“Helicopter torture” of two Kurdish villagers in Van: Servet Turgut died!

On 11 September 2020, Turkish soldiers detained two villagers in Catak District of Van, namely, Mr Servet Turgut (55), father of 7 children, and Mr Osman Şiban (50), father of 8 children. Families could not get news from them for two days. On 13 September 2020, families were informed that both detainees were under intensive care in the Van Regional Hospital in an unconscious state. HDP’s Van deputies met with the families at the hospital and learned that Turgut and Şiban were taken away with a helicopter and beaten up two days ago. Based on the testimonies in the media and those gathered by HDP deputies, Turgut and Siban were both tortured and thrown from a helicopter. 

On September 14th, Cengiz Şiban, Osman Şiban's brother, told the press that his brother had been taken into custody before his eyes: “They took Servet and came to the village. Then they took also Osman and took both of them away by a helicopter. Since there was a military operation, we could not go anywhere and get information. Since we could not hear from either of them for a long time, I came to the city center and called the military. They told me that my brother was under intensive care.  I said, “When you took my brother away, he was healthy. How is he now under intensive care? But they didn't answer me. When they detained my brother, he was okay. We do not know if they were tortured, tortured in helicopters.” 

In another statement to the press Cengiz Şiban gave more details on the event: “After the reconnaissance, the soldiers were taken off. We did not go to the highlands that day. Only Servet Turgut went to his field. Then the helicopter landed in the middle of the village and the soldiers called us. They made us kneel in the village square. They said, “Terrorists came here”. We said, “We don't know and haven't seen anybody.” One of the officials said, “Why don't you know? We have pain, we suffer great hardship.” They asked for our IDs. They took our IDs and said, “You will kneel here until we leave the village; you will stand up after we leave.” They brought Servet Turgut to the village square. They asked who Osman Şiban was. Osman pointed at himself. They took Osman together with Servet. After asking for identity cards, they took away both of them. We went after them. One of the officials pointed the gun at us and said, “Don't come, we will shoot you if you come.” They took them to the hill in the village. We went to the place where Servet’s hayloft was. They chucked Osman and Servet out into the helicopter. Their shoes and hats remained there. We could not hear from them for 3 days. There was no telephone network in the village". 

Lawyers also said, “We know that the allegation of being thrown out of a helicopter is the statement of the person [military officer] who brought Şiban and Turgut to the hospital. The person who brought them to the hospital says, “These people were thrown out of a helicopter.”  This is also included in the hospital report.” 

Servet Turgut's elder brother Naif Turgut gave a similar testimony: “There was a military operation in the area. Soldiers came when my brother Servet was filling sacks with the grass he had cut 700 meters away from the village. Osman was at home. Soldiers took them both in a helicopter and left. Two days later, we learned that they were in the hospital.” 

Naif Turgut also said that he had met with Osman Şiban twice while he was in the hospital and that Osman told him that they had been thrown from the helicopter. Turgut continued as follows: “His condition was not good either, he had a brain haemorrhage. When he regained his consciousness in the hospital, I visited him twice in his room. He was scared and crying. He said crying that his eyes and hands were tied and he was thrown from a helicopter from a height of 15-20 meters.”

In the medical report of Servet Turgut, dated September 17, the statement “Anonymous patient was brought due to falling from a height” strengthens the witnesses' claim that he was thrown out of the helicopter". On September 20th, the hospital report of Osman Şiban was obtained, which noted that Şiban was brought to the emergency service with the complaint of “falling from a height.” The report includes the information that Şiban was “brought to the emergency service after falling from a helicopter.” Despite this, the governor of Van issued a statement on September 21st to cover up the incident, claiming that Turgut fell from a rock and that Şiban was “held in due form.”

On September 20, 2020, Osman Şiban, whose treatment was said to be “completed,” was discharged. Yet, on September 21st at 5.30 a.m. he was once again taken to a military hospital upon the order of the Chief Public Prosecutor in Van. The lawyers of Osman Şiban said, “The prosecutor told us that his current health situation would be checked to see whether he could testify. But a gendarmerie officer said, ‘This issue was on social media, so we’re afraid. We brought him here to keep him at our sight.’” Şiban was taken to the military hospital on the very day when HDP’s Parliamentary Spokesperson, several deputies, executive board and party assembly members visited Van to investigate the issue. Hundreds of police surrounded members of the HDP delegation who wanted to have a press statement after their visit to the hospital and families. The press was prevented from following the statement and publishing it.

Turkish Parliament’s Human Rights Investigation Commission, to which the HDP did appeal to investigate the issue, has not launched any investigation so far. 

As of September 25th, no investigation, suspension or dismissal was carried out against any military or public officer who did detain these two Kurdish villagers.

As of September 30, Osman Şiban, whose treatment continues in Mersin, still suffers from memory loss as a result of severe torture and trauma. Unfortunately, Servet Turgut lost died today, after twenty days of struggle for life under intensive care.

Similar Cases in Van in the Last Three Months:

  • 14 June 2020: As a result of the fire opened by soldiers in Kaşkol (Qaşqol) neighbourhood of Başkale district, Emrah Görür (20) lost his life and Saim Yılmaz was seriously injured.
  • 16 July 2020: 15-year-old Azat Bağa, who was seriously injured as a result of the fire opened by Turkish soldiers while grazing sheep in the Yukarı Çilli (Çiliya Jor) neighbourhood of the Çaldıran district of Van. Despite all medical interventions, his body was permanently damaged.
  • 29 July 2020: Three shepherds named Zahir Teker, Harun Akkaya and Lokman Koç in Sualtı (Derişk) neighbourhood of Başkale district were tortured and severely injured by Turkish soldiers who were carrying out a military operation against “border smugglers,” who are local villagers. 
  • 4 August 2020: İbrahim Baykara (46), the father of 6 children engaged in border trade, was killed with the fire opened by Turkish soldiers in Yukarı Çilli (Çîllî) neighbourhood of Çaldıran district.
  • 17 September 2020: Orhan Hanay, who lives in Dayanç (Davan) neighbourhood of Çaldıran district of Van, was seriously injured as a result of the fire opened by Turkish soldiers while he was grazing his sheep. Hanay still continues with his medical treatment.  

The torture of villagers by helicopters and other border attacks and killings are not exceptional situations: they are not perpetrated by “some unruly elements within the state bureaucracy and the army.” In fact, these cases of torture and murder reveal the very racist, militaristic and totally unlawful character of “the new Turkish state” in Kurdish provinces. They show us the fact that “Turkish security forces” can kill the Kurds wherever and whenever they want and with total impunity. These “security forces” have always been fully protected by the government and state bureaucracy, who prevent legal or administrative action against the perpetrators of such heinous crimes.

Once again, we sadly see that Kurdish lives do not count as human lives in Turkey! The international community should act and be the voice of Servet Turgut, who no longer exists, and Osman Siban, who still suffers from the trauma of torture.

Feleknas Uca & Hisyar Ozsoy
Foreign Affairs Co-spokespersons 
30 September 2020