Turkey Is Waging an Invisible War on Its Dissidents
Above: A wall of Greek riot police. (Photo by Henry Langston)
For the past week, we’ve been watching scenes of mayhem unfold in the streets of Istanbul, Ankara and other major Turkish cities. What started as a local initiative to stop a central Istanbul park being turned into a shopping center became a civilian street war against the rising authoritarianism of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.
As if to cement everything the protesters were already angry about, Erdoğan sent police in to quite literallycrack skulls and fire tear gas and pepper spray at the mostly peaceful crowd. But alongside the highly visible violence, an invisible war is taking place on those from Turkey who dare to stand up and speak out against the government.
The story starts not in Turkey, but in downtown Athens, from where Turkish asylum seeker Bulut Yayladisappeared last Thursday. According to eyewitnesses, at around 9:30 PM Yayla was immobilized, beaten, and pushed into a car on Solomou Street in the neighborhood of Exarcheia. When support groups and lawyers looked up the car’s registration plate, the owner turned out to be none other than a member of the Greek police.
Shockingly, the Greek police force itself denies any knowledge of the incident. Yayla, a political activist who has been arrested and tortured in Turkey in the past, has been trying to apply for political refugee asylum in Greece for some time now. But given Greece’s famous bureaucracy, it probably won’t surprise you that Yayla hasn’t had much luck.
When he resurfaced after his kidnapping, Yayla was no longer in Athens, he was in Istanbul, being held by the Turkish counter-terrorism police. Since then, he has informed Greek support groups of what happened after his abduction. With a hood over his head, he was passed between three different groups of people, crossed the border to Turkey (under what he said felt like a wire fence in the middle of the night) and eventually found himself in Istanbul.