During the Gezi protests, the night of 2nd June, Anatolian University student Caner Ertay was subjected to police torture, first by the riot police and then by the anti-terror branch. Ertay told what happened that night to ‘Stories of Violence from Turkey’, how he was carried in the trunk of a car rom hospital to hospital. This was the same night that Ali İsmail Korkmaz was beaten to death in Eskişehir.
Both you and İsmail, who is still in coma, experienced similar incidents that night. This shows that the police intervention had become stronger the night of 2nd June. Did you see any changes that night in the methods of the police?
We were out on the streets on the night of 31st of May, like the rest of Turkey. People had strong support for the protests, lemons were thrown from the apartments where the police were using tear gas! The police were caught unprepared and because of the mass support the civil police didn’t have the chance to mingle with the crowd unnoticed. So, when the police faced difficulty with controlling the protesters they released civil police and groups of people with sticks and bats into the streets. This is why Ali İsmail Kormaz is in coma now. Besides Ali, there were others as well that were targeted by these groups and barely got away alive.
How did you get into the hands of the civil police?
The street of Yunus Emre was very narrow where I came against the police and I didn’t have anywhere to run away from them. Suddenly, the street was bombed with gas and TOMA was moving across the street, I barely ran away to a parking area. The anti-riot police came after me. Around 20 police beat me up. They were screaming at me “Why did you get so wild?” while I was being dragged along to the street with blood on my face. They especially hit my head a lot and I really had to try hard not to lose consciousness. I guess they broke my nose at that time. Despite the beating up they didn’t arrest me; they left me there. I wanted to run away from the parking area but I couldn’t because my leg was disabled so I had to sit and wait at a corner. About an hour later civil police entered the parking lot. When they saw me they asked each other “Is this him?” They knew me from the protests and press releases. After looking at my ID they were sure, they announced “We captured Caner” from the transceiver and started hitting me although I was covered in blood.
The civil police are not like the anti-riot police; they don’t aim to your head or chest because they do not aim to kill you but to cripple you. They focus on the hips, legs, knees and back. That’s because they know if I die more people will be protesting on the streets. The militias with the sticks are not that conscious about torture; that was the reason behind Ali İsmail Kormaz’s misfortune in running into those people. When they identified me they carried me to the middle of the parking lot and the torture with wooden sticks and Palestinian batons by about 15 civil police began. First, they hit my legs continuously to make me fall. It has been a month but because of those blows I still have difficulty walking. This physical and psychological torture lasted for half an hour.
Apart from the physical pain, what shocked you the most?
After the half hour torture, apparently that wasn’t enough, they pepper sprayed my face for a minute while holding my arms away from my face. They sprayed so much that the gas was dripping from my face. That moment I was thinking about the Guantanamo or Nazi camps and their tortures. It was surprising that they weren’t satisfied with all of these. First they beat you then they put you again on your feet just to make you fall again and continue beating. At last they told me to stand up and to go to the car but because of the spray I couldn’t even see the car. I didn’t say anything during all this torture but then I shouted at them that I couldn’t find the car. Two of them gripped me by my arms and stuffed me into the trunk of a truck. Finally the car started moving and we drove.
The police were already talking to one another “Should we lose this one, kill and leave him somewhere?” I could barely move inside the trunk but I managed to reach my cell phone. I called one friend and told him that I was arrested and being tortured. I told him that they should call the non-governmental organizations and lawyers in town and that I could get ‘lost’ if somebody didn’t do something. Maybe the police were talking like this just to torture me psychologically but I felt a little safer after the phone call. The car stopped after a few minutes. Suddenly, the trunk opened and it was just like a mafia movie scene. There was someone with a topcoat, hands in the pocked. I knew him; he was the head of the anti-terror branch Ayhan and he was with two other police. When Ayhan saw me he smiled and told the others, “Good job. This is him.” They tried to get me out of the trunk while beating me up but then they changed their mind and put me back again. One of them told me that we were going to hospital.
What happened at the hospital?
When we arrived at the public hospital some people recognized me and approached me to help but the police threatened arresting them to keep them away from me. They didn’t let anyone near the area where I was. 10 minutes later my lawyer called me on the phone. I told him that I was tortured and that I was at the hospital. When they heard the word ‘torture’, the police came on to me and tried to take my phone away. They took me out of the hospital as punishment. Then they took my phone and told me that we are going to another hospital.
What was the reason behind the change of hospitals?
That night at he public hospital, Bülent Nazım Yılmaz, the head of the Turkish Medical Assosication of Eskişehir ,was on watch. The police didn’t want to let anyone there see me, while I was in that condition. If Yılmaz could have seen me looking like that, he would make sure this torture by the police would be heard about by all the opposition groups.
After these events, did the torture continue?
At the second hospital, while the doctor was writing a report about the scars and bruises on my body, the police told to the doctor: “ Don’t write too much, don’t make it too long.” They didn’t even let the janitor of the hospital get me a glass of water. When the police heard that the head of the Community Homes of Eskişehir had come to the hospital, they put my arm to a cast and swiftly took me away. At the end I was taken to a police station and ran into a lawyer who was trying to contact me. They took my statement and then released me, and only then could I go to a hospital to get a real treatment.
What was the damage to you of that night?
I had a serious tissue injury, so my arm was put into a cast. My broken nose was operated on immediately. I couldn’t walk at all for a couple of days and couldn’t be standing up for more than 1 hour for the next 20 days. I still have pain while walking. I can say that, compared to Ali, I have been very lucky. They took Ali to the station for his statement while he was concussed but they had to take care of me because I was a member of an organization. In the same way, when they wanted documents from me for their criminal case, my lawyer talked to them and talked them out of it. Ali’s treatment was delayed so much because there was no one to help him.
Regarding your torture, how is the judicial procedure going?
Under the investigation of the prosecution, they took blood samples from the places I was tortured and they found the bloody tissues that I had used. We also gave my dust and blood covered clothes to the prosecution. Added to this, the CCTV cameras of that day will be examined, which were mysteriously not working that day. The footage showing Ali being beaten to death were distorted after being sent to the police. Evidence in this investigation as well has been damaged.
Until 2nd of June lots of our friends were hurt, but the police torture wasn’t that harsh. After the torture was publicized there were protests with 40 thousand participants in Eskişehir who especially gathered because of what happened to Ali. But this doesn’t surprise me. The government’s mentality has been this way for years. Press statements have been repressed with pepper spray and rough treatment for years. The AKP, while keeping its voting audience on its side, tortures harshly those who oppose it. It doesn’t matter to them anymore that they are gas bombing a peaceful and democratic protest because it can be explained to their audience. What is important for them is to justify what their deeds to their voters; not to us. They don’t have any worries about being just to the people who are sleeping in their tents in Gezi Park or Eskişehir.
This police that attack you so harshly, don’t they understand why you are on the streets?
The police still don’t understand why we are there. It was two weeks after my incident and the protests were still continuing. I felt good that day and wanted to participate, at least for a while. On the route we were walking, there was a police station and some of the protesters walked towards the police. I was one of those people who were trying to prevent this. There is a movement going on, far beyond a simple hatred for the police. We don’t hate the police, it is not them we are against, it is AKP.
Eskişehir is experiencing an active year in 2013. When there was the boycott of the dining hall in Osmangazi University, the University President announced that the people who were participating in his boycott were “separatists, terrorists and militants”. The same argument was used during the Gezi protests; will the words of the government find any correspondence anywhere else, considering the heavy torture incidents in Eskişehir?
It was such a process…. While the centralist structure of Turkey is being shaped; the local executives, governors and university presidents are also re-shaping in the way they want. The language and the tendency of the government to use violence is being transmitted to them as well. The fact that university presidents are making the private security forces beat up the students resembles the acts of the government. The local executives try to build their power through using violence towards their inferiors. In Eskişehir, during the boycott of the dining hall in Osmangazi University, thousands of people went out onto the streets. These protests before the June Rebellion are an important addition to the situation. Previously, with the impact of the announcements of the executives, all people who participate in a demonstration where the police use gas cannisters were seen as terrorists. Now the same people are standing in the front of bombs. They will no longer be able to govern this country the way they used to be.
05 July 2013
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