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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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GRAVE DECLINE IN ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT BETWEEN 2016-2020 IN TURKEY

This study aims to analyze the impacts of the state of emergency declared after the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey on the academic achievements of the universities.

After the coup attempt on July 15th of 2016 in Turkey, a total of 6,070 academics have been dismissed from 122 state institutions following 11 issued emergency decrees (KHK)[1]. 2,808 academics have been added to this list with the closure of 15 private universities [2]. In total,  8,878 academics have been dismissed from their jobs, corresponding to nearly 15 percent of the number of academics in Turkey. The academics who voluntarily left the country are not included in this number.

Considering graduate and undergraduate studies, an average of 12 years should be spent on being an academic. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the average amount of expenditure of a person starting from primary education until becoming an academic is approximately 124.448 USD [3]. This means Turkey’s financial loss to be roughly around 1.1 billion USD.

In this study, the impacts on the worldwide success ranking of the universities after the cruelty that occurred in public universities in Turkey are examined. The top 50 universities of Turkey are also amongst the 122 universities from where the academics were dismissed. The total number of dismissed academics from the 50 universities is 4,632. Table 1 and Figure 1 detail the number of dismissed academics on a university basis. Dumlupınar University ranks highest on that list, with its 13.6% of academics having been dismissed by emergency decrees. On average, one in every 7 scientists was dismissed. Figure 2 shows that 20 universities have the highest rate in this regard.

Observing the rate of change in academic ranking on a university basis reveals that the success rankings of these institutions decreased by an average of 18%, despite 5% dismissal rate at the top 50 universities [4]. This is an important indicator showing the contribution of the dismissed academics to the scientific achievements in Turkey. Another issue to consider is that instead of dismissed academics, new academics were recruited between 2016 and 2019, thereby increasing the total number of academics by around 7% [5]. Despite the new recruitments, academic setbacks at such a high level are very thought-provoking. The universities which had significant changes in the academic ranking are identified in Figure 3. Celal Bayar University ranks highest on that list, attracting large attention. It ranked 2,207 in the world university rankings before July 2016; however, its ranking dropped to 4,755 in December of 2019, a dramatic change by 109%. Celal Bayar University is followed by Bülent Ecevit University with a 70% drop rate. Noticeably, 42 of the 50 universities experienced a decrease in the world rankings, whereas only  8 universities’ rankings remained the same.

In conclusion, the personal success index (contribution index of the dismissed to academic success), which is formed by dividing the change in the ranking by the rate of dismissing, was calculated. The aim was to calculate the impact of dismissed academics on the success of universities. At this point, the most notable one is Ege University which is ranked highest on that list. Although the total number of dismissed academics at Ege University was 45 and its rate is 1.4%, the global ranking of this university has decreased from 674 to 913, which indicates that academic success has decreased by 35%. The index of this university was calculated at 25.33. Similarly, in the third place of the list, although the total number of dismissed academics at Istanbul Technical University was 32 and the rate was 1.4%, the world ranking of this university decreased by 19% and its index was 13,76. The universities that have the highest index are stated in Figure 4.

