Forced disappearance of the regime’s opponents, torturing them in secret sites for months or killing of them are practices seen in different periods of Turkish history. Those practices which Kurds suffered in the early ’90s are now in use after a long time for the Gulen movement’s members.
Since the start of 2016, 29 individuals were abducted. There are still no words on the whereabouts or wellbeing of some of them and hope is already lost for them being alive.
In February of 2016, six people were abducted in a similar way: Gökhan Turkmen, Yasin Ugan, Özgür Kaya, Erkan Irmak, Salim Zeybek and Mustafa Yılmaz.
Gokhan Turkmen, Yasin Ugan, Özgür Kaya, Erkan Irmak turned up in the Anti-Terror Department of Ankara Police Headquarter after 6 months of their forced disappearance.
Remaining 2 persons, Mustafa Yılmaz and Gökhan Türkmen, were found “being turned over to police”.
Their first words: withdraw the applications lodged before International Courts
The observations of their wives, able to see them after months, are the same: They have lost extreme weight, have blanched and are scared.
They have not been allowed to see their families or lawyers alone. The visits in police custody can be made under the surveillance of police officers or the surveillance of guardian in prison, despite being against the law. Besides, more than one police officers or guardians are present during the visit. And the whole visit is filmed by video cameras.
The first things they said were the same and they sound like to be dictated:
“I don’t want a lawyer, withdraw the applications filed before international courts and institutions regarding our disappearance and tortures, give up on the complaints filed before Turkish courts, stop twitting.”
They were not allowed to see lawyers retained by their families
The formerly abducted persons were able to tell their families and lawyers about the tortures that they had experienced before being jailed. Thanks to those statements of which the Courts had been aware afterward, the secret place of the Turkish Intelligence Service has been uncovered.
This time, a different method has been followed for those last six. Officials did not let them meet their lawyers or families alone. They said they do not demand a lawyer with the memorized phrases while being in fear due to tortures they had faced for months.
Then, some “surprise” lawyers, known by neither families nor appointed by a Bar association, have appeared. No one knows who paid those lawyers either.
Those lawyers who display a nationalist profile have avoided giving information about those abductees persons to their families.
One of those lawyers is Neslihan Koçer. She insisted upon there is no torture or abduction during our conversation. According to Koçer, they had hidden in an unknown place but then they decided to turn themselves in. She claimed that she came across Ugan and Kaya in the police headquarter where she was for another business. However, she left unanswered the question of why these persons did not ask for their lawyer. Following the publication by Bold Media of her interview, she applied to a Turkish court and blocked access to Bold Medya’s website in Turkey.
Applications to International Courts
Their families showed great efforts for months following their abduction. After exhausting all domestic remedies without any result, they tried remedies in international law. The Committee on Enforced Disappearance of the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights accepted to review their applications and requested a defense from Turkey. And, one of the repeated phrases by all those 6 persons was “Withdraw your applications from international courts”. In spite of their husbands’ requests, the families are determined to maintain their applications.
Twitter is the sole place of freedom
The families, who could not have their voices heard due to censorship over Turkish media, used social media, in particular, Twitter, very efficiently.
The tweets of families racked up thousands of share and in this way, they received public attention.
Sümeyye Yılmaz, the wife of abducted physiotherapist Mustafa Yılmaz, thinks that her use of Twitter played an important role to get her husband back alive.
She said “my husband wants me to stop tweeting, does not want a lawyer and asks for withdrawal of international applications. Those cannot be my husband’s phrase, they sound like memorized phrases. I will continue my fight.”
Zehra Türkmen, the wife of Gökhan Türkmen, said “I will not withdraw my applications to international courts. I will keep up my legal fight. I will bring those (responsible for my husband’s disappearance) to account.”
Ankara Bar Association not being allowed to appoint a lawyer
Ankara Bar Association has designated a committee of lawyers to visit the 6 abducted persons. However, the administration of prison did not allow the visit despite the provisions of law expressly authorizing it.
Since the abducted persons were forced to say that they do not want to have a lawyer, the Bar association has been left unable to intervene. Turkey has never seen this level of pressure before.
Kerem Altıparmak, a human rights lawyer, summarises the situation as follows:
“People have gone missing for months. Their families have been looking for them at that time. This person turns up after months and says I was hiding. So he knows how his family’s situation is but do nothing. The person, coming out of nowhere, persistently decline his family’s and Bar association’s offer for having a lawyer. He insists upon working with a lawyer who is not known by himself or his family. The person who has been running for months suddenly become an informer and give many persons’ name away. Those persons are secretly tried by a special court. What a coincidence that the same scenario plays out for each abduction.”
