Torturer Sues Coup Generals for Making Him ‘a Monster’


A former Turkish soldier, Dogan Eslik, is suing the generals who seized power in Turkey in a military coup in 1980 and tortured hundreds of thousands of people.

He claims his experiences in Ankara’s dreaded Mamak Prison dehumanized him, turned him into a monster, and have effectively ruined his life. He joins thousands of other complainants filing charges against those they hold responsible for torture and murder.

What makes Eslik’s legal action different from the others is that they are suing because they suffered torture while he is one of those who inflicted it.

Today he is full of remorse at his past career as a torturer. Claiming he was compelled by threats of being beaten himself, he says his emotional well-being has been permanently destroyed, he has received psychiatric treatment, and he was so traumatized he has never been able to marry.

Called up to do his military service, Eslik was made a prison warden in Mamak Prison in 1982 and received special training from officers in methods of inflicting pain.

He is filing charges against the retired Generals Kenan Evren and Tahsin Sahinkaya, the leaders of the junta which staged the coup and established a reign of terror in Turkey at its most intense between 1980 and 1983.

“My reason for filing charges is because I was stopped by the junta from serving in the military,” Eslik told the Zaman newspaper. “They broke our mind, our will and made us beat inmates like animals.”

The history of barbaric punishments inflicted by the state on opponents continues to mark Turkish society. Of the four military coups since 1960, the most repressive was that of September 12, 1980. A quarter of a million people were arrested and tortured, according to Amnesty International, while Turkish human rights organizations say the true number is two or three times as great.

They list 37 different techniques used by the torturers including electric shocks, whipping of the feet, hanging by the arms and legs and the use of high-pressure water. Some 419 people are suspected of being tortured to death in custody across a decade and a half  after the coup and thousands more were maimed for life. Many disappeared and their bones are still being found in secret cemeteries.

Torturers have begun to admit what they did, though often claiming it was under duress.

One victim, Yasar Yildirim, recalls how the chief warden at Mamak ordered prisoners into the yard and set German shepherd dogs on them. “The torture lasted for 45 minutes,” says Yildirim. “What disturbed me most was the fact that the prison warden gave the order for the dogs to attack us as he was sipping his tea.”

With so many of the perpetrators and victims of torture still alive, memories of past repression add hatred and fear to contemporary Turkish politics. The army has not wholly abdicated its political role.

“Demilitarization will take a long time,” said Cengiz Aktar, professor of political science at Bahcesehir University. “It has taken 30 years in Spain which in many ways is similar to Turkey.”

A difference between the two countries is that in Turkey many are unconvinced that the brutal repression of the past is ancient history. Army generals are accused of plotting a coup as recently as 2009.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of  Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving