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WHO AM I?
I was born in 1983, in the city of Zonguldak, Turkey. My mother was a housewife; my father was a retired teacher. We were four siblings, and I was the only male child in the house. Due to my father’s profession, we lived in many different cities and towns and had the opportunity to experience various geographies, places, and people. Though I was never very good at my studies, ever since I was little I always had an interest in the arts, particularly drawing. I don’t remember when I first began to be interested in drawing. When I couldn’t find any paper to draw on, I would go ahead and draw my pictures on the walls of our house. Needless to say, I received a fair share of scolding from my mom on that account. During my high school years, through the encouragement of my art teacher, I enrolled in a painting (drawing) course in the city we lived in. Enrolling in this course naturally paved my way into a great university. After completing my [extended] university education, through the reference from the private school where I completed my internship, I was offered a job in a very nice district/city. (This is, in fact, the place where I hope to settle down one day once I reach my retirement, God-willing.) After working in that position for a year, I had to leave in order to fulfill my mandatory military service. Upon completing my military service, I came back and started prepping for the public employee selection exams. When I couldn’t score enough points to be appointed to a public school, I started working at another private school. Unfortunately, due to some unpleasant situations I came across, I had to leave my job there. I spent the next year preparing for the exams one more time. When I could not again score enough points the second time around, my brother-in-law encouraged me to go to Mardin, a city in southeastern Turkey, where there was a shortage of teachers at a private school there. After working at that school for two years, I met my future wife and we got married. Shortly after I heard about an opening for a teaching position in the city which I had loved dearly but had had to leave years ago. Without wasting any time, I applied for the position. I spent four wonderful years teaching in that city, four wonderful years… after which dark clouds started falling upon us.