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a rights activist and an MP from the pro-minority rights Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), noted the similarities of the last abduction cases:
“Forced disappearances are the most important human rights violations. We receive reports of intense torturing in the aftermath of the abduction. They have been kidnapped and then turned up in police custody. In the latest cases, none of the abducted persons want to speak in police custody. Their wives believe that their husbands were forced to speak against their will. The same story goes for Gökhan Türkmen, the very last to be found, and all the other five persons; they have lost weight, their skin has got white due to lack of sunlight and been asking for the withdrawal of applications filled to international courts. All the cases are the same.”
A special court
The special court, referred to by Kerem Altınparmak, is Ankara 34th Heavy Penal Court. It is also known as “MİT (Turkish Intelligence Office) Mahkemesi” by the public. The cases in which MİT takes interest will be judged by this special court which was formed in September 2019. This is a kind of a court special to MİT.
Four of them were brought to this court on 24 and 25 September for the first time. CHP lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkılu, a prominent human rights activist, went to the Ankara Court House to observe the first trial.
He describes what he has seen as “I searched the courthouse with the families for two hours to find in which hearing room Salim Zeybek and Özgür Kaya’s trial is being held. No official in the courthouse gave us information regarding the place of trial. The hearing room of 34th Heavy Penal Court was empty. A secret trial is being conducted and this is against the law.”
The 6 persons, after missing for months, are not being let to choose their lawyers, to meet their families alone and been tried secretly. They are even isolated in their prison cells. Thus, they could not find an occasion to talk about the tortures they underwent when they were missing.
However, Ayten Öztürk and Zabit Kişi, apart from those 6 persons, had the occasion of telling the tortures they experienced in MİT’s torture center called “Çiftlik” in Ankara.
They were able to describe, both orally and written, what they had gone through.
Here are some of the things that Ayten Öztürk experienced:
“I was taken blindfolded to the torture room. They were first undressing me and handcuffing me in a hanging position to iron rings on the wall. They were pressing an electric shock device on all over my naked body. When they did this, my whole body was shaking and I was screaming at the top of my voice. They kept doing it until I passed out. Marks, looking like holes, were appearing on every part of my body where they applied the taser. Marks in which there are 2 cm gaps between its edges. When I was sent to a prison, my fellow inmates counted my marks of which there are 898. When I was about to pass out, they were taking me to a bathroom and continue torturing with high-pressure water. Sometimes they were doing waterboarding for hours. While one was spraying high-pressure water, another one was holding me to fill the sack on my head with water. They used the shock device also while waterboarding me. And sometimes they were taking the sack off, opening my eyes and pouring the water in my nose.
Moving was impossible in the place called “coffin”. In the cell, though, there was beaten, threat and swears on every occasion. They hit me in the head and face very harshly more than twice. They were doing this until my mouth and nose were covered with blood and got bruised. I was also given an electric shock through my little fingers and big toes. They wrapped a metal ring around my fingers and gave the shock by using a remote control. I passed out a few times so that I could not stand on my feet. When they stopped giving an electric shock, they were harassing all my body with their fingers and sticks. They were trying to thrust the stick into my genital area.”
Zabit Kişi also revealed in the (court) hearing his experiences of the torture center where he remained 103 days :
“Once I got there, they undressed me. I am not able to talk about the harassment and dirty talks that I witnessed. Two persons held me by my arms and hit me on a kind of wall. They gave electric shocks of which they sometimes increased the voltage to different parts of my body starting from the top of it. When I was in sitting position, they turned the sole of my feet upwards and crashed my fingers one by one. One month later my fingers started recovering and some of my nails came back. While I was sitting handcuffed behind the back, they stepped onto the handcuffs.
For a few days, I struggled to hold a spoon to eat the food they gave me. I had to take pills in prison due to the loss of sensation in my fingers and nerve damages.
They threatened to rape me when I was naked and they attempted to do it with a hard object. They repeated this despite my begs.
As I was sitting, two persons held me by arms and hit me in the back, my ribs got cracked. I suffered a lot each time I breathed due to the pressure of ribs on my lung. They were asking me to answer aloud, even though there was a sack on my head. To do that, I was taking deep and fast breathes through my mouth and because of that I experienced a respiratory problem and heartthrob.
The torture team was changing but the torture was going on.”
Zabit Kişi and Ayten Öztürk were not even permitted by the courts to see doctors despite revealing the torture they went through. No probes were launched over the torture allegations.
Parents arrested, disabled children left at home alone
On the International Day of Disabled Persons, Ali & Elif Kisa was arrested for being elected to the Peoples` Democratic Party (HDP) administration. One of their children is deaf and mute and the other is mentally disabled.
On December 3, the International Day of Disabled Persons, parents of two disabled children were arrested in the Elbistan district of Maraş.
According to Mesopotamia Agency; 70-year-old Ali and Elif Kısa have been detained 3 times since 2017. Ali Kısa, who supports his family with his retirement pension, has been involved in political activities for many years. Ali Kısa, who has been the HDP district manager since HDP was founded, was detained together with his wife Elif Kısa in 2017. While his wife was released by judicial control, Ali Kısa was arrested on charges of helping the terror organization. After being detained for 7 months, Kısa was acquitted from the file on which he was tried. During his detention in prison, Ali Kısa, who had severe conditions and high cholesterol prostate surgery, decreased from 116 to 79 kilos.
Threat before the congress
Ali Kısa was taken into custody together with his wife Elif again on November 13, 2019. They were released on condition of judicial control after the threats “If you go to HDP and join the administration again, we will get you again”. Ali Kısa was re-elected to the management at HDP District Congress on November 17th. Ali Kısa was taken into custody with his wife Elif again on 3 December. Ali and Elif Kısa were arrested on terror charges.
Parents arrested on the International Day of Disabled Persons
Ali and Elif Kısa were arrested on December 3rd the International Day of Disabled Persons and their two children with disabilities were left alone. One of their sons is 44-year-old İsmail, who is mentally challenged, deaf and speech-impaired. İsmail has a “Severe Disability” report which means he is totally in need of his mother’s care.
Their other son is 42-year-old Ahmet, with a hearing and speech disability of 64 percent. Ahmet closed his painting workshop so that he could look after his brother. Both brothers cannot hear the doorbell as they are hearing and speech impaired. İsmail is also obsessed with cleanliness. He was bathed every day by his mother. He can not eat without the help of someone. His fingers bleed because he often cuts his nails. For not taking his medication regularly, he gets nervous.
Toğrul: Children cannot sustain their lives
HDP Deputy Mahmut Toğrul also pointed out the situation of Ali and Elif Kısa in the Turkish Grand National Assembly. “In Elbistan, Ali Kısa, Elif Kısa, and Bekir Kara were detained on 3 December and arrested. Ali Kısa and Bekir Kara are our current district managers and Elif Kısa is our previous district manager. Ali and Elif Kısa are 70 years old and have 2 children. One is 80 percent mentally challenged, the other is hearing and speech impaired. There’s no one else in the house. The two children are not able to look after themselves at home. The family has expressed their children`s situation in custody, but they have been arrested in spite of this.”
Erdogan foe detained in Bosnia to be deported back to Turkey
The local police in Bosnia Herzegovina on Tuesday detained a Turkish dissident with a permanent residency in the country, reportedly to extradite the Erdogan foe to Turkey.
Fatih Keskin, the principal of Una-Sana College, an institute operating within the Richmond Park Schools Group, was invited to a police station in Bihać city by the Ministry of Interior of the Una-Sana Canton, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) reported citing local media.
Soon after being detained, the Gulen movement affiliated teacher was transferred to a detention center for migrants in the capital city of Sarajevo to start an extradition process, AA said.
The move came hours after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan hinted at new operations to capture Gulenists living in Europe before he left for London to attend a summit.
Ankara accuses Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric in a self-exile, for orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt, a claim that strongly denied by the movement.
The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Ministry of Security of Bihac revoked the residency permit of four Turkish nationals in September, following the Turkish government’s extradition request according to AA. The case of four Erdogan dissidents was taken to a local court then.
His lawyer Nedim Ademovic confirmed that Fatih Keskin, who has been living in the country for more than 14 years with his family, was detained by Bosnian authorities.
Keskin told Bold on the phone that he was being kept in a detention center in Sarajevo where refugees are held for deportation.
“I was invited to the police station at around 10 am in Bihac and I was told I violated the rules in Bosnia, hence my residency was revoked. When I asked which rules I violated, the officers said they did not even know,” Keskin said.
