Turkish cop: I regret what I did
BELGİN AKALTAN - firstname.lastname@example.org
DHA PhotoLet me introduce you to riot police officer Serdar (not his real name) who I interviewed by email. You are free to believe his story or not because in cases like these, the writer sometimes comes under attack for “fabricating” the interview. Well, you can imagine that no police officer would come to the office in uniform, give me his business card and talk to me. This is compiled through indirect communication. As I said, you are free to believe it or not.
His girlfriend was Feyza (not her real name) at the time of the Gezi incidents. While Serdar went to work, Feyza went to protest. They broke up at the end because of political differences and the tension that built up between them.
“You wouldn’t recognize me while I’m working. Generally, none of us can recognize our own selves while we are on duty. This is because of difficult working conditions and the pressure on us. Especially during the Gezi incidents, I did things that I regretted. But I had to follow orders.” These are Serdar’s words…
“What I regret the most is that I could not keep my promise to my mother. When I first started my profession, I went through training. They gave me a truncheon which I took home. My father took the truncheon from me and hit my hand with it. I could not understand what was going on and asked him why he hit me. ‘It hurt, didn’t it?’ he asked. ‘Don’t ever forget this pain and do not use this truncheon.’
My mother constantly told me, ‘My son, do not hurt anybody; don’t ever hurt anybody.’ My mother cried, she told me, while watching the Gezi incidents on TV. She cried for those who lost their lives, both the protesters and the police [officer]. She asked me, ‘You didn’t do anything to anybody, right, son? Don’t ever hit anybody like these policemen. They all have mothers, too.’ I was able to say, ‘No, I did not, mom, [but I was lying],’” he said.
“I am actually a teacher but was not appointed as a teacher, so I became a policeman. I know many people who do this job for exactly the same reason. During the Gezi incidents, I wasn’t able to go home for seven days. I couldn’t take a shower. I wore the same clothes for seven days. My roommate later told me, ‘You did this and that.’ I was surprised because I didn’t even remember that I did the things my roommate told me about later. Just imagine the psychology of a person who has not slept for days, whose most natural needs have not been met, who has not washed, who has not eaten and, moreover, who constantly receives orders,” Serdar said.
“Believe me, a major portion of the policemen … do not want to follow these orders. I’m not saying all of them. All professions have bad ones and good ones, but I’m saying a major portion,” he said.
Feyza said she took shelter at a hotel where her friend worked at one point during the Gezi resistance. And from the hotel window, she saw five police officers badly beating a young protestor: “I could not do anything but watch the beating for minutes. I was terrified.”
“My police boyfriend did not know I was a Gezi protester at the time. I texted him not to beat anyone after I saw that young person being beaten by police. He said he would never beat anybody, especially defenseless people,” she said.
“I don’t know what happened later, but that person changed. He became a different person in a few days. We were only able to meet many days later. When I asked him if he had beaten anyone, he told me, with a smile on his face that I had not seen before, ‘Not one but several,’” she said.
One incident that Serdar has a hard time remembering – his roommate only told him about it afterward – was one in which he grabbed and pulled the hair of a young girl. The girl told him she was only going to work. Serdar did not listen to the girl. He slapped her in the face. His police buddies told Serdar they knew the girl and that she works in a café over there. Serdar again did not listen to them. His colleagues saved the girl, taking her from him.
He also beat up a young protester, about 20 years old. His colleagues took the protester away from him with difficulty. While they were taking him to the police center, the young man’s sister called his mobile phone on the way. Serdar answered the phone and told the sister [quite sadistically], “Your brother is in my hands, Come and get him.” Well, he does not even remember the boy now…
Serdar also hit a vendor. He regrets this the most [because he was not a demonstrator?], suffering pangs of conscience. He very much wants to find that vendor and tell him he is sorry.
Feyza said they started to quarrel constantly: “As I said, he had become a completely different person. Actually, he is a very nice guy. He started saying things like, ‘You wouldn’t recognize me if you see me on duty. Do I have democratic rights that I am expected to respect those seeking their democratic rights? Look, I need to obey orders. I don’t have the choice not to. They should not either.’”
Their quarrels got bigger to the point that they broke up. Serdar is no longer in Istanbul. He regrets many things that he did during the Gezi protests.
This is Feyza and Serdar’s story. I have nothing to add. Maybe a psychological analysis from an expert, later…