A top gun at Silivri prison

A top gun at Silivri prison

He was born in Sivas, graduated from Kuleli Military High School in 1978, and from the Electric-Electronics Department of the Air Force Academy in 1982.   

He was Turkey’s youngest F-104 pilot, later the youngest F-16 pilot. He has served as Squadron Ops Officer at Keesler Air Force in Mississippi. He is one of the “Top Gun” pilots of the Turkish Army, in other words. He graduated from the War Academy as second in his class in 1992.

I met with him at one of Istanbul’s large malls, in a restaurant.

He was supposed to be the commander of all shopping malls after the planned coup…

His name is Yalçın Ergül. His story and his fate are similar to hundreds of other heroic commanders in the Turkish army.

In 2011, while he was a major general, he was called to the Turkish General Staff and a diskette was put in front of him. His alleged crime was that he was given the duty, after the planned “coup” according to the indictment, to “seize all shopping malls.”

There was a list of all the malls he would seize. On the list were some malls that were not even built at that time. But because the document was fabricated years later, this kind of error was probably acceptable. The first step of the conspiracy named “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) was taken on that day. After that, three years of imprisonment followed. As if that was not enough, he was then given 16 years in jail.

Despite his records, he was discharged from the Turkish army in 2013. He joined the anonymous citizens of civilian life as one of the bright people of this dark country, where those who served three and a half months wrote epics of oppression.

Turkey, today, is a country of civilian war veterans persecuted by civilian coups, by ruthless conspiracies, and by treacherous traps under the name of Ergenekon and Balyoz.

Future generations will read their sad stories. While "inside," Ergül wrote books. I advise those who want to drive the Turkish army into a blind leap into the Middle East nowadays to read his books.

Cellmates at Silivri

Ergül told me about prison life in building number 5 at Silivri, near Istanbul. He stayed in a dormitory with eight people. They had a joint hall they could use and two rooms of four people.

They were allowed to join a group activity once a week. There were several handicraft courses. He said, “The boy who committed suicide the other day stayed in our section.”

I asked, “Do you mean Cem Garipoğlu?”

He said, “We were not at the same dormitory, but we were in the same building. We had a chance to gather at a joint area once a week. We would chat. Former Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ would also join us. That boy would also come. We would chat from time to time.”

He was a quiet young man, Ergül said, “He did not talk much. When we needed a pen or something, he would very politely offer to get it for us.”

How did that boy find a rope to hang himself?

“As far as I read from the papers, he put a plastic bag on his head and tied it with a rope.”

Well, again, even shoelaces are not allowed, how did he find that rope?

“We would send our laundry home, but some prisoners would wash them themselves. They would dry them at their dormitories naturally. For this purpose they would sell thin strings at the canteen.”  

Well, how can a person hang himself or throttle himself with a thin string?

“If you wind four or five of these thin strings together, you can make a rope.”

I also asked if Başbuğ and Garipoğlu had ever met. Perhaps they passed in the corridors.
What strange kinds of coincidences life is full of.