I’ve suspected this from the beginning and I suppose this news was inevitable. Among the tens of thousands of people in Turkey who have “disappeared” since the coup over the summer, video and credible interviews have emerged showing that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had his opponents tortured in horrific fashion. The BBC has published some video taken at local hospitals there, along with interviews with attorneys representing some of the alleged coup “participants.” The stories are eerily familiar and similar to what we’ve heard coming out of other despotic regimes such as that of Saddam Hussein before his ouster.

Selcen Bayun plays the video on her phone – and takes a deep breath. Even after watching it multiple times since 15 July, it still shocks.

“That’s my client.” she says, pointing to a man with a head injury. “He and the others were beaten, their heads were banged against the wall and he had burns on his legs from being forced to kneel on hot asphalt. I saw a police officer throttling another client during an interrogation.”

The men in the video are high-level suspects behind the attempted coup earlier this year.

The person in that video (which I will not embed here since it’s simply too disturbing for some readers) is at least ostensibly part of the actual coup. Some of the men there are pilots who flew the attacks on the Parliament building. That obviously doesn’t excuse the massive human rights abuses we are seeing which are taking place without the benefit of a trial, but one could at least say that they were active participants in the brief uprising.

Not so with the tens of thousands of others who were not members of the military, but simply doctors, teachers or journalists who had the poor fortune to allegedly be overheard expressing opinions contrary to Erdogan’s grand vision. Some of them are getting what the pilots experienced or much worse.

Kamil Uluc was detained in August, accused of links to the banned Kurdish militant group PKK. He was held at Esenler and Vatan police stations in Istanbul where he claims he was severely tortured.

In a long, detailed account, he told the BBC it started with a gun being put in his mouth to order him what to say, not allowing him a toilet break so he would soil himself – to far worse.

“They had pictures of about 200 people and were telling us to say they were PKK. When I refused, the torture started. They tied weights to our testicles. I still feel pain around my groin. Then they would pour water on us and beat us. We were taken to hospital but the police ordered the doctor not to record anything”.

That man wasn’t a pilot or a solider. He was simply “accused of having ties” to the PKK. That’s enough to have you wind up in a dungeon with your body covered in burns these days. I apologize if that excerpted portion seemed brutal, but if you read the rest of the testimony in the linked article it gets much, much worse. Erdogan’s forces are accused of raping some of the detainees and, in other cases, bringing in their wives and raping them in front of them in an effort to extract a confession.

Democracy in Turkey has failed before our eyes. Erdogan is now torturing his own citizens for the crime of holding a different political philosophy and few observers doubt that many of the missing are already dead. And yet this is a leader who is still counted as an “ally” by the United States and the European Union because of his key geographic location. Our continued relationship with this monster is a mark of shame on our nation and our allies.

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