First we were suffocated with gas bombs, then we were burnt alive

On December 19, 2000 during the operation in Bayrampasa prison’s women dormitory C-1, 6 woman captives were BURNT ALIVE and dozens of other captives were covered up with burning patches. One of these woman captives has been released. We have interviewed Ebru Dincer about what happened on the morning of December 19 in dormitory C-1.

Vatan: First of all we hope you get well soon. You are one of the friends who were burnt during the operation on December 19. How long you have been in prison and what is your health situation now?

Ebru Dincer: I was arrested in 1996. I stayed in Bayrampasa prison that is for almost 5 and a half years. I have not been convicted yet. At present I am on remand. I need to undergo many operations. The doctors said that I need to receive medical treatment abroad but I have no permission to travel abroad. Due to the burning my eyelids do not close completely. I have been told that this could lead to blindness in the future. This is how we were made to ?return to life?.

Vatan: What happened on December 19?

Ebru Dincer: It was the later stages of the death fast. In fact everyone knows the reasons why we started the death fast. I was in the third team of volunteers. Until we were burnt. After that I received medical treatment. Before December 19, the negotiations were continuing. But a decision was made a day before December 19. The Prime Minister had said, just a day before, ?tomorrow will be a different day?. I remember this very clearly. He had said, ?tomorrow will be a different day?. And this is what really happened. Many things had changed in one night. 28 People were massacred in one day. Most of the captives are injured and left crippled. That is how we were made to return to life. Then the final point of savagery.

Vatan: How did the operation take place? The day before everything is normal and the daily routines?

Ebru Dincer: Yes, everything was normal and flowing by. It was a sudden attack. I was sleeping when the attack began. In the dormitory a couple of our friends were awake. At 4.30 we all woke up because of noises. I was in the women?s dormitory C-1 in Bayrampasa prison. When the attack began, first, they drilled the ceiling of the upper floor of the dormitory. There were holes all over the ceiling. Then the bombs were thrown in. We did not even have the chance to put our clothes on. We got dressed within seconds, I can say. We had nothing to protect ourselves. At that stage, I jumped off the bed and saw the soldiers on the roof. They were positioning their weapons.

Vatan: Were these ordinary soldiers or…?

Ebru Dincer: No they were all wearing masks. We could not see their faces. Except for a couple of them, the rest were wearing masks. The bombardment started at 0430 and continued until 1100 without any break. At the same time they were opening fire on the dormitory. At this time Songul Ince was shot in the arm. And a bomb was dropped on her bullet wound. But I managed to take the bomb out. I was right next to her. Many of our friends were poisoned because of the bombs.

Vatan: What kind of bomb was it?

Ebru Dincer: They were bombs… Blast bombs… that are as far as I can distinguish and remember most of them were blast bombs. Nerve gas, pepper gas,.. Of course you cannot realise at that moment. Later you digest the details? Their effects are that you have no control of your movements, you lose consciousness and since they attack continuously, you have no time to recover. We tried to breathe air from the windows but they threw bombs at the exercising area as well. In this way they prevented us from breathing in fresh air and getting a little bit of comfort.
“I was not in flames but I was burnt.”

Vatan: How did the burning incident take place? What do you remember about the beginning of the incident? What kind of weapons did they use? Was it one after another?

Ebru Dincer: Yes, it was one after another. The bombardment continued non-stop for 9 hours. And we could not leave the dormitory. Because we had no place to go. We could not even raise our heads. We could not stand. Because of the smoke bombs and because they were shooting at the glass, we had no cover to protect ourselves. We were all unconscious. Before we left the dormitory and at the time of departure, they burnt the entrance door. I do not know how they burnt it and with what. I still have no idea.

Vatan: Was it a kind of gas?

Ebru Dincer: Nobody knows yet. We have been told that it was a chemical weapon. Because an ordinary fire expands bit by bit. That is, a section starts to burn first and flames spread around. This was not the case. It suddenly burst into flames. In seconds the entire dormitory was in flames. And us, for instance, when I was burning my clothing were not damaged. It only burns the skin, very strange. I have heard about substances, which burn human flesh when they come in contact with the body temperature. Even if you wear clothes. My back, hands and face are burnt but none of my clothing. My jumper did not burn but
my body did. It is very strange. That is, I was not in flames but I was burning. After that we started to leave the dormitory. At that moment I lost my consciousness. Because of the dense bombardment we could not see each other. There were friends who were poisoned and who collapsed. Those friends, who left the dormitory first, came back to rescue the rest. They had taken me out too at that time. I had been saved because I was near the door gate. If I had been further in, I would not be alive now. As I remember, there were 28 of us in that dormitory and we all might have been killed there.
They were burnt alive…

Vatan: What if you had not been able to open the door?

Ebru Dincer: If we had not been able to open the door we all might have been burnt by bombs, everything developed within seconds. I can consider this as pure luck. Most of those who survived, except for a couple of our friends, have been burnt. 6 of us were burnt completely and even their corpses could not be identified. Yazgul Guder, Seyhan Dogan, Nilufer Alcan, Ozlem Ercan, Gulser Tuzcu, Sefinur Tezgel… were burnt alive.

Vatan: Did you notice afterwards, that is when you went downstairs?

Ebru Dincer: Yes, we went downstairs and our eyes started to look for our friends. Then we noticed those who were not amongst us, who were upstairs. We noticed our burnt friends. Some of our friends who seemed all right went back to bring them but it was impossible. The dormitory was in flames. Later on, we heard that even the metal components had melted. As soon as we were in the exercising area they started to squirt pressurised water. I think it was the water hose, it was very powerful. Still, while we were all injured, they continued to throw bombs on us. They were directly targeting us. It was not important for them where the bombs were landing. They were hitting our heads, arms, and backs? and we were already injured. We went to the dormitory opposite. They started to bombard there as well. This situation continued for a while. Soldiers started to enter the exercise area. They were all masked. They took some of our friends by dragging and beating them, regardless of their health situation. This operation, right from beginning, was recorded by video cameras. There were two cameras on the roofs. We shouted, “put the fire out!”…They did not.

Vatan: Did these cameras belong to military?

Ebru Dincer: Yes, military cameras. And the whole incident was filmed. But this video footage was not released. That is, they are still holding on to. They tried to make people believe that we set ourselves on fire. They made announcements for this purpose.

Vatan: We heard that they opened holes on the roof and used a chemical substance to burn the prisoners. They had water hoses from the fire department. But they did not use them for the purpose of putting out the fire. They were even laughing at you.

Ebru Dincer: When we came out of the exercise area, they were laughing at us. We shouted, “Put the fire out! Squirt the water, not at us but at the dormitory. Put the fire out. You have burnt our friends alive.”
But in spite of this the fire continued for another two hours. For two hours we shouted at them to put the fire out? they did not. But they were squirting water at us rather than at the fire, which continued to burn. This is another form of torture. For two hours the fire continued. Later they put it out. But there was nothing that could be done.

Vatan: What were they saying Ebru, could you hear them?

Ebru Dincer: They were using megaphones, saying “surrender yourselves!” and they were swearing at us. “We will kill you all, burn you all” We were all in the exercise area. One by one they snatched us. All this happened between 0430 and 1400. This is as much as I can remember. Some of our friends were badly injured.

Vatan: Who were the ones who were badly injured?
Hacer Arikan, Ebru Dincer,.. Birsen Kars is in Bakirkoy prison now. She is being denied medical treatment. Hacer Arikan is in a critical situation. 45% of her body is burnt. She burst in flames while trying to rescue Sefinur Tezgel. When I was in hospital, until 2 months ago, Hacer could not still stand up or walk. Her situation was critical. They did not treat her in Cerrahpasa hospital for at least two months. Because they were waiting for her to die. They really were waiting and they also admitted this. Therefore she was not medically treated.

Vatan: Were they doctors?

Ebru Dincer: Yes, doctors. They were talking to each other. And we heard it. Hacer also told us. She was denied treatment for a
long time. There were four of us in Cerrahpasa hospital. We were all badly burnt. Hacer Arikan, Birsen Kars, Gulizar Kesici and me. We have stayed Cerrahpasa hospital for two months. And none of us received medical treatment there. We were chained by our legs to the beds. We were already not in a situation to stand. It was a kind of coma situation. This torture continued for two months. I think, it was one and a half months after December 19. Representatives of the EU?s CPT (Committee to Prevent Torture) had come. At that time I was under operation, therefore I could not see them. The chains of our friends were removed for a couple of hours. After the delegation left, they chained them again. They knew they were guilty, this is actually their confession. If they saw themselves as being in the right, why did them remove the chains then? Many of our friends are injured. This is known. Some of our friends are critically ill. But they are not released. Except the basic first aid neither me, nor Hacer, nor the other friends received any treatment. Only wet towels.

Vatan: You say “friends”, who are they and what is their situation? That is, as far as you could see, because you were unconscious.

Ebru Dincer: It was not possible to open your eyes. Because of the gases you could not even see in front of you. At the same time darkness, smoke, bombs, bullets, those who were injured, those who were burnd. In terms of emergency medical aid, we had nothing. We had only wet towels. The TV channels had broadcast that we had weapons. We had only wet towels. They too could see them.

Vatan: And they were shouting, “surrender yourselves!”?

Ebru Dincer: Yes, this was the announcement for those who were in that condition. This was the announcement for the people who were in prison, under the hands of state. But in the beginning there was no warning or announcement. They suddenly opened fire and threw bombs. The barricade that they talk about was two wardrobes.
6 Women were burnt alive in the same dormitory in one night

Vatan: Have you got a final message?

Ebru Dincer: To express my feelings is very difficult. But I would like to say that everyone knows the reality of Turkey. You know why. This was not the first massacre either. In spite of all this, I cannot stop asking myself “why?, why?” No explanation is good enough after a while. 6 Women were burnt alive in the same dormitory in one night. Nobody can explain this. Nobody can. I was thinking of Hitler’s fascism. We read about it in the books. We watched the documentaries. Or the Sivas massacre. I thought about 37 of our friends who were burnt in Sivas. When one of our friends, Birsen Kars, who were burnt in dormitory C-1, was being taken out of the ambulance, she shouted: “6 women were burnt alive.” In fact we can describe it as “first we were in gas chambers then we were burnt in crematoriums.” It was real savagery. We were choked with gas bombs and then we were burnt. They fit everything into a night. They fit tyranny, separation and death into a night.


Ebru Dincer also mentioned an interesting incident she witnessed. During the meeting of the members of European Parliament, she met with the French MEP Pierre Goldberg in the same hotel where the meetings were taking place. At the same time the Justice Minister was also there. Ebru was upstairs. Sami Turk was downstairs. Sami Turk was arguing with the Dutch MEP. He was saying how the operation was carried out very humanely. When Ebru found out that he was also there, she described her feelings.
First there was hatred. I wanted to be face to face with the minister of justice. I wanted to see his eyes. I would like to tell him that, “this is your handywork. Look at your work. You already know it but I want you to look at me”