Özlem Zengin, a deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), described women who had revealed their experiences of unlawful prison strip-searches as “disreputable” and “immoral” during a speech in the Turkish parliament yesterday.
According to Turkish media, Zengin said that if unlawful strip-searches had occurred in prison, then the victims should have reported them immediately. Zengin added that allegations concerning strip-searches were “fictional” and were used by “terrorist organizations,” in particular by members of the Gülen movement to disparage the government.
Cevabın vakti gelince… pic.twitter.com/hCP3WW5w3o
— Av. Özlem Zengin 🇹🇷 (@AvOzlemZengin) February 18, 2021
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and inner circle.
Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
Many victims came forward on social media after human rights activist and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu brought the issue to public attention over a report about some 30 female students who were detained in the Aegean province of Uşak due to alleged links to the Gülen movement and strip-searched before admission to a detention facility in late August.
“Don’t stay silent against strip-search” was widely shared with the Turkish hashtag #CiplakAramayaSessizKalma by activists and women who were subjected to harassment in prisons or police custody. The social media campaign was launched to raise awareness about increasing reports of sexual violence in prisons towards inmates, detainees and also relatives of inmates.
Targeting Gergerlioğlu, who has been bringing the issue to public attention, Zengin said he was working for terrorist organizations.
Zengin has repeatedly denied allegations concerning unlawful strip-searches in prisons and accused Gergerlioğlu of terrorizing the legislature by bringing such allegations to the floor of parliament.