WHAT I EXPERIENCED DURING THIS WHOLE ORDEAL

I imagine you are somewhat familiar with what comes next. First of all, our work permits were canceled. When I saw the news on television and learned that a state of emergency had been declared, I did my best to keep calm. I asked my mother-in-law to make us some tea so we could sit and enjoy ourselves and not let this bring our spirits down. My wife ended up crying that evening. I tried to reassure her and told her, “Don’t worry. Even if Allah has blocked one path, He will surely open up another.” Sure enough, after that we worked in many different places, in many different cities. There were times when we were even laughed at and mocked. But never did we ever resort to any embarrassing acts or engage in any disgraceful activities. To this day, I can proudly say that we can hold our heads high and walk with dignity. In any case, the government had already started arbitrarily firing people from their jobs, and some opportunist business owners used that opening to hire these unfortunate victims, paying them less than half the amount of what the job should have paid, not to mention the fact that they were denied any benefits or insurance. I’m talking about people who were just like us. I heard of a teacher that had begun working at a gas station. Some friends of the business owner –who were pro-government–were constantly pressuring him, saying, “What?!! How come he is still working for you? Just fire him!” His answer to their objections was quite meaningful; he had replied, “Find me a guy who is as trustworthy and honest as this one and I will fire this one right away.” As far as I know, that person is still working at that gas station… Before having been taken to prison, I had started working at a publishing house. Since I hadn’t been particularly happy with their work policy, I had left that job. And now after my time in prison, I am working at another publishing house. Thanks and praise be to my dear God, I am among the ones who actually has a job to go to. In a country where more than half of the young population is out looking for work, this is truly a blessing. As I head out to work each morning, I catch myself thinking back to the days I spent locked behind bars. Judging by the surprised looks of the people walking past me on the sidewalk, I’m guessing I probably have a huge smile on my face as my thoughts wander back. I used to be a teacher before all this happened. And not just any teacher… I was a teacher who for nine whole years had gone to every class, every day with the same excitement and enthusiasm as the last!.. Thus, I will use a teacher example to explain the next part of my story. You know when you ask a parent about a teacher– if they happen to know the teacher you are asking about–the first thought to cross their mind will probably be, ”Let’s see, was there anything negative about this teacher?” (Of course, they’ll probably be keeping this thought to themselves.) If they can’t think of anything bad, then they’ll say the teacher was ok and kind of brush that off as an answer. The reason? If you ask me, it’s just how people naturally react, that’s all. The first thought to enter our minds about a person is the bad memories they left us with (if any). When you think back about a previous teacher, the things you remember are whether you experienced anything negative with that teacher or not. Now, coming back to my own story, when people ask me how it was on the “inside,” first of all, a great big smile spreads across my face. Then I remember the jokes, the pranks, the fooling around and the sweet mischief, the chitchats around a pot of tea, our excitement for the “snack bar” day, and our deep conversations that extended well into the night. In all honesty, the bad memories are the ones that I remember the last. Now you ask me, is this normal? I should probably start off with telling you that I, myself, am not your typical, normal guy. I can say that I had already somewhat driven myself out of my mind years ago with all the doodling and drawing and the shaping clay into statues and sculptures and crushing them into tiny bits after taking them from the mold, and whatnot… Or maybe it was because I had no bad memories from the “inside.” The people I was in prison with were all educated people, well-mannered and people of good character. The couple of months I spent with them was not wasted with problems like having to learn to adapt to a new environment or wait until we “clicked” with the others. It felt as though I was staying with childhood buddies that I had known my whole life, arm in arm, hand in hand, lighthearted fun and ruckus all around. There was hardship, though, I cannot deny that. And I try to portray that in my drawings. In fact, you’ll see later on that I had a special wish regarding this matter, during the time I was in prison (which may surprise you a bit). The coup attempt that took place in the country was a kind of revolution that had completely different effects on the people going about their lives outside and on those of us who were locked “inside.” We had now become “the other.” People who knew us, who knew who and what we were, would not even walk on the same side of the street with us anymore, they would change their paths once they saw us coming. I didn’t let this become a concern of mine. My own father was among the first to be taken into custody during the initial operations carried out in the city of Konya. I cannot forget the day he was taken away. They just showed up at our house early one morning and took him away before we even had a chance to understand what was going on. God bless them, at least they were considerate about it; they did not shout about or throw insults like the stories we had heard of others. I spent some time looking for work here and there. Naturally, almost every door I went to closed upon me. In fact, during one of my interviews, the man who would be hiring me openly said it to my face: ”Brother, I’ll be honest with you, you are just the guy I am looking for, but if I go ahead and hire you I’ll be getting myself into trouble.” We had to go back to the town where I last worked so we could gather up our belongings and leave, and while we were there, one of our neighbors decided to report us to the police. They came straight away, and I spent that evening in custody. I cannot erase the image I have in my mind of my mother with her teary eyes. First my father, and now me… The next day I was released under judicial control. A couple of days later we changed our official address and settled down in our second hometown. Meanwhile, both my father-in-law and brother in-law were also arrested. They needed someone to look after their business and take care of things on their farm. And so, even though I knew nothing about working the soil, I found myself atop a tractor harvesting carrots on thousands of acres of land just so I could help them out somehow. Though it was difficult at first, I found that in time I grew to like it. After my brother-in-law was released and he could take over and the workload eased up a bit, I could look for jobs in my own field of work. Upon returning to Konya, after doing some odd jobs here and there, I finally started working at a printing center. Meanwhile, my father was transferred to the Alanya prison. Every once in a while I would go and visit during open visitation, but it was my mother who mostly went to the visits because of the distance and expenses involved. Someone I used to work for, and who I loved and respected dearly, vouched for me and I started working at a publishing house after the Ramadan Eid festival were over. Yes, I was working now, but only a month into it and it was time for the court hearings. The hearings took three days. I went in all three days, and I sat and listened. On the second day, before the court adjourned for the day’s lunch break, the judge turned to me and said, “Yes, let’s listen to what you have to say also.” He had the SEGBIS (Sound and Video Information System) closed down. I spoke about my work history. There was no record regarding a report filed in my name, or my name being mentioned anywhere specific, etc… Everything was running smoothly, then the judge spoke again, “Look, our own children were educated in these institutions as well,” and the prosecutor’s head bobbed slowly up and down as if affirming what the judge had just said. Then he asked me the question, “Do you think they were the ones to carry out this coup?” I knew this was a trick question, but still I fell into their trap. Rather, I should say, there were some possible answers I could have given, but I just couldn’t. (It was like Allah did not allow me to say it, I’m guessing that there is some kind of divine wisdom behind my being taken in.) My answer was (as recorded in the official report), “I do not believe that the individuals I worked with in these institutions were members of a [terrorist] organization. In fact, I do not believe they had any relations with either the December 17/25 operations or the coup attempt which took place on July 15, 2016. I am among those individuals who believe that the members of this [social] structure have not committed the act of staging a coup. I see Fethullah Gulen as a leader with a specific religious vision/perspective. I do not believe that he has engaged in any activities which aim to disintegrate any government or state. I have never been a witness to any testimonies delivered by himself to that effect. I believe that the events which took place on July 15, 2016 were forged and were false actions. I am among those who believe that such a coup was merely a stage act.” The court room was dead silent– no sound, no movement at all. The judge spoke to me, “You do understand that this is the high criminal court, you may very well be arrested.” I do not remember anything I said from that point onward. For the first time in my life, my blood sugar levels plummeted, and I felt a dizziness in my head. I held on to the railing in front of me to keep my balance. As I was about to collapse onto the floor, I lowered myself down and just sat on the floor. I asked for some water. The court clerk looked at me, eyes wide open as if to say, “What on earth did you just do!” The judge ordered the clerk to take a record of what I had said, the most significant parts at least, and said to me,”You will come back for the hearings this afternoon, and the ones tomorrow. If you fail to come on your own, I will see to it that the police make sure you come here.” “I understand your honor,” I replied. My mind was telling me right then and there that I would be arrested for sure. When I made it home at the end of the day, I told my wife all that had happened throughout the day. The next day’s hearing was a very short one. The interim decision was announced right away. I was under arrest. My first encounter was with the handcuffs. What we saw only in movies and on television had become the reality of our own lives now. As I was being taken to the hospital for the routine check-up, with permission from the police I called up my wife to inform her of what was going on. She couldn’t say anything except shed tears on the other end of the line. I don’t know whether it was from the shock of it all or just me trying to keep my calm, but there were no tears or any sense of sorrow on my end. I was finally taken to the prison. After taking my information down, the guardians casually conversed on which ward to send me to, displaying such levity as if they were playing the lottery or some other game. When I heard B11, I was all ears since my father had also been kept in that same ward. I entered the ward and looked around hoping to see a familiar face when right before me stood the general director of the institution that I had been working for. “What are you doing here?” he asked me. I told him the whole story. I admit, I did cry a little bit then. “Are you hungry, let’s fix you something to eat,” they offered right away. As I ate, all my fellow “inmates” came over to say sorry for what had happened, asked my name and started up conversations to welcome me in. I stayed in that ward for about two weeks. Even the district governor from our hometown was there. From professors in the university to former police officers, people were there from all walks of life. I don’t remember the exact date, but on one of the weekends we even had a “çiğ köfte” (traditional dish made with crushed wheat, tomato paste, herbs and spices, usually eaten as comfort food) party. We bought the supplies from the snack bar. One of our friends in the ward “kneaded” the delicacy. We prepared the “ayran” (traditional yogurt drink) and spread out our blankets in the courtyard. We ate and had a good time, we even enjoyed our tea afterwards. It was a truly extraordinary day spent in an extraordinary location. Towards the end, some friends grew so enthusiastic that they even started singing marches from Ottoman times (the Plevne march). I guess the prison guards were listening to us from the top floor because the guards immediately rushed over and shut the doors. The next day we received a written notice. Because of the march sung the day before, an investigation file was being opened on our ward. It was obvious that things were going to turn sour. A few days later the whole ward was dispersed, and everyone was sent somewhere else. We gathered in the courtyard and said our goodbyes. I cried a lot, it was a heartbreaking separation. I was sent to ward C7 with two other retired police officers. I stayed there for six weeks. It was about a quarter the size of the previous ward- -a small, tiny ward– but it was all the more sincere and warm. Like all the other wards, it was filled with educated gentlemen. From the morning until the afternoon, prayers books were read and conversations circled around the material that was read. When the afternoon prayer time rolled around, those of us who felt young gathered up and played some volleyball in the courtyard. I spent the Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) in that ward. It was an Eid that I will never forget and will always cherish. Among my fellow inmates was a former student’s parent and a doctor who had previously stayed in the same ward with my father. A project being drawn up by the Ministry of Justice was revealed. They were planning to mix inmates like us together with criminals of petty offenses. They had chosen Konya to be the pilot prison to try out this new plan, but their plan did not operate like they had intended. So, one Tuesday morning, I was taken back to my old ward once again. This time around, the number of inmates had increased, the faces had changed, even the atmosphere felt a bit different. It didn’t feel as comfortable as it used to be. Because it was more crowded now, everything from sleeping arrangements to the long bathroom lines, felt like a big issue now. Thank God, though, despite everything, days were going by quickly, with no fights or any uproars. A couple weeks later, the Konya “Çatı” file (in which many individuals were being tried for the same crime) hearings started. Some of the inmates in our ward were also being taken to the court as part of these hearings. One day, as we were waiting for our friends to come back from the hearings, someone had slid open the window opening on the ward door, asking for me. I had been outside in the courtyard while this was happening, and I rushed to the door when they said my father was calling for me. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It had been months since I had last seen my father, and now he was standing right across from me. I held his hand so tightly, and we talked for a bit. He looked around at my ward and greeted some of the familiar faces he saw, and then all of a sudden they shut the window. It turns out they had secretly opened the window when waiting in the corridor. His friends had kept watch and covered for him. (I tried to illustrate this in the drawing No.24) This was bound to happen when his petition to have us stay in the same ward was turned down. When his petitions were left unanswered, he asked to meet in person with the director, and at last they were able to come to an agreement. One Friday, shortly after the noontime prayers (by the way, because our activities were always centered around the prayer times, when speaking about the time, the vocabulary naturally turned to expressions such as “after this prayer,” “before that prayer,” etc..) as I was reading from the Qur’an, the doors opened. There, standing at the door was my father, holding his belongings. I yelled out, “Father!” and reached towards him as he stepped inside. I learned later that when I cried out like that, one of my fellow inmates started crying because he hadn’t seen his own father for months. It was heartbreaking to hear. Yet, happily for us, we had been united, father and son in the same ward. The last month passed by very quickly. Meanwhile, on the one hand, I was drawing my sketches of what life was like behind bars. On the other hand, I was getting ready for my court hearing. There was an inmate friend who had been a court clerk. I would consult with him, and we would exchange ideas on how I should go about my defense. All the while, my inmate friends would bring over pictures of their spouses, children, mothers and fathers, asking me to transform the pictures into a drawing for them. I did not want to break any of their hearts, so I would take them and work on them as well. On one of those days, I remember I had worked on five different pictures, one after the other, no break. Why they all waited until my last week there beats me! On Saturday, my group was on night duty; on Sunday, I was part of the cleaning crew. I was so beat that the “big brother” of the ward (when I say “big brother” don’t imagine the kind you see in the movies who racketeers money from the other inmates; he was truly a guy who looked out for us and took care of our needs.) felt sorry for me and backed me up saying, ”Why are you guys working this poor kid so much, ease up on him. He’s being released tomorrow!” Monday afternoon I appeared at the court hearing and returned back to the ward towards the evening, a little after the nightly roll-call. Everyone’s eyes were wide open, staring at me with questioning eyes. “RELEASE!” I yelled out and an excited uproar broke out. We celebrated with whistles and applause and congratulations all around. I told everyone how it all went down. After the nightly prayer, I said my goodbyes and left for home. I must have been the only inmate who found it so hard to leave their prison ward, because it also meant I was being separated from my father–again. As I stepped out, I turned and said, “See you Wednesday.” Some of them looked at me with a puzzled expression, but then it hit them that it was open visitation on Wednesday! I would be coming to see my father, as a visitor this time!

WHY I DREW THESE PICTURES

The year I started my university education, I considered dropping out, and on not just one, but three separate occasions. In fact, on my third attempt, I even made it as far as the door of the Student Affairs office (and turned back around, of course). It was an environment that I just couldn’t get used to. I felt like I was in a completely different world. People were so relaxed, so occupied with themselves, not stopping to look around at other people and just going about their own (selfish) lives. As for the professors, they were on a whole different planet, so to speak. I felt like I was a foreign student from a faraway land. As I was about to open the door of the Student Affairs office, a thought hit me, just like that, “If I came all the way here, somehow, some way, then there must be a reason for it.” And at that moment, I decided against leaving. If I had dropped out of school, I would never have become a teacher; if I hadn’t become a teacher, my work permit would never have been canceled for such an arbitrary reason, I would never have had a criminal case opened in my name, I would never have been locked up behind bars, I would never have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people in prison, never have had the memories which I portray in my drawings to share with you… The first thought that came to my mind after I was put in prison was, “Well, I finally get to have a vacation.” One of my inmate friends who was an assistant professor in the field of physics (I keep referring back to the people I met in prison. I can’t help it, because they are all such special and precious individuals whom I cherish. I had always heard about how the friendships formed in the military and in prison were unforgettable, now I know by experience.) said to me, “Brother, I never had a chance to get a tattoo when I was outside, would you draw a dragon tattoo on my shoulder?” I couldn’t say no to such a wish, so I drew one, using a pen. A few days later, a group of friends chatting in the courtyard caught my attention, and I was moved to make a drawing of them (note picture No.18). In fact, one of my friends in the prison wanted to keep the drawing as a memory, so I gifted it to him. A colleague of mine, who had also been my director and who had first welcomed me into the ward, saw the work I did and said to me, “If you ask me, you should draw all that you can to portray what it is like in here, show them in your drawings. A day will come when justice will be sought in the courts. Just as there was a way into all of this, there will be a way out.. When that day comes, everyone should be able to see what we went through.” Upon his advice, I started observing all the activities going on about me more intently, such as the roll-call in the ward, the bathroom line, the “snack bar” day, open visitations, what the ward looked like on a regular day, etc..and I stored everything in my memory. I even felt the need to apologize to my wife one evening. “What are you apologizing for?” she asked me. “I didn’t pay much attention to you during visitation,” I replied. “I was busy observing all that was going on around us so I could store them in my memory and get it down in my drawings.” I drew all that I could find time for while I was still “inside” and the rest of the drawings, I completed after my release. Whenever some friends ask me whether there’s anything new, I give a vague answer and say, “I’m working on it…” Months ago, when I did share a couple of my drawings, they somehow got passed back and forth among friends wanting to share with their close ones, and all of a sudden I had become an anonymous artist on social media. Whenever I started working on anything new, my inmate friends would joke around, saying, “Don’t forget to draw me too bro!” and would always support me. One of my friends in ward C7 said to me, “Brother, whatever you see here, try and carry it all as best you can onto your drawings. We try and do the best we can to pour out our hearts, to write down our memories, our poems, our homesickness and our experiences as best we can, but what you can express through your drawings can only be expressed through pages and pages of writing and still not be as effective.” (The person saying this to me was a professor who had authored the only book written in his own specific field of study.) When I had returned to my previous ward and got to meet new people and form new friendships, I had the opportunity to get to know them and listen to their stories as well. When I told them about my interest in drawing, the first thing they would ask me would be, “Brother, have you drawn pictures about our life here?” and I would rush and bring my drawings to show them. They would admire the drawings and grow emotional. One of them even said, “I keep telling my wife about how we even wash dishes and do laundry and clean and mop, but she blows me off telling me not to exaggerate. If I showed her this, she certainly wouldn’t be so cynical anymore.” The smile that would appear on the faces of those looking at the drawings, it was truly something invaluable, priceless; it meant more to me than the wealth of the worlds. A brother who looked at the pictures said, “Brother, you truly have found your calling here.” I was walking on clouds that day. I was so filled with joy– it felt like I was literally flying. I went to bed late that night. I stayed up, working on my drawings. I thought to myself, “I wish I could change wards every week and be able to draw the uniqueness being experienced in each one of them.” With these thoughts running through my head, I have tried to take notes of all the moments and memories I stored in my heart and mind. Unfortunately, there were some drawings that I could not finish to include in this book. I hope and pray that I have been able to duly portray the atmosphere we all experienced on the “inside.” I thank God that He put me in there. I got to experience unforgettable memories, and I got to know unforgettable people while I was in there. And I was blessed to experience some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted in my life, like the menemen (traditional breakfast dish made with eggs, tomatoes, and peppers) our friends had prepared for us on the semaver (traditional tea pot) during our Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) celebratory breakfast.

If I were a swallow flapping
his winds at the setting sun,

If I ripped out the pages
of my life and started anew

If swung my prayer beads through every
inch of the concrete courtyard I walked
on, while saying a prayer for each new
day, hoping this would end one day

If I raised my hands a bit higher each day,
for you, and my family, and your children

If I begged and pleaded as
my hands touched the ceiling of
the ward, would you, o brother, give me
a handful of your freedom?

I raise my hands up
to my Lord, and I pray,

Please don’t silence this
melody before its day.

These tribulations
shall surely be no more,

As the whole world
will witness one day..

