Hüseyin Yildirim is a lawyer and a Kurd from eastern Turkey. In the fall of 1981, he was serving as defense counsel to members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), many of whom had been arrested and subjected to torture by Turkey’s military junta. Yildirim himself was seized in October 1981, and was imprisoned in the Diyarbakir Military Prison from November 1981 until July 1982. He gave the following testimony to Amnesty International on November 3 and 4, 1982, in Sweden, where he now lives. According to Amnesty, a medical examination conducted on November 2, 1982, confirmed that Yildirim “shows signs of external violent injury…[which] may well have occurred as a result of the torture described by [him].”

On October 11, 1981, Huseyin Yildirim was taken from the prison, where he had gone to help a father find his son, to the Political Branch of Police Headquarters where he was held for three days in solitary confinement. On the fourth day he was questioned, in particular about PKK and his relationship with Muzaffer Ayata, one of his clients. On the fifth day he was taken to Istihkam (Army Engineers’ Unit) where his hair was shaved and his eyes blindfolded. He was then taken somewhere else. Just before entering this place he was hit several times, then taken into a room and told to speak. He replied that he was a lawyer, at which he was hit in the face and stomach and fastened to a wooden cross naked. He was given electric shocks on his ears, tongue and penis. He was questioned about PKK, asked why he acted as lawyer for members of PKK and asked to promise not to do so in the future. He fainted and when he regained consciousness found himself lying in water. Five or six men beat the soles of his feet [falaka]. He fainted several times and does not know how long the falaka continued. He was once again asked to promise not to act for PKK clients in the future, but replied that he would continue to do so. He was taken to another room and beaten with batons, he thinks by soldiers. At one point, while he was leaning against a wall, some people came to look at him. He removed his blindfold and saw that they were army officers. He was hit for removing his blindfold and taken to another room.

He heard cars outside and guessed that he was in the Martial Law Command Headquarters. He was very cold, left with few clothes and the windows opened. During the first four days of his detention he had been allowed to buy food, but for the seven days in Martial Law Headquarters he had no food or drink. On one occasion they tried to give him food but he was not able to eat and after seven days he was in a coma. He was kept in a room with three other prisoners. He heard other prisoners, including women, screaming. During the seven days he was there he was taken for falaka two or three times. By the sixth day his body was very painful and sometimes he fainted. He was twice examined by three military doctors who said that he should be taken to the hospital, but this was not allowed. The only medicine given to him was aspirin.

He was taken back to Istihkam, where he spent five or six days in bed. By the seventh day he could walk with the help of friends. By the tenth or eleventh day he could stand by himself, but with pain in his back, which he was still not able to straighten many days later. After 16 or 17 days he was taken to another building where he was shown to a man who was then asked if he (Hüseyin Yildirim) was the man. The stranger replied “yes.” When Hüseyin Yildirim asked who the man was, he was hit and knocked to the ground, then taken back to where he had come from. After two days he was again blindfolded and…was asked to sign a typed statement, still blindfolded. He refused and took off the blindfold and read the statement, which appeared to be an accurate account of the questions he had been asked and of his answers, but also contained accusations that he had been working for PKK and had tried to persuade men working for the municipality of Hilvan to leave their jobs, although he was 800 miles away at the time in question. He signed the state- ment, but noted under the false testimony of his involvement in the Hilvan events that it was not true. He was then taken back to Istihkam.

On November 6, 1982, Hüseyin Yildirim was taken to court and charged under Article 125. [Many Kurds are charged under this provision, which states: “Whoever commits an act intended to put the entire or a part of the territory of the state under the sovereignty of a foreign state or to decrease the independence or to disrupt the union of the state or to separate a part of its territory from the administration of the state, shall be punished by penalty of death.” —Eds.] He was kept at Istihkam until November 10, when he was taken to Diyarbakir Military Prison. On his arrival there he was taken to a room where he was hit by soldiers with sticks, then taken to another room where he was thrown on a fire with his head covered. He suffered minor burns. A large number of men with sticks hit him all over his body, but not on his head. He does not know how long this continued. Then he was hit on the jaw with a hard object. His chin and teeth were damaged. During all this he fainted several times. There were other men also being hit. He was pulled to the floor, his head was held and he was hit again. He lost consciousness and water was thrown over him. When he recovered consciousness he felt much pain. He was hung upside down from the ceiling by his feet and fainted again. He was then hung by one foot. A rope attached to a pulley on the ceiling was put around his penis and pulled. He fainted again. During all this Hüseyin Yildirim continued to say that he intended to act for his PKK clients.

He was given trousers and a shirt to put on and taken downstairs where he was put in a cell filled with water and sewage which came up to his knees. He was made to lie in this for five to six hours, until he was told to move to a platform above the level of the water. The next morning at 7 am he was made to get in the water again. At about 8 am, five to ten men came with sticks and hit him on his hands, which started to bleed. His fingers were broken. The men went away, but came back again and beat his feet. He was left on the platform, but at about 1 pm the officer in charge ordered him into the water again. When he refused to get into it he was hit and pushed in. After this he was taken to another cell and given food, sheets and cigarettes. He could not eat because of the damage to his mouth and teeth and when he smoked a cigarette he fainted. After two hours in this cell he was taken back to the cell filled with water and left there for the rest of the night. The next morning he was taken to a dry cell, where he remained for ten days during which he was hit continually. He was then taken, supported by two soldiers, to a koğuş (large dormitory-like room) and asked to identify prisoners he knew. All were PKK members except Mehdi Zana (former mayor of Diyarbakir), Mahmut Şahin and Paşa Uzun. He was then put in a cell by himself.

The following day at about 8 am soldiers came and beat him again…. Hüseyin Yildirim was not given any food; he was very cold. He does not know how long he was kept in this cell, probably about 20 days….

Hüseyin Yildirim became very depressed and refused to eat. Almost every day he was beaten and asked why he acted as lawyer for PKK members. When he could not walk he was dragged upstairs. He was kicked in the mouth, had his head pushed against the iron bars and was hit with sticks. One day they came at about 2 pm and said that they were going to hang him. He was taken to a room containing torture equipment in which there were three captains and a man in civilian clothes. Hüseyin Yildirim was very nervous and asked them if they had come to watch the torture. They said that they just wanted to speak to him. They were sorry for the torture; it would not be necessary if he answered their questions. The man in the civilian clothes began to beat him; he was hung on the cross again and given electric shocks; he fainted and when he recovered consciousness he was on the floor. Then the soles of his feet were beaten. He did not know if the officers were still in the room. Papers were already prepared with questions and spaces for his answers. He was asked many questions about the PKK and there were questions designed to implicate other people in supporting the PKK. At about 5 pm he was taken back to his cell. In the morning he was forced to eat the three sheets of paper on which he had written.

For four nights he was taken and tortured. On the fifth night he was again given electric shocks, hung by one foot. The civilian, who was again present, said he would die.

Then for two or three days the torture ceased. He was given bread, cheese and tea. After 90 days he was not able to move and sat all day covered with a sheet. A doctor accompanied by soldiers came and examined him, injected him with Novalgin and gave him vitamin pills. For two or three days his state of health was so bad that he could not recognize anyone. He was moved to a koğuş where he stayed for one or two days. A prisoner who tried to help him was taken and tortured. His feet were still swollen and he could only stand supported. He was taken to a room where he met three judges, one of whom he had known previously. Then he was taken away and tortured again for three days.

After April 1982 his treatment improved—he thinks because of outside interest in his case. On May 15, his treatment improved even more; he was allowed to stay in bed and have the window open. Three doctors came to examine him every day and gave him serum. He was taken to court on June 15. After a month of good treatment he was still in a bad condition and unable to stand. On July 2, he was again taken to court and this time his release was ordered. He was actually released on July 14, but his trial continued.

After his release, Hüseyin Yildirim immediately took up his defense of the PKK members on trial. He complained in court about the procedures and was told that he could not continue as defense counsel because he was on trial himself. The court adjourned and two days later Hüseyin Yildirim was detained again and held for three days. He was beaten on the soles of his feet and on his hands. After his release he was under constant surveillance and repeatedly harassed. He was advised to leave Turkey and did so on October 11, 1982.

How to cite this article:

"The Torture of Huseyin Yildirim," Middle East Report 121 (January/February 1984).

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