Living in Fethiye for 28 years, Demir Family, from the Erzurum city located in eastern Turkey, has experienced a severe trauma after July 15, 2016, as eight of its members were imprisoned.
After the controversial July 15 coup attempt, the Erdoğan regime canceled Mrs. Fatma Demir’s and her husband Mr. Mevlüt Demir’s passports and imposed an interim injunction on their assets.
After that, eight were imprisoned from Demir family, five of them on the same day: Mrs. Fatma Demir, her husband Mr. Mevlüt Demir, their son, their daughter, their daughter-in-law, their two sons-in-law, and their granddaughter.
According to Cevheri Güven’s news from Bold Medya, Mrs. Fatma Demir disclosed about the day and her following experience:
“My son Onur, my daughter-in-law Ezgi, my daughter Esra and my son-in-law Mahmut had come to visit us. While we all were at home, the police raided our house. They made us sit on a sofa for 6 hours without allowing any physical movement. They didn’t even let me fetch my grandson’s milk from the fridge right next to me. Just then, my husband and my daughter were outside. The police detained us six all. The police said on the phone to their superiors that ‘We found a treasure’. I think they get a bonus from such raids.
“We were in custody for 11 days. We were even forbidden to look at each other while being daily taken to the forensic physician. At the end of the 11th day, they took my statement for 4.5-hours. A long-faced, tall and bearded policeman made a questioning as if beating me over the table, lying, ‘Talk!!! Hey, you woman, talk!!’ I am 54 years old, and he was consistently asking who made me marry my husband!? I said, ‘I got married in the village in Erzurum.’ And he was asking my matchmaker. I said, ‘My father got me married.’ He just asked strange questions. I had a headache during 4.5-hours of nonsense questioning. Eventually, he said, ‘Take her away… She is useless.’ I didn’t understand what I could say as a 54-year old innocent woman.”
Then everyone was arrested. They sent us to three different prisons in three different cities intending to prevent us from visiting each other in the prison, although our surnames are the same and we had the constitutional right to see each other. Just to give us more hardship.”
When all the members of our family were arrested, neither anyone brought clothes to the prison nor deposited advance money in our accounts for prison canteen shopping:
“I was sent to Denizli T Type Prison. No one brought me clothes, or I didn’t have any down payment for the prison canteen. We were all in the same situation. We were literally in hunger amidst plenty. My husband was a building contractor, and we were financially sound. Suddenly we fell down the hill economically, from heyday days to not having two nickels to rub together.
I had a navy blue dress and a green greatcoat. The officials in the prison entrance said that navy blue and green colors were forbidden in prison. They insisted on taking my clothes out due to their colors. I replied that I didn’t have any other clothes; nevertheless, they still persisted. They even took out my navy blue fabric bonnet from my head under my scarf, which is used to keep firmly the hair under the silk scarf. I reiterated that I didn’t have any other clothes, but the same reply I received:
‘Forbidden!!!’. They pressured a lot. Then I suggested to them that they might bring me a white cloth so that I could cuddle myself like a lunatic one in psychiatry. I wouldn’t enter prison without clothes.
They took me to the ward. There were young students or young teachers in the ward. I was overweighted compared to them. Their clothes did not fit me. I was about to raise my hands and pray, ‘O Almighty, send someone in my weight to this ward to share her clothes.’
“Interestingly, although my husband sent enough clothes for me with my lawyer, he said to my husband that he has handed over my clothes to me, yet he did not. I received those clothes five months later from the lawyer’s car after I was released from prison. The lawyer also gave us a lot of trouble.”
In the second month of Mrs. Fatma Demir’s detention without a visitor, one day, her daughter entered in her ward:
“One day, the ward’s door was opened. We always thought that when someone opened the door outside of the mealtime, another innocent one was sent to our ward. We prepare the place, and we help her. I ran down the stairs and opened the door, and I have seen my daughter out there.
