Released footage shows no physical attack on headscarf-wearing woman during Gezi protests

Released footage shows no physical attack on headscarf-wearing woman during Gezi protests

Released footage shows no physical attack on headscarf-wearing woman during Gezi protests

The footage broadcast by Kanal D Feb 13 shows no attack in the area as the alleged victim passed through at the time and place of the alleged incident.

Security camera footage disclosed Feb. 13 has revealed there was no physical attack on a woman who claimed she and her baby were attacked by up to 100 protesters in Istanbul at the height of the nationwide Gezi demonstrations for wearing a headscarf.

The claims had been widely reported in the media, although the footage regarding the alleged incident that took place on June 1, 2013, in front of Istanbul’s Kabataş docks, a central area surrounded with surveillance cameras, did not surface for months.

The latest footage, released by private broadcaster Kanal D, show the alleged victim, identified as Z.D., walking by the Kabataş docks with her baby without being targeted by any group.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeatedly mentioned the incident in a bid to discredit protesters at counter rallies during the Gezi Park demonstrations.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç told reporters to direct their questions about the footage to the prime minister. 

“It’s been a while since the incident took place. The audience might make a different evaluation. If the claim belongs to the prime minister, his opinion over this issue can be asked,” Arınç told reporters in Istanbul on Feb. 14.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) directed its anger at Erdoğan and his government after the release of the video footage.

CHP Deputy Chair Umut Oran said he would file a complaint about Erdoğan on the charges of inciting people to hatred and enmity and insult because of the speeches he delivered about the mother’s claims.

CHP deputy Aylin Nazlıaka, for her part, dubbed the incident as “an exact state provocation.” CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told Wall Street Journal’s Turkey service on Feb. 14 that the prime minister’s previous claims over the incident had turned out to be lies with the new footage. “I have repeatedly said a liar cannot be a prime minister. Here is another of the prime minister’s lies,” he said. 

Abdurrahman Kayapınar, Z.D.’s lawyer, told Al Jazeera on Feb. 14 the footage was not clear enough to reveal what happened. “The footage released in the media are not MOBESE footage and, therefore, are not clear,” said Kayapınar. 

He also accused some media organs of mentioning claims “which were not said by my client,” and claims the footage does not comply with her claims. 

“A group of people gathering around my client is depicted as an unimportant incident,” he added.

Z.D. filed a complaint at the police station five days after the incident, claiming she was subjected to physical violence by a group of 80 to 100 protesters as she was waiting for her husband. According to her reported claims, the group mostly consisted of men without shirts, who were wearing black bandanas on their heads. Reports said one person slapped Z.D., causing her to fall on the ground while others among the putative mob insulted her for wearing a headscarf. 

She had also claimed that she smelt urine when she came home, but did not remember what happened after fainting due to her alleged, violent fall to the ground.

Z.D. claimed the attackers shouted, “We will not leave the country to you,” “Sacred headscarf?” You will see the sacred and what we are going to do to you,” and “We will hang Erdoğan.”
A medical report indicated that she had three bruises on her legs. It was later revealed that Z.D. was the daughter-in-law of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) mayor of Istanbul’s Bahçelievler district.

No sign of attack

The footage broadcast by Kanal D contradicted Z.D.’s previous accounts, showing no attack in the area as she passed through at the time and place of the alleged incident. A woman in headscarf is seen waiting for her husband on the far side of the avenue in front of the Kabataş docks, before crossing the road and departing from the area without any violent incident occurring. The footage also shows no evidence of a group of 80-100 bare-chested protesters gathering at that time near the area as alleged. 

At 7:48 p.m., according to the camera’s clock, a group of 10-15 people are seen pausing for half a minute next to Z.D., causing a short altercation due to a “verbal row,” according to the police’s account. The row, however, did not attract the attention of several security guards stationed immediately next to the woman.

The woman was subsequently picked up by her husband.

Police collected the footage of a total of 73 cameras in the immediate vicinity of Kabataş during the investigation. Several suspects had also been interrogated, but Z.D. reportedly failed to identify them.
After the alleged incident was reported, Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu had himself said he had not seen any video footage showing the attack. 

“I haven’t seen such a video. I can say video records have been taken and examined. However, some cameras are broken and cameras are not everywhere. There might be a recording taken by a witness that may be released someday,” Mutlu had said last July.

At the time, Erdoğan previously promised the video showing the alleged attack would be released “soon.” 

On June 12, 2013, journalist İsmet Berkan claimed he had seen footage of the attack, tweeting: “It’s a very distressing story… Unfortunately, it’s true” and that “it was something that could not be defended.”

In his column in Hürriyet on Feb. 15, Berkan said he had not mentioned the issue in his column or anywhere else, and had only written two tweets about it. 

“I have only written two tweets, and I didn’t write about it [in my column] or anywhere else. Yes, I am talking about the assault incident in Kabataş,” he wrote.

“I admit my mistake without accusing those who I believe are more mistaken, or depicting myself as a victim of this incident due to the endless lynch campaigns against me in social media, or confusing [people] with huge conspiracy theories: I shouldn’t have talked with such certainty seven months ago. More importantly, I shouldn’t have stood at the middle of a political propaganda war in which I’m not close to any side,” Berkan added.