How to Target a Family? Turkey’s Crackdown Shows It.

The tragedy of Ozcerit family reveals the obsession of Turkish authorities with certain segments of society. They simply target for no reason at all. Sometimes just for intimidation.

Image for post
Image for post
Ahmet Ozcerit with his family at a hospital.

Barely a year after his academic father passed away, Sinan Ozcerit, a college student in Ankara, informed his followers on Twitter on Tuesday: police detained her mother, Esra Ozcerit, and her sister, Senanur Ozcerit (19). Already reeling from the loss of father, academic Ahmet Turan Ozcerit who last year died of cancer soon after authorities allowed his release from prison when it was too late, the family plunged into a new ordeal.

The reason provided by the Turkish police might normally have been bewildering. But it is not, given that Turkey has already rendered the feeling of shock and surprise redundant.

Senanur, a freshman at a university in the western province of Sakarya, invited her friends to fast-breaking (iftar) Ramadan dinner. But she had no idea that her innocent and pious act — every Muslim invites others for iftar dinner — would land her in police custody with serious charges of terrorist organization membership. Absurd though it may sound, this has become a normal pattern in Turkey where anything could be justified for any legal action with the most absurd legal reasoning.

The iftar dinner, according to prosecutors, might be considered as sufficient enough for building a case her for ties to a terrorist organization. So said, the shell-shocked Sinan, in a series of tweets to arouse public support to create awareness about the never-ending tragedy of the family.

“When my father passed away, you disturbed us by sending police to our home while we were mourning. Now, you detain my sister’s foreign friends just because she invited them to our home for a fast-breaking dinner. We have already been burned and are burning. Will you burn everyone who touches us?” he tweeted. He was aghast when he first received the news. But his bafflement only deepened over police’s interrogation of her sister.

Image for post
Image for post

The police showed Senanur her telephone messages to her mother about purchasing medicine from the pharmacy. The police, Sinan said on Twitter, believe that the medicine and pharmacy in the text message could be some part of coded messaging and repeatedly pressed Senanur to debunk their real meaning. The young college student insisted that communication was only about getting some medicine from a pharmacy.

In total, 18 people stand trial over dubious charges of terrorism. The drama of Ozcerit family struck a chord in the public, at least in those parts of which follow purge victims’ situation closely. Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a lawmaker and human rights activist who emerged as the steward and champion of purge victims in Turkish Parliament, submitted a parliamentary question, seeking an explanatory statement from the Justice Ministry. His quest, not surprisingly, went nowhere. But people on social media are galvanized.

Ahmet Ozcetin was imprisoned in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016. In police custody, the son Sinan told Ozguruz, he faced mistreatment from the police. During imprisonment, his health steadily deteriorated, but authorities did not heed the calls from human rights associations and the family for his release to get proper medical treatment. Although doctors diagnosed cancer that enveloped his body, the medical report ignored that and approved his transfer back to the jail. Only when he was rendered unable to walk in the prison cell, the prison administration eventually referred him to a hospital to avoid a possible death in prison, something that could legally jeopardize their professional career. But it was too late and too little. Within several months, Ozcerit died in Ankara in February 2018.

But his family’s ordeal has not ended. A campaign on social media has been launched to secure Senanur’s release.

“According to reports we learned, they [police] also monitored my sister Dilara Ozcerit (17) and intended to also detain her if her age allowed...,” he wrote. “Let Ozcerit family go and release Senanur Ozcerit. #SenanuraÖzgürlük.”

She will be referred to the court on Friday. People urge authorities to release Senanur.

Virginia-based journalist and writer. Politics, culture, art, and technology. American political affairs, Turkey, the MidEast, and beyond. Twitter: @abyasun

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store