Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Police officer to detained journalist: "Be glad we do not make soap out of you"

Police officer to detained journalist:

Journalists covering the Newroz event at Yenikapı Square in İstanbul on 17 March 2024 were battered by the police


Among the journalists covering the gathering held upon a call by DEM Party, AFP reporter Eylül Deniz Yaşar was battered and detained. Journalist Yaşar, who was detained at the police checkpoint, was subjected to severe verbal and physical violence by the police both during her detention and the six hours she spent in custody. Bianet news site reporters Tuğçe Yılmaz and Ali Dinç and Kurdish news editor Aren Yıldırım were also subjected to violence by the police, who tried to detain them. 

Tuğçe Yılmaz: “Prosecutors do not issue permission for investigations against the police”

Bianet reporter Yılmaz was prevented by the police from obtaining images of people being detained. Yılmaz was pressed on the ground, with the police stepping on her neck and her hands handcuffed behind her back, despite stating that she was a journalist several times. 

Police officers also attacked bianet reporter Ali Dinç and tried to detain Aren Yıldırım. 

Yılmaz said that she had also been physically harassed by the police at the 1 September 2023 World Peace Day event in Kadıköy, İstanbul and said the following: “The harassment I experienced on 1 September was the result of me being overtly marked as a target. While the police said ‘you cannot take images, it is forbidden’ and pushed us outside the area where they had established a perimeter, I was sexually assaulted. Police officers know that they will not face an investigation and even if they do, they will not be sanctioned. Back then I requested the identification of the officers responsible. I will file the same request for the most recent assault I experienced. I will keep pursuing the process, even if it takes years. They should at least experience some psychological load for the psychological and physical violence we experienced. I do not think they will be sentenced harshly. They will at least have been tried, so they will have experienced it. I know that protection mechanisms will come into play. I have been working as a journalist in Turkey for years. I will at least take a stance to seek my rights and to advance the process so that at least this does not happen to someone else.”

Yılmaz said, “Prosecutors generally do not issue permission for investigations against police officers” to explain the continuation of police violence against journalists. Yılmaz went on as follows: “I remember how police interventions were a few years ago. Back then, we could be more insistent about obtaining footage of the torture they practice. But now, when they tell us we cannot get images and we tell them we are journalists, we do not even get another warning. This is the case, especially in demonstrations which we think will become violent, in which we anticipate more attacks against both demonstrators and journalists. There is also the fact that journalists used to look out more for each other at public events. This seems to be less evident now. This is also due to police violence. It affects us, as a result of the state and police violence against journalists. We need to reforge solidarity and think about new networks of solidarity. In the most recent assault I suffered, I saw once more how important solidarity is and once more understood that the motto ‘solidarity is survival’ is not an empty phrase.” 

Yılmaz added that she would go to the prosecutor’s office with her lawyer this week to file a criminal complaint against the police officers who inflicted violence on her.

Yaşar: “What the police said constitutes an international crime”

AFP video and photojournalist Eylül Deniz Yaşar was also detained during the Newroz event. Yaşar said that she had suffered many blows and still felt pain throughout her body despite three days having passed. “When they first grabbed me, they tried to press on my neck and force me to the ground like they did to the bianet reporter. Because I resisted, there was a lot of push and pull. If they had forced me to the ground that way, the video camera on my shoulder would have been broken. I had to resist so as not to be pushed to the ground. They handcuffed me behind my back and twisted my arm a few times which nearly broke it. Today, I am in even worse pain,” Yaşar stated.

Yaşar also recounted severe violence in the detention vehicle and later in the process, and said that the police had also inflicted psychological violence on her and other people in the detention vehicle. Yaşar said she and other detainees were told, “The Jews were like you. What did they do to them in Germany? They all became soap. You should be glad we do not make soap out of you” and added that these expressions should be considered an international crime. 

“I later stated that saying such things is not only a national crime but also an international crime. I told it to the officers in the police vehicle. When I said ‘What you are saying is Nazi propaganda,’ they laughed and said, ‘So what? They will file a couple of investigations and we will go and have tea with the investigators.’ I do not even call it Nazism anymore, I call it sadism. At first, I said I would file a complaint against the police officer who detained me, but after what I experienced, I think the detentions were very specially motivated.”

Yaşar said that other people in the detention vehicle who had been taken into custody at the Newroz celebration were also subjected to violence, and continued: “They put on camera and voice recording on their personal phones and asked questions to people they thought they could get answers from, which was in fact illegal questioning under duress. They put on their phone cameras and asked ridiculous questions such as ‘do you know anyone in the mountains,’ ‘you know those places well’ and “have you ever travelled to the mountains?’ to obtain responses from people that could be considered elements of crime. They said stuff like ‘You are pig shit, you are not worth my shit’ and this happened several times.” 

“This is the right time to practice journalism in Turkey”

Yaşar said that there is a long tradition of opposition press in Turkey and added that while in the past it was members of the Kurdish press, the opposition press and the independent press who were detained and arrested, the net is cast much wider now and anyone not with the “pro-government media” is subjected to maltreatment. “I do not think the mindset of the 90s has changed at all. We report on what they do not want reported. They asked me directly: ‘What are you doing here? Why are you reporting on an event of terrorist propaganda? You must be a terrorist too.’ This is their perspective. I do not think these were random things said by a police officer there. They directly reflect the orders the officers were given and the ideological perspective of higher-ranking officials. In their eyes, journalists, members of the press, media workers who report on events and demonstrations which they do not want reported constitute a group which they call terrorists and which they want to silence. That is why I think this is the right time to practice journalism in Turkey.”