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state of emergency

AST REPORT 2018-2019

WORDS FROM THE ADVOCATES

When the Turkish President declared in an infamous speech that “old Turkey no longer exists. This Turkey is new Turkey”, the story of Turkish authoritarianism had once and for all taken on a new character. Since July of 2016, the Turkish government has improperly imprisoned 130,214 homemakers, teachers, NGO workers, academics, judges, prosecutors, and journalists.

We are a group of lawyers, judges, academics, journalists, and hundreds of activists who cherish democratic ideals and universal human rights. We are prisoners of conscience wanted by the Erdogan’s regime, relatives of political prisoners, and victims who have lost their jobs, property, and family members to the current administration which has been described as a Mafia State. We are the Advocates of Silenced Turkey. We, the Advocates, have made it our 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.

AST GIVES A VOICE TO THE VOICELESS…

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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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Key Human Rights Concerns in Turkey since the So-called Coup Attempt

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Following the coup attempt on the 15th of July 2016, the Turkish government under the authoritarian leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan 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. Currently, as part of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, more than 170,000 people including judges, academics, teachers, journalists, police and military officers, and other public servants were dismissed from their jobs. In correlation, more than 217,000 were detained and 80,000 were arrested. Amnesty International reports that detainees were “being held arbitrarily” with “no evidence establishing reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior” and that “only a tiny minority of them were accused of taking part in the actual events of the attempted coup”.
Amid the massive crackdown of hundreds of thousands of dissidents, human rights organizations and the U.N. Human Rights Council have noted that human rights are violated on a large scale by the Turkish government. Arbitrary killings, suspicious deaths of people in custody, forced disappearances, tortures, ill-treatments, injustice, and threats – mostly against the followers of the Gulen movement, Kurds, and the Leftists – were reported widespread during this large-scale witch-hunt.
As people continue to be arrested and many more tortured and abducted, the present brief of Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) highlights some of the key human rights concerns that took place in Turkey during this on-going period.

Unprecedented scale of dismissals: More than 130,000 civil servants, with their names attached in lists to emergency orders, were dismissed by emergency decrees. These civil servants included over 4,200 judges and prosecutors, 7,000 academics, 6,000 health-care professionals, 33,500 teachers, and 44,500 police and military officers. Not only were people dismissed arbitrarily but also banned permanently from working in the public sector – many were even banned to practice their profession.

Collapse of judiciary system: With approximately 4,200 judges and prosecutors (including two judges from the Turkey’s highest court) dismissed permanently, over one-fifth of Turkey’s judiciary has been removed. Of those dismissed, at least 2,200 were jailed with their assets frozen due to their alleged links to the Gulen movement. Consequently, the climate of fear paralyzed the judges and prosecutors who still have their positions. The fear combined with the heavy government influence in the court system led to the collapse of the judiciary system and the deterioration of human rights in the country. As a result, Turkey ranked 109 out of 126 countries in 2019 on the rule of law index of World Justice Project.

Victimization of lawyers: Lawyers are among the many groups affected by the post-coup crackdown in Turkey. They were unlawfully associated with their clients’ alleged crimes. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that many lawyers were targeted with criminal investigations with little or no evidence. According to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, over 1,500 lawyers were persecuted over the past three years including 14 lawyers who were presidents of provincial bar associations – of those persecuted lawyers, one third remained imprisoned before and during their trials, and 274 were convicted of membership of armed terrorist organizations and sentenced to long prison sentences. Furthermore, approximately 34 bar associations were shut down by presidential decree with alleged affiliations to terrorist organizations.

The media purge following the attempted coup: In the aftermath of the failed coup, the government closed down 179 media outlets – including 53 newspapers, 37 radio stations, 34 TV channels, 29 publishing houses, 20 magazines, and six news agencies – with accused links to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, or Leftists groups. Consequently, a total of 2,308 media workers and journalists have lost their jobs. The government cancelled hundreds of press accreditations and revoked passports of an unknown number of journalists and their family members to ban them from traveling abroad. In addition, the government imprisoned a record-breaking number of journalists in the wake of the coup attempt – with that, Turkey became the world’s largest prison for journalists. The Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) reported that at least 126 journalists and media workers were in prison in Turkey as of October 2019 – among them, many were put in long solitary confinement.
The absence of freedom of expression is not only a recurring problem for journalists but for citizens as well. In 2018, the Ministry of Interior reported that more than 7,000 individuals were detained for their social media posts after investigating 631,233 digital materials. In relation to the censorships and content restrictions in the country, Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey since April of 2017. Currently, out of the 180 countries, Turkey ranks 157 th on the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders and are listed among ‘not free’ countries by the Freedom House.