 

 

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SYSTEMATIC TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT IN TURKEY

Aftermath of the Coup Attempt of 15 July 2016

In Turkey, especially after the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, there have been mass arrests and detentions. Suleyman Soylu, Minister for Internal Affairs, has stated that 511,000 individuals have been taken into custody as of March 2019, on the grounds of their relationship with the Gulen Movement. Up until today, more than 100,000 individuals have been jailed. It has been confirmed that prisoners and detainees have been under systematic torture and ill-treatment, more severely during the state of emergency. Some of the cases are documented and reported by local and national human rights organizations, related videos and photos of some cases have received wide media coverage; and some cases have come to light by means of the statements of victims during the ongoing trials, which are consistent with their medical reports.

According to the research conducted by the AST, 93 prisoners have lost their lives due to torture, ill-treatment, and negligence. Moreover, another 11 individuals have lost their lives during the arrest procedure and interrogation under torture. AST has recorded all these cases in this report and put 10 cases under the scope by including the evidence of torture.

GOKHAN ACIKKOLLU DIED AFTER 13 DAYS OF TORTURE IN POLICE CUSTODY

Gokhan Acikkollu, a teacher, after he was taken into custody with the accusation of attempting a coup and due to his relationship with the Gulen Movement, died in İstanbul Police Headquarters on August 5, 2016, after 13 days of torture. During the routine health controls, teacher Gokhan Acikkollu managed to record what he has lived through, day by day. He made sure that the photos of the torture marks were taken. Reports of the forensic medicine experts confirmed that his death was due to torture. During doctor visits, Acikkollu had stated that he was afraid of dying, that his head was smashed against walls, kicked while down on the floor, slapped and punched hundreds of times, and that he was feeling a never-ending pain in ribs. The autopsy made after his death detected a fracture in his rib and beating marks.

This report has the torture testimonies of the teacher’s prison mates and the forensic medicine expert. Public prosecution office, before conducting any investigation,  declared that police were not negligent in his death. After the reports of the human rights organizations and upon the appeal of his family, the prosecution office had initiated an investigation. However, the statements of the witnesses were not taken; the entire video footage in the İstanbul Police Headquarters Counter-Terrorism Branch, the place of death, were not examined, and finally, the case was closed, noting that there was no need to file a lawsuit. The court found the raised objection justified and ordered an investigation to be opened; however, the prosecution office has not taken any action yet.

Other than the ones detected in the official detention centers and prisons, more severe and long-dated crimes of torture have been identified, which are committed in the illegal interrogation centers by the public officials of the government. In our report, four torture victims, who were abducted by MIT, narrate the months-long inhuman treatment in the secret and illegal detention centers.

A.G. (whose name is being withheld by the reporter for security reasons) who was abducted to the MIT Yenimahalle campus, putting sack over his head and beating him, has explained how he was strapped to a strappado while being subjected to electric shock, and beaten with whips, sticks, and batons; he further told about the rape attempts. A.G., who has stayed in a dark cell of 4.5 m2 for several weeks, indicated that, especially during the first 20 days, he was actively exposed to similar physical torture methods every single day. A.G., who was accused of being a member of the Gulen Movement, has explained that he was kept hungry and thirsty, and he was inflicted on psychological torture methods such as swearing, insulting, and threatening with his family members.

“A CASE OF INTESTINAL TEAR DUE  PLACING A BATON INSIDE THE RECTUM”

A.G. has stated that several individuals in the torture center had intestinal tear due placing baton inside the victim’s rectum, forcing to sit on an artificial penis; he has further stated that they had attempted to rape him several times. A.G. told that in his cell, he was constantly hearing the screams of the other torture victims and the laughter of the torturers; according to A.G., a typical torture session continued an average of 4-5 hours. He had further stated that in every cell, security, cameras were installed, and they were deprived of sleep by being exposed continuously to directives.

He claimed that an official from the Office of the Presidency came to the interrogation center and was briefed by the torturers. A.G. further stated that he was asked to be an informant inside the Gulen Movement, to sign the previously prepared statements, and to work for MIT.

Ayten Ozturk is a 44-year old woman who was abducted by MIT. During the court hearing of the lawsuit in which she was accused of being a member of the DHKP-C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front Turkish: Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Partisi-Cephesi), she has stated that she was tortured for six months long. She told that she was taken into custody by the Lebanese Police in the airport and turned over to the MIT, then brought to Turkey in a private plane, blindfolded, her mouth taped, handcuffed behind her back. Ozturk stated that she was continuously tortured from March 13, 2018, until August 28, 2018. She stated that she was brought to the interrogation center, which was only around 15 steps away from where the plane landed, that she was taken off all clothes, was dragged on the floor, and put in a padded cell.

ELECTRIC SHOCK, BEATING, ATTEMPTED RAPE

Ozturk stated that during the interrogation, she was exposed to following torture methods: Forced to stand naked in front of the torturers, sexually violated with batons, waterboarding, force-feeding, burning her fingers, keeping her in a coffin-like box, strappado torture, and many more. According to her statements in the court trial, she was especially exposed to different methods of torture during her menstrual periods. She was kept in a cell for 25 days, being handcuffed behind her back, blindfolded, and a sack being put over her head. She was exposed to force-feeding and was forced to drink large quantities of water while she was brought to the restroom. After 25 days, she got worse and was brought to the infirmary; since her eyes were kept closed during that period, her eyelids could hardly be opened using a liquid. She could only see the eyes of the individuals who were treating her because they were wearing snow masks. After treatment, the torture went on. She states that her entire body was full of wounds, that they had covered her body with a type of gel, that she was constantly exposed to profanity and harassment.

She stated that she was hung from her arms to the wall and force-fed, her hands and fingers were subjected to electric shock, and a hard-plastic tube passed through her mouth in order to force-feed liquid nutritional supplement. Some of the statements of Ozturk in the court trial are as follows: “It was impossible to move around inside the coffin-like box. And while in the cell, now and then, they were opening the door, beating me up, threatening, and cursing. My mouth and nose were drenched in blood; my entire face was swollen and bloodied, having black eyes. My little fingers and big toes were subjected to electric shock. They were attaching a metal ring on my fingers and using a remote controller to give an electric shock. I had lost consciousness a few times and could not get up.

 When they had a break from giving an electric shock, they were keeping me on strappado and abusing my body with their fingers, sticks, and batons. They were trying to insert the baton into my genitalia and performing every other perverseness. They were threatening to rape me with a thick baton. My feet were swollen from standing for a long time, and they were yet hitting my feet with sticks and batons. They put a sharp object under the nails of my three fingers and burned my little finger. The wound in my finger and the infection under my nails did not recover for months. Sometimes they were hanging me upside down and hitting my feet. When I was collapsing and feeling nauseated, they were lowering me down and using different methods of torture. They were letting me sit inside a tire and attempting to rape me with a baton. They were increasing the intensity of the torture, especially during my menstrual periods, and they were depriving me from sleep”.

“TORTURE CONTINUED AFTER-TREATMENT”

Ozturk stated that she has figured out that all of the 7-8 individuals in the adjacent cells were men just because she heard their screams and crying during torture. She stated that her body collapsed several times, she was treated by a special team, and then the torture has continued. According to her statement, the torturers told her: “We’ll treat you and then continue with torture sessions. This will go on just like that. There is no end. This is hell. You have no way out. We know everything about human anatomy. We are professionals. You won’t die, but you will beg to die. If ever you get out, you will be mentally ill”.

She stated that after six months, she was delivered to the police, and she was then officially arrested by police as if she was just caught ordinarily.

Ozturk is still in prison, and she is saying that she has serious health problems due to the torture she was exposed to, and she maintains her life only with the help of her cellmates. She states that her cellmates found 898 wounds and scars of torture all over her body.

İ.S., who is accused of being a member of the Gulen Movement and whose case is discussed in detail in this report, stated that he was exposed to torture in the same place for 7.5 months. Another individual, Zabit Kisi, states that he was tortured in the same place for 108 days. İ.S was exposed to similar torture methods described above and lost 30 kilograms; when he was released, even his wife couldn’t recognize him. İ.S states that the torturers told him that they were receiving money from the government in order to kill and torture. While İ.S was talking about the torture sessions, his voice was trembling, and he was occasionally crying; he had not fully recovered from the trauma. Zabit Kisi talked in detail about the inhuman treatment of rotating teams. He stated that his penis was bleeding for days due to beating, his fingers were smashed, his ribs were fractured and cracked, he was harassed, exposed to electric shock, and that they had injected a drug into his body. They had told him that they would kill him by injecting drugs and then tell the authorities that he died due to heart attack.

DECLARING AS TERRORISTS WITHOUT ANY TRIAL

According to hearings recorded on the TBMM books, reports of the human rights associations and statements of the families, 28 individuals were abducted and exposed to similar torture. It is unknown whether 6 of these individuals are still alive and, if so, where they are. Almost all of the individuals who were abducted were asked to work as informants and to sign the prepared statements when they were delivered to the police.

Recently some government officials who were working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara and arrested on allegations of their links to the Gulen Movement were exposed to systematic torture in the official interrogation centers. Ankara Bar Association found evidence of torture and included them in its report, which is compiled as a result of the investigations based on the statements of the victims. While those government officials were arrested and before even they gave their statements, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu declared these officials as “FETO” terrorists, completely ignoring the presumption of innocence. Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, one of the HDP members of the Parliament, stated that 100 individuals were exposed to different torture methods, including rape with a baton. After the report of the Ankara Bar Association about the torture, it has been asked for the officials who are responsible for the torture to be put on trial and to be suspended from their jobs, however until today; no action has been taken about it.

NO INVESTIGATION ABOUT TORTURING KURDISH PEOPLE

After July 15, it has been observed that the intensity of torture and ill-treatment has increased in the areas densely populated by Kurds. Three teenagers aged 14, 16, and 17 who were detained by police on suspicion that they were to protest on behalf of PKK, have obtained a health report from Van Training and Research Hospital and provided evidence that they were tortured in the police station. The teenagers explained to the president of the Van Bar Association Zulkuf Ucar how they were severely beaten and their heads put inside the toilet. Zulkuf Ucar then filed a criminal complaint against the police officers; however, no action has been taken.

Again in the city of Van, after an assault against police, three villagers were detained in a rural area, and they were severely tortured. The photo images of beatings were released to the public via social media accounts by the police officers themselves. The Office of the Governor in Van, which is the highest-ranked administrative office in the city, has released a note to the public stating that “3 terrorists were captured alive” before the statements of those individuals were taken and while the investigation about them was still going on. Moreover, the Office of the Governor also stated that those three individuals had confessed their crimes. Later it has been understood that those villagers, ages 35, 50, and 53 were walking in that rural area just with the purpose of picking wild mushrooms; hence they were released. Despite the pictures showing their bodies drenched in blood, no legal action has been taken against officials who tortured them.

The Government of the Republic of Turkey is responsible for the arrested or convicted individuals’ mind and body health and life safety. There are so many seriously ill, disabled, old, and pregnant individuals in prisons, arrested or convicted. The prisoners whose punishment should be postponed due to their conditions, according to the law, are being kept in jail despite their health reports. In many prisons, deaths, injuries, and disabilities occurred due to torture, ill-treatment, and negligence. This report records that 93 individuals have lost their lives due to torture, ill-treatment, and negligence.

SYSTEMATIC TORTURE GOES ON

During the state of emergency, the maximum period of detention without charge was increased to 30 days; during that period especially the military personnel was exposed to severe torture; their photo images were released to the public by the state official media outlets, such as TRT and Anadolu Agency, and some other pro-AKP government media outlets without any hesitation. Many deaths and injuries have been reported during the detention period. Although the state of emergency has ended, systematic torture of the detainees still goes on in the detention centers. UN and European Union commissions keep criticizing and warning Turkey and recommending to improve democracy and human rights at once. Local and national human rights organizations continue to document and report the cases of torture and the stories of the victims. The new cases of torture victims that AST has recently discovered and reported show that systematic torture and ill-treatment continue without slowing down.

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Valizdeki Bebek

Kimi zaman valizde … konforsuz belki… her şeyden habersiz, bir bebek sessizliğiyle sınırları aşmak zorundayız. “ Dünya benim evimdir” diyebilmek için…
Rana hanım’a da yağmurlu, Karlı yollarda sert rüzgara karşı yürüyeceği bir sahnede rol verilmiş. Anne olmanın, kadın olmanın, eş olmanın verdiği bir güç ile bu sahnenin hakkını vermiş ve şimdi yeniden başka “ bilinmezleri” aydınlatmak için çetin bir yolculuğa daha başlamış…

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Desperate Journey

The story of Ms. Idil and her children is a story of patience, of submission, of struggle and trust, alongside anger, disappointment and indecision, a story of fear and tears. When you know that the story is anything but fiction, the way you look at your surroundings, the way you behold people and objects is transformed. As you look once more at the blessings you have, and you witness, or listen to the struggle of others who are striving to hold on to those same things, you are awakened with the reality that these are not merely words being expressed. Things such as freedom, and family, and a calling so great that you are willing to devote your whole being to it…..

They are among the thousands who fled from the persecution and witch hunt in Turkey to find the right place to enjoy their freedom.

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PRESS RELEASE: The so-called coup attempt july 15 serves as a justification for the complete conversion of a country’s administrative system and persecution of hundreds of thousands in Turkey.

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The so-called coup attempt July 15 serves as a justification for the complete conversion of a country’s administrative system and persecution of hundreds of thousands in Turkey.

On July 15, 2016 Turkey witnessed an attempted but failed military coup against Erdoğan government. During this horrific uprising, hundreds of people were killed and thousands of others were injured. Right after the coup attempt, the Turkish government has taken a wave of oppressive actions against not only the alleged coup plotters but also those that are perceived as critics of the regime. With that, the country’s political spectrum has been completely changed. Amid massive crackdown on media outlets and hundreds of thousands of the dissidents, President Erdoğan further consolidated his power with a controversial referendum in 2017 that changed the country from a parliamentary democracy into one-man rule. Being seen a setback from the rule of law, the new presidential system deepened concerns on human rights.