She said ‘Mom’ and I said ‘Dearest’. We hugged and embraced each other. Not only we two, but also everyone in the ward was crying along with us. My daughter said her father was also arrested with her. A tremor began on my left side. It continued for a long time. I went to the infirmary for weeks; they gave me powerful pills. Of course, we do not know what pill it was. They don’t provide the prescription; they just give the capsule. I turned into a person sitting like a robot on my bed while I used to be a morale-booster one who amused everyone in the ward. I was just sitting, numbed. Everyone started telling me what’s going on. Then we found out that it was a very high dose of medication that was given to the people who brutally attacked others. After I was released from prison, I asked a doctor about the drugs, and he said it was too strong for me. I came to myself in days when I quit it. Such wrong drugs are also given to the innocent prisoners, and they are numbing the brains.
I stayed with my daughter in the same ward for three months. My daughter had miscarriage her three children. She was able to have the fourth one with treatment. Of course, she missed her child very much and was crying by calling my grandson’s name ‘Levent’ till the mornings. We could not stand it, and we took my grandson Levent, undesirably, with us to the prison.
My grandson, my daughter, and I were in the same ward. My son-in-law and my husband were in the same ward while my other son-in-law was in Muğla City prison, and my daughter-in-law was in Aydın City prison. Seven persons from the same family were in prisons in three cities… We made my son Onur to be transferred to his father’s ward by writing hundreds of petitions as his father had illnesses and needed care. The father and the son stayed together for a year in the same ward. When the Supreme Court upheld my son’s sentence, they separated my son and took him to another ward. My son said to some staff in prison, ‘I requested the concerned authorities to be transferred to this prison because my father is ill and needs a carer. If I can talk to the prison director and express myself, he may not separate us. There is a blockage in his brain vessels. The required surgery could not be carried out due to the detention.’ Just because he had this request, the Emergency Response Team appeared and took my son by pushing his head down, as if he was a terrorist. They took him to the torture chamber. They wanted him to undress. A room with soundproof walls.. My son did not elaborate on what has happened, but apparently, they undressed him by force, handcuffed him from behind and they tied his feet by laying his face down. Hours later, they took him back by saying, “Did you come to your sense?”. They did so just because my son wanted to explain to the prison director on his father’s illness. Later they asked the prison director anyway, and when prison director said no, nobody insisted.”
Having her grandson’s only toy in prison was the broomstick, Fatma Demir described her days spent in prison:
“My grandson constantly wanted to go out by pushing the door. There was no toy of course. There was a broom which we swept the floor. He was playing with the broomstick. He climbed the bunk beds, fell, and cried. He went up and down the stairs, fell, and cried. When he started talking, he used to say, ‘Don’t get upset, there is little left’ and made everyone laugh. Normally kids do not like some vegetables like leeks, but since he is obliged to eat, he used to say “I feel like eating leeks today”, and leek was coming on the menu. If he said ‘I feel like eating eggs today,’ and we had eggs on the menu. Whatever my grandson said, it was served. My ward-mates were getting around, and saying ‘Dear Levent, please wish such and such food today.’
If anyone cried, my grandson used to solace, “There is too little left, we will be out anyway.” He had been going a number of times to the courts with his mother for two years. One day he got up at the courtroom and started performing prayer. As he only saw women around in prison, he insisted on having a scarf for his head for his prayer. Although we insisted a lot, Levent could not wear shorts or short sleeve t-shirts, since there were cameras everywhere for us, the prisoners and we all were always paying attention to our wearing, I mean the hijab (and being covered in general). Later, there was a kindergarten in prison, but the child could not go out. Thereafter his play was to hook on something around his waist like a key, and he was becoming a prison guardian. Trying to open the doors, he used to say ‘I will take you to the view.”
After five months of detention, Mrs. Fatma Demir was released due to having eight detainees in her family.
