Teenagers detained over Gülen links report psychological abuse and rights violations

Bold Medya news website

Two youngsters who were among 14 teenagers detained during raids on alleged members of the faith-based Gülen movement said they were psychologically abused during their detention, the Bianet news website reported.

The raids, part of a larger crackdown that saw 50 people taken into custody on Tuesday, have raised serious human rights concerns.

The two girls reported that around 10 police officers conducted a raid on their homes at 5 a.m., detaining them without explanation, and transported them to the juvenile unit at the Üsküdar Police Station for questioning. They were among 12 or 13 girls held at the same facility, with the oldest being 17 years old.

“The officers insulted our mothers in our presence,” one of the girls said. “They told us they would only ask us questions, but it was clearly a detention. We were held at the station for about 16 hours.”

The teens were accused of staying in student apartments affiliated with the movement and exchanging text messages as part of a student network allegedly linked to the Gülen movement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Muslim 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 an abortive putsch that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The girls were interrogated without legal representation present and described the experience as mentally draining. The teenagers were not allowed to communicate with each other.

The girls recounted a particularly disturbing interaction with a female officer. When they asked her why they were under detention, she said,” You’ll see inside, they’ll make you suffer.”

Adding to their ordeal, the detained teens were reportedly left hungry and thirsty for hours since authorities initially denied them food and water brought by their families and did not allow their lawyers into the building.

One of the girls described psychological pressure and insults from a senior police officer. “You are a coward, you seem stressed, you are scared of me right now because you are a liar,” he kept telling her. “You are scratching your hand because you are lying.” In reality, the girl said, her hand was itchy from a mosquito bite and that there was constant psychological pressure and humiliation.

“Most of all, I worried about my sister and mother, who were also detained,” said another girl, adding that their mother is a cancer patient who should not be subjected to stress.

The girls also highlighted discrepancies in their interrogation records. When they checked, they saw that some of their answers were different from what they had said.

The detentions have drawn sharp criticism from human rights lawyers. Eren Keskin, co-chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD), said the methods used were illegal, as they involved holding the minors under the guise of collecting information for 16 hours, cutting off their communications and taking their statements without a lawyer — all of which contravene both Turkish law and international human rights standards.

According to Keskin, the way the teenagers were treated is in clear violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. “The children were very frightened and left hungry for hours, given only water,” she said. “This is a human rights violation.”

Turkey is a party to the convention, which mandates that in all investigations and trials involving children, the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu has called on Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya to address these violations.

“There have been numerous violations of law against the children at the police station. They were separated from their families, taken into custody without a lawyer, their statements were distorted by the police, they were mistreated, shouted at and subjected to psychological violence, and their lawyers were not allowed inside all day,” Gergerlioğlu stated.

The İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office had issued detention warrants for the youngsters on allegations of “disseminating terrorist propaganda.”

Take a second to support Stockholm Center for Freedom on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!