Police officers become victims of torture in Turkey


Date posted: May 18, 2017

Sibel Hurtas

Exposing torture and helping victims seek justice has been a major field of activity for Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD) over the past three decades. The group has filed countless lawsuits, particularly against police officers in the country’s mainly Kurdish southeast. But one application the IHD received in late April was nothing like what it was accustomed to. The alleged victims of torture were police officers themselves. Families and lawyers reached out to the IHD through email and social media to convey the allegations.

On April 26, Turkey witnessed the largest single purge in the police since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, which the government blames on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers, who have been entrenched mostly in the police and the judiciary. Some 9,000 police officers were suspended from office, while more than a thousand people, including police, teachers and other public servants, were detained. The torture allegations relayed to the IHD pertained to this latest wave of the crackdown.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, IHD co-chair Ozturk Turkdogan detailed the claims of one of the police officers, which in fact reveal how an entire group of detainees had been allegedly maltreated. The claims figure also in the detainee’s interrogation report, meaning that the authorities are aware of the allegations. The police officer, who has requested anonymity, said that groups of 15 detainees were kept in 6-square-meter (64-square-feet) rooms in the police’s financial crimes unit rather than in the anti-terror department. Late at night, when most of the staff was gone, policemen would come and take the detainees one by one to a special room for interrogation, stripping them naked, hooding them with plastic bags and threatening sexual assault with bottles, according to the account. Two detainees who got sick kept vomiting for days, but were denied medical treatment, the officer claimed.

Commenting on the allegations, Turkdogan said, “Turkey had made significant progress in efforts to stamp out torture. As part of those efforts, anti-terror departments — where torture was rife — were equipped with cameras. Those people were taken to the financial crimes department because there were no cameras there.” He explained that the said group remained in police custody for a whole two weeks after the government extended detention periods via legislative decrees, made possible by the state of emergency declared after the coup attempt. “This is a long period that allows for the effacing of torture traces,” he said.

Allegations of torture have become widespread in Turkey amid the massive crackdown that followed the coup attempt. Only a few days after the putsch, the country’s official news agency disseminated images of detained soldiers with scarred and bruised faces. Government sources claimed the injuries were the result of scuffles during the coup attempt, but allegations of torture continued, both from police stations and prisons. Yet, in most cases, following up on those allegations with a view of taking legal action has been impossible since victims are reluctant to be identified and elaborate on what they endured.

According to Turkdogan, a large number of police officers and soldiers, arrested as part of the crackdown on Gulen followers, have been victims of torture. He offered the following explanation on why they shy away from speaking out: “Those people have become victims for the first time. They come from a section of the state that used force on behalf of the state. Many of them were the torturers (1) in the previous cases. This, of course, does not justify the use of torture against them. The second reason is cultural. They belong to a conservative culture and have had religious education. They are reluctant to speak out because they believe that [their accounts of] torture will make them look degraded, humiliated and alienated in the eyes of society.”

For Turkdogan, the claims of police officers torturing colleagues reflect not only the worsening state of human rights in Turkey, but also the decay in the state apparatus. “The notion of police officers torturing each other after working side by side for years is terrible,” he said. “This shows how degenerated the state system in Turkey has become.”

According to the Justice Ministry’s latest data, 148,000 people have been detained since the coup attempt, and 48,000 sit behind bars pending trial. Judging by those figures, Turkdogan sees another big trauma in the making in an already distressed society. “Assuming that at least half of the 148,000 detainees were subjected to torture and maltreatment, and taking into account their families as well, the trauma on the [Gulen] community will be very big. Turkey will have to deal with this trauma as well,” Turkdogan said.

Despite the incessant nature of the torture allegations since the putsch, the Justice Ministry, prosecutors, the parliament’s Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights and Equality Institution remain mum on the issue. The silence of the bar associations is particularly chilling. What lies behind this silence is a widespread concern that defending the rights of the Gulen community might be perceived as support for the community itself. “Torture is a crime against humanity. Standing up against torture does not mean upholding one particular community, but upholding human dignity,” Turkdogan said.


(1) This statement may imply that some Gulen movement sympathizers were torturers. This cannot be true as torture was common especially after the 1980 coup when the Gulen movement was small in number. Torture continued in later years though. According to the media, Gulen movement was strong in the police during Ergenekon investigations and trials but no one claimed he/she was tortured then. On the contrary, some defendants in Ergenekon cases confessed that the police was polite to them. Hizmet followers have never been accused of torturing. We hope that Mr. Ozturk Turkdogan did not mean it. 

Source: Al-Monitor , May 15, 2017


Related News

‘Hizmet conspiracy’ theories rejected at iftar hosted by Alevis

Participants of an iftar held by the Federation of Alevi-Bektaşi Associations under the theme “Solidarity in the light of the Quran” at the Renaissance Polat Hotel in İstanbul on Wednesday evening expressed their disbelief in the existence of any conspiracy prepared by the Hizmet movement.

Nigerian Federal Government ignores Turkey’s request to close Turkish schools

The relations between Nigeria and Turkey have been traditionally cordial, and bilateral trade has grown over the years between them. The annual trade volume between Turkey and Nigeria was $1.2 billion by second quarter of 2016, and this consists of clothing, food, engines and automobile parts, as well as pharmaceuticals.

Fethullah Gülen: ‘I don’t have any regrets’

You insist your movement is peaceful, not political. But multiple sources tell me that Hizmet has a dark side — where individuals are carefully groomed to enter government and related professions with the intent of an ultimate takeover. Is this true? If not, is it possible that these sorts of activities are happening without your knowledge?

Now it is time to answer

All Cemaat did was to oppose to the closing of test-preparation centers… The corruption investigation that erupted after, is billed to Cemaat by the PM himself.

Kosovo PM to Turkey’s Erdogan: ‘We Mind Our Own Affairs’

Kosovo’s prime minister on Monday pushed back against threats made by Turkey’s president over a probe into the arrest and deportation of six Turkish citizens with ties to schools linked to the Fethullah Gulen movement, which Ankara blames for a failed 2016 coup.

Public ad budget unfairly allocated to pro-gov’t media

Separate sources have suggested that several public institutions prefer pro-government dailies and TV stations over other media, an initiative that follows Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements about “the opposition that cooperates with an international conspiracy seeking to topple the government.”

Latest News

ECtHR rules Bulgaria violated rights of Turkish journalist who was deported despite seeking asylum

Fethullah Gülen’s Message of Condolences in the Wake of the Western European Floods

Pregnant woman kept in prison for 4 months over Gülen links despite regulations

Normalization of Abduction, Torture, and Death in Erdogan’s Turkey

Turkey’s Maarif Foundation illegally seized German-run school in Ethiopia, says manager

Failed 2016 coup was gov’t plot to purge Gülenists from state bodies, journalist claims

Grondahl: Turkish community strong in wake of threats from back home

Turkish-Kyrgyz educator’s abduction shows Ankara’s ruthless disregard for law: HRW

Kenya: Investigate Deportation of Turkish National

In Case You Missed It

Australian Relief Organisation Orphanage Refurbishment Project in Malawi

Fethullah Gulen and His Movement: A Brief Introduction

Fethullah Gulen: I consider the coup attempt as a serious “terror coup”

Visually impaired journalist sent to prison over Gülen links

PWTD, Turkish NGO to work for cataract elimination

Fethullah Gulen says will return to Turkey if US backs extradition

Accused Turkish Cleric Assails President on Anniversary of Coup Attempt in WSJ Interview

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News