November 12, 2015

Reactions against handcuffing detainees continue despite suspension of Manisa police chief

A number of well-known figures continue to criticize the unlawful practice of handcuffing non-resistant arrestees, after the Manisa police chief was temporarily suspended as part of an investigation launched into the handcuffing of arrestees during a government-backed operation targeting the faith-based Gülen movement this week.

Police officers on Monday handcuffed 26 people including lawyers, educators and headscarved women and paraded them on the street until they were escorted to police cars in an operation carried out against the faith-based Gülen movement, popularly known as the Hizmet movement and inspired by the teachings of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The operation was performed on the charges of alleged members providing financial support to the “parallel structure,” a term invented by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the Hizmet movement.

As the Interior Ministry announced on Wednesday, Manisa Police Chief Tayfur Erdal Ceren was suspended after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu ordered an investigation into the police officers who took part in the operation for acting against laws and procedures during the detention of suspects in the operation.

The handcuffed images of the suspects, in particular those of headscarf-wearing women, sparked public outcry, mainly because police procedures require that handcuffs be placed on suspects only when he or she might flee or pose a physical threat to the safety of the police. Two headscarf-wearing women, M.H.E. and K.E., who were released after their statements were taken in the Manisa Provincial Police Department on Wednesday, were taken for a second medical examination at the Manisa State Hospital at around 5 a.m. on Thursday, this time with no handcuffs on.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, veteran Turkish journalist Nazlı Ilıcak said: “I'm against those who label people that help the needy and do charity work as members of terrorist organization and detain them based on these charges. People [government officials] who were once sensitive to victims and covered women are now not even hesitant in inflicting their tyranny on them… They claim to be sensitive to the headscarf issue. This latest incident demonstrated how sensitive they are.”

Mustafa Destici, the leader of the Grand Unity Party (BBP) evaluated the issue on his Twitter account, asking, “Is there anyone whose conscience wouldn't hurt after seeing those headscarved women escorted to a police car with handcuffs on after being arrested based reasonable suspicion”?

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, the former president of the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER) also spoke to Today's Zaman and said that the handcuffing incident hurts the public conscience. “One must look at these people not just as women with headscarfs but as human beings. It's not right to act this way towards anybody with the intention of damaging their reputation,” Gergerlioğlu added.

“It's not possible to analyze this situation within the law, because there's no law in the county now. In an environment where there's no law, the person who holds the power uses it as he wishes, as long as nobody opposes him,” Former İstanbul Bar Association President Dr. Yücel Sayman said, speaking to Today's Zaman on Thursday.

The Federation of Turkish Women's Associations (TKDF) Chairwoman Canan Güllü spoke to Today's Zaman, saying positive discrimination against women is necessary in situations like this. “If a woman is proven to be guilty, then I agree with this treatment. However, it's wrong to treat her like this before her guilt is proven. What everybody needs to do is abide by the law and avoid politicizing it.”

Speaking to Cihan news agency, Republican People's Party (CHP) İzmir Deputy Murat Bakan said that the government violates the law by tyrannizing people in order to maintain its political power. “This practice [handcuffing during arrest] is not an implementation of a law, it's terrorizing and oppressing those who are critical [of the government],” Bakan stated.

CHP İzmir Deputy Atila Sertel also spoke to Cihan about a fabricated incident of harassment against a woman with a headscarf in İstanbul's Kabataş neighborhood that was reported by a number of pro-government journalists and apparently never took place.

“With this incident where headscarved women detainees were handcuffed, it's revealed that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's discourse of supporting them was only a political instrument,” Sertel emphasized.

During the Gezi Park protests that erupted during the summer of 2013, pro-government journalists reported that a headscarved woman named Zehra Develioğlu was attacked by Gezi protesters on a street in Kabataş on June 1. Although a large part of society was galvanized to turn against the Gezi protesters due to the incident -- especially after President Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time, said dozens of half-naked men had attacked the young woman and even urinated on her -- footage from nearby security cameras discovered months later showed no evidence that such an attack had even taken place.

Erdoğan and his political associates have for some time accused the Gülen movement of being a terrorist organization, despite the absence of any concrete evidence. Gülen is a critic of the government, accusing it of being corrupt, engaging in favoritism and abusing religion for political and personal gain. Erdoğan has relentlessly targeted Gülen following a corruption scandal that erupted in December 2013 and implicated members of his family and senior government officials.

Published on Today's Zaman, 12 November 2015, Thursday