The trial against the two generals who carried out the 1980 coup who are still alive, Kenan Evren and Tahsin Şahinkaya, has opened a public discussion of the brutality of the coup and its aftermath as witnesses around the country step forward and submit their accounts of torture and killing to the court. Given the sheer numbers arrested after the coup, most of us know people who were “inside” and have heard their stories. People were regularly tortured and beaten to death, especially in the notorious Mamak military prison, but not only there. In recent news accounts prisoners at Mamak tell of threats while being tortured that their children and families would be brought into jail if they don’t talk. After such threats, upon returning to his cell Yılma Durak hallucinated that he saw his little daughter sitting there and he began to beat his head against the wall. They brought Abdulkadir Yanık’s mother in, beat her, then tortured her son in front of her. In Diyarbakır Prison, it was reported that non-Muslims were forcibly circumcized. (here and here are accounts in Turkish)
It would trivialize the abuses that were recounted if I were to itemize them here and in any case a true account is impossible, given the torturer’s vast imagination. It is an important catharsis for Turkey to haul this festering blackness out into the light of day and punish or forgive the perpetrators so that the nation can move on. Or, as Taha Akyol pointed out, so that a conversation can begin about ripping out the authoritarian and sectarian impulse in Turkish society that allows (and could allow again?) such violence.