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RIGHTS OF CONSCRIPTS INITIATIVE

Executive Summary of the report;

VIOLATIONS of the RIGHTS of CONSCRIPTS IN TURKEY Report on applications made to “www.askerhaklari.com” in the period of April 2011-April 2012


VIOLATIONS of the RIGHTS of CONSCRIPTS in TURKEY Report on applications made to “www.askerhaklari.com” in the period of April 2011-April 2012

Report prepared by, RIGHTS OF CONSCRIPTS INITIATIVE

www.askerhaklari.com twitter.com/askerhaklari facebook/askerhaklari askerhaklari@gmail.com

Note 1: The report will be announced with a Turkish and English Press Conference on 12 October 2012 between 11:00-13:00 at Taksim Hill Hotel, Istanbul Note 2: The original Turkish title of the report is: “ZORUNLU ASKERLİK SIRASINDA YAŞANAN HAK İHLALLERİ: www.askerhaklari.com sitesine Nisan 2011—Nisan 2012 döneminde gelen başvurular”. ISBN : 978-605-86669-0-0 For more information email: askerhaklari@gmail.com


I. ABOUT ASKERHAKLARI.COM AND THE REPORT Although the treatment of military conscripts in Turkey is a very problematic rights issue, it sadly remains one of the country’s most neglected. Ill-treatment and human rights abuses that young men experience during their military service, especially those who do not hold a university degree and serve as privates, are widely known in Turkey, but are not frequently discussed by the public or the press. For this reason, ill-treatment, torture and systematized abuse have remained part of military culture for decades without noticeable improvement. Our organization believes that by avoiding the problem, civil society is as responsible for the ill treatment that conscripts encounter as the military perpetrators themselves. In order to respond to the need to better document and confront conscript abuses, the website askerhaklari.com was established as a civil initiative at the beginning of April 2011. askerhaklari.com created a mechanism to provide support to victims of ill treatment and abuse during their military service and raise awareness/sensibility about the issue by making cases of ill treatment and abuse publicly visible. askerhaklari.com has become an interface for victims of ill treatment and abuse during their military service and to provide an online platform to tell their stories and seek support in claiming their rights. The applicants tell their stories by filling in a form on the website. After consulting with the applicant, the complaints are transformed into petitions and are submitted to the Human Rights Investigation Commission of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA). During the period of April 2011 and 2012, 46 petitions were submitted to the Commission.1 askerhaklari.com received its first application the day after the site was first featured in a newspaper article on military abuse, on 25 April 2011. In a year’s time since the first application, the website has received 432 applications which document cases of ill treatment and abuses faced during compulsory military service.2 This report is based on the applications that askerhaklari.com has received between April 2011 and April 2012. Critically, the report has been prepared to bring to light a problem which we believe directly or indirectly affects all in Turkey without exception. We consequently hope to contribute to the prevention of ill treatment and abuses of individuals who serve as conscripts. The Turkish version of the report documents, with no added interpretation, conscripts’ descriptions of the ill treatments and abuses which they experienced in their own words.3

After askerhaklari.com was established in April 2011, the public visibility of ill treatment during military service and methods of prevention have increased and therefore direct applications to the Human Rights Investigation Commission of the Parliament have increased significantly. 1

Askerhaklari.com has received 568 applications in one year between 25.04.2011 and 24.04.2012. 136 applications were out of the scope of this report since they were not directly linked to violation of rights during compulsory military service, therefore were not includedin the report. Nearly half of the applications were made by either regular officers (active or resigned) or people who have quit military schools. The other half of the applications didn’t include complaints of ill treatment. 2

Incidents expressed in the Turkish version of the report, some of which have also been exposed in the press, are statements of the applicants toaskerhaklari.com. A significant number of these claims were brought to the attention of the Human Rights Investigation Commission of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. 3


II. ILL TREATMENT IN NUMBERS TYPES OF ILL-TREATMENT There have been 432 applications to askerhaklari.com for alleged violations of rights during compulsory military service in the period between when the first application arrived on 25 April 2011 and 24 April 2012. The following chapter classifies the alleged cases of ill treatment according to their types, location and dates. Classification of applications were made through the determination of most frequent types of ill treatment and covers the following nine types: insults, beatings, involuntary excessive physical activity,denial of access to proper healthcare, threats, disproportionate punishment, being forced to run errands for superiors, sleep deprivation and institutionalised bullying. 432 applications were analysed to determine the types of ill treatment.