Marking a monumental turning point in Turkey’s history, the uprising has not been thoroughly investigated. Questioning the government’s narrative has caused many to imprisonment. The leaked details fueled the suspicions on the government’s narrative thus diminished its credibility. The narrative along with the massive crackdown on the dissident groups and Erdoğan’s consolidation of power faced heavy criticism from almost all quarters of the democratic world. In fact, a former representative of the European Parliament and well-known politician Andrew Duff defined it as “quick and relentless so-called coup”. The present report of Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) provides an overview of controversies and dark points on the “so-called coup” along with the human right concerns during the ongoing post-coup crackdown on the Turkey’s dissident groups.

Some of the highlights from the report are:

  • A coup with no plan of action: Every coup has a certain plan of action, yet no official document has been presented so far for the July 15 coup attempt or the list of individuals involved with the Yurtta Sulh Council that has allegedly masterminded the coup.
  • A “blessing from God”: Right after the coup attempt, Erdoğan described the incident as a “blessing from God”, implying that he had finally found the opportunity to carry out the purge on his dissidents.
  • Step by step towards a presidential regime: Within less than a year, a referendum for constitutional change was held and the new Turkish-style presidential system was put into effect. Following this, Erdogan became the first president of the new regime through early elections.
  • A coup notice from TSK to MIT: Osman Karacan, a major in TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) went to the MIT (National Intelligence Organization) headquarters on July 15 at 2:20pm to give notice about the planned coup. Yet, no real precautions were taken to prevent or suppress the coup until 10.00pm.
  • Chief of MIT and Chief of Defense are still in office: Chief of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Hakan Fidan, Chief of Defense Hulusi Akar and 2nd Chief of Defense Yaşar Güler reportedly held a series of meetings following the notice at 2:20pm on the planned coup but did not notify President Erdoğan until 7:00pm, yet they kept their office.
  • The conflicting explanations from Erdogan regarding time of coup: When speaking to national and international media, Erdoğan stated contradicting times with regards to the time when he was informed of the planned coup.
  • The “controlled coup”: Turkey’s main opposition party (CHP) described what happened on the July 15 as “controlled coup”.
  • Planes on standby for escape: It is discovered that 4 different airplanes at 4 different locations were arranged for Erdoğan to be on standby that night, implying Erdoğan’s possible knowledge of the planned coup attempt.
  • Secret meetings a day before the coup: It is revealed that Akar, Chief of Defense, and Fidan, Chief of MIT (National Intelligence Organization), held a one-on-one confidential meeting that lasted four hours, a day before the coup.
  • “I received the orders to reinforce the Chief of Defense Forces from Zekai Aksakallı”: Colonel Fırat Akkuş stated this during the court hearing, bringing into question the role of Special Forces Commander Zekai Aksakallı in the coup.
  • Erdoğan did not allow an investigation: The Turkish Grand National Assembly’s July 15 Investigation Commission wanted to listen to the testimonies of Chief of Defense Hulusi Akar and MIT Chief Hakan Fidan. However, President Erdoğan did not allow either of the names to appear in front of the commission.
  • “Let an international commission investigate the coup and we will accept its findings”: The proposal of Fetullah Gülen who was blamed for masterminding the coup attempt is not accepted by the Turkish government.
  • Events not yet taken place written into the July 15 Official Report, how did that happen? It was revealed that the official report for July 15 prepared by Serdar Coşkun, the Constitutional Order Attorney General of the time, contained written reports of events that would take place at a later date written as though they had taken place at the time of the written record.
  • Purge lists prepared early on: Attorney General Serdar Coşkun admitted that the first cases of individuals being taken into custody and being arrested on July 16 were carried out based on the official report of the events. However, 3,000 judges and prosecutors were arrested on July 16 based on coup involvement although there is no evidence to support the allegations.
  • A project I disliked is July 15: When Binali Yıldırım, the PM of the time, was asked by a group of journalists if there were any projects that he felt a bit too demanding, his reply, in a sarcastic tone, was “Well, July 15 was a project I did not like at all.”

We urge;

  • international organizations to establish an independent commission to investigate and clarify the infamous July 15 coup attempt in Turkey,
  • international bodies to examine politically motivated coup charges in order to end the purge and grave human rights violations that are affecting millions of innocent lives justified through this controversial coup attempt,
  • the Turkish government to end arbitrary detentions, to find the perpetrators of enforced disappearances and bring them to justice, to reinstate the unlawfully dismissed public sector workers and to ensure the rule of law in Turkey.

 

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So-Called Coup Attempt, July 15th

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THE SO-CALLED COUP

THAT SERVES AS A JUSTIFICATION FOR THE COMPLETE CONVERSION OF

A COUNTRY’S ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM

AS WELL AS A JUSTIFICATION FOR THE VICTIMIZATION OF HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS

  1. The date of July 15, 2016, has become, without a doubt, one of the most significant turning points in the history of the Republic of Turkey and thus calls for extensive discourse and deliberation. July 15 is truly such a bizarre incident, one that has been personally described by the alleged July 15 victim (!) President and General Director of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as being a “blessing from God”; one bizarre incident that has been used as justification—by way of taking  advantage of the atmosphere of coup and terror—to establish a one-man regime by seizing control of all democratic institutions including the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the government, and the judicial system; one truly bizarre incident of which the clearing of speculations surrounding it has been hindered by its “victim” (!) himself. Despite the fact that many questions wait to be answered surrounding this ominous incident that has cost hundreds of thousands of people their homes and their jobs, tens of thousands of people their freedom and hundreds of people their very lives, an incident that has been used as a justification to completely transform the administrative system of an entire country, the beginning of a period of oppression and tyranny that has continued for years on end, and the fact that these sought out answers continue to be covered up persistently, this project has been put together and presented for your consideration, bearing the thoughts that finding and presenting the contradictions and oddities that have surfaced will be beneficial in both understanding the truth behind July 15 as well as recording it as history. Hoping that the dark clouds and curtains of fog be lifted as soon as possible and that the victimizations being carried out under the excuse of July 15 finally come to an end.
    • A Coup With No Plan of Action

     

  2. Every coup has a certain plan of action, yet so far no official document has been presented as to the plan of action regarding the July 15 coup attempt or the list of individuals involved with the Yurtta Sulh (Peace in the Fatherland) Council, which has been alleged to have masterminded the coup. In order for a coup to be successful, the following needs to be specified; the plan of action, the team of individuals who will carry out the plan of action, and the chain of command by which the plan will be executed. However, in the case of July 15, none of these are present.https://stockholmcf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/15_July_Erdogans_Coup_13.07.2017.pdf (p. 11)
    • “Blessing From God”

     

  3. On the night of July 15, after the coup attempt had been suppressed, Erdogan described the incident as a “blessing from God.” He was implying that he had found the opportunity to carry out the purge which he had been wanting to carry out but was unable to on account of the law. Through a purge operation which was initiated the very next morning, tens of thousands of people were arrested. Over 100,000 civil service employees and public servants were dismissed from their jobs.http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/644388/_Allah_in_buyuk_lutfu_.html
    • Step by Step Towards a Presidential Regime

     

  4. Following July 15, the Turkish-style presidential system was established. While the Turkish people had been in opposition to this system prior to the coup attempt—as indicated by public opinion polls— after July 15, things had turned around completely. Within a time period of less than a year, a referendum for constitutional change was held, and the new Turkish-style presidential system was put into effect. And two years after the coup attempt, Erdogan became the first president of the new regime through early elections. He now had consolidated all authority at the tip of his very fingers.https://www.haberturk.com/gundem/haber/1314879-kilicdaroglu-baskanlik-sistemi-15-temmuz-sehitlerine-ihanettir
    • Calling People to the Streets, Instead of Suppressing Coup Attempt

