Hakan Yaman – Three years on, justice delayed is justice denied
This blog is written by Richard Williams, our voluntary Country Coordinator for Turkey.
If you are at all squeamish I do not recommend that you view this distressing video
It shows horrific images of the near-fatal injuries inflicted on Hakan Yaman, a minibus driver who was caught up in the Gezi Park demonstrations in Istanbul three years ago today.
Hakan had not joined the protestors. He was on his way home to join his wife Nihal and two young children, in the Sarıgazi district of Istanbul. Unfortunately in order to do so he had to walk through the demonstration, one of the many sweeping across Turkey in those early days of summer 2013. He will never forget what happened next.
'I was 30 metres from my house when I was hit in the face by water cannon,” Hakan recalls in the video. “Then a police officer fired a gas canister at me from close range. I could not breathe or do anything.
'Around five police officers came over and began hitting me repeatedly around the head. One of them put a hard object into my eye and gauged the eye out.
'By then I was lying down, without moving. I heard one of them say ‘this one is finished, let’s completely finish him off’. They dragged me about 10 to 20 meters and threw me onto a fire.'
Hakan lost his left eye. His nose, jaw and cheekbones were shattered. Even his brain was visible.
'Doctors kept saying to my family there is nothing that can be done, he cannot survive.'
But against the odds he proved them wrong. 'I have two children. I managed to stay alive so they were not left behind without a father,' the 40-year-old told us this week.
'Since 2013 I have undergone nine operations and am currently getting ready for another one. Everyone in my family has suffered as a result of what happened to me. My younger daughter did not come near me for three months because my face was unrecognisable.'
Three years on, still no justice
Three years on and the police officers who very nearly killed Hakan have not been identified, let alone prosecuted, even though a witness filmed part of the attack on their mobile phone.
Unfortunately such long delays in starting prosecutions are not unusual in Turkey, especially in cases of state abuses, sometimes literally getting away with murder.
That’s a disgrace. The rule of law is fundamental to any civilised society and nobody – let alone the police – should be above the law.
What is even worse is that what happened to Hakan is just one extreme example of beatings and other excessive and abusive use of force carried out by police against suspected demonstrators in cities across Turkey during and since the Gezi Park protests.
Turkey took torture to the streets
Amnesty estimates that 8,000 people were injured and five killed directly as a result of such abusive force during those weeks of widespread protests in 2013. Gökhan Biçici, a journalist who was covering the protests and himself a victim of police ill-treatment, described the actions of the police simply at the time: ‘Turkey took torture to the streets’.
Since then, Pride marches and the International Women’s Day assembly in Istanbul have been stopped by police who used tear gas, water cannon and beat protestors.
Take action - demand justice
I urge anyone reading this or watching the video to join our Justice for Hakan Yaman campaign, both for Hakan’s sake and so that we end the culture of impunity seemingly enjoyed by police in Turkey.
Tweet the Justice Minister
Please use Twitter to remind the Turkish Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdağ that we have not forgotten Hakan and what happened to him, and that we continue to call for justice.
Here are some suggested messages you could send to the Minister:
.@bybekirbozdag Three years since #HakanYaman was beaten, maimed & left for dead. #TimeForJustice @barishakanyaman @aforgutu
.@bybekirbozdag We haven’t forgotten #HakanYaman. Neither should you. #TimeForJustice #3YearsOfInjustice @aforgutu #CezasızlığaSon #Turkey
.@bybekirbozdag #HakanYaman shouldn’t have to wait for justice any longer. #TimeForJustice #3YearsOfInjustice @aforgutu
Write a letter
You could also write to the Minister of Justice in Turkey, briefly describing what happened to Hakan, and ask him why three years on, his attackers have not been identified and brought to justice. Send your letters to:
Minister of Justice
Mr. Bekir Bozdağ
Ministry of Justice
06659 Ankara, Turkey
Send Hakan a message of support
Send a letter or a card to Hakan to let him know you are thinking of him and are still calling for justice for him.
C/O Amnesty International Turkey
Uluslararasi Af Örgütü Türkiye Subesi
No: 22 Dükkan 2-D2- D3-D4
34425 BEYOGLU / ISTANBUL
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.