–– 48% of applications included complaints of insults (206) –– 39% of applications included complaints of beatings (169) –– 16% of applications included complaints of forced excessive physical activity (67) –– 15% of applications included complaints of denial of access to proper health care (65) –– 13% of applications included complaints of threats (57) –– 9% of applications included complaints of disproportionate punishment (40) –– 5% of applications included complaints of being forced to run errands for superiors (23) –– 4% of applications included complaints of sleep deprivation (19) –– 4% of applications included complaints of institutionalised bullying (19)


II. ILL TREATMENT IN NUMBERS CASES OF ILL-TREATMENT BY YEAR Among the 378 applications which specify the year the ill treatment occurred, three quarters of them took place between 2011 and 2012 (281 applications, 65%). More than half of the applications which specified dates described cases of ill treatment that took place in 2011 (219 applications, 58%) and 16% of them (62 applications) in 2012. One fifth of the applications (71 applications, 19%) were related to alleged cases of ill treatment that took place between 2000 and 2010, and 7% (26 applications) were from before the year 2000. There are two applications regarding incidents that took place in the 1970’s. The oldest incident among the applications to askerhaklari.com dates back to 1946.


II. ILL TREATMENT IN NUMBERS LOCATION OF ILL-TREATMENT CASES The compiled applications were received from a total of 63 different locations within Turkey and northern Cyprus. Excluding applications from Ankara and Cyprus, we observe that most of the applications refer to either the western most or the eastern most cities of the country. Most of the applications are from Ankara (37). These are followed by applications from Cyprus (26), Izmir (25), Istanbul (23) and Çanakkale (17). Insult is the most common complaint received from Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul; complaints including beating are most common in Cyprus and Çanakkale. The first five cities where applications were the highest in number constitute one-third (36%) of all applications, whereas the first ten cities constitute half of all applications (49%).


III. TYPES OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

INSULTS Nearly half of the applicants indicate that they were the target of insults. In 201 of 432 applications (47%), the applicants refer to cases of insults describing the abuse with words such as “castigation”, “scolding”, “cursing”, “insulting” and “humiliation.” A significant portion of these 201 applications indicates that conscripts were also exposed to other kinds of violations aside from insults. Applications for insults also included beating (121 applications, 59%), intimidation (48 applications, 23%), forced excessive physical activity (42 applications, 20%), impeding the right to access to health care (33 applications, 16%), disproportionate/inadequate allegations/punishments (27 applications, 13%), forced personal errand-running (18 applications, 9%), sleep deprivation (14 applications, 7%) and institutionalised bullying (11 applications, 5%).

Excerpt from application no: 119 Çankırı, 2011 “Our company commander swore each and every day. Beat us every day. I don’t know if we were animals or human beings.”

Excerpt from application no: 396 Bingöl, 2011 “Here, we are being subjected to beatings, various insults and curses. I have to listen to things, which assault our manhood.”


III. TYPES OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

BEATINGS 169 applications out of 432 (39%) described episodes of physical violence using words such as “beating”, “slap on the face”, “choking”, “kicking”, “being trampled on” and “punching”. Most of the applications that include physical violence include other abuses as well. Applications about beating include, insult (121 application 72%), intimidation (37 applications 22%), forced excessive physical activity (31 applications 18%), impeding the right to access to health care (25 applications 15%), disproportionate/inadequate allegations/ punishments (16 applications 9%), institutionalised bullying (11 applications 7%), sleep deprivation (11 applications, 7%) and forced personal errand-running (9 applications, 5%).

Excerpt from application no: 382 Diyarbakır, 2011 “The soldier’s nose and mouth bled, when he beat him. He was crawling on the ground, shouting: 'I am dying, save me.' I can’t forget that moment.”

Excerpt from application no: 185 Ağrı, 2007 “He started beating and cursing me, once I hailed him. Then he threatened and continued beating me.”


III. TYPES OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

FORCED EXCESSIVE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY 67 applications out of 432 (16%) mention forced excessive physical activity. In applications from this category, the applicants tell of guard-duties that surpass the standard and required hours, forced and exhausting physical labor without break, and being punished through extremely demanding physical exercises which were termed as “training,” but deliberately exceeded the physical limits of conscripts. The applications also include incidences of forced heavy exercises in which superiors disregarded conscript’s health problems.

Excerpt from application no: 35 Hatay, 2011 “We get up at 6 am, and work, without rest, until 11 pm. On the top of that, we guardduty for two more hours, with no sleep. My psychology has badly affected due to that. Our commander swears, too. I only sleep four hours a day, my body is deprived.”

Excerpt from application no: 439 Mardin, 2012 “For fifteen days, I did my duty without even taking my shoes off. I did not sleep in my bad and no commander made an explanation for that. In the service, I got a slipped disc, and I am still being treated.”


III. TYPES OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

DENIAL OF ACCESS TO PROPER HEALTHCARE 65 applications out of 432 (15%) were related to impeding the right to access proper health care. Within this category, applications mention superiors disregarding complaints related to health problems, delaying any intervention of activities for health related problems, forced physical duties and sports activities that go against the individual’s documented health problems or disability, impeding access to doctor visits and hospitals, and not providing medication on time for those who have a chronic disease.

Excerpt from application no: 417 Ağrı, 2011 “We had to leave the wards at nights and wait outside at minus 22 degrees celcius, under the pretense of training, We had to exercise while coughing at the same time. If we told them that we were sick, they would treat us as a poser.”


III. TYPES OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

THREATS 57 applications out of 432 (13%) told of being intimidated by their superiors. Applicants wrote that threats issued by their superiors made use of words such as “killing”, “forced desertion”, “extension of the duration of military service” and “physical violence.” The most common incident of intimidation that the applicants experience takes place when they place a complaint to a higher-ranking official within the military hierarchy, as the allowed rank of a superior who receives a complaint cannot be more than two ranks above the accused perpetrator.

Excerpt from application no: 231 “I was told to serve submissively. Otherwise, they thretaned me that my military service would last longer and I was to suffer.”

Excerpt from application no: 347 İzmir, 2005 “He was beaten like a dead meat. The commander was shouting “I’ll kill you” while he was punching him.”


III. TYPES OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

DISPROPORTIONATE PUNISHMENT 40 applications out of 432 (9%) stated that they were unjustly accused or had received disproportionate punishment for their faults. The most repeated complaint concerns the officers deciding to imprison a conscript without a court decision (imprisonment in disciplinary cells, or DISKO as it is known in military slang). In cases where the conscript deserts the military compound, especially for cases longer than seven days, the higher-ranking official issues arbitrary imprisonment decisions that can last up to five months, in which the conscript has no right either to appeal or to convert jail time into a fine.

Excerpt from application no: 148 Van, 1995 “I was imprisoned for 11 months and 20 days, because I extended my leave (without permission) for 18 days.”

Excerpt from application no: 184 Elazığ, 2003 “An officer approached me. Although I was freshly shaved, he told me that I wasn’t. I said I was. He swore me, kicked me and then left. I an week, I found myself in “disko” (solitary confinement)”


III. TYPES OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

BEING FORCED TO RUN ERRANDS FOR SUPERIORS 23 applications out of 432 (5%) told of being forced to run personal errands unrelated to military purposes for officers or their acquaintances.

Excerpt from application no: 70 Trabzon, 2011 “He used to use his soldiers as servants: cooking food, shopping, delivery, grading the papers of his “national security” course. When he went to the toilet, someone had to wait outside with a napkin and cologne.”

Excerpt from application no: 549 Ankara, 2012 “We do all their private jobs. We do their laundry, cook privately f or them, we carry their clean clothes when they take a shower and wait for them. We then help them getting dressed.”


III. TYPES OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

SLEEP DEPRIVATION 19 applications out of 432 (4%) stated that they were held without sleep arbitrarily for long hours or that they were been waken up for no reason. The applicants stated that this kind of ill treatment is used both by officers and senior conscripts against juniors.

Excerpt from application no: 27 Şanlıurfa, 2011 “So much tormenting. They don’t let us sleep on a whim for 3-4 days. If they caught someone sleeping, they would beat him hard.”

Excerpt from application no: 124 Ankara, 2011 “I was in “disko ” (solitary confinement) for 7 days. We were allowed to sleep for 4 hours with lamps on. They would split that four hours into two.”


III. TYPES OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

INSTITUTIONALISED BULLYING 19 applications out of 432 (4%) state that they were subjected to bullying by senior conscripts. Bullying by senior conscripts is often allowed consciously or is disregarded by the officers as a policy to keep the conscripts under control.

Excerpt from application no: 349 Kayseri, 2011 “There were cliques (based on the service terms) in my company. They broke my friend’s nose the other day. Company sergeant kissed the forehead of the guy who did this and congragulated him.”

Excerpt from application no: 362 Edirne, 2011 “Every night, new recruitments are beaten by senior soldiers. Commanders love such cliques.”


IV. RESULTS OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE In this chapter, we discuss the irreversible results of alleged cases of ill-treatment documented in the report. Based on the applications made to www.askerhaklari.com, there are three main results that occur after the aforementioned alleged cases of ill treatment: 1- Suicide, 2- Permanent psychiatric damage, 3- Disability or permanent physical damage including death.


