Céline Rousseau, a volunteer from the European Union (EU), recounted what she went through during her arrest because of Gezi incidents: “At the police department, they wanted me to undress. At District Police Department’s Foreigners’ Office in Kumkapi they refused to give me any water to drink.
Céline Rousseau was one of the people who were accused as “the Gezi secret agents” of Gezi Park. Rousseau, 28, is a French citizen who studied contemporary arts, photography and cultural management. She has been volunteering in one of the prestigious education institutions in Turkey since February 2013. She was arrested during the Gezi incidents on June 13th. Eventually, she was released. Nevertheles, even before she could light a cigarette, she was detained once again and taken to the District Police Department’s Foreigners’ Office in Kumkapi. She spent four days behind the bars in Turkey where she had come to work as a volunteer in a EU project. As she described, “she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Now, she is free, but the criminal investigation continues. Rousseau’s story also reveals the conditions of the Kumkapi Foreign Department where the police take the foreigners whose visa expire.
What is the reason of your stay in Turkey?
I came to Turkey as a volunteer in a EU project called “European Voluntary Service.” I was working with children in education parks created by a foundation. We were organizing art workshops such as tile and photography or sports activities like soccer and volleyball tournaments. It was a wonderful experience for me to work with children.
Why were you arrested?
On the night of June 13th around 2 A.M., I was walking down the Gümüşsuyu Street with a friend of mine. I was there to take photographs. While we were passing by the Istanbul Technical University campus, a tear gas cloud suddenly covered us. Everybody was screaming and running in panic. We hid behind a fence around the garden of the campus.
We were listening to the sound of rubber bullets hitting the ground as people were screaming, “Please don’t hit me!” Then, a crowd of police officers approached us through the tear gas clouds. It was truly terrifying. I raised my hand and repeatedly shouted, “I am a foreigner!” They pushed me on the ground and handcuffed me. Then they forced us to sit somewhere. There, a police officer pulled my hair and assaulted me.
What happened during your arrest?
They kept us at the Vatan Police Department for 37 hours although the legal detention time is 24 hours. Their treatment towards me was discriminating. A female police officer told me to take off my clothes down to my panties. Since it was very embarrassing, I refused.
Then, what did the prosecutor decide?
The prosecutor let me free. Outside, as I was lighting a cigarette, I was detained once again and brought to District Police Department’s Foreigners’ Office in Kumkapi. In the meantime, the Turkish protestors were sent back home. Of course, this discrimination was not acceptable.
What was it like at the District Police Department’s Foreigners’ Office?
There were five or six wards. In my ward, 15-20 people were staying. Among them, there were children and newborn babies. A meal was provided twice a day. Every day, a food cart comes and with enough money one can buy something to eat. Because they don’t give you any water to drink, we had to to buy water from the cart. Without money, one cannot drink water. Furthermore, one needs to buy a telephone card, soap and toilet paper.
What are the conditions of people over there?
They don’t know if or when they will be deported. They don’t know anything. They just wait. Nobody takes care of them. For instance, there were two young women who had been staying there for two months. There were scraps of paper in their hands with the phone numbers of the consulate. They called that number all day long, but nobody answered. The police do not contact the consulate. One of those women cried all night long for the two nights that I stayed there.
In that department, nobody had an attorney, except Lorraine [Klein] the other French citizen that was arrested during the Gezi incidents and me. Simply because they couldn’t afford an attorney, they did not have one. People there were totally isolated from the outside world. They just waited without knowing what to do.
I’ll never forget the Talcid
Gezi protests were incredible. People were really truly courageous. Protestors risked to be arrested. They lost their eyes were beaten by the police, but they continued to protest because they wanted to be heard by the government. During the brutal police intervention, people jumped into clouds of tear gas to save one of the injured people or to wash someone’s eyes with lemon or Talcid [anti-acid for heartburn]. I had never seen this before Yes, the imprisonment was a horrible experience but I’ll remember Turkey bravery and solidarity of its people.
June 30, 2013
This post is also available in: Turkish