Keskin: “Violence is legitimized by the state”

Human rights lawyer and activist Eren Keskin comments on the rise in torture incidents in Turkey. According to her, it is clear that the state legitimizes this violence.

The violence by state security forces in Turkey is on the upswing. The levels of state violence and torture are on the rise when it comes to dealing with protesters on the streets and behind the walls of police stations and prisons.

Eren Keskin, co-chair of the IHD Human Rights Association, sees this as a return to Turkey in the 1990s, when violence and torture by the state was part of everyday life in the country as part of the dirty war against Kurds. She tells that the current AKP government agreed with the political actors of the so-called “deep state”, who were responsible for that dark epoch, and made an alliance. The violence has returned, Keskin believes.

Keskin believes that, above all, there is a need to talk about how this outrageous force is legitimized by the state, adding, “We now see, like torture, the images of torture against captured guerrilla fighters by state hands in social media being spread. Below these pictures we can read in the comments how certain parts of society really celebrate the torture.”

“Torture affects the entire society”

Human rights activist Keskin sees this dangerous trend as an increasing social polarization in Turkey. She says this increases the violence particularly against women, children, people from the LGBTI community and in general all discriminated social circles.

For example, there has long been no evidence of state torture using electric shock. However, during the incidents in Halfeti, Urfa province, we were again confronted with this torture method. We are aware of cases in which the electro-torture was applied to the genitalia and nipples of women. These are common torture methods from the 90s, which now suddenly reappear. But this is not a surprise because it is natural to witness similarities with the 90s and today when Süleyman Soylu, whom Mehmet Ağar calls “my son”, serves as the Minister of the Interior.

Impunity for the perpetrators

Eren Keskin sees another cause in the rise of state violence in the growing degree of impunity for the perpetrators. According to Keskin, the torturers enjoy virtually an immunity, which ultimately encourages them in the use of force. The Istanbul Convention (right to a medical examination of persons accused of having been tortured or ill-treated) no longer applies in Turkey because people affected by torture either do not or only be treated by doctors in the presence of the police.

“We have to overcome the fear”

Despite the difficult circumstances, however, Keskin is convinced that the use of force and torture by the state will face social opposition. Today it is no longer possible to sweep such incidents under the carpet as in the 1990s. According to Keskin, it is precisely social media that could promptly publicize state torture around the world.

The human rights activist also derives hope from the outcome of the Istanbul elections. She is of the opinion that the election results are ultimately also an expression of a social reflex against the racist-chauvinistic power bloc in the country. “I hope that henceforth the social circles behind the CHP will express their opposition to the violence of the state. Unfortunately, it is not enough to expect everything from the Kurds. Only when we raise our voices together can we break this spiral of violence. Turkey also has to face up to its past, because without it, democracy cannot come to this country. And overall, we have to be brave. Because when fear prevails, it points to the existence of big problems. Fear is normal, but we need to learn to overcome that fear,” concluded Keskin.

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