Name of torturer removed from school after public outrage

The name of a military officer who was accused of torturing Kurdish political prisoners following a 1980 military coup in Turkey was removed from a primary school in western Turkey following public outrage, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Birgün daily.

Kurds, human rights activists, journalists and some opposition politicians were outraged at the naming of a primary school in İzmir province after Esat Oktay Yıldıran, a military officer who was appointed warden of the notorious Military Prison No. 5 in Diyarbakır after the September 12, 1980 military coup.

He was infamous for his brutal treatment of Kurdish political prisoners at the prison.

On Wednesday morning the name of the school was changed back to the Belenbaşı Primary School after the neighborhood where the school is located.

Left-wing Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen) local representative Savaş Candemir said Yıldıran’s name was removed from school thanks to the public outrage, adding that the union will file criminal complaints against the authorities who named the school after Yıldıran.

The Education Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that it did not approve the change of the school’s name to Yıldıran and conveyed its concerns to the İzmir Governor’s Office, which has the authority to name schools in the province.

The ministry called the naming of the school after Yıldıran “an unacceptable mistake.”

Promoted to major after participating in the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Yıldıran was later named head of the Diyarbakır prison by coup leader and then-president Kenan Evren. His tenure was marked by extreme torture likened by many to Nazi practices, aiming to enforce Turkification among inmates. Prisoners faced inhumane treatment, including being forced to eat excrement and endure electric shock torture.

Yıldıran was assassinated on a bus in Ümraniye, İstanbul, in 1988. The assailants, allegedly members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were never apprehended. The government declared him a martyr, and he was posthumously honored by Turkish nationalists. However, his name remains controversial, with his torture the subject of television series and books, such as Mehdi Zana’s “Hell No. 5. Diary from a Turkish Prison.”

Many inmates in the Diyarbakır prison died either by suicide or as a result of hunger strikes staged to escape torture.

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