The alleged sexual harassment of Merve Demirel, a university student, by a police officer while being taken into custody for attending a protest organized by a rights association, and the subsequent statement from the Ankara Police Department, has sparked public outrage.
The incident that took place on Saturday in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara was caught on camera.
The photos show an officer groping Demirel as she was being loaded into the back of a police van. The pictures were circulated on social media and resulted in a public backlash against the policeman’s conduct.
The publics’ reaction to the photos forced the Police Department of Ankara to make a public statement on the issue.
Instead of announcing that a probe will be launched into the harassment allegation, the police stated that the misconduct was the result of the student’s resistance to the law enforcement officers.
Demirel’s father used as the scapegoat
The public statement also included information about Demirel’s father, who was expelled from his post as a teacher for his alleged affiliation with the Gulen Movement, an organization led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen accused by Ankara of orchestrating the coup attempt of 2016.
Gulen denies the allegations, however, Ankara’s political discourse deem him and his movement as public enemies, calling his movement a FETO, referring to a terrorist organisation.
Since the coup attempt, some 150,000 civil servants were expelled from their jobs on allegations of affiliation with the group, and some 40,000 people are currently imprisoned on allegations of membership.
Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a deputy of pro-minority rights Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Sezgin Tanrikulu were in the Ankara courthouse on Monday in solidarity with Demirel.
“Our expectations from Ankara Police Directorate was to say ‘yes we initiate an investigation’ but that added another shame to the previous harrassment, they want to attach their shame on me,” said Demirel on a live-streamed statement outside of the courthouse along with Gergerlioglu and Tanrikulu.
MP Gergerlioglu, deputy chair of Parliamentary Committee on Inspection of Human Rights, and MP Tanrikulu, acting chair of the aforesaid parliamentary committee, voiced their support for Demirel with Gergerlioglu’s petition to the parliamentary committee and Tanrikulu’s parliamentary question to the Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.
Both made statements to the press in the courthouse and Gergerlioglu lambasted the statement made by Ankara Police Department for trying to cover up the sexual harassment by using witch-hunt methods of middle ages.
“An explanation last night by Ankara police department shocked all of us. While we were expecting an apology, investigation, and suspension following the photos of a woman harassed by a policeman, the statement mentioned the father of Merve Demirel as a ‘FETO’ member, therefore insinuating that what was done is appropriate. We couldn’t believe our eyes when reading this explanation. It was unbelievable. This was a terrible one,” Gergerlioglu said.
He continued, saying, “Here, today, we are in search of a state. We are trying to find the rule of law.”
Başörtülü kadına'Belden yukarıları çıplak, ellerinde deri eldivenler, başlarında siyah bandanalar bulunan 80-100 kişilik bir grubun saldırdığı YALANINI UYDURUP dünyayı ayağa kaldıranlar,
Hak arayan başörtülü kadına,
polisin tacizine ses çıkarmıyor.
Siyasi ve ahlaki ikiyüzlülük. pic.twitter.com/V2kV8RW5T5
— Veli AĞBABA (@veliagbaba) February 18, 2019
CHP Vice Chair Veli Agbaba blamed Erdogan administration for hypocrisy. “The ones who set the world on fire by fabricating a lie that a crowd of 80 to 100 half-naked people with leather gloves and black rags attacked a woman wearing a hijab, are not saying anything about the sexual harassment of a lady wearing a headscarf claiming her rights,” read the post by Agbaba.
He alluded to an incident that took place during Gezi protests when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the crowds rallying behind his administration that an alleged attack by Gezi protesters on a woman wearing a headscarf had indeed taken place.
Erdogan and his cronies vowed to release the footage shortly thereafter. Six years later, the promised footage never showed up and a few pro-government pens apologised for backing the allegations.
Social media outrage
People rushed to social media to express their anger towards the police misconduct and the ensuing cover-up.
Journalists and artists also joined the public chorus, condemning the incident and its handling by the authorities.
Kendisine yönelik bir cinsel saldırı olduğu iddia edilen bir kadın hakkında yapılan açıklamaya babanın “neci” olduğu katılıyorsa bundan tek sonuç çıkar: Hak etti! Bu açıklama en az olayın kendisi kadar vahim. https://t.co/fxbP4x3mAD
— Kerem ALTIPARMAK (@KeremALTIPARMAK) February 18, 2019
“If the father’s affiliation is added to a statement on the victim of alleged sexual harassment, you can infer only one thing from this; she deserved it! This statement weighs the same severity with the incident itself,” said Kerem Altiparmak, a human rights advocate.
Toplum nezdinde kabul edilmiyor,edilemez. Sadece Emniyet tarafindan inanilmaz sekilde "mazeret" araniyor. Kendi ailelerinden bir kadina da ayni tacizi yapabilirler, tacizciyi kurtarmaya çalısanlara sormali; yine mazeret arar mısiniz? https://t.co/oUHvuTAEul
— Ruhat Mengi (@RuhatMengi34) February 18, 2019
“Regardless of her father’s affiliation, a policeman sexually harassing a citizen, a student, before the nation’s eyes cannot be protected by the Police Department,” said veteran journalist and TV anchor Ruhat Mengi.
Sükunetimi korumaya çalışıyorum, şu muameleye maruz kalan kadın için “Babası FETÖ’den ihraç” açıklaması gelebildiği, bu ülkedeki medyanın bu konuyu işlememesi, kadın yazarlarımızın susması karşısında kalbim sıkışıyor, izleyin… Ama yarın aynısı size yapılınca ağlamayın oldu mu? pic.twitter.com/GIugwqsxua
— Cemile Bayraktar (@cemilebayraktr) February 18, 2019
“The silence of our women writers gives me the blue devils; watch it, but do not weep when the same is done to you in the future,” wrote government-leaning columnist Cemile Bayraktar.
Ailesinde FETÖ mensubu olanlar arkanızı emniyete dönmeyin ama emniyete alın durum vahim ve son derece alçaltıcı 😡😡😡
— TURGAY YILDIZ (@turgayyildiz965) February 18, 2019
“Those who have FETO associate family members, do not base yourself on the police! The situation is dire and humiliating,” said Turgay Yildiz, a play actor known for his satirical impersonations on social media.