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MURAT YETKİN > Turkey, lies and videotape

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The videotape in question nowadays is a security camera recording from June 1, 2013. It shows the bus and tramway stops region of the Kabataş ferry station on the European side of Istanbul. It was shot when the Gezi protests had started to gain momentum and many young people were taking to the streets.

On June 2, word started to spread in the media that a young woman wearing a headscarf, identified only as Z.D., and carrying her baby in a pram had been attacked by a group of 80-100 demonstrators, who were half naked and wearing leather trousers and black bandanas. They had apparently beaten the woman and her baby up, and some of them – sorry to say - had urinated on her, and nobody helped them for nearly half an hour.

This was like the rumor a day before that a group of demonstrators, escaping from police tear gas and water cannon, took refuge in the nearby Dolmabahçe Mosque, where they had supposedly drunk alcohol and even made love, thus insulting the Muslim faith. (Later on the mosque's muezzin – the one who gives the call to prayer - would not confirm those rumors, saying that he was a man of faith and could not lie. Soon after, he was removed from that prestigious mosque as a demotion from the government.

When Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan took the issue to Parliament with “vandals attacked my headscarved sister” rhetoric, together with the Dolmabahçe Mosque incident, it turned into a major defamation campaign against Gezi protesters. (On the evening of June 2, eight people, including police officers severely beat a 19-year-old protester in Eskişehir, Ali İsmail Korkmaz, into a coma. He died in hospital of a brain hemorrhage 38 days later.)

The weird thing was that despite giving interviews to the press about the attack on her and a forensic medical report – taken five days after – observing bruises on her legs, Z.D., who is apparently the daughter-in-law of a local ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) official, did not make an official complaint or sue the attackers and demand security camera recordings. In the meantime, Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu made separate announcements saying there were no camera recordings to confirm either the Dolmabahçe or Kabataş claims.

Last week, mainstream TV station Kanal D released footage from the Kabataş ferry station. The footage clearly shows the woman and the baby, waiting for some time, crossing the road, and getting into a sort-of-argument with a handful of - mostly - women, before meeting with her husband and leaving the area. There are no traces of half-naked crowds jostling them or doing other nasty things.

For Erdoğan, the footage itself failed to show the truth, but was evidence of the attack on both headscarved women (plural) and his government’s authority.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), gave details of the tape in his address to Parliament yesterday, saying it was up to Erdoğan to either find those who committed the alleged crime and bring them to justice or admit that it was a lie.

Kılıçdaroğlu claimed Erdoğan was carrying these issues onto the country’s agenda over and over again in order to divert public attention from the massive graft probe of Dec. 17, 2013.

February/19/2014

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