Taboo of Turkish Army Violence Broken in Landmark Reportإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Hundreds of Turkish military conscripts have suffered harsh abuse and even torture, said a taboo-breaking report published on Friday.
The 'Rights of Conscripts Initiative' report carries accounts by 432 victims of varying levels of deprivation during military service.
Cases range from brutal initiation rituals to forced excessive physical activity to torture that causes permanent physical or psychiatric damage or even death.
Tolga Islam, one of the initiators of the project, said "the numbers we are now sharing with the public are very low compared to what really happens in the army".
A dozen cases from the report have been forwarded to the European Court of Human Rights, and the project volunteers hope their work will bring change in perceptions in Turkey.
"I want all those responsible to be sentenced to life in prison so that young people no longer die just because they are conscripts in the army", said Aydin Kantar, whose son Ugur died in the Turkish military last year.
"When my son was brought to the hospital, his lips were swollen like a drum. He looked like he had been scalded, but none of this was in his medical report."
Musa Abravci, the father of a man who came back disabled from the army, said he held no grudge against the military in general, but said there were many in the mighty institution who deserved harsher punishments.
His son suffered bruises and a broken hip when he was beaten for days by his sergeant. Today he still suffers from psychological and physical impairments, and he remains unemployed.
A military tribunal handed a six-month jail sentence and a fine of 3,000 Turkish liras (1,250 euros) to the sergeant. The fine was commuted to 1,500 Turkish liras and the jail term suspended. The lieutenant in charge was acquitted.
"The army tells us that what we cite are exceptions," said another leading figure in the initiative, Yigit Aksakoglu.
He noted that this argument was "an exact copy" of what the Turkish police said when it was accused of torture in the 1990s.
"It's an ongoing, systematic problem which needs to be addressed at last," Aksakoglu said. "This should end."
Turkish law makes it a crime to criticize the army in a manner that might turn young men, some 400,000 of whom are enrolled yearly, against conscription.
But Huseyin Celik, vice-chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said last year: "Nobody would believe a conscript if he said 'I was never beaten in the army'."
The Turkish General Staff did not immediately respond to the accusations in the report.
But for Ugur's family, and the relatives of many victims of army violence, the abuses are well documented.
"Those people committed a crime, and more than 20 people can testify on it," Kantar said of the circumstances surrounding his son's mysterious death in a cell where he was put after a quarrel with a fellow conscript.
"I don't trust the army anymore," he said. "I say no one should send their kids to the army anymore."