     

  5. Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor Okan Bato stated that on July 15 at 3:00 pm, he had notified Erdogan of the preparations for the coup. However, Erdogan took no action whatsoever to suppress the coup attempt. If, after being notified beforehand of the planned coup attempt, Erdogan had taken action to prevent the coup instead of calling on the people to go out into the streets, the 250 individuals (killed on that day) would be alive today.https://www.hrw.org/tr/world-report/2017/country-chapters/298690
    • Coup Notice from the TSK to the MIT

     

  6. A major (Osman Karacan) in the TSK [Turkish Armed Forces] went to the MIT [National Intelligence Organization] headquarters on July 15 at 2:20 pm to give notice about the planned coup. Yet, from that hour until nighttime around 10:00 pm, no real precautions were taken to prevent or suppress the coup.http://www.tr724.com/kurgu-kontrollu-darbe-ihbarci-binbasi-2-yildir-mite-calisiyormus-ismi-de-farkliymis/
    • Chief of MIT and Chief of Defense Are Still in Office

     

  7. Chief of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) of Turkey Hakan Fidan, Chief of Defense Hulusi Akar and 2nd Chief of Defense Yaşar Güler, held a series of meetings at the Chief of Defense Headquarters following the notice they had received regarding the planned coup. They have stated that around 7:00 pm that evening they called Erdogan, could not reach him and thus they notified his Head Bodyguard Muhsin Köse. So far Erdogan has not removed either Hakan Fidan, Hulusi Akar, or Muhsin Köse from their positions.http://www.tr724.com/cumhurbaskanligi-koruma-muduru-zan-altinda-sefer-can/
    • Conflicting Explanations from Erdogan Regarding Time of Coup

     

  8. President Erdogan, while speaking of when he first became aware of the coup attempt, continuously made reference to different hours of the day. On the night of July 15, he said, “In the afternoon, unfortunately, there was a certain restlessness present within our armed forces.” On July 18, during an interview he gave to CNN International, he said, “I was notified that night around 8:00 pm.” On July 20, when speaking to Al-Jazeera, he used the expression, “My brother-in-law notified me around 8:00 pm.” On July 21, to Reuters, he explained, “My brother-in-law called me around 4:00–4:30 pm and said to me there’s some commotion going on around Beylerbeyi.” Whereas the starting hours of the commotion in Istanbul Beylerbeyi where the coup attempt first broke out was around 9:30 pm. And on July 30, during a joint broadcast between ATV and A Haber, he said, “We heard of something starting up that day around 9:15 pm. My brother-in-law called me up at 9:30 pm.” The fact that Erdogan gave so many conflicting explanations regarding such a specific matter raised a question mark in people’s minds.http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/foto/foto_galeri/575077/9/Darbe_girisimini_ne_zaman_ogrendi__Erdogan_in_sozlerindeki_saat_farkliliklari.htmlI learned about it in   the afternoon.”  July 15th.
  9. ” I was notified around 8:00 pm.”  July 18th.
  10. “My BROTHER-IN-LAW told me about it around 8:00 pm at night.” July 20th.
  11. ” My brother-in-law called around 4:00–4:30  and said ‘There’s some kind of commotion around Beylerbeyi.’ ” July 21st.
  12. “We heard of something starting up around 9:15 pm. My brother-in-law called me at 9:30 pm.” July 30th.
    • Controlled Coup

     

  13. It was discovered that Erdogan had been notified of the coup attempt before the actual execution and even though he could have taken action to prevent the coup from happening, he chose not to. In a report put together by Turkey’s main opposition party CHP in June 2017, July 15 was described as a “controlled coup.” In other words, Erdogan, rather than preventing the coup—of which he had been aware of beforehand—allowed it to be carried out in a controlled manner and, afterward, used the aftermath to his advantage.https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-39478777
    • Planes on Standby for Escape

     

  14. It was discovered that Erdogan had arranged for 4 different airplanes at 4 different locations near Marmaris to be on standby that night. In addition to the airplane in Dalaman which Erdogan was using, there were airplanes ready for use in Denizli, Izmir, and Aydin. In order for these airplanes to have been ready for a potential flight that night, they would have to have been notified at least by 5:00 pm that evening. The fact that Erdogan had made such arrangements beforehand is another indicator that he had been aware of the planned coup attempt. In that case, again, the question arises of why he did not take action to suppress the uprising within the military.http://aktifhaber.com/15-temmuz/15-temmuzda-hazir-bekleyen-dort-ucak-h98846.html
    • Chief of Defense Hulusi Akar Who Failed to Prevent the Coup Becomes Head of Ministry of Defense, How So?

     

  15. In a confidential statement given to the Ankara 14th High Criminal Court on March 17, 2017, the Special Forces Commander of the time Zekai Aksakallı said, “Inside the Turkish Armed Forces, when times of crises and states of emergency arise, as soon as any notification is received, the orders that ‘personnel cannot leave their post’ is given. Commanding officers continue their duties at their given posts. This fundamental and simple principle applied in every instance was, however, not put into practice on July 15, 2016, when the first notification was received. If it had been put into effect, the coup attempt would have come to light from the very beginning.” In other words, he advocated that the coup could have been prevented had these orders been delivered. The Chief of Defense of the time, Hulusi Akar, failed to give these orders. Despite this fact, President Erdogan called him a “hero” and had the people applaud him during an AKP rally. Not only did he not dismiss Akar from his position, but he also appointed Akar to be the Minister of Defense as part of the first presidential cabinet formed after the early elections of June 24, 2018.
  16. http://www.aljazeera.com.tr/haber/aksakalli-kural-uygulansa-darbe-girisimi-bastan-aciga-cikardi
    • Secret Meetings A Day Before the CoupIt was discovered that Akar, Chief of Defense, and Fidan, Chief of MIT (National Intelligence Organization), held a one-on-one confidential meeting that lasted four hours, a day before the coup. It was also found out that, following this long meeting, Fidan and Special Forces Commander Zekai Aksakallı also held a one-on-one confidential meeting that lasted about an hour. The fact that these three names played the most critical role during the coup that took place the very next day raises quite a bit of suspicion.
  1. https://t24.com.tr/haber/hulusi-akar-ile-hakan-fidan-darbe-girisiminden-bir-gun-once-6-saat-basbasa-gorustuiddiasi,391229
    • “I Received the Orders to Reinforce the Chief of Defense Forces From Zekai Aksakallı

     

  2. In the fourth court hearing of the trials held for the cases of the 221 defendants regarding actions taken within the Chief of Defense forces during the course of the July 15 coup attempt, Staff Colonel Fırat Alakuş, in his defense, stated that he had personally received the orders to “reinforce the Chief of Defense forces in case of any potential actions certain terrorist organizations may take” from Special Forces Commander Zekai Aksakallı. Alakuş said, “I was assigned the duty by Special Forces Commander Zekai Aksakallı himself. As for the details of the assignment, I was told that I would be receiving them from Colonel ümit Bak.”https://www.cnnturk.com/turkiye/genelkurmay-baskaninin-urkutucu-dedigi-darbeci-komutan-konustu
    • Air Forces Commander not Notified of The Ban on Flights, Could It be Related to the Secret Meeting at the Palace?