University Number of
dismissed academics
Total number
of academics
Rate of dismissed
academics (%)
Abant Izzet Baysal 78 1333 5.9
Adiyaman 67 862 7.8
Adnan Menderes 54 1726 3.1
Afyon Kocatepe 93 1360 6.8
Akdeniz 115 2492 4.6
Anadolu 68 2188 3.1
Ankara 133 3732 3.6
Atatürk 152 2703 5.6
Balikesir 67 1032 6.5
Bülent Ecevit 71 1287 5.5
Çanakkale 18 Mart 205 1653 12.4
Celal Bayar 140 1651 8.5
Cumhuriyet 56 1858 3
Dicle 172 1935 8.9
Dokuz Eylül 46 3381 1.4
Dumlupınar 168 1239 13.6
Ege 45 3175 1.4
Erciyes 145 2398 6
Erzincan 54 916 5.9
Eskişehir Osmangazi 46 1542 3
Fırat 47 1741 2.7
Gazi 233 3982 5.9
Gaziantep 128 1644 7.8
Gaziosmanpaşa 59 1286 4.6
Gebze Teknik 19 154 12.3
Hacettepe 74 3720 2
Harran 68 1012 6.7
İnönü 58 1672 3.5
İstanbul 192 5445 3.5
İstanbul Teknik 32 2211 1.4
Kafkas 30 890 3.4
Kahramanmaraş Sütçü İmam 126 1305 9.7
Karabük 50 995 5
Karadeniz Teknik 44 2528 1.7
Kırıkkkale 74 1226 6
Kocaeli 57 2098 2.7
Marmara 102 3201 3.2
Mersin 33 1630 2
Muğla Sıtkı Koçman 38 1523 2.5
Mustafa Kemal 105 1060 9.9
Niüde Ömer Halisdemir 36 891 4
Ondokuz Mayıs 123 2347 5.2
Pamukkale 181 1995 9.1
Sakarya 97 2010 4.8
Selçuk 126 2732 4.6
Süleyman Demirel 271 2303 11.8
Trakya 29 1701 1.7
Uludağ 38 2474 1.5
Yıldız Teknik 114 1754 6.5
Yüzüncü Yıl 73 1705 4.3

 

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References

  1. Kural, B., Adal, H. (2018, July). Haber Listesi : Akademide İhraçlar 6 Bin 81’e Yükseldi.
    Retrieved from: http://bianet.org/bianet/ifade-ozgurlugu/198990-akademide-ihraclar-6-bin-81-e-yukseldi
  2. Kural, B., (2016, August). Haber Listesi : Sayılarla Kapatılan Üniversiteler.
    Retrieved from: https://m.bianet.org/bianet/egitim/177442-sayilarla-kapatilan-universiteler
  3. University Ranking by Academic Performance.(n.d.)
    Retrieved from: http://tr.urapcenter.org/2019/index.php
  4. Country Note, (2014). Turkey–Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators.
    Retrieved from: https://www.oecd.org/education/Turkey-EAG2014-Country-Note.pdf
  5. Yuksek Ogretim Bilgi Yonetim Sistemi, (n.d.).
    Retrieved from: https://istatistik.yok.gov.tr/
  6. http://www.webometrics.info/en

 

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THE TORTURED MOTHERS UNDER ERDOGAN’S REGIME

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By AST Reporter, Nur Ozer

May 15, 2020

“I was so afraid to go to the hospital for delivery. I had planned to have the majority of my labor contractions at home so that I would not be taken into custody,” says Ayse Kaya in an interview she gave to an Advocates of Silenced Turkey reporter. Like many mothers of the Gulen movement, Ayse Kaya’s life took a radical turn after the so-called coup attempt in Turkey, in 2016. Mrs. Kaya, who is a Gulen movement supporter, used to work at a non-profit organization. Mrs. Kaya mentions in her interview that the organization was completely legal, operating under the appropriate government department that oversaw non-profit organizations, and subject to unannounced government audits.

The Turkish Justice Minister data indicates that there are more than 750 babies imprisoned with their mothers. According to the Turkish Criminal Code, Law No# 5275, Article 16, Section 4 the Implementation of Criminal and Security Measures prohibits the arrest of women with babies younger than six months and pregnant women. However, these regulations do not apply to Gulen movement supporters. This brutality is not limited to new moms, and newborns; it is also affecting the new generation of Turkey. There are more than 3000 children in the prisons of Turkey. This growing young generation has witnessed many tortures, and brutal practices in the jails, and at the courts. During this process, one can easily witness a child screaming, or crying uncontrollably as they see their parents in handcuffs.  Some of the mothers have to take their newborns to prison with them, while others have to leave them in tears to their parents.  Worst of all, there are many children whose mother and father were imprisoned and due to their relatives’ unwillingness to accept guardianship, these children were sent to the orphanages. The link below shows a short video of a little girl whose father is in jail, and whose mother was taken to court and arrested. After many hours of waiting, the little girl is talking to a dog asking where her mother is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gni2GbSpoZA

As of now, there is no evidence that connects Gulen supporters to the attempted 2016 coup. However, for Erdogan, and the AKP regime, this does not mean anything. In his article, Tas (2017) states, “Having thwarted a coup attempt, one could plausibly assume that AKP would comb through the evidence gathered and reveal the truth of 15 July. Instead, AKP demonstrated an apparent disdain for facts and employed various means to obstruct the pursuit of truth and maintain its monopoly over the narrative of the abortive coup.” (p.6) Even if we consider that the Gulen movement followers organized the coup, there is no law that allows imprisoning new mothers and newborns. No matter what the truth is, there is one reality that is not changing; Turkey’s prisons are turning into the headquarters of torture for the new generations of Turkey.

Like Mrs. Kaya, there are many mothers living in brutal conditions in the prisons of Turkey without -knowing the exact reason for their imprisonment. They are living with the hope that all of this is a big misunderstanding, and that the authorities would eventually realize that they were making a big mistake. Even though we share the same hopes with these new mothers, the present status of the Erdogan regime has not made any attempt to release them despite the danger of the Covid-19 pandemic. Besides all the trauma and brutality, the mothers are facing, there is another crucial unforeseen fact, which is the psychological status of new mothers.  The delivery process brings many crucial identity, physiological, and physical shifts in a woman’s life. “These changes range from “baby blues” to a spectrum of feelings known as “postpartum mood disorders”. (“Emotions of Motherhood”, n.d, p.0). Besides the poor psychological and physical conditions in prisons, most mothers suffer from deprivations such as not having hygienic enough conditions, and the lack of baby diapers, baby formula, and attention to the nutritional needs of their newborns.

In addition to the mothers in jails, due to unforeseen conditions, many women are forced to live in secret locations with the fear of being taken into custody or imprisoned. Most of these women have been suffering from the lack of access to proper healthcare, and from starvation, and poverty. Today, many Gulen movement supporters are forced into civil death with their families, and many ended up with emigrating from Turkey via dangerous water crossing from Meric (Evros River) with the hope of finding new lives overseas.


References

All Things Baby . (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.unitypoint.org/waterloo/emotions.aspx

CEZA VE GÜVENLİK TEDBİRLERİNİN İNFAZI HAKKINDA KANUN. (2004, December 13). Retrieved from https://www.mevzuat.gov.tr/MevzuatMetin/1.5.5275.pdf

Tas , H. (2018, March 8). The 15 July abortive coup and post-truth politics in Turkey. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14683857.2018.1452374?needAccess=true

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gni2GbSpoZA


 

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FIRST WOMEN’S RIGHTS ADVOCACY INTERNSHIP

AST’s first internship program is designed to introduce college students to contemporary women’s rights issues in Turkey. This internship is a great opportunity to develop your research and academic writing skills as you work towards publishing a paper for AST under your own name. Guided by AST, you will have the benefit of scheduling your own work in the comfort of your home as you do research and conduct interviews.

INTERNSHIP DATES:
JUNE 15, 2020 – SEPTEMBER 15, 2020

Apply by June 13, 2020

Application Form

 

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SHORT FILM COMPETITION

“INNOCENCE – INNOCENCY” as part of human rights violations What is experienced within the scope of human rights violations and victimizations in Turkey and other countries of the world.
AST organizes a short film competition to develop an awareness of unjust practices. This Competition covers sub-topics such as political prisoners, torture, deprivation of basic human rights, etc., including innocent women, infants, and seniors in prisons.
The goal of this competition is to develop an awareness of unjust practices; to develop individuals in short film making; to reflect aesthetic skills in filmmaking; to be able to present the message clearly to the audience; to contribute to the formation of habit and taste in engaging in artistic activities.

Application Form

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CALL FOR INVESTIGATION: Brutal Stabbing Attack on Businessman Hazim Sesli at Menemen Penitentiary

 

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Brutal Stabbing Attack on Businessman Hazim Sesli at Menemen Penitentiary

Advocates of Silenced Turkey urges all relevant institutions of the International Human Rights community to petition the Government of Turkey as follows:

  1. The Ministry of Justice and the Menemen Type T Penitentiary must urgently carry out a thorough, prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the attack in the custody of Businessman Hazim Sesli in order to determine (a) how a deadly weapon was brought into the prison, (b) why the assailant was left unsupervised for the duration of this nearly fatal attack, and (c) whether prison staff have been involved in planning the attack.
  2. Turkish authorities must urgently provide information to resolve questions and suspicions about the Hazim Sesli incident as well as all other allegations of ill-treatment, including violations by guards and other prisoners, of Hizmet Movement members imprisoned for political reasons.

Facts of the Hazim Sesli Incident

Businessman Hazim Sesli, arrested after being detained as part of the investigations against the Hizmet Movement, was attacked while talking on the phone with his family at 4:20 PM on March 11, 2020, at the Menemen Prison. Sesli was stabbed in 7 different parts of his body by another prisoner. Sesli first received medical attention in the prison infirmary in the aftermath of the attack and was later transferred to a hospital for further treatment.

According to information received by AST, Hazim Sesli, as part of Usak 2. Assize Court’s case No. 2016/204 E, has been a prisoner at the Menemen Type T Closed Penitentiary since October 21, 2015.

Testimony received by TR 724 News indicates that while Mr. Hazim Sesli stayed in an 8-person dormitory-style cell until September 9, 2016, he was arbitrarily transferred into solitary confinement without an official explanation from the Menemen Type T Closed Penitentiary Administration. It was asserted that this transfer was requested by the Ministry of Justice. However, in all applications submitted by Hazim Sesli’s legal representatives, they were told by the Ministry of Justice that a transfer request had not been made; the ministry added that the decision to transfer Sesli was at the discretion of the Menemen Penitentiary.

Hazim Sesli had not been interviewed since his transfer to solitary confinement. On March 11, 2020, at exactly 16:20, Hazim Sesli was stabbed by Fatih Oktay while on a phone call with his family. While on the phone, Hazim Sesli first noticed the attack when the assailant accidentally stabbed the phone in his hands. Sesli attempted to protect his life against the stabber who repeatedly attempted to stab his heart. Prison guards intervened, however, Sesli had incurred 7 severe injuries, including two stabbing wounds on his left hand, two wounds on his left leg, and 3-4 wounds on his hips.

The assailant, Fatih Oktay, is a two-time murderer and known for skinning the head of another prisoner in the past. The fact that Oktay, a violent criminal, was left in the same phone area as Hazim Sesli without supervision raises suspicions and numerous questions about the security conditions at the Menemen Penitentiary. More crucially, when Hazim Sesli was brought back from the hospital after his treatment, a prison guard has reportedly intentionally brought Sesli to the assailant’s cell to confirm Sesli’s return to the penitentiary.

Relevant Human Rights Institutions

  1. United National Human Rights Committee

Petitions Team
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10 (Switzerland)

Fax: + 41 22 917 9022 (particularly for urgent matters)
E-mail: petitions@ohchr.org

  1. Committee Against Torture

Petitions and Inquiries Section
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

E-mail: petitions@ohchr.org,
TB-petitions@ohchr.org,
cat@ohchr.org,
registry@ohchr.org

  1. Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
5100 O’Neill House Office Building
200 C Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20515
United States of America

Phone: +1 (202) 225-3599
Fax: +1 (202) 226-6584
Email: TLHRC@mail.house.gov

  1. S Helsinki Commission

234 Ford House Office Building
3rd and D Streets SW
Washington, DC 20515

Email: info@csce.gov

  1. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Mr. José Guevara,
Ms. Leigh Toomey,
Ms. Elina Steinerte,
Mr. Sètondji Adjovi,
Mr. Seong-Phil Hong

Email: wgad@ohchr.org

  1. The Honorable Dunja Mijatovic

Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Council of Europe
Avenue de I’Europe F-67075
Strasbourg Cedex, France

Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 34 21
Fax: +33 (0)3 90 21 50 53
Email:  commissioner@coe.int

  1. The Honorable Abdülhamit Gül

Minister of Justice
06659 Kizilay
Ankara, Republic of Turkey

Email: info@adalet.gov.tr

 

Contact Us:

help@silencedturkey.org 
Phone: 646-504-2088

 

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Human Rights Digest: February 2020 Articles

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TURKEY: MONTHLY HUMAN RIGHTS DIGEST February 2020

  1. The Lawless Judiciary: Philanthropist Osman Kavala Rearrested Hours After Acquittal

    [
    https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/02/turkey-kavala-case-may-lead-countrys-expulsion-from-europe.html]

    On February 18th, Istanbul’s 30th Heavy Criminal Court acquitted businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala who was one of eight defendants on trial for their alleged involvement in planning, managing and directing Gezi Park Protests. Kavala spent 840 days, or more than two years, in pretrial detention before the court acquitted him of all charges. Only a few hours after his acquittal, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s office issued a new order for Kavala’s re-arrest, this time due to allegations of his involvement in the failed military coup of 2016. The Prosecutor’s politically charged warrant for Kavala provides a glimpse into President Erdogan’s unrelenting crackdown on all dissidents through the extensive use of loyalist judges and prosecutors. In the words of Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director of Human Rights Watch, detention of Kavala immediately after his release has shown the judiciary is “lawless and vindictive.”

  2. Former Legal Advisor to the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces: “I am Honored to Be in Prison”

    [https://www.tv100.com/fetonun-askeri-yargi-davasinda-karar-haber-482207]

    On January 24, as part of the ongoing failed military coup trials, Istanbul’s 25th Court of Assize found 17 defendants guilty. The Court sentenced 4 defendants to aggravated life sentences, 2 to life sentences, and 13 to varying sentences between 7.5 to 10.5 years. All defendants had been in custody for years awaiting a trial, a long wait which amounted to punishment on its own. More importantly, the court’s partiality and willingness to carry out the Erdogan administration’s vendetta against political enemies drew a vocal criticism from Muharrem Kose, one of the defendants, who described the situation as follows: “I am honored to be in prison in a judicial order where men like Ahmet Altan continue to be behind bars. I don’t believe you will deliver a fair judgment today. May God give judges sitting on this bench a long life so that you can be tried legitimately for your illegitimate actions.”

  1. 5 Months Pregnant Mother Imprisoned & Forced to Give Birth Under Police Supervision

    [https://tr.euronews.com/2020/02/21/elif-tugral-bes-aylik-hamileyken-cezaevine-girdi-tutuklu-dogum-yapti-anne-yogun-bakimda]

    On February 21st, Elif Tugral gave birth to her second child, a son, after spending the final four months of her pregnancy in Sakran Penitentiary in the city of Izmir. Sentenced for 6 years and 10 months, Elif Tugral was found guilty of maintaining a bank account with the now-defunct Asia Bank (“Bank Asya”). Taken into custody while five months pregnant, Elif Tugral was forced to carry out the rest of her pregnancy under duress in abysmal prison conditions while suffering from a multitude of health issues, including a potentially fatal chronic intravascular coagulation condition. In words of her husband, Nuri Tugral, “[Elif] gets hospital visits but it’s very grueling. She travels to the hospital in prisoner transport vehicles for nearly 2 hours with lots of shaking and wobbling on the road.” After four painful months, Tugrul was taken to the hospital by 10 police officers who refused to leave and adamantly supervised her during and after she gave birth. In his reaction to the tragic event, Parliamentarian Gergerlioglu tweeted: “10 male officers brought the mother to the hospital. They waited at the door. Why, how would she even escape?”

  2. Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Former Secretary-General Sentenced Due to $1 Bill

    [https://www.sabah.com.tr/gundem/2020/01/30/eski-askeri-yargitay-uyesi-mehmet-simseke-feto-uyeliginden-hapis-cezasi-verildi]

    On February 1st, the Turkish Court of Cassation’s Penal Chamber sentenced Mehmet Simsek, the former Secretary-General of the Military Court of Cassation, to 7.5 years for his alleged affiliation with the Hizmet Movement. In trial, Simsek complained that he faces major public prejudice because of his removal from office and imprisonment after the 2016 coup attempt. He argued that he not only had no affiliation with the coup attempt but he had already submitted his plans for retirement in August of that year. In line with all political imprisonments under the leadership of AK Party and Erdogan, the Court of Cessation found Simsek guilty of all charges, presenting the 1 US Dollar bill found in his apartment as evidence of supposed affiliation with the Hizmet Movement. Simsek’s case sheds light on the breakdown of the Turkish criminal justice system under the current government’s draconian crackdown on all voices of opposition.

  3. President Erdogan uses 3.5 Million Syrian Refugees for Barter with EU

    [
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51687160]

    On February 29th, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an official statement after ordering the Turkish-Greek border gate to be opened. In his statement regarding 3.5 million Syrian refugees who were taken into the country by Mr. Erdogan’s own administration, Erdogan proclaimed “We will not close these doors in the coming period and this will continue. Why? The European Union needs to keep its promises. We don’t have to take care of this many refugees, to feed them.” At the time of publication, 18,000 refugees were allowed to cross the border as part of Erdogan’s plan to extract more money and resources from the EU.


 

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Postponement of Freedom Forum 2020: Grave Human Rights Violations in Turkey

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Re: Postponement of Freedom Forum 2020: Grave Human Rights Violations in Turkey

We regret to inform you that we are postponing Freedom Forum 2020: Grave Human Rights Violations in Turkey in Washington, DC on March 24-25.

Given the coronavirus’ rapid spread around the globe, we have been closely monitoring news reports and communicating with health departments and local government outlets. Unfortunately, numerous cities and states have declared states of emergency and the health of our participants is our utmost priority. Following suit with other organizations who have postponed their events scheduled for the near future, including many that would have taken place at the National Press Club, we have decided to postpone the Freedom Forum 2020: Grave Human Rights Violations in Turkey.

A new date for the Freedom Forum will be determined and communicated to you in a timely fashion when local and international monitors declare that the threat of coronavirus has been contained.

We are very sorry to have to postpone this event as it will be a great gathering, but we hope you can understand the circumstances.

Hafza Y. GIRDAP
Spokesperson

 

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RELEASE ABDULLAH AYDOGAN: The 74 Year Old Political Prisoner

AST has written an official complaint letter to be shared with relevant United Nations institutions. Please join us in sending a letter to Nils Melzer in order to urge the Special Rapporteur to take action on Turkey’s cruel treatment of Abdullah Aydogan

Re: International Law Obligations to Release Abdullah Aydoğan

Dear Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer,

We write on behalf of Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), an advocacy group of concerned human rights defenders who promote international human rights, the independence and security of human rights defenders, the integrity of legal systems and the rule of law through advocacy, education, and research. AST plays a major role in documenting and disseminating information regarding human rights violations committed in the Republic of Turkey.

The Republic of Turkey, under the combined leadership of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has systemically detained, arrested, charged and/or imprisoned victims who suffer from old age and chronic health problems without exploring potential non-custodial measures. The presiding Turkish government’s ill-treatment of critically ill prisoners has been extensively documented by the United Nations’ Independent Experts, domestic NGOs, and international human rights organizations. In fact, there are 458 critically ill prisoners in Turkey’s criminal justice system.

In this instance, we are writing with respect to Abdullah Aydoğan, a 74-year old prisoner. Mr. Aydoğan has been in prison since 2017, continues to suffer a multitude of life-threatening health problems, and all of his appeals, legal and otherwise, have been unequivocally rejected by the Turkish judicial system.

Further Background

Abdullah Aydoğan, a 74-year old illiterate retiree, husband, and father of 1 daughter has been in prison since 2016. In August 2016, Aydoğan was taken into custody and later imprisoned for his alleged managerial role in the Gulen Movement. Until his first encounter with the criminal justice system, Aydoğan had no prior criminal record. After nearly 9 months in custody, Aydoğan was convicted for acquiring a banking account from Asia Bank (“Bank Asya”) in 1997; traveling abroad three times for hajj, umrah, and his daughter’s graduation ceremony; participating in a relief organization which organized charity activities in underserved villages and towns. Aydoğan was initially sentenced to 9 years and 9 months; the Supreme Court later reduced his sentence to 6 years and 3 months, confirming and ascertaining his sentence.

According to the information we have received through AST’s original research, Mr. Aydoğan was unable to leave his home prior to his imprisonment due to health issues. He spent his time exclusively at home for nearly five years and depended on his wife for care. A board of medical examiners unanimously agree that Aydoğan’s health problems pose a dire threat to his health if left untreated. Mr. Aydoğan suffers from bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, movement disability due to gonarthrosis (a degenerative joint issue), senile cataract, and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Legal Analysis

The UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Special Rapporteur’s Mission to Turkey have both concluded after careful consideration that detentions, arrest, and convictions of critically ill persons may amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The ill-treatment of disabled and sickly prisoners by imprisonment and deprivation of medical services violates fundamental human rights outlined by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Finally, the Turkish government’s systemic persecution of disabled prisoners violates Articles 10, 14, and 15 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Conviction or detention of vulnerable persons is therefore unlawful.

A close investigation of Abdullah Aydoğan’s case reveals that his particular situation has been covered and protected by four distinct human rights instruments:

  1. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

  2. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment

  3. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  4. Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners

While the violations of the first two instruments are self-evident, we would like to explain the violations of the other two instruments.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The detention and imprisonment of Abdullah Aydoğan constitute a grave violation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to which Turkey is a state party. Most importantly, Article 15 provides, “(2) States Parties shall take all effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, from being subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The October 2019 report by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides further clarification of the State duty to protect human rights of disabled members of society by delineating shortcomings of Turkish institutions:

  1. The absence of information about measures to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and prevent abuse and involuntary admission to psychiatric hospitals, residential facilities or other institutions;

  2. Insufficient accommodations available for persons with disabilities in prisons, reports of ill-treatment of persons with disabilities in prisons, limited access to remedies in cases of ill-treatment, and risks of reprisals;

  3. The lack of information about monitoring of residential facilities to prevent ill-treatment and the restrictions on monitoring by civil society organizations of persons with disabilities deprived of liberty

Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners

In 1990, the United Nations established a set of principles for the protection of civil rights of prisoners while in custody. Principle 4 establishes the “responsibility of prisons for the custody of prisoners and for the protection of society against crime shall be discharged in keeping with a State’s other social objectives and its fundamental responsibilities for promoting the well-being and development of all members of society.” In light of this principle, Abdullah Aydoğan who has been unable to leave his home for nearly five years prior to his imprisonment poses absolutely no danger to the Turkish society at large. Furthermore, charges leveled against Aydoğan pertain exclusively to his involvement with various non-violent charity activities, meaning Aydoğan has never posed a danger to society at any point of his life. In short, Mr. Aydoğan cannot and does not pose a danger to society due to the condition of his health. Therefore, the Turkish State’s responsibility for the protection of society against crime can be effectively discharged in this instance.

Conclusion 

AST urges the Office of the Special Rapporteur to urge the Government of Turkey to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release from imprisonment Abdullah Aydoğan

  2. Immediately release from imprisonment all other critically ill men and women who suffer from life threatening illnesses and pose no risk to the social safety

  3. Put an end to the practice of imprisoning old, critically-ill, and disabled prisoners

  4. Put an end to the practice of charging Turkish citizens with criminal offenses based simply on their affiliation with government-sanctioned charity organizations

  5. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.
Advocates of Silenced Turkey.
Letters can be sent by mail AND email:
Mailing Address:
Special Rapporteur on Torture
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

EMAIL: urgent-action@ohchr.org

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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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