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Exhibition in the U.S. Sheds Light on Turkey’s Social Genocide: A Mother’s Harrowing Tale of Smuggling Her Baby in a Suitcase


Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), a Human Rights organization based in the U.S, after a month of intensive work to prepare and present 34 memoir artifacts, continue their journey city by city in the Midwest, exhibiting the ‘Social Genocide Exhibition’ in six different cities in America.

Hosted by the Turkish American Society of Ohio (TASO), the exhibition opened for visitation on January 20 at Ohio State University’s Fawcett Center, once again commemorating lives that have suffered oppression. The program was attended by numerous Americans and Turks, with a large team of 30 university and high school students playing a role in the preparation and presentation of the program.

Mesude and Ahmet Çamalan, a couple from Columbus, donated a very meaningful artifact to the exhibition; a suitcase used for the illegal exit of their 18-month-old son, Enes, from a country. Enes had to leave the country hidden inside this suitcase…

Mesude Çamalan describes their experience:

To not forget the persecution we experienced and to make our voice heard, we considered it very important to participate in this exhibition and donate a significant memory of ours. I was a teacher in schools affiliated with the Hizmet Movement. Therefore, I had a travel ban. However, I had to take every risk to bring my family together. The hardest decision was regarding my 18-month-old son, Enes. When we decided to leave illegally, the smugglers insisted we pass him across the border in a suitcase. This was one of the most horrific situations I could face as a mother. The thought of putting my son in a suitcase, the possibility of harming him… All these thoughts crossed my mind. But we had no other choice. I had to pass him through the border in that suitcase after sedating him with a heavy sleeping drug. This incident is just a small part of the persecution my family and I experienced. Today, we are here to share these painful memories and to prevent the oblivion of what happened. The artifact we donated to this exhibition and the interview we gave are to draw attention to the human rights violations in Turkey. Hopefully, this exhibition will help the pain of people like me and many others to be heard and understood by the world. The terrible silence of good people has gone down in history! Dr. Salim Uçan, the host of the program and a member of the Turkish American Society Of Ohio, began his speech with the words of Martin Luther King, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Drawing attention to the human rights violations in Turkey, Uçan expressed that this exhibition carries great significance in making the oppression heard.

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Prof. Dr. Soltes: Parallels with genocides seen in history Prof. Ori Z. Soltes from Georgetown University stood out with his in-depth speech on individual freedoms and the effects of the socio-political landscape on certain groups. Some excerpts from Prof. Ori’s speech:

The so-called coup attempt on July 15 parallels genocides and persecutions seen in history. Illegal practices employed by dictators like Hitler to maintain their power and the genocidal-like persecutions they inflicted on people reveal the underlying truths of this event. This situation clearly demonstrates the deep and destructive effects of dictator regimes on humanity. Following the July 15 coup attempt, hundreds of thousands of people, including teachers, judges, journalists, academics, lost their jobs, and many, including housewives, were arrested. Please carefully visit this exhibition and witness the lawlessness that occurred. When asked, “What is the most impactful memory for you in this exhibition?” Prof. Ori responded: “Hatice Akçabay, who lost her life in the Meriç River with her three children, deeply affected me.”

2.2 million people investigated Aslıhan Kas, the coordinator of the exhibition, drew attention to the events and human rights violations that occurred following the so-called coup attempt on July 15. She provided the following information:

Following the July 15 coup attempt and the issuance of Statutory Decrees (KHKs): ● Over 2.2 million investigations were conducted. ● The media was heavily censored, and more than 100 news organizations were shut down. ● The government took over thousands of educational and business institutions. ● Over 600,000 people were detained, and half a million were arrested. ● In a heartbreaking development, over 3,000 children grew up in prisons with their mothers. ● During this repression, nearly 1,000 people, including children, lost their lives. ● The files of 122,632 people in the Courts of Appeal and Supreme Court are still awaiting a decision.

Although the numbers represent statistics, through this exhibition, we witness the tragedy experienced on an individual level. The exhibition has met with thousands of visitors through fourteen different programs in nine different cities to date. We thank everyone who supported us on this meaningful journey.

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