     

  3. Although Akar, Chief of Defense, put a ban on all military flights/missions throughout the country as of 7:00 pm, neither the Air Forces Commander nor the Naval Forces Commander was notified of this ban.  It was discovered that the then Air Forces Commander Abidin ünal had been secretly visiting the palace of President Erdoğan using a vehicle belonging to MIT and holding secret meetings there from the month of April prior to the coup onwards. Not only did Abidin ünal fail to take any sort of action to prevent a coup from taking place on the night of July 15, but also he did not allow any preventive measures to be carried out.http://www.shaber3.com/abidin-unal-gizlice-erdogan-a-gitti-haberi/1320819/
    • Erdoğan Did Not Allow an Investigation


    The TBMM (Turkish Grand National Assembly) July 15 Investigation Commission wanted to listen to the testimonies of Chief of Defense Hulusi Akar and MIT Chief Hakan Fidan. However, President Erdoğan did not allow either of the names to appear in front of the commission. Akar and Fidan were not able to stand in front of the commission and answer their questions.

    https://twitter.com/15temmuzgercegi/status/1018414216288407552

    • Fethullah Gulen: “Let an international commission investigate the coup, and we will accept its findings.”In multiple interviews, including the New York Times, Financial Times, Sky News, and The Guardian, Fethullah Gulen said: “If there are allegations that I directed this coup attempt, let an international commission investigate it, and we will accept its findings.”

           https://t24.com.tr/haber/fethullah-gulen-uluslararasi-bir-komisyon-darbeyiarastirsin-sonucunu-simdiden-kabul-ediyoruz,350385

      • Events Not Yet Taken Place Written into the July 15 Official Report, How Did That Happen?

       

    1. It was discovered that the official report for July 15 prepared by Serdar Coşkun, the Constitutional Order Attorney General of the time, contained written reports of events that would take place at a later date written as though they had taken place at the time of the written record. The official report had been written up at 01:00 am yet it contained the records of events such as the bombing of the TBMM (Turkish Grand National Assembly), the bombing of the Presidential Palace intersection, and the air raid at the Ankara Police Headquarters none of which at that point in time had taken place. Moreover, these incidents had not even taken place in the way in which they were described in the report. What’s, even more, is the fact that events which never even took place were recorded as though they had actually happened.http://www.tr724.com/savci-15-temmuzu-sarsacak-belgeyi-dogruladi-o-gece-olaylar-yasanmadan-tutanaklardayazilmis/
      • Binali Yıldırım (Former Prime Minister): A Project I Disliked, July 15

       

    2. When Yıldırım was asked by a group of journalists, “Were there any projects that you felt were a bit too demanding?”, his reply, in a sarcastic tone, was, ” Well, July 15 was a project I did not like at all.”
      • Purge Lists Prepared Early On


      Attorney General Serdar Coşkun admitted that the first cases of individuals being taken into custody and being arrested on July 16 were carried out based on the official report of the events. For instance, he gave orders to have approximately 3,000 judges and prosecutors to be arrested. However, on July 16 there was no evidence to support the allegations that the said 3,000 judges and prosecutors had been involved in the coup. No evidence to that effect was found later on either. The purge lists had been prepared in advance. And they were put into effect right after the coup attempt. In the morning of July 16, at 01:00 am, only three hours after the military insurrection had started, 2,745 judges and prosecutors were dismissed from their duties. The official report prepared by Attorney General Serdar Coşkun was also written up at the same time that night, 01:00 am.

      https://www.ahmetdonmez.net/iste-serdar-coskunun-skandal-tutanaktan-sonraki-ilk-talimati/

      • MIT conspiracy towards Akın Öztürk?It was discovered that MIT official and retired soldier Sadık üstün, a close friend of MIT Chief Hakan Fidan since the time they met during their time serving in the TSK (Turkish Armed Forces), had called up certain commanders and told them that the number 1 role in the coup would be General Akın Öztürk. It was discovered that at that time Akın Öztürk, who had—as later discovered—been assigned to the Akıncılar Base by Air Force Commander Abidin ünal, was still in his home. It was discovered that Sadık üstün had been working together with Air Force Commander Abidin ünal.https://www.ahmetdonmez.net/mitci-sadik-ustun-savci-serdar-coskunu-da-aradi-mi/
        • “So-called Coup” explanation from Andrew Duff


        Former European Parliament representative and well-known politician Andrew Duff made the following statements regarding the report written by July 15 public prosecutor Serdar Coşkun, “We have finally figured out how Erdoğan was able to exploit this so-called coup in such a quick and relentless manner. This report shows us that certain incidents were prepared beforehand, ERDOĞAN allowed for the insurrection to be carried out in a controlled manner and afterward put his own version of a constitutional coup into action.”

        https://www.ahmetdonmez.net/andrew-duff-savci-coskunun-tutanagi-bazi-seylerin-onceden-hazirlandigini-gosteriyor/

                           “QUICK AND RELENTLESS SO-CALLED COUP”

        • What Kind of Connection Does the Religious Affairs Council have with MIT?
          It was discovered that on the night of July 15, Moaz al-Khatib, the man Erdoğan wants to see as the leader of Syria, and the President of the Religious Affairs Council, Görmez, were also present at the MIT headquarters.

        https://odatv.com/gormezden-sonra-sira-fidan-ve-akarda-mi-2707171200.html

       

 

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  • July 15 Purge in Numbers

    249 people lost their lives

    612,347 people were interrogated

    160,000 people were arrested

    152,000 state officials were arrested

    62,669 political prisoners were charged with terrorist activity

    7,907 incidents of human rights violations

    3,502 victims were subjected to torture and ill-treatment

    686 torture incidents occurred during detention

    51 prisoners died in suspicious circumstances

    69,301 students were incarcerated (highest number of students incarcerated at any given time in the history of the country)

    2,767 teenagers, aged between 12 and 18, were incarcerated

    197 teenagers, aged between 12 and 18, were incarcerated due to the alleged involvement in terrorism

    102,000 people were jailed due to the alleged use of ByLock mobile application

    Assets valued at $11,000,000,000 were seized

    130,000 public officers were suspended from work

    80,000 citizens were arrested

    4,000+ judges or prosecutors were dismissed from work

    2,300+ private educational institutions were closed

    7,257 academics were dismissed

    1,600+ non-profit and non-governmental organizations were closed

    1,500+ public associations and foundations were closed

    200 public media companies were closed

    2,500 journalists and media workers were left unemployed

    19 unions were closed

    15 private universities were closed

    1,539 lawyers were put on trial

    580 lawyers were arrested

    103 lawyers were sentenced to long terms in prison

    5,705 academics were suspended

    8,240 armed forces employees were dismissed

    1,067 NATO-supporting members of the armed forces were dismissed

    28 individuals were abducted

    100+ members of the Gulen Movement were abducted and brought back to Turkey from 18 different countries by the National Intelligence Organization

 

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