ISTANBUL – Erdem Güneş
Some 32 Turkish soldiers killed themselves due to “suspicious reasons” during their compulsory military services, according to a statistic study of a group called “Rights of Conscripts Initiative” which was backed by the Human Rights Watch, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly and other rights groups in Turkey.
The report relies on 432 former soldiers’ claims regarding the maltreatment during their military services on the base of their personal experiences. The report revealed the first statistic report on the human rights violations against the soldiers in the Turkish Armed Forces in 2012.
Some 48 percent of applications included complaints of insults, while 39 percent of applications included complaints of beatings. Some 16 percent of applications included complaints of forced excessive physical activity and 15 percent of applications included complaints of denial of access to proper health care.
The applications have been made through a website, askerhaklari.com for alleged violations of rights during compulsory military service in the period between when the first application arrived on 25 April 2011 and 24 April 2012.
Ankara, Cyprus (North side of the island where Turkish soldiers bear arms) and Izmir have placed to the top of the list where Conscript made applications for maltreatment.
The website has become an interface for victims of ill treatment and abuse during their military service and to provide an online platform to tell their stories and seek support in claiming their rights.
The applicants tell their stories by filling in a form on the website. After consulting with the applicant, the complaints are transformed into petitions and are submitted to the Human Rights Investigation Commission of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA).
The speaker of the Rights of Conscripts Initiative, Tolga İslam, said they reached the number of suicides via their “informant in the barracks.”
Zafer Üskül, the head of Parliamentary Human Rights Commission at the time said teh number of applications was not reflecting the real serious situation in the Turkish Army.
“The real number should have been 400, 000 in years but since the soldiers are in fear of worse scenerios they are not filing a lawsuit against the Turkish Army,” he said.
Üskül also said it was impossible to see transp
arently what kind of violations take place in the barracks since Turkey’s ombudsman system excludes the military’s actions from ombudsman’s oversight.
Emirhan Gürer, a 24 years old young man, who just returned from his compulsory military service, having serious and permanent health problems, said the first thing he was told by his seniors was “mercy in the army is betrayal.”
“I suffered from asthma since my childhood, they pushed me to sit on concrete under the rain when I only had my underwear,” he told me.
Gürer said 70 days after he joined the Turkish Army he was in a point where he could not even walk.
His sickness was ignored and he was pushed to maintain daily exercises, he said.
“I have sent a mail to Ankara, General Staff, they kicked off an investigation in our troop but it was in vain since the seniors lied and protected each other,” he said.
Emirhan still cannot walk easily. He says he spent 4 hours for reaching Taksim, the centre of Istanbul from his house since he cannot walk easily. He says he even cannot perform basic human activities.
“I will never be a healthy man again and it is Turkish Army’s fault,” he said.
You can reach the initiative’s web site: