A victim of Turkey’s Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counter-terrorism Department (JİTEM), which was responsible for the extrajudicial killings of 1990s among other crimes, described to Deutsche Welle Turkish the atrocities she was put through in the organisation’s headquarters in the Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır (Amed) province.
The century-old stone building, originally an Ottoman gendarmerie barracks, was turned into an archaeology museum in 2015, and has among its exhibits bones discovered on the premises in archaeological digs. The human remains on display are either centuries old, or their age could not be determined, DW reported. Under JİTEM, it was used as a centre for untold horrors and torture during what is often called Turkey’s darkest decade.
Businesswoman Nezahat Baybaşin, a survivor of JİTEM torture, said the people brought for questioning were made to lay on the wet concrete floors as loud music was blasted continuously throughout the building.
“It was psychological torture. Once, one of them told [a person in custody] that they had five days to live. That’s how they scared people,” said Baybaşin, who was facing charges of separatism at the time.
Former JİTEM member Abdülkadir Aygan, who joined the organisation after becoming an informant against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), said people were tortured to the brink of death, and were later made to disappear.
“They would put the people they apprehended in cells and sometimes made them wait for days. There was torture under the guise of interrogation. Then they would kill those people and dispose of their bodies,” said Aygan, who is a suspect in the case of the murder of prominent Kurdish writer Musa Anter.
“They would either shoot them in the head or strangle them before dumping the bodies in empty fields,” he said.
JİTEM was later indicted in numerous cases of extrajudicial killings, including the Anter murder. However, many of the cases resulted in dismissals or minimal sentencing, with perpetrators enjoying impunity.
Kurdish writer Edip Polat said he was not against the conversion to a museum in principle. “But it should have been made into a museum by preserving everything that happened here.”
The museum conversion had erased all signs of JİTEM and torture, Polat said.
Polat spent three years in the equally infamous Diyarbakır Prison No.5 in the aftermath of the 1980 military coup, and was taken to the JİTEM headquarters immediately upon his release. He was able to get out when his village elders pulled some strings at the time.