A 22-year old dissident woman, Merve Demirel, who was harassed by a Turkish policeman in Ankara while she was being detained last weekend, said she fears for her life after Turkey’s Interior Minister blamed her for being a “schemer linked to terrorist organizations”.
Last Saturday, Demirel joined a small protest march organized by the Foundation for Solidarity of Families of Convicts, where a police officer was caught on camera groping her as she was being forced into the back of a police vehicle.
The photos of the policeman groping Demirel were distributed on social media, causing an uproar from society, but Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu defended the police officer, making Demirel a scapegoat and accusing her of seeking a campaign to discredit the Turkish police.
“Merve Demirel is a schemer whose father is a member of FETÖ and whose siblings are members of DHKP-C,” Soylu wrote on his official Twitter account on Wednesday. Soylu was referring to two groups, the Gulen movement, and the far-leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front, both of which are deemed terrorist organizations by Ankara.
Soylu vowed that he would not allow anyone to ‘intimidate’ the policeman. “If you carry out an illegal protest and resist, you will be frog-marched to detention,” he said.
Demirel, who spoke to Mezopotamya news agency on Friday, said she is worried about her and her family’s lives following the minister’s ‘threats’. She claimed that both Soylu and the Police Department of Ankara, who accused her, as well as those who were outraged at the incident, of provoking the policemen and attempting to defame the reputation of the police force, had targeted herself and her family.
“This is just unacceptable. Such threats from an interior minister encourage people who don’t have foresight. This kind of discourse can lead to more horrible events. How will they account for it if anything bad happens?” she lamented over the authorities’ statements.
She added that she is worried her parents and her brother will be treated unjustly because of what they said and asserted that “she is concerned about the safety of their lives”.
A reporter from ArtiGercek news portal, Derya Okatan, was detained by Turkish police earlier this week following an interview conducted with Demirel. Demirel blamed authorities for trying to “terrorize” the incident and said she was sickened when she heard about Okatan’s detention as a result of the interview conducted with her.
This event is an example of how the Turkish government handles protests, but the abuse of a young female protestor has repercussions in the country.
In parliament, the main opposition, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Aysu Bankaoglu, requested an investigation into the harassment allegations, calling on the government not to overlook the issue, Hurriyet Daily reported.
CHP’s group deputy chair Engin Ozkoc lashed out at Soylu, saying, “Being the country’s interior minister does not give him the right to talk this way.”
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu also submitted a parliamentary question over the sexual abuse of a woman protestor.
A criminal complaint against the police officer was filed by the Ankara Bar Association.