One of the most iconic photographs of the botched coup of July 15, 2016, was the naked soldiers handcuffed in the barn. One of the soldiers on the photograph spoke for the first time and explained what transpired in the barn.
Turkish Military Academy graduate officer Mr. Mutlu Gülerce was a lieutenant. He was detained after July 15, arrested, and expelled from his post. He was one of the handcuffed soldiers in the iconic “Naked soldiers in the barn” photo, which had become one of the symbolic photographs of July 15.
What happened there?
The story of that photo and what happened there are disclosed for the first time.
Arrested after July 15, the gendarmerie lieutenant Mutlu Gülerce decided to speak after his long silence.
Ali Aktaş of Saadet Party, who is also a lawyer, posted the photo in his twitter account with a description:
“The putschist donkeys are kept in the barn.” After Ali Aktaş’s tweet started to circulate in social media again, Mutlu Gülerce decided to talk for the first time.
Here is an account of events that transpired in that barn from the viewpoint of ex-soldier Mutlu Gülerce:
“We did not use any weapons”
“I graduated from the Turkish Military Academy in 2015. As I was a gendarme, my mates and I were at the Gendarmerie Class School in Beytepe, Ankara, on July 15. While we had training, we also had a situation that started on the night of July 15 as a night training, then announced as a terrorist attack, as was the case in many places in the Turkish Armed Forces.
“I am on trial in the Gendarmerie Schools Command. Any military officers or high-ranking officers who have been tried in this case have never been out of the garrison and have never used any gun. On the morning of that night, a soldier or soldier-looking person named Veli Tire, along with a team with him, ordered us to gather in the amphitheater. We had commanders, both at school and out of the cantonment at night. They said they would take our statement as we were trainees.”
Affronted and beaten
“We were about 250 trainees with probably ten high-ranking officers. We were taken to Gaffar Okkan Equestrian Sports Facilities in Ankara by getting into Ankara Municipality’s vehicles and a few military vehicles. Plastic handcuffs, packing tape, rope, or so forth. We were handcuffed from behind with whatever they have found.
“Once we arrived in the Equestrian Facility, we have now figured out that the situation is far beyond what we had guessed. As soon as we entered through the door, invective words and insulting came out from their mouths. After they stopped our bus somewhere, we have seen another bus that came before us, full of soldiers. They were stripping the insignia of the high-ranking officers. They were also removing their camouflage, and the senior officers just remained with their underwear.
“Unfortunately, we have seen that they slapped and insulted our commanders because they only had high-rank. A policeman swore from outside to a friend of mine on the same bus, although my friend did nothing. As my friend reacted only to that curse, a police officer came to the vehicle we were in and slapped our friend, and swore again.
Stripped to underwear
“Then we were undressed until our underwear remained. Our personal belongings, bags, phones or wallets were taken away and not officially registered. All of them were collected in a garbage bag. Using brute force, they have taken us with insults to the place where that picture was taken.
“That was the area where horses run. Approximately 200 soldiers were brought there before we arrived. We were about 250 people, so the number exceeded 400 soldiers.
“When we entered the area, we have seen that the soldiers were made to sit on their knees with reverse-handcuffing, facing the walls. They were consistently cursing and insulting. They were cursing and humiliating before everyone sits.”
Starved for 36 hours, hosed down to drink water
We remained there for 36 hours. During all this time, no food was given in any way. Only a hose was brought, and from that hose, they gave water to drink. You’re getting in line to get some water. To do so, of course, a certain period was required. One of the police officers was holding a hose in his hand. The water was continually flowing, and you needed to drink as much as he wished. Once he said, “Done!!”, he took away the hose with anger. Some soldiers fainted due to both hunger and thirst.
Everyone was under a lot of strain. The police officers were not only cursing at the soldiers but also were taking their pictures. That famous picture in the barn probably reached the media through one of the police there. Later, people like Ali Aktaş also recorded them.
No first aid
It was forbidden to stand up or to talk. They constantly queued us up and counted us. There was both psychological and physical pressure. They came intermittently and slapped some of us. They were always trying to maximize tension. The psychological threshold of a few people was exceeded, and some people had a nervous breakdown and fainted. Let alone asking how the unconscious ones were; they didn’t do any first aid even or any kind of medical care. The fainted ones remained there until they came to themselves.
They were sending us, for our needs to use the bathroom, to a corner of where we were held. Sometimes they took us out of the area and hurriedly made us urinate on the wall. They were making us poop, with bare feet and handcuffed, in a few toilets in that place.
High-ranked soldiers kept with horses
“We were kept in the area where the horses run. A commander, for instance, they put him in a place where normally just a horse was kept. Think about how they treated him there. Cursing, beating, torturing… The highest ranks in the area were majors and colonels. It was not the most tragic place of July 15, but there were violations of rights that I mentioned.
“Then they took us on buses and drove to the Police Academy’s gym. We stayed in the gym at the Police Academy for four days. Rations consisted of just a small piece of bread and a packed mini jam. Later on, we were taken to Sincan Prison where they made a gathering area. We were kept naked, only with our underwear, for a week.”
No treatment to injured commander
“Sincan Prison’s yard was an open-top place surrounded by linoleum. It was a vast area. They brought the worst cops there. Constantly insulting, they also said evil things like “Let your prophet save you!!”. They were keeping us in order.
“We had a commander who had bullet wounds in several parts of his body. Bandaging his wounds, he was left there without any treatment, as if he was entrusted to God’s blessings only.
“We were continuously kept naked, and it was freezing over there. Some of our friends became ill. We had a commander who had kidney disease; especially, his situation was worse. We were very cold both in the barn and in Sincan Prison. We were making rings of 10 soldiers in order to prevent ourselves from the cold in Sincan. We were always rear-handcuffed at the Stable, Police Academy, and Sincan Prison yard.
Judge: You are innocent
“We then appeared in court. As a trainee, we were supposed to explain our problem more easily since we had to abide by the chain of command. The judge released the first 20 of the friends who did not go out of the garrison like us. But then there was probably pressure on the judge because the number of arrests would be lower. Then we entered the courtroom, and the judge said, “I decided to arrest everyone.” In his 50s, the judge turned his back slightly and said, “I know you’re innocent, but there’s nothing to do right now’.”
“After we were arrested, we were sent to the Sincan Prison. I have stayed in prison for nine months and ten days.”
“I am neither a putschist nor a donkey!”
As the trainee lieutenants who were taken there, we did not go out of the garrison, nor we used weapons against anyone. I am one of the soldiers in that picture, but I am neither a putschist nor a donkey, as Ali Aktaş mentioned in his Twitter account. My and my friends’ rights have been violated a lot, and we are all guiltless.