Former inmates of the notorious Diyarbakir Prison, where hundreds of people were tortured in the aftermath of Turkey's bloody military coup in 1980, may be on the verge of finally getting justice.
Diyarbakır Prison is an infamous symbol of Turkey's 1980 coup. Following the constitutional referendum last September, which stripped alleged perpetrators of immunity, Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor Durdu Kavak has launched an investigation into what happened at the jail. And some 700 former inmates have come forward with their testimonies.
Each has been asked the same list of questions: When were you a prisoner in Diyarbakır Prison? How were you tortured? Do you know the name of the person who tortured you and his position at the time? Did the torturing leave a permanent mark on you?
This investigation is a huge step towards bringing the events of September 12 to a court of law. Thousands of people were tortured in the prison. Human rights were violated. Prisoners were dragged through sewers full of excrement. All sorts of torture methods were applied, including "reverse hanging", electric shocks, undressing, cold showers, beatings, dog attacks, the list goes on. Many people died, were crippled or psychologically damaged as a result of their ordeals at the prison.
Some 700 complaints
Rather than a prison, Diyarbakır was a giant torture chamber. To be a prisoner during that period was a nightmare. I know many people who spent time there, and even 30 years later, some still have trouble talking about it.
Following the September referendum, 700 former inmates of Diyarbakır Prison filed complaints against the civilian and military staff on duty there. Kavak assigned a prosecutor to question the plaintiffs. Then he asked the Ministry of Defense for personal information on the officers on duty at the time and their current whereabouts.
This investigation is historic, the first official Turkish inquiry into what went on in Diyarbakır. Another request has also been made to the Ministry of Justice, for personal information on its staff working there at that time. Once this information is received, legal procedure will begin concerning the officers and civilians on duty at the prison between 1980 and 1988. Kavak's effort mark one of the most significant steps ever taken in dealing with torture.
In the backdrop, there is an ongoing debate about the future of the prison in Diyarbakır. The government wants the prison to be torn down. Diyarbakır governor Mustafa Davrak says: "A trauma was endured there, and so it became a symbol of it. Now it needs to be torn down. Instead of keeping it as a prison, it should be transformed. The Ministry of Education wants to build new schools but doesn't have the land. If the prison is torn down, the area can be used to build a school."
On the other hand, the mayor of Diyarbakır, who I talked to yesterday, has different ideas: "The prison should be kept as it is, not even painted. For the sake of mutual forgiveness, it should be a human rights museum."
Photo - Vectorportal