IV. RESULTS OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

SUICIDE Based on the number that was announced in May 2012, in the last 22 years, 2221 conscripts have committed suicide.4 This equals 100 conscripts per year, or 1 conscript for every 3 to 4 days. We believe that only a portion of these suicides are made known to the public. Based on media analyses undertaken by askerhaklari.com in 2012, in the first six months of the year, 22 conscripts committed suicide. However, based on the annual average of suicides, (100 conscripts per year) we estimate that this number should be closer to 50. No explanation on the reasons of these suicides is shared with the public. Therefore it is not possible to provide an explanation on the relationship between cases of ill treatment and contemplating suicide or actually committing it. One aim of Askerhaklari.com is to be a resource for explaining the connection between ill-treatment and suicide, on which the side has been collecting data since its launch in April 2011. There are many examples among the 432 applications that depict the correlation between the ill treatment and contemplation of suicide. There are around 40 applications to the site that include contemplation of suicide, attempting suicide, witnessing suicide or suspicious deaths that are claimed to be cases of suicide. We can divide these applications under three headings: 1- those who contemplate or attempt to commit suicide, 2- those who know someone closely who has contemplated or has attempted to commit suicide, 3- those that find the claimed suicide cases as suspicious.

4

http://www.radikal.com.tr/Radikal.aspx?aType=RadikalDetayV3&ArticleID=1088073&CategoryID=77


Excerpt from application no: 18 İzmir, 2011 “In five months of my military service, I thought of committing suicide for ten times.”

Excerpt from application no: 24 İstanbul, 2011 “In my guard duty, I was just about to commit suicide. But then I said to myself, why should I just shoot myself. The blameworthy people will continue doing what they have been doing to others.”

Excerpt from application no: 47 Adana, 2011 “I can’t stand it anymore. I want to hang myself. I love my country, I don’t want doing my service this way. Why should I live, if I cannot keep my honour, my dignity. Curses, punishments and beatings: that’s what military service is.”


IV. RESULTS OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

PERMANENT PSYCHIATRIC DAMAGE One of the irreversible results of being subjected to long term illtreatment is permanent psychiatric damage. During last year, askerhaklari.com received more than 50 applicants claiming to have psychological problems and/or having tendencies to inflict damage on themselves or others. There are three groups under this heading: 1- psychological problems experienced only during compulsory military service, 2- psychological problems that begin with military service and continue after completion and 3- permanent psychiatric damage.

Excerpt from application no: 55 Ankara, 2011 “These are the hardest days of my life, please help me. I am about to kill myself. I beg you. I am losing it; I will lose it. I can’t recognise myself.”

Excerpt from application no: 251 Bitlis, 2011 “As if he was not my son anymore, but someone else. I was ruined when I saw him like this. Ferdi was a very active and vivacious young man, before his military service. Now, he is incapable of continuing his studies. He is like a baby, in need of care. He cannot move alone. He is even afraid of going to toilet alone, so I am going with him. He is afraid all the time. He sleeps in my room, and tells me: ‘don’t leave me mother!’”


IV. RESULTS OF ILL-TREATMENT DURING MILITARY SERVICE

PERMANENT PHYSICAL DAMAGE One of the irreversible results of the ill treatment during conscription is permanent physical damage that decreases an individual’s quality of life and sometimes results in death. We have analysed two such cases in depth in the report. One of them is the case of Orhan Abravcı, who became disabled after being beaten harshly by his commander. The other one is the case of Uğur Kantar, who died after being subject to days of torture in the disciplinary cell he was sent to during his military service.

Excerpt from application no: 380 Erzincan, 2009 “Sergeant Ersoy came across Abravcı in the headquarter’s garden and started beating him with no apparent reason. Abravcı fell down, but he continued hitting him with a 4 cm thick stick. He dragged him inside and beat him there, too.”

Excerpt from application no: 53 Cyprus “Uğur Kantar, one of the soldiers of our battalion, has been sentenced to solitary imprisonement. During that time, he was subjected to inhumane practices and went into a coma. He was transferred to GATA. We don’t have any information about his present condition but everyone knows he only has a slim chance of survival.”


V. THEREFORE WE DEMAND… We, as activists gathered under Rights of Conscripts Initiative (Asker Hakları), are demanding the following urgent matters to be taken into consideration by the government of Turkey and the members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly:

–– Close down military disciplinary cells immediately –– Ensure that the ombudsman law (number 6328) is fully applicable to all activities of the armed forces –– Ensure effective and timely investigation by civilian prosecutors of allegations of ill treatment during military service (fulfil opcat requirements) –– Ensure that the military personnel get human rights training periodically

RIGHTS OF CONSCRIPTS INITIATIVE

www.askerhaklari.com twitter.com/askerhaklari facebook/askerhaklari askerhaklari@gmail.com


Violations of the Rights of Conscripts in Turkey 2012