“Normally, when someone is released, all the prisoners used to shout out the name with “released, released” in the yard and send her off with applause. This accustomedness did not apply while I was released. It was as if the bride was leaving her house during her wedding day and she was upset as she was leaving her mother. I was leaving for my freedom; nevertheless, I was leaving my daughter and grandson in prison. I was leaving seven people from my family in prisons as if leaving pieces of my lung out there. Everyone cried then. I looked back, my daughter Esra was waving behind me, and it was very difficult.
After I was released, I started to make a tour of visitations among seven people from my family among Aydın, Muğla, and Denizli cities, which are 1.30 to 2.30 hours away from each other. Since the views are very early in the morning, you have to go to the city a day earlier. It was not that easy, especially for a lady my age. I could only stay at my house in Fethiye once a week, and the rest was always on the roads.”
The state, on the one hand, and by the public on the other, started plundering the wealthy Demir family’s assets and properties. It reminds me of the mobs taking the streets of Istanbul and plundered the non-Muslim Greek, Armenian, Jewish houses on September 6 and 7, 1955.
“They blocked our bank accounts and imposed an interim injunction on our properties; however, the debts continued to grow with interest. When I came out of prison, I started dealing with exorbitant debts.
We recently purchased land on the upland. It was 5.6 acres of land and 1.2 acres of peach garden. Peaches’ quality was fantastic. We just collected from the garden once. When my son-in-law was released after me, we said, ‘Let’s go and collect our peaches so that we can sell and get some money for the debts.’ After we reached there, let alone the peaches, there were not even standing trees. The neighbor, whom we entrust our garden, took his tractor into our garden and cut all the peaches from their roots in order to make a field for himself. He literally destroyed 50 of our peach trees, cut our walnut trees, sold the pears, olives, or poplars. They spoke in the village coffee house that ‘The terrorists purchased that house and land, let’s burn it down!’. They broke the windows of the house and committed a burglary. They dismantled the irrigation system in the garden and took it to their own gardens. A peasant, whom we allowed him to cultivate anything on our 5.6 acres land as he wished, cut our 50 peach trees and several walnut trees. There was a difference as chalk and cheese between our intentions.”
Fatma Demir encounters the fact that her assets were plundered after her release.
“We had a brand new car that we got on for four months only. We were entrusted to a neighbor in the upland and covered it with a tarpaulin in front of our house. While we were in prison, a police officer stole it with a tow truck in front of our house in the upland at night. We became to know that he used our almost brand new car for about a year. He has opened the car’s doors with something like a screwdriver. We though our car was in the gratuitous bailee depot, but a police officer was using it for himself. Everyone was doing something when you are desperate.
We had some unfinished constructions. A man has spent 40.000 Turkish Lira (TL) ($5.700) inside the house, and he wanted 120.000 TL ($17.100) from us. They both transfer our property to National Estate and don’t pay their utility bills and making us pay the debt. I constantly paid debts. I have been dealing in the offices for two years, like the Courthouse, the Debt Enforcement Office, or the Land Registry Office.
They transferred our office building to the National Estate. Our house was a four-story building and was sold out. There were debts to the banks, where doubled a few times with interest. We couldn’t sell anything registered on my husband’s name. We sold the properties or assets that registered on my name. I sold my own house and moved to a rental one. We did not have any business operations in 2017 as we all were in prison, and our properties and asset were imposed an interim injunction; however, they charged us 10.000 TL ($1.426) income taxes and 8.000 TL ($1.140) VAT debts. It became, with interest, 35.000 TL ($5000) for not paying on time. They did not remove the blocks in our accounts, our properties could not be sold, we were all under arrest, we could not collect our receivables, and this inexistent 35.000 TL ($5000) tax debt has been doubled to 78.000 TL ($11.120) with more interest. They have imposed an interim injunction for our whole asset for this 78.000 TL debt, although our total asset worth much more.
They did not allow me to draw my husband’s pension. We worked hard for months to get it. My son-in-law, who is a doctor, tried very hard then. Later on, they said they will send his pension money to PTT (The National Post and Telegraph Directorate of Turkey.), I didn’t understand how it happened. Everyone is doing something among themselves.”