Persecuting academics: Following the coup attempt, 1,043 private schools and 15 universities linked to the Gülen movement were closed by a presidential decree. Eventually resulting in the displacement of over 60,000 students across the country. Over 8,500 academics reportedly lost their jobs either due to direct dismissals or university closures since September 2016 – and many of them were imprisoned. Large-scale dismissals of academics and teachers significantly damaged the education sector thus diminished the right to education.

Crackdown on health care sector: Turkish government has shut down 14 hospitals and 36 medical centers after the coup attempt on the pretext of alleged ties to the Gülen movement. Therefore, an estimated 21,000 health care professionals were laid off – including doctors, academics, nurses, mid-wives, and other hospital staff. Of those, 5,261 are medical doctors and academics who specialize in the medical sciences. The figures of how many health care professionals have been detained, arrested or currently in prison are estimated in the thousands. Given the longstanding issue of hospital and staff shortages in the country, the dismissal of health care professionals and closure of hospitals left many patients in despair of medical care.

Prison conditions: With persecution of tens of thousands of critics, Turkey’s prisons have never been fuller – the prison population has increased from 171,267 inmates in 2015 to 260,144 in 2018. Given the capacity of 211,766, inmates are forced to remain in overcrowding cells. In order to free up space for more political prisoners, the government released nearly 34,000 convicts from prisons. The inadequate provision of heath care to prisoners also remains a serious problem. Officially reported by the Ministry of Justice Prison and Correctional Facilities, there were 271 doctors serving nearly a quarter million of the prison population – of whom, only eight were full-time. Insufficient access to fresh water, proper heating, ventilation, and lighting are other concerns for prison conditions.

Torture and ill-treatment: Despite the government’s stated zero tolerance for torture policy, human rights groups reported widespread and systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in police custody following the coup-attempt-including severe beatings, threats of sexual assault and actual sexual assault, electric shocks, water boarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions, long solitary confinement, and depriving of food and water. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated acts of torture and ill-treatment aimed “at extracting confessions or forcing detainees to denounce other Individuals” in its report on Turkey in 2017. The Human Rights Association (HRA) reported that the number of incidents where prisoners were subjected to torture and ill-treatment in
detention centers and prisons was 2,178 in 2016, 2,415 in 2017, and 1,505 in 2018. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported a total of 126 suspicious deaths and suicides since the coup attempt – most of those occurred in detention centers and prisons, seemingly a direct result of torture and ill-treatment.

Abduction and enforced disappearance: In the aftermath of the coup attempt, forced disappearances made a comeback in Turkey. Opposing politicians and respected human rights groups claimed at least 28 abductions or possible enforced disappearances of individuals. Most of the victims were identified as dismissed public servants with alleged ties to the Gulen movement or critics of the government. Allegedly, victims were abducted outside detention facilities and illegally questioned and tortured by Turkey’s intelligence agency. Moreover, Turkey’s intelligence agency reportedly snatched over more than 100 alleged Gulen affiliates from 18 countries – individuals often deported by cooperative governments without due process.

Women and children in prisons: The prison conditions for women and children are exceedingly alarming. According to the Justice Ministry, as of 2017, nearly 10,000 women and 3,000 children under 18 are in Turkey’s prisons. The inhumane prison conditions also hold weight in women prisons. They face additional issues of the male security staff frequently obstructing their privacy during hospital visits, often times leading to incomplete examination. Among the prisoners, there are pregnant women or women who just gave birth and 677 children under 6 years old imprisoned along with their mothers – including 149 infants under 1 year old. Pregnant women were forced to stay with other inmates in overcrowded cells, also denied access to proper prenatal care – posing serious risks to their well-beings.
Likewise, mothers with children were also forced to share a cell with inmates.

