In a recent event held on Thursday, September 17th, the Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) organized an event titled ‘Yiten Canlara Vefa’, ‘Loyalty to Lost Lives’ at the New Jersey Baymont by Wyndham Hotel.
During the program, several individuals and their stories were highlighted:
- Prof. Sabri Çolak, who was arrested due to his involvement in the documentary “Traces from the Past” aired on the now-closed Irmak TV.
- Fatma Görmez, a former elementary school teacher who lost her job due to a government decree (KHK). She underwent two heart surgeries due to the stress and hardships her family endured. Tragically, she lost her 14-year-old son while her husband was in prison and eventually passed away, weighing only 29 kilograms.
- Veysel Atasoy, a 22-year veteran police officer who contracted COVID-19. He was transferred to the hospital late and spent 35 days with his hands cuffed to the bed. Shockingly, his family was not allowed to view his body after his death.
- Hatice Akçabay, a teacher who lost her life along with her three children in Meriç. Her body was found embracing her young son, Bekir Aras.
- Yusuf Bekmezci, an 82-year-old philanthropic businessman, experienced a heart attack during cataract surgery. His family was denied access, and despite appeals for his release, he passed away in intensive care.
The program also remembered numerous other individuals, including Sabri Çolak, Ali Ayverdi, Bahadır Odabaşı, Ali Bayram Hoca, Cemal Uşşak, Halil Şimşek, Uğur Abdurrezzak, and more.
Zekiye Ataç, who sent a video message to the program, expressed her feelings: “When Ahmet was ill, I prayed fervently, ‘Oh God, let Ahmet recover and travel the whole world.’ Little did I know that my prayers would be answered in such a way. Today, he is not only free from his pain but also sharing his innocence with the world.”
Tarık Atasoy, the son of the late police officer Veysel Atasoy, who joined the program from Seattle, shared his perspective: “Every morning, I ask myself, ‘What have you done today, Tarık, to advocate for your father’s innocence?’ If I haven’t done enough, I feel a deep sense of responsibility. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.”
As part of the program, handmade embroideries, jewelry, and paintings created by inmates in prisons were auctioned. The proceeds will be used to continue the “We Haven’t Forgotten, We Will Not Forget” book series, which tells the stories of the deceased individuals by name.
Taylor Qualls, a therapist and musician from Kansas City who participated in the program, stated, “I empathize with those who have experienced this pain. They are now my friends, and I’m determined to amplify their voices worldwide.”
Bailey Hughes, an AST volunteer from Rochester, New York, emotionally recounted the story of Cemile Çağırga, a Kurdish child tragically shot in the street and left on her mother’s chest for three hours before being stored in a freezer because she couldn’t be buried.
AST Vice President Sait Önal conveyed the organization’s commitment: “People are not forgotten after their passing. As long as we continue to remember them, they remain a part of our lives. As AST, we will persist in our efforts to ensure that these losses are not forgotten and their innocence is upheld.”
Between 2016 and 2022, a concerning number of individuals lost their lives due to human rights violations:
- 473 people succumbed to grief, stress, and illness.
- 125 people passed away in prisons.
- 92 individuals took their own lives.
- 36 people lost their lives while attempting to escape persecution in their countries by crossing the Meriç and Aegean regions.
- 91 people died in traffic accidents while visiting relatives in prisons located in different cities.
- 18 people perished in workplace accidents in unfamiliar jobs.
- 7 people lost their lives in police custody.
- 1 person passed away during court proceedings.
Following the deaths of these 21 victims, they were posthumously reinstated in their respective jobs.
As of August 2023, our records indicate that among the 928 victims who lost their lives as a result of the state of emergency (OHAL) and decree laws (KHK), 85 were infants and children.
The program received an outpouring of congratulatory and appreciative messages from attendees and supporters.