In Ankara and Beyond, Torture Rears Ugly Head Again

Abdullah Ayasun
6 min readMay 30, 2019

Turkish police and intelligence units tortured a group of former Foreign Ministry staff members, including diplomats, Ankara Bar Association and a lawmaker have claimed, throwing the existence of a practice long denied by authorities back into the heart of public debate.

On May 20, Turkish courts issued arrest warrants for 249 former Foreign Ministry personnel, including experienced diplomats, on alleged “affiliation with the Gulen Movement and cheating exams” to enter diplomacy service. At first, 78 of them were imprisoned.

The public has been rattled by revelations of torture at a time when the E.U. released its annual report on human rights in Turkey. The report offers a damning account of setbacks and reversals in Turkey’s human rights record. The state of purge victims, the mass imprisonment of government’s political opponents and the political nature of ongoing trials appear to be the chief elements of EU criticism toward Ankara.

The torture of diplomats comes against this backdrop. Unlike the minor and insignificant response to previous cases, where individuals aimed to raise public awareness about the torture of their beloved ones in prison, this time there was a palpable reaction on social media, given that the detainees were former diplomats.

What ignited the latest crackdown on former Foreign Ministry personnel was a set of probes launched by Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over allegations of nepotism and fraud in recruitment procedures. But such charges are often invoked arbitrarily and mostly serve as a fig-leaf to cover the political nature of clampdown in any targeted sector of bureaucracy.

Authorities, legal or political, rarely feel obliged to disclose proof or solid ground for investigations. This legal rationale presented for public consumption hardly dispels deep skepticism about the contours of major trials.

Early on Monday in local time, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu raised claims of torture against diplomats in police custody in Ankara Police Department, submitting a set of questions to the Justice Ministry and Vice President Fuat Oktay, demanding both explanation and action.

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Abdullah Ayasun

Boston-based journalist and writer. Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. 2023 WHCA Scholar. On art, culture, politics and everything in between. X: @abyasun