Kurdish politician speaks of gross rights violations and torture in police detention center

İbrahim Halil Baran, the chairman of Partiya Kurdistani (PAKURD).

İbrahim Halil Baran, chairman of the Kurdistan Party (PAKURD), has said he witnessed gross human rights violations and torture at a police detention center in Turkey’s southeastern city of Şanlıurfa.

Speaking to journalist Erkam Tufan Aytav in an interview posted on YouTube, Baran said he was subjected to heavy torture in 2017 when he was detained. He said he was beaten for 12 days and later subjected to other forms of torture. “I also witnessed others being tortured,” he added.

Baran claimed that two minors of Arab origin were brought to the headquarters by their employer who claimed they were terrorists. Both boys were tortured until their knee caps were broken.

“Another woman was brought in for links with the Gülen movement, but she had given birth only 40 days earlier,” he said. “They allowed her to breastfeed for a couple of days but then banned that, too. The woman cried for days and begged them to allow her to provide milk for her baby.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He 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.

The crackdown also targeted political opponents of the government, Kurdish activists and human rights defenders, among others.

Baran said the woman was not allowed to see her baby again. He added that he witnessed even worse incidents including rape. “These days they are discussing whether there are incidents of unlawful strip-searches in prisons, but I’ve witnessed even more terrible things. Ten police officers raped one woman,” he alleged.

Turkey has experienced a marked resurgence of torture and ill-treatment in custody over the past five years and especially since the coup attempt. Lack of condemnation from higher officials and a readiness to cover up allegations rather than investigate them have resulted in widespread impunity for the security forces.

In its two reports published in August, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) confirmed the continued existence of ill-treatment, torture, informal questioning and restricted access to a lawyer as well as a fundamentally flawed medical screening system in Turkish detention facilities.

According to a report drafted by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, who is also a prominent human rights activist and deputy chair of the Human Rights Committee in parliament, a total of 27,493 people were victims of torture and maltreatment between 2002, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, and 2020 and that 86 others died from such mistreatment.

While 988 cases of torture or maltreatment were reported in 2002, this figure rose to 3,534 in 2020, the report stated.

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