He told that two police officers forcibly transferred him to Sarajevo refusing to show any official paper and denying him time to meet his lawyer.
“They did not let me call my lawyer. ‘If you resist, we will handcuff you,’ the two police officers told me.”
He is concerned for possible deportation back to his home country where a mass crackdown has been targeting some 500 thousand Gulenists since 2016.
In March 2018, Turkish intelligence service (MIT) detained six Turkish nationals with the cooperation of Kosovar authorities and they were taken to Turkey where they were arrested.
As of March 2019, a total of 107 people with alleged links to the movement have been brought to Turkey since the failed 2016 coup, following extradition requests for 504 people sent to 91 countries, the state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) reported citing Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul.
Academic purged in post-coup crackdown reveals details of torture during latest detention
Renowned activist Nuriye Gülmen talked about the torture she and her friends had been through in Istanbul Police Station.
BOLD – The last three years in Turkey saw the Erdogan regime dismiss more than 150 thousand civil servants from their posts.
The “Solidarity Concert” was to be held in Istanbul to protest the decrees that Erdoğan issued to dismiss civil servants and to meet with those who lost their jobs. However, the concert on Saturday (November 23) was banned by the local authority at the last moment.
Turkey’s well-known activists and academics who lost their jobs came to the concert and 18 people including Nuriye Gülmen and Acun Karadağ were detained.
During the 4-day detention process, Nuriye Gülmen confirmed that practices such as torture, ill-treatment, and medication ban were implemented as expressed by the lawyers previously. Gülmen told BOLD about their experiences she had in custody and the resistance movement that they started with a few people against emergency decrees.
Four-day detention with non-stop torture
“When we were taken into custody, they handcuffed us behind our backs and our arms forced almost till the breaking point. We were not allowed to use the toilet when we wanted to, and they did not answer our questions. The place where we were kept was very dirty.”
“On the last day, they said, ‘We’re going to get fingerprints.’ In fact, it was designed to torture us. Normally our fingerprints are already in the police records.
The torture scene was prepared
“The female cops evacuated us from the detention facilities and took us to a room with 15-20 men inside. They laid us down, reversed our arms behind our backs, insulted us constantly and kicked me in the head repeatedly. They crushed my chest so that I would not chant the slogan ‘Human dignity will overcome torture,’” Gülmen said and carried on, “They have a certain technique I’ve never encountered before. They crush your chest and prevent you from breathing and make you unable to chant slogans. I lost my conscious after some time due to continuous blows and because of their conduct that made me unable to breathe. They also used a method of foot crushing. When you are lying face down, they press on your ankles with their feet, make your ankles unmovable. So they torture you without breaking your bones and without causing a scar on your body parts.”
“As they stood on me, they insulted and humiliated me by saying ‘Let this be a teacher’s day present to you’.”
Gülmen also mentioned about another method of torture during detention which is withholding medication for the patient ones:
“None of the patients in custody were provided with the medication they needed. We had three elderly friends, 60-70 years old, their medications were not given. Acun Karadağ who has a cardiac pacemaker was not provided with any medication too.”
Speaking out against the emergency decrees normalized
Nuriye Gülmen says that all the activists are proud of the point she has reached today against the emergency decree dismissals:
“On November the 9th  I went out on my own. When we first went to the streets, people were hesitant to say that ‘I am dismissed with an emergency decree.’ Losing your job because of these decrees is a serious ground for isolation among people. It was our resistance that defeated the fear surrounding the emergency decrees. We made this legitimate. If one can say ‘I am dismissed by an emergency decree ‘ today, this is thanks to these resistances. We are most proud of it.”
Who is Nuriye Gülmen?
An academician and an activist, Nuriye Gülmen was expelled from the university she worked in over the accusation of being a member of the Gülen movement with an emergency decree issued after the July 2016 coup bid.
On 9 November 2016, she started a stand-alone protest in front of the Human Rights Memorial on Ankara Yüksel Street with the slogan ‘I want my job back’.
When the protest initiated by Gülmen started to attract masses, the prohibitions and detention processes started one after the other. Gülmen and her academic friend Semih Özakça went on a hunger strike. As the reaction grew, the two were arrested but they continued with their hunger strike. They maintained their hunger strike for 324 days. They were released months after their health problems increased. Gülmen and Özakça ended the hunger strike on January 26, 2018, after the state of emergency (OHAL) commission rejected their applications. Nuriye Gülmen had lost weight until she was 34 kilos in the last days of her strike.