Restrictions on right to travel: Another unlawful activity being pursued during this period is revoking the passports of government critics with perceived affiliations to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, Leftists groups and their family members. On this ground, the Turkish government put restrictions on approximately 155,000 passports, reported by the SCF. Since their passports are restricted, many people, with the fear of persecution, use smuggler routes to flee from the country.
Unfortunately, many died in the Evros River and the Aeagean Sea. Turkey revoking its citizens’ passports also causes travel struggles for those across the world.

Seized the critics’ assets: The Turkish government abuses laws to seize assets of its critics. As of March 2018, the government had seized the assets of approximately 1,124 businesses and 127 individuals. According to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund of Turkey, the net worth of the seized assets is an estimated 49.4 billion liras ($9.4 billion) since the 2016 coup attempt. Moreover, in most cases, the government freezes the assets of those on trial, financially crippling them and their families.


 

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Mother’s Day 2019 Free Prisoners of Conscience / Turkey

This year on Mother’s Day, over 6,000 women have been imprisoned in Turkey within the persecution of the government. More than 700 babies -in order to be able to stay with their mothers – are living in the harsh conditions of a prison ward and a lot of children have been separated from their mothers and are being raised by relatives. #TurkeyPurge #MothersDay #FreePrisonersOfConscience

Mother’s Day 2019 Free Prisoners of Conscience / Turkey

U.S Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi & Renee Vaugeois (Exc.Director of John Humphrey Center for Peace and Human Rights)

Ela Gandhi

The Venerable David Selzer (Executive Archdeacon, Diocese of Ottawa) / Ann Selzer ( Practitioner Nurse)

Professor Vonya Womack

Lawyer James Harrington, Professor Lopita Nath

Donna Entz (Community Worker Among Newcomers),Film Producer & Journalist Thomas Sideris

 

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Longing Episode-2

“LONGING-2”

One feeling is connecting the two stories LONGING. Stories of the persecuted fled from Erdogan Regime.
Yasin was not aware that the journey he was attending with his spouse and kids for freedom would separate them. A high school girl faces the difficulties of life at an early age. The young girl has to flee from her country as her father is jailed. One feeling is connecting these two stories: Longing.

 

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World Press Freedom Day 2019

Turkey, the biggest jailer of journalists, shut down at least 155 media outlets and made mass imprisonments of press members due to their work after the coup attempt in July 2016. As of January 2019, 155 journalists and media executives are in jail according to the International Press Institute (IPI). #WorldPressFreedomDay #FreePrisonersOfConscience

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY 2019 MESSAGE TO THE WORLD TO CALL ON FREEING JOURNALISTS

U.S Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi

Professor Anwar Alam / Lawyer James Harrington

Turkish Actor Orhan Aydin / AST Director Hafsa Girdap

Film Producer & Journalist Thomas Sideris / Professor Vonya Womack

Exiled Journalist Deniz Zengin

 

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Longing Episode-1

“LONGING” THE STORY OF A MOTHER AWAY FROM HIS INNOCENT SPOUSE “A PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE” IN TURKEY. EPISODE-1

There is an ongoing suppression of dissidents following the so-called coup attempt of July 15, 2016. The State of Emergency and the decree laws pave the way for discrimination and segregation on the basis of ethnicity, political or other opinions. More than 50,000 people jailed as prisoners of conscience. The number of the people under investigation is 612,347 after July 15 according to the Ministry of Justice in Turkey equals the population of KENTUCKY is clear evidence of grave human rights violations in Turkey.

This real story of a mother separated from his innocent husband is just one of among many. It is the first episode and will continue with other stories may shed light to grave human rights violations in Erdogan’s Turkey.

 

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Millions of Books Destroyed: Erdogan’s Regime Attacks the Culture of its Dissident Groups

Millions of Books Destroyed: Erdogan’s Regime Attacks the Culture of its Dissident Groups

Books play an important role in shaping public opinion and transmitting the culture of a society for the upcoming generations. For that, many authoritarian regimes throughout history have opposed books written in the pursuit of the opposition of those they perceived as enemies. With the goal of asserting complete control over public information and literature, the Erdogan regime has started such a war against the books and other publications of its dissident groups following the suspicious coup attempt on July 2016. In this direction, thousands of books have been outlawed and their publishers have been shut down. Therefore, copies of those books in all libraries and bookstores across the country have been confiscated. After it has been declared that possessing any copies of such books or publications may be considered the evidence for certain crimes, many people have been detained and arrested.
The current report of the Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) provides an overview of what has happened during Turkey’s ongoing post-coup assault on the books and the cultural institutions, with a focus on the affected groups including the Gulen movement, Kurds, leftists, and seculars.

Some of the highlights from the report are given below.

● Book disposals in public libraries: Constituting approximately 7 percent of the total books in the public libraries across the country, 135,000 books are reported to be removed from the public libraries due to their affiliations with the Gulen movement. Of those books:
– 30,000 books that are authored by Mr. Gulen have reportedly been ordered to be burned.
– The remaining nearly 100,000 books have been sent off for recycling.
● Getting rid of books with a fear of arrest: After certain books and publications have been blacklisted, many have reportedly burned or tore their books for the fear of being discovered by their neighbors or law enforcement officials.

Some reported incidents are:

– D.A., a librarian at a university during the time of the coup asserted how he had to categorize his books in his personal library that constituted nearly 2,000 books to dispose the ”dangerous ones” among them.
– In the central province of Yozgat, military police — gendarmerie — found 560 Gulen authored books near a water fountain in a village. A crime-scene was conducted hoping to find the people whom the books belong to.
– Police officers found 150 Gulen’s books, some of which were totally or partially burned in a village in Northern Cyprus.
– In another story, authorities discovered hundreds of Gulen books thrown into the waters of Ataturk Dam in Eastern Anatolia.
● Charges over possessing certain books: In some cases, people who possessed certain blacklisted books have been suspected and persecuted. Some of the reported incidents are as follows:
– Canan Badem: An associate professor at Tunceli University, who was detained in August 2016 on charges of association with the terrorist organization after the police have found a Gulen-authored book at his university office. As a well-known critic of Gulen and a professed atheist, Dr. Badem will be facing a long prison sentence if found guilty.
– A housewife, R.Y. has reportedly been detained over allegations of burning Gulen’s books at a place close to her home. She faces charges of membership in a terrorist organization and making terrorist propaganda.
– Four school officials have been reportedly detained by the gendarmerie forces after they found them burning some documents in the garden of a school in Mugla province.
– A college’s attempt to get rid of Gulen-authored books from the college’s library right after the coup attempt has sparked an investigation in the western province of Afyon.
● Banned publishers, media outlets and other incidents: Aside from the Gulen associated books, Erdogan regime’s war on cultural instruments has taken various forms during the ongoing post-coup crackdown.

Some of such drastic actions are as follows:

– With the government’s decree law as part of the post-coup crackdown, three news agencies, 16 TV channels, 23 radio stations, 14 magazines, 29 publishing houses have reportedly been shut down over alleged ties to the Gulen movement.
-Authorities have pulled off the shelves 72 books of Aram Press, one book of Tekin Press, and one unpublished book draft of Kirmizi Kedi Press.
– Istanbul Fourth Civil Court of Peace has issued a ruling to ban the distribution of the satirical weekly LeMan’s “Special Coup Issue”. This has been accompanied by trolls disseminating LeMan’s address with threats of ransacking it.
– A famous novelist, Zulfu Livaneli has also suffered from a similar ban when the ads of his latest novel has not been allowed to be displayed in public spaces by the authorities.
– Famous writers and philosophers including Albert Camus, Baruch Spinoza, Louis Althusser, Servet Tanili, and Nazim Hikmet have become suspects in the indictments prepared against the former head of now-defunct Free Journalists Association, Nevin Erdemir and in the indictment on Gezi protests in Ankara.
– Numerous physical assaults have occurred against publishers and bookstores across the country. In Diyarbakir province, for example, a warehouse of Avesta Press has been set in an arson attempt. Many branches of NT – a Gulen movement affiliated bookstore – have been destroyed and burned.
– Reports of the United Nations and other respected human rights organizations suggest that the conditions of Turkey’s prisons have been associated with already alarming records of human rights violations. One such issue is inmates’ limited access to books. While prisons do not allow book donations from outside, the prisoners have been allowed to possess 15 books at most. Furthermore, certain books that are either affiliated with the Gulen movement or in the Kurdish language have also been blocked. The number of affected inmates is reportedly more than 200,000 – including generals, diplomats, judges, academics, journalists, doctors and other people from all walks of life.
In addition to the cases that have been stated, there are officially more than half a million cases that are subjected to such terroristic crimes as reported by the minister of interior. With the pursuit to persecute individuals who attain these books, it is presumed that most of these individuals have already removed such publications from their possessions. Subjectively, if every individual was to get rid of several books, the total number of books disposed would be in the millions. This suggests that the multitude of the assault of Erdogan’s regime on the culture of its dissident groups are far more reaching than what is reported.


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Turkey’s Massive Crackdown on Health Care Professionals Deepened the Country’s Already Alarming Records of Human Rights Violations

Turkey’s Massive Crackdown on Health Care Professionals Deepened the Country’s Already Alarming Records of Human Rights Violations

Following the coup attempt on the 15th of July 2016, dissident groups in Turkey are facing arguably their biggest crackdown in the country’s history. The Turkish government under the authoritarian leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken a wave of oppressive actions against those that are perceived as critics of the regime.
The health industry is among the variety of industries that have been affected in association with those actions. Hospitals, medical schools and health clinics have been shut down. Thousands of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, scientific publishers and health authorities have been dismissed from their jobs. Many of those have been detained and/or arrested and are now serving prison sentences for baseless charges of belonging to what they call a “terrorist” group. Human rights organizations have also recently reported that arrested individuals have
been subjected to severe torture and mistreatments.
The present report of the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) provides an overview of key human rights concerns during the ongoing post-coup crackdown on Turkey’s health industry, with a focus on the affected groups including health care professionals, patients, medical students, and shuttered institutions and organizations. Some of the highlights from the report are:

● Dismissals of health care professionals: With the combined figures of those who were dismissed from the civil service and those who lost their jobs after the government shut down their institutions, the total number of health care professionals including doctors, academics, nurses, midwives, and hospital staff who were laid off has reached more than 21,000. Of those, a total of 5,261 are medical doctors and academics who specialize in the medical sciences:

-1,697 academics who worked in state-run medical schools and universities were summarily and abruptly dismissed with the government’s decree laws.
-1,684 physicians who worked for the Ministry of Health were purged.
-More than 1,200 doctors in the private sector suddenly became unemployed when the government shut down hospitals, medical centers and health clinics.
-675 academics who teach medical sciences lost their jobs after the closure of the Gülen movement-linked universities.

● Jailed health care professionals: The government has never publicized the figures of how many health care professionals have been detained, arrested or currently in prison. However, SCF’s monitoring Turkey’s media outlets suggesting the estimated figure is in the thousands.
The report provides numerous cases that portray the magnitude of how ruthless Turkish authorities have become in targeting real or perceived critics. Three selected cases from the report are:
-Mustafa Emmiler: A 47-year-old professor, who was detained on August 15 of 2016 on charges of alleged links to the Gülen movement. Dr. Emmiler is a prominent figure in cardiovascular surgery and the receiver of the “Doctor of the Year” award from the Ministry of Health in 2013.
-Haluk Savaş: a prominent 51-year-old psychiatry professor at Gaziantep University, who was arrested on September 28 of 2016 on charges of “terrorism.” He was a nominee for a parliamentary seat from the main opposition, Republican People’s Party (CHP).
-Murat Acar: the Harvard-educated Turkish professor who was extradited to Turkey on an arrest warrant issued by the Turkish government through Interpol even though he was under UN protection in Bahrain. Dr. Acar was subjected to torture and ill-treatment for 18 days after his extradition to Turkey.

● Suspicious deaths of health care professionals: Suspicious deaths in Turkey have increased during the aftermath of the coup attempt, of which most occur in Turkish jails and detention centers where torture and mistreatment are executed. In most cases, authorities declared them to be suicides without any effective, independent or through investigation. SCF has documented such cases where victims were health care professionals. Two selected cases from the report are:
-Sevgi Balcı: A 37-year old nurse who was a mother of three fired by government decree in October of 2016, committed suicide by hanging herself in Isparta province. It was reportedly due to not being reinstated to her job.
-Ali Özer: a 48-year-old doctor who was jailed on charges of his suspected links to the Gülen movement, died allegedly due to heart attack in Çorum Prison on March 23 of 2017.

● Turkish health care professionals in exile: The rising authoritarianism in Turkey has enforced health care professionals to escape the country, sometimes even through illegal migrant routes. However, they still face endangerment in their new homes as they take on new challenges such as having a difficult time finding jobs and securing recognition of their medical licenses. Advocators of Erdogan harass individuals in which they receive threats from Turkish government proxies. Exiled doctors have reported that they are fearful of their families in Turkey who might face persecution because of their beliefs.

● Shuttered hospital, medical centers, pharmacies, charities:
-In 2016, the Turkish government has shut down 14 hospitals and 36 medical centers on the pretext of alleged ties to the Gülen movement. They were issued by simple decree-laws without any administrative or judicial probes.
-On a similar pretext, 400 pharmacies across Turkey renounced access to the electronic prescription system of the Social Security Institution (SGK), an act meant to force these pharmacies to go bankrupt overnight. In addition to that, nearly 1500 pharmacies are under investigation as the media outlets in Turkey recently reported.
-A UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) partnered charity organization, Kimse Yok Mu has similarly been shut down in 2016. The charity organization had been active for many years and delivered emergency relief in disaster zones, provided health care services and helped rebuilding infrastructure in various communities across 113 countries.

● Patients: Patients were left in distraught as multiple medical centers and hospitals were shut down. As before, given the shortage of hospitals and staff members, many patients are unable to receive medical help. This forced some patients to seek medical treatments in other provinces. On the other hand, the Turkish government deliberately violates adequate access to health care and medical treatments to those prisoned patients. The situation aggregated for those in solitary confinement as opposed to the European Prison Rules. The report provides numerous cases for patients in detention facilities and prisons. Four of those cases from the report are:
-Gökhan Açıkkollu: A 42-year-old history teacher with type 1 Diabetes was detained on July 24 of 2016 and held in police custody for 13 days before he fell ill. He was questioned allegedly under torture and abuse until he developed health problems again and was taken back to the hospital only to be pronounced dead.
-Yavuz Bölek: A 49-year-old police officer, father of three was arrested on August 25 of 2016 despite being in a critical stage of colon cancer. Bölek continues to be kept in prison given his severe health circumstances backed by the medical reports.
-Tuğba Yıldız: A mother of three was detained on January 15, 2017, in Tekirdağ province. During 24-day long police detention, she had been tortured and mistreated before she eventually developed symptoms of a psychological disorder to the extent of losing her sanity, as revealed by the doctor reports. And yet the court ruled for the arrest of Yıldız and sent her to prison, where she has been incarcerated ever since.
-Nurhayat Yıldız: This 14-week-old-pregnant woman had been imprisoned with her alleged ties to the Gülen movement. After reviewing her medical reports, her plead to be released had been denied. She was kept in a crowded cell with 24 inmates where she suffered a miscarriage on October 6 of 2016. After receiving two days of hospital treatments, she was thrown back in jail. Yıldız’s situation portrays one of the many cases where inhuman treatments executed toward pregnant women who are forced to be in jail both during their pregnancy and immediately after giving birth.

● Medical students: Following the failed coup attempt, medical students have also been negatively impacted. Many students who are enrolled in the medical schools that have been shut down, were forced to partake in other universities across Turkey. There are cases where medical students have been subjected to persecution or even imprisonment of alleged ties to the Gülen movement. Details following such situations are provided within the report.

RESOURCE:
Stockholm Center of Freedom


Download as a PDF File: https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Turkeys_massive_crackdown_on_health_care-1.pdf

 

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Witness Confirms Gokhan Teacher Tortured to Death by Police

Witness Confirms Gokhan Teacher Tortured to Death by Police

Prison Cellmate Recollects Moments of Horror After Teacher’s Suspicious Death

Two years after his tragic death, details of teacher Gokhan Acikkolu’s last days have emerged and come to public scrutiny once again as one of his prison cellmates offered a harrowing account into the torture claims.

The Turkish public was stunned by revelations over police torture of Acikkolu in summer 2016. The Turkish authorities steadfastly refused torture claims then and stamped out an independent investigation into the tragic incident. In the official account, he died because of health problems presaging his prison days.

But according to his family, and independent observers, Acikkolu was tortured to death. He was brutally beaten and deprived of medical treatment although he suffered a heart attack in prison. Prison administration turned down his family’s quest for transferring him to a hospital for a proper treatment and denied access to most needed medicines for his diabetes. When he was finally brought to a hospital in August 2016, it was too late to save him.

More startling and disturbing was the fact that almost two years after his death, authorities cleared him of coup-related and terrorism charges and restored the now deceased teacher back to his post. It was too little and too late.

How he died in prison still remains a matter of controversy and mystery. The way how the Turkish government handled the case fuels genuine skepticism and suspicion over the official narrative. Almost nobody believes it in Turkey.

And with a former prison cellmate of the deceased teacher now publicly speaking about his last days, the issue has taken a new turn. Journalist Cevheri Guven, living in northern Greece after fleeing the persecution in Turkey, spoke to Bold Medya, divulging details about how police headquarters in Istanbul became the center of torture for people who were taken into custody in the post-coup crackdown.

The Gokhan teacher appears to be the first victim of torture in this notorious place. Guven says that there are more than 15 witnesses who corroborate the claim that Acikkolu was tortured to death.

A teacher, who spoke to Bold Media on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution back in Turkey, was staying in the next cell to Acikkolu’s room. He also suffered torture at the same place, Istanbul Police Department headquarters.

There was a doctor in the witness’ room. He tells Bold Medya that one day there was a chaotic and urgent hurry on the part of policemen who back and forth moved from one place to another in a state of panic in the corridors.

Panic pervaded the atmosphere, and police shouted at one another. At one point, the door of their cell was wide opened. Police fetched the doctor there and urged him to check the situation of Gokhan teacher next room.

The doctor, the witness said, was trembling and his hands were shaking when he returned the room. Police moved Gokhan teacher out. “We lost the friend [Gokhan teacher],” the doctor told other prisoners in the cell.

The account of the witness challenges the prosecutor’s official document about the cause of Acikkolu’s death. The teacher, the prosecutor wrote, died of his diabetes. But the doctor, who, upon the request of police officers, first intervened to help Acikkolu said he died of beating. He appeared to receive fatal blows to his head and died of torture, not diabetes.

Cerebral hemorrhage or heart attack, the doctor said was the probable cause of Acikkolu’s death, the witness told in a new video interview.

Acikkolu was among the tens of thousands of people who had been remanded immediately in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016. He was a history teacher at a public school in Istanbul’s Umraniye district when he, along with his wife, were both dismissed in a sweeping purge campaign.

His death was a particular case that stained public conscience as authorities denied a funeral service for his family. Istanbul Mayor’s Office refused to provide a space in a graveyard, so did the local officials in Acikkolu’s hometown, a village in the central province of Konya. Officials even proposed burying him in the “cemetery of traitors,” a policy briefly introduced as a form of punishment against coup plotters. Facing public criticism, the government later retracted the idea.

The teacher was interrogated neither by a prosecutor nor by the police officials. During his detention, he only faced mistreatment and, according to his family, torture. When his situation deteriorated, he was taken to a hospital, only to be sent back to the police detention.

Guven details how his wife, Mumine Acikkollu, struggled to deliver his medicines in the face of the official ban. After her first visit to custody to see her husband, she detected signs of torture and lodged a petition with the office of Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor to investigate whether her husband faced torture. But her efforts yielded no tangible result in the chaotic atmosphere of the post-coup era.

Their agony did not end with the teacher’s death. The inhumane treatment by authorities and denial of funeral service added to their plight.

Two years after into his death, authorities still refuse to launch an investigation into the role of police officers over his death. But as more and more people speak out and more witnesses come out to offer their sides of the story, it becomes ever difficult for authorities to bury the truth and drag their foot for a thorough probe.

Acikkollu might have been the first victim, but certainly was not the last one. As long as his case remains unresolved, police officers and officials, who commit crimes against humanity and involve in torture, would acquire the feeling that they may get away with whatever they do. They should not have such an impunity and freedom.

If Acikkollu’s torturers are brought to justice, other officials would be deterred and further such incidents would be prevented.


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