by Gordon Taylor | 4/17/2008 07:30:00 PM
I didn't want to publish it at first. I was, frankly, being too sensitive. But by now the image has been all over the world: and who am I to hide from reality? Demonstrators in virtually every European nation have put this photo on banners or in websites by the score, and the nondescript name "Cuneyt Ertus" (joo-nate air-toosh) now gets Google hits in the thousands. The boy has been discharged from prison, and the pro-Kurdish/pro-PKK news services have all published interviews with him. His experience is exactly as one would have expected -- fear,confusion, brutality, and pain -- but it bears repeating. And still there is no one in the mainstream Turkish or American media that has paid the least attention.
The most extensive interview is here, with a photo of "C.E." (his face obscured) and his father Hussein. Cuneyt, who still cannot use his right arm, showed great emotion as he recounted the events. "On March 22," said Cuneyt, "I went down to the market. I didn't know that Newroz events were going on, and I found myself in all this confusion. The police came right to me and collared me. Three policemen. Then they started manhandling me. First they twisted my arm. My arm went out of place [dislocated]. Then they took me to the Emniyet headquarters in a police vehicle. In the van they continued beating me; 3 or 4 of us were riding together. Inside the vehicle they called us "kufur" [infidels: an insult] and continued to hit us." At the station, Cuneyt recounts, the beating continued with kicks and truncheons aimed at the genitals.
And so it continued. At the station, for hours, the detainees were all kicked, beaten, and insulted. "Apo's [Abdullah Ocalan's] bastards" was one of the more choice insults, along with the opinion that they were no better than "filthy infidels." After the first day's interrogation Cuneyt was let go. "I couldn't sleep," he said, "from the pain in my arm." The very next day, however, while in the center of town again [For God's sake, Cuneyt, why did you go there?--g.t.], Cuneyt was again arrested, taken to the Emniyet and beaten. "They showed us their guns. Then before our eyes, they took the bullets out of their magazines, put them between the fingers of our hands, and then crushed our hands around them. That was extremely painful." From the Hakkari Emniyet, Cuneyt was transported to a prison in Bitlis, a city many miles away. Still he could not escape the beatings. His dislocated arm kept him in excruciating pain. No one was allowed to see him, neither aid workers nor his family nor lawyers. His fellow prisoners, he says, could see what pain he was in and tried to help him, but they could do nothing to stop it. Meanwhile, the casual beatings continued. "In prison from time to time they would let us out into the fresh air. Both going out and coming in they would hit us," Cuneyt says. "They treated us like animals."
While very happy to be reunited with his son, Huseyin Ertus is, as one might expect, outraged at the treatment he received. "My son is very young," Huseyin noted, "and he committed no crime at all. And yet, in plain view of everyone, they turned him around and broke his arm. This is a disgrace to humanity...There is no excuse for it at all." Cuneyt's father, meanwhile, is quite worried about the injuries he has received. He will be searching for treatment. In the published photographs Cuneyt is shown with no cast, sling, or bandages of any kind on his arm. "My humanity," said Huseyin Ertus, "tells me that no one should have to go through this kind of pain."
The facts are plain for all to see, yet of course the Turkish government will deny them, if they even deign to acknowledge the case. As for the U.S. government, we know them well enough. Turkey, after all, is "a vital partner in the War Against Terror."