Female journalists ‘abused’ in custody in Turkey

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Two female journalists have accused police of sexually, verbally and physically abusing them during raids at their news agency over their coverage of the Gezi Park protests.

Derya Oktan, 32, and Arzu Demir, 39, were at the Etkin News Agency (ETHA) bureau when police staged a raid at the left-wing news outlet on June 18 as part of its operations regarding the nationwide anti-government protests.

Claims of sexual abuse toward women in detention have been widely reported on in social media, but many women have preferred not to speak about the incidents. However, Demir said victims should speak out to prevent further cases from occurring.

“In order to cope with what’s happening, in order to prevent abuses from increasing, we need to speak out,” Demir told the Hürriyet Daily News. “That is why we don’t shy away from speaking and revealing our identity.”

Oktan said police staged an intervention at the building, in which the two journalists’ rooms and the bureau was located, at around 4:30 a.m. on June 18. The police entered the bureau with a search warrant and took many items, including press cards, photograph archives, recorders and even the kitchen equipment, such as aprons.

Oktan said she was in her pajamas and tried to go to the bathroom to change, but a male police officer stood in her way and asked where she was going.

“There were 44 officers, only one of them was a woman,” she said. “The female officer took me to the bathroom, touched my breasts and then wanted me to take off my pajamas. I didn’t agree to it but she stripped them off and hand-searched me. When I objected, she said: ‘What did I do? Did I torture you? Did I put handcuffs on you?’ as if nothing happened.”

Demir said she went through a similar episode.

“The police took off my T-shirt, hand-searched between my breasts, my genitalia,” she said. “When I said, ‘You cannot do that, I am a journalist,’ she told me, ‘You are wolves in journalists’ clothing.’”

The journalists said the search continued until 6 p.m.

“It is hard for a woman to speak about abuse. You can prove that you were beaten, but it is hard to prove sexual abuse,” Demir said, before criticizing mainstream media for relating abuse stories “as pornographic material.”

Oktan said what she experienced was not directed at “Derya Oktan the woman, but Derya Oktan the critical journalist.”

The two reporters said almost all of their Gezi Park protest archives were taken during the raids, although they said they were expecting such raids.

“Every year they raid ETHA, confiscating our archives,” Demir said. “We were expecting it, because we are critical [of the government], and we are the press.”

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