Extract from IHRC Rapporteurs statement upon
return from Turkey (November 1998)
Since the "soft coup" by the army in 1997, persecution of not only those
holding Islamic political beliefs has ensued, but against all professing
to be practising Muslims.
State employees are banned from wearing a beard, and in the case of
women of wearing a headscarf. They are not allowed to pray at work,
and risk loosing their jobs if they are spotted praying in public.
Recently the army itself purged several generals who were discovered to
be praying at home.
Women wearing headscarves have been banned from universities across
the country, since the beginning of the 1998 academic year. Whilst some
Deans of Faculties have not implemented this ban, the majority have infact
barred students sporting the hijab (Islamic covering, veil, headscarf)
from even entering university grounds. This had led to the daily
scenario of police being called to campuses to remove women students who
have attended wearing the hijab. In a demonstration across Turkey
on October 11, 1998, 4 million protestors (Turkish Interior Ministry estimate)
formed a human chain in various cities. Treason charges are pending
against several journalists, lecturers and students who participated in
this peaceful protest.
Government paranoia as to Islamic opposition has seen a number of high
profile arrests against politicians. The Mayor of Istanbul, Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, received a ten month prison sentence for causing division
in society under Article 312. He had infact read out a piece of Ottoman
poetry. Whilst the Rapporteurs were in Turkey, the 75th celebrations
of the Republic took place. Another mayor in Eastern Turkey, was
arrested on that day, for remarks he had made two years earlier in a meeting,
stating that the state worship of Attaturk was a polytheist practice.
He also awaits trial on treason charges.
The law of promoting racial division has also been used against political
opponents. One newspaper sub-editor faces 152 years in prison on
30 different counts of this charge related to an article he wrote criticising
the envigorated alliance between Turkey and Israel.
Bekir Yildiz is the elected mayor of Sincan province. He organised a
rally in support of the Palestinian right of self-determination. He was
sentenced to 4 years in prison in September 1997 for promoting Islamic
Use of Torture
Whilst in Turkey, IHRC Rapporteurs visited Bandirma Prison. This
prison is situated across the Bosphorous from Istanbul, in the Asian part
of Turkey. There many political prisoners are incarcerated.
The existence of political prisoners in Turkey is openly acknowledged.
Their prisoner status is classified as political, and their treatment is
markedly different. A case in point was noted by Rapporteurs on their
visit to Bandirma. Whilst criminal prisoners were allowed open and
free access to their visitors on special occasions (IHRC Rapporteurs visited
on Republic Day), political prisoners could only be spoken through a series
of bars and reinforced plastic sheeting. To speak to the prisoners,
visitors had to speak through four layers of metal sheeting with bore holes
next to the bars, which of course precluded sight of the prisoners making
communication long and laborious.
Some of the prisoners complained about torture at the hands of guards.
Those who complained were those who were detained without charge - the
purpose of torture presumably being to extract confessions. At meetings
with prisoners’ families and lawyers, the Rapporteurs were advised
of various methods of torture used against prisoners. These included:
In one case, a prisoner is known to have lost the use of his voice, and
one side of his body, as a result of torture.
Leaving prisoners naked in cells with open windows in winter, often after
dousing them in cold water;
The use of electric shocks on parts of the body, including genitalia;
The use of blindfolded beatings, and threats of rape against wives and