“Now that the price of electricity is skyrocketing, they had Keban connected to the pockets of 80 million people. Electricity now hurts not only those labeled as terrorists, or those who are perceived as potential danger, but practically everyone. It shocks everyone,” writes Kenan Kırkaya for Yeni Yaşam.
Electric torture was one of the shameful practices of the 90s. People who were brought to police stations individually or in groups and kept in custody for days and sometimes even months were mainly subjected to electric torture among various torture methods. This systematic practise of torture remained in use until the 2000s. There still are serious concerns, and some reports that it is still practised in some detention centres.
I personally became familiar with all sorts of torture that was systematically practised at the time in February 1999 at the Bozkaya station of the Izmir Police department. The torture I’d been subjected to for one week back then is nothing compared to that which was practised for months on people, some of whom lost their lives because of these torture practices. It’s not an exaggeration to say that hundreds of thousands of people were subjected to torture in the historical process. Some were maimed for life. Most people who have recently been brought to public attention as ‘ill prisoners’ actually had health problems because of systematic torture.
The officers who practised torture remained anonymous, and so did their posts in the hierarchy. They were known, indeed, but they were officially unidentified for the reason that torture was a ‘state secret’ known by everyone and practised on many. One was taken to the torture chamber in a detention centre (this could be a gendarmerie station, a police station, or the station of an unofficial intelligence unit). You were kept blindfolded while you were there. Time would lose meaning. You would try to assess where you were and what you were about to face through sounds and scents. Banging of cold metal doors, the walls you were slammed into, the stairs you were forced up and down, the blows coming from all sides, the long corridors you were dragged through, they all heralded the torture approaching. On a corner reeking of mould and urine, you would be forced to lie on a sponge mat, feeling its filth against your skin. Men in gloves would pin your hands and feet down. They’d pour what they called ‘acid’ all over your naked body, and then they’d start probing you with electricity, starting with your most sensitive parts. They called one another with nicknames like ‘commander’, ‘Haydar’, ‘Hacı’, and you knew that none of these names was real. The torturer made his power show in his darkness and pretended that he was invincible but was too afraid to let his face be seen.
Humour was a means of enduring brutality. After these detention centres, everyone who was transferred to a prison compound used to soothe their pain by making jokes about the electric tortures and other abuses they’d been subjected to. Phrases like ‘How many watts did you have?’, ‘I’m loaded with electrons’, ‘They had Keban (the Keban Dam in Turkey) connected to me’ were common in daily talk. And the electricity used to intimidate people and divert them from the struggle wasn’t as expensive as it is today. So, nobody really cared about this electric torture except for a few cases, like the case of these young men from Manisa*.
Now that the price of electricity is skyrocketing, they had Keban connected to the pockets of 80 million people. Electricity now hurts not only those labelled as terrorists or those who are perceived as a potential threat but practically everyone. It shocks everyone. As privatised power companies issue price increases one after another, they wreck the people. The bills are unbelievable. Everyone, famous or not, shares their electricity bills that amount to a whole apartment’s rent. Not only the minimum wage workers but even the social elite are in rebellion. The situation surrounding small businesses is particularly dramatic. They have the few cents they’ve earned robbed by those companies. There are medium-sized enterprises that pay a bill of 100,000 liras and more. Because the people can’t consume electricity anymore, they try not to. So that the state’s prestige remains intact, the people are forced to save from light. The country is forced into darkness so that the palace glitters.
Those who make propaganda saying that there were endless rows in the past and nobody had mobile phones back then have doomed the whole country literally to darkness. People can no longer afford the electricity to charge their mobile phones. Society is living through a different sort of electricity torture under this political administration. It’s obvious who is inflicting torture and who is subjected to it. The only thing that remains unchanged is the efforts of the torture victims to prove what they suffered. The bills that are shared, the long periods of time in candle light, wrapping oneself in a blanket, the astronomic electricty bills posted on the windows of shops, and the powerful elites make fun of this drama like they always have, make disgraceful jokes about eating dried beans and letting off gas.
The electric torture of yesterday fed the establishment of the deep state, mafia and the Susurluk**. Today’s electric torture feeds the mafia-politics establishment. Remaining silent to yesterday’s electric torture has caused 80 million people to be subjected to another sort of electric torture today. So the way of getting rid of this torture is not waiting for the administration to correct its mistakes or not to pay the electricity bills in a pacifist manner.
* 16 young men from Turkey’s Western province of Manisa were detained on the 26th of December in 1995 over accusations of being members of an illegal group and were tortured by the police while in custody. The case drew public attention and was covered extensively by the media..
** The political scandal caused by an alleged accident on the 3rd of November in 1996 that killed inside the same car a police chief and a leader of Grey Wolves implicated in multiple murders and drug trafficking. An MP of the ruling party who was also in the vehicle survived.