Turkish police beat 34-year-old, keeping him captive for 19 days
On a day when we’re told how ‘powerful’ a Portuguese passport is comes a story to illustrate how little that can mean in certain countries.
Miguel Álvaro, 34, was arrested, beaten and held captive by Turkish police for 19 miserable days… just because he ‘looked gay’.
The Portuguese/ South African dual national, and consummate traveller, tells Público it may have been his shorts and “shorter than usual for a man” shirt that tipped the scales. He really doesn’t know. He was on holiday (on his own) and, having left his rental apartment in Istanbul’s Taksim district, he simply went up to police he could see in the street to ask for directions to a tourist neighbourhood called Balat.
The next he knew he was ‘surrounded’ by uniformed men, one or more of whom proceeded to grab his arms.
“One of them hit me in the ribs, pushed me against a van, hit me on the shoulder, which was bleeding,” he recalls. “After five hours in the police van, where they just told me to shut up and be quiet, one of them explained to me that I had been arrested because of my appearance. They thought I was going to take part in an unauthorised LGBTI+ march happening nearby because I looked gay. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
And it was only the beginning of the nightmare.
The next 13 hours were spent inside the police van as agents outside set about arresting people involved in the unauthorised march. An Iranian in a kilt, and a Russian found their way into the van. The three men were then driven to a detention centre where they were held for another 17 hours.
During all this time, there was no access to a bathroom/ toilet, food or even water.
Miguel tells Público, all three were repeatedly told they would be released and deported to their own countries as long as they ‘collaborated’. But this did not happen. From the detention centre, they were transported to a prison “a few kms from the Syrian border”.
By now, three days had passed. None of them had slept. It was June 28 – and Miguel had had no access to his mobile phone; no opportunity to tell anyone where he was.
Installed now in an overcrowded prison, alongside Russians and Chechens who “threatened to kill them”, the three took it in turns to sleep so that there was always someone ‘keeping an eye out’ to ensure survival.
Another full week went by.
Finally, on July 2, Miguel recalls he was allowed a phone call. He called his father who immediately contacted the Portuguese embassy in Turkey.
According to Público, no-one from the embassy visited Miguel, nor was any help offered (this lapse is being clarified with diplomatic sources, says the paper).
On July 12 came the indication that he was about to be released. The Russian also. Not the Iranian (Elyas) who is an LGBTI+ activist, and was living in Turkey as a refugee.
As Público explained, Elyas “fled Iran with his family after they were tortured for their political beliefs. Despite enjoying international protection because of the risk of returning home, Turkey ordered his deportation. At this point, returning would be a death sentence”.
It is still not clear what has happened to Elyas. He appears to have remained in the prison where his family has said he was beaten up after the departure of his two friends.
Miguel is now back in Brazil, where he lives – and has been completely shattered by the experience.
He admits his previous ‘lack of concern’ when he planned trips has been ‘marked’. He actually cannot believe what happened in Turkey, and hopes to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Source: Público P3 Carolina Amado