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Saturday, 3 February 2007

Thugs above the law: the Turkish police today

Nearly two years ago, a Women's Day celebration in Istanbul turned very ugly when police decided the women were demonstrating without permission, and were therefore doing it illegally. When the group refused to disperse, officers dived in with pepper spray. 29 women were arrested, countless more were beaten with truncheons. Turkish television filmed it all.

It just so happened that EU leaders were in Istanbul too. They were stunned by the violence, and were shocked further when the government shied away from criticising the police. The press was outraged. Istanbul's police chief did weakly claim the demonstrators were chanting pro-terrorist slogans, but the damage was done and the force's already dismal reputation sank that little bit further.

A month later, the national police office did something it hadn't done before. It launched an advertisement campaign. The intention, no doubt, was to remind those of us who might have forgotten about what the police actually did.

It wasn't so much a campaign, more a healthy spot of instilling Orwellian fear. I provide my translation below; the attached photograph is of a billboard on Turan Güneş Boulevard in Ankara, taken by me in April 2005.

What if it did not exist?

Perhaps your children
would know only
a dark world

A world of pitch black
where street law applies.

But these are only bad dreams.

Even if you only remember it
in times of woe
the police is always by your side.


Now, I'm sure most of you have seen how the suspected killer of Hrant Dink, Ogün Samast, was not immediately returned to Istanbul upon his arrest. Instead, police officers decided to give the suspect a Turkish flag and have their photo taken with him (see The Guardian's story). There are also reports Samast was given a hero's welcome when he eventually was transfered to Istanbul.

Ismet Berkan says in today's Radikal that the idea of terror being praised by people wearing official uniforms is like a punch in the stomach. But it is the truth. Turkish police already has a notorious history of thuggery; this week, it added to that a conspiracy with murderers. The force will find it very difficult to try and claim the moral highground in this one. After all, if some of its officers seem to think Hrant Dink's killer is a hero, why should the Turkish people want the police at their side?

6 comments:

Kahraman said...

You know this video was leaked to fox tv right? None of the others received it.

Thwe way the whole assasination has gone down.
The whole situation stinks of conspiracy and foreign intelligence service involvement.

Everytime something like this happens I remember the arrest of the British MI6 officers dressed as arabs with suicide bomb belts in Basra, Iraq.

istanbultory said...

Kahraman,
You display, as do many of your compatriots, an immediate desire to shift the blame for the country's ills and problems to foreigners and conspiracy theories. Stop blaming others. Look within yourselves!

Riza said...

istanbultory,
you display,
as many western europeans do,
an immediate desire to shift the blame for Turkey's ills and problems solely to the Turks themselves.
Stop blaming us for everything. Look within yourself !
We have a civil war on the border started following an invasion by british forces. remember, the Iraqi were all Turks 80 years ago. now they are arabs, sunnis, shias, kurds.
The PKK is still supported and has been supported from Europe for the better part of 30 years. they even have their own tv station proselitysing murder from Denmark. people like fehriye erdal and other murderers are free to do as they please in Europe.
Why is it so difficult for you to understand that your governments commit a great deal of evil to other countries such as Turkey, Iraq, etc?
If Turks had done one percent of the evil to you , in britain, the welsh , the scot, and the english would be in civil war and millions would be dieing right now.
Had you guys not invaded iraq, hrant dink would still have been alive.

istanbultory said...

"The PKK is still supported and has been supported from Europe for the better part of 30 years*

*A huge generalisation. The PKK in Europe is (alas) supported by the weirder fringes of the far left. Not by governments.It is, however, fair to say that certain states, particularly Belgium and Denmark are far from pro-active in combatting PKK fund raising crime-drug smuggling, extortion...

*A connection between the murder of Hrant Dink and the US-UK invasion of Iraq? (which by the way, I never supported) Certainly an original theory....to join the thousands of other conspiracy theories....yawn.

Anonymous said...

James
In year 1987. I purchased brand new Ford Taunus 1.6 passenger car, personally upgraded my status from poor local Anadol Station. Car was new. Driving was so smooth, so wonderful. We planned go to Istanbul on the new highway. On a Sunday morning, we left home early, approaching the highway entrance. My wife was on my right. Kids were at the back seat. Singing all so happy. But a big truck was going ahead of me, creating huge exhaust fumes entering into our car. I couldn't pass him since there was "No pass!" Warning sign. I try to obey to traffic signs but this time, but due to huge truck exhaust in our car, I passed the truck and a traffic police car stopped me. "Park your car, your driving license?? Your car papers??" Penalty "55" something. I paid traffic fine many times earlier, mostly speeding etc. This time I wanted to check if I could reduce the amount. "Is there anything we can do, Sir??" Saying something loose to mean many things. Policeman in the car asked "How much cash do you have ?" I said 20. "OK, give me 20 and leave!!" I asked a receipt. He said "Are you kidding?? What receipt?" Yes I gave 20 with no fine receipt, but I wished to pay 55 afterwards.

Last summer I worked in Koc Holding Entek plant for their 30 Mwe new extension project as owner's engineer. No summer holiday, no seaside all summer. In September we completed the work at site, activities almost in routine, then me and my wife decided to go to Mediterranean coast to stay with our close relatives for a reasonable summer holiday for 1-week. Our spending was reasonable. Weather was still hot. Sea was warm. Schools are open so no crowd around. Empty seashore. We spent one week. Then kids arrived at the weekend. I should return to Ankara on Sunday night. My eldest said, "Father lets us go from a different route, via Manavgat, Akseki, Konya. Road is new. Scenery is beautiful." I agreed, so I slept half way at the back seat and then took the driving in Konya. At Ankara entrance I was stopped by traffic at late night at about 0130AM. Not only me but many other private cars coming from long distance. Routine paper controls as it appeared. I had no fear since my papers were all in order. No speeding, no dangereous passing. But I had 1-week old beard. In relaxed summer mood I had no shaving. So I could be a shop-owner, not an nfluencial public employee. One officer took the initiative and said, "Your right- front parking light is off". Fine is 32mTL something." I said nothing, agreeing to pay the fine. "You have any cash?" Now he changed the procedure. I noticed the red flag. That is the code for asking cash money. In accordance with new legislation, there is no cash traffic fine payment on the spot. That means something you should understand and respond in order to avoid high penalty. I said "I have no cash with me, driving all night" Officer scrutinised once again. "Let us see your past records. Hello operator, here is driving license, give me the past records". The other end replied in the wireless, "No records this year, all clean". I try to drive very carefully taking no risks. Officer started to write the fine, probably in vain, at late hour, all pain no gain for himself, while there was easier and much cheaper solution available.

The next morning I accessed to my local bank's Internet banking web page and paid 32 YTL with one tick. Now I feel more comfortable. I believe that I did the best thing. You also think so ?? I am not accusing the system. They are trying to improve themselves but there can be some foul apples in the basket. On the other hand I do not know what I would do if the fine were 100 or 1000 or more. What do you think??

James said...

So many people have a story like yours to tell. What does that say about the state police system?