A provincial chairwoman of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has filed a complaint against local police in Turkey’s western province of Aydın for an unlawful strip-search conducted at a police station after she and other HDP members were detained in mid-February, the Gazete Yolculuk news website reported on Monday.
Caize Yarıcı, the HDP’s Aydın provincial chairwoman, said that during her detention she was brought to a room by male and female police officers who told her to undress while the door of the room was open. Yarıcı said what happened in the room was “humiliating.”
Asserting that strip-searches are unlawful, Yarıcı said she would press charges against those responsible. “I have filed a complaint with the Aydın Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. I will defend my rights to the end,” Yarıcı was quoted as saying.
Dozens of women, including prominent writers and a politician, revealed in December 2020 that police had strip-searched them while in custody after HDP deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu brought several reports to public attention in late 2020.
Some women related their experiences long after the incidents during a Turkish wave of revelations similar to the international #MeToo movement in which women described past sexual harassment.
According to Turkish legal and preventative search regulations, strip-searches can only be conducted in exceptional cases, such as when there are credible indications that the person has contraband materials on their person. In such cases, the search must be conducted in a manner so as not to humiliate the person and as quickly as possible. When there is a credible suspicion that something is hidden in the person’s body, officers are required to ask the person to remove it himself and inform him that if he disobeys, the removal will be done by the prison doctor.
In September, HDP deputy Gergerlioğlu brought an instance of unlawful strip-search to public attention. Police conducted humiliating strip-searches against 30 students who were detained in the western city of Uşak over their alleged membership in the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has long resided in the US. The Turkish government accuses the movement of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
“The fact that law enforcement strip-searched the students, despite it being unnecessary, renders the conduct irreconcilable with human dignity. The officers’ conduct requires an effective investigation due to the violation of the right to a life with dignity, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, European Convention on Human Rights and in Turkey’s constitution,” Nurullah Albayrak, a rights advocate lawyer living in exile, told Turkish Minute at the time.
The European Court of Human Rights has found strip-searches to constitute degrading treatment when not justified by compelling security reasons and/or due to the way they were conducted. But the practice has been frequently used by Turkish security forces against people suspected or convicted of political crimes.