Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Şahin said police officers caught on camera beating a handcuffed woman at a police station should be punished, calling the incident “unacceptable.”
Camera footage broadcast by Turkish media outlets on Friday featuring an İzmir police station revealed police officers beating up 37-year-old Fevziye Cengiz with her hands cuffed behind her back. In the footage from the Karabağlar police station, three plainclothes policemen are shown beating and slapping Cengiz, detained during a police raid on a music hall, for several minutes while her hands were cuffed.
“The incident is unacceptable, and I believe those who are involved in this must be punished,” Şahin told reporters. “If those in particular who are supposed to help efforts for a solution [to the problem of violence against women] become part of the problem, this is definitely unacceptable,” she said.
The incident sparked outrage in Turkey, where violence against women is a major problem. A group of protesters who gathered in front of the Karabağlar police station on Saturday called the incident a “proof of state protection” for men who resort to violence against women.
The police officers involved in the scandalous event were later dismissed from their post, according to a statement from the İzmir Police Department on Friday evening, pending an investigation. But critics say this is not enough.
“Violence at the hands of men against women continues at an increasing rate, with five women being killed every day on average,” said Meltem Yılmaz, speaking on behalf of the protesters, arguing that the incident in İzmir shows violence was being justified by state institutions.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a deputy for the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said the police station where the incident took place should be closed down and turned into a women's shelter in a symbolic gesture.
Cengiz was detained during a police raid while she was with her family at a music hall in July. The police demanded that everyone provide their identity cards. When Cengiz's husband went to their car to get hers, the police reportedly hit her and one used an expletive in referring to her. She was then arrested and taken to the police station where she was beaten. The woman said she was sexually harassed as well.
After Cengiz was released, she filed a complaint at the prosecutor's office. The officers then filed a separate complaint against her, accusing her of attacking and insulting them. The police officers face up to one-and-a-half years in jail each for causing simple injury, while Cengiz can receive up to six-and-a-half years for attacking and insulting police officers.
Cengiz says she still receives threats from the police and has been receiving psychological counseling since the incident in July. “I haven't been able to recover from it, my health has deteriorated,” she told reporters on Saturday. “They can do harm to me. I am frightened at the sight of the police and can't even leave the house alone,” she said.
Her lawyer says the police officers should be tried for torture.