Purged teacher beaten in Turkish prison for protesting rights violations

Mehmet Dersulu, a former teacher summarily dismissed from his job by an executive decree, was beaten in prison for protesting the violation of his rights, Turkish media reported.

Speaking to the Gazete Davul news website Dersulu’s sister Zehra Dersulu said her brother was barred from sending and receiving letters and accessing books. She said Dersulu had organized a sit-in against the bans with his cellmates, Deniz Şah and İlhan Kaya, during which he was severely beaten.

According to Zehra Dersulu such violations are commonplace in northwestern Turkey’s Bolu Prison, where Dersulu has been serving time.

“They change the visiting days and don’t inform us, and they take away inmates’ privileges for no reason,” she said.

Dersulu was one of the former public servants protesting summary dismissals on Ankara’s Yüksel Street. The protestors demanded to be reinstated to their jobs and were detained on August 13, 2020. Dersulu, along with Nazan Bozkurt, Acun Karadağ, Alev Şahin, Mehmet Dersulu, Mahmut Konuk and Armağan Özbaş, was arrested 10 days later.

In the aftermath of an abortive putsch in July 2016 the Turkish government carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, as well as 20,610 members of the armed forces, were removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

Former public servants were not only fired from their jobs; they were also banned from working again in the public sector and getting a passport. The government also made it difficult for them to work formally in the private sector. Notes were put on the social security database about dismissed public servants to deter potential employers.

Dersulu and other purge victims had been protesting human rights violations in Turkey and the purge of public servants since November 2016. They mainly gathered on Ankara’s Yüksel Street, in front of a human rights monument. The protests first started with two dismissed academics, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, demanding their jobs back. Both academics later went on a hunger strike and were arrested on the 76th day of their protest. After months of imprisonment, Gülmen and Özakça were finally released.

The monument became a symbol of resistance and demand for justice after other purge victims and activists joined them. The protestors were beaten by the police several times in front of the monument.

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