"I would still be in jail if my wife wasn't American. Erdogan fears that American passport. He wants to look good to his friend Obama."
Handcuffed and kneeling, a young Turkish man was repeatedly hit in the face by four police officers as they saturated his eyes with pepper spray.
"'I will rape your Christian wife one hour later,' one of the police officers told me. I was kneeling on the first level of the police station floor—where there is no surveillance camera. About four officers were gathered around me. They kicked me in the ribs. They kept beating me on the head and face with their fists. Then one of them sprayed tear gas into my eyes. The pepper spray made my whole face red. But I wouldn't be quiet like they told me."
He paused, and I could hear my own breathing. The tall, rather thin man who sat across from me slumped a little in his seat. He wore jeans and a white t-shirt, his only jewelry a simple wedding ring.
"I'm not a bad mad. Before I got married, I used to drink too much alcohol sometimes. I haven't been able to find a good job in Turkey. A lot of my friends, who didn't get a university license, walk the streets. They look for jobs, drink tea at the men's cafeteria, bet on the sports teams, find something to do. If you're not a member of the Ak Party, you don't get a job reference."
"When did the police beat you?" I asked.
"Over a year ago, when my wife and I were first married, some Ak Party people called the police on me for demanding why they took videos of my wife at a work party. She's a foreigner, an English teacher."
"Why did you join the protests?" I asked.
"I marched with the people of my hometown, Izmit. My friends were all there. We went to the Ak Party headquarters. It has a yellow lightbulb as its symbol above the tall building. But it keeps the people in darkness. Erdogan lets his soldiers, the Turkish police, torture the people. So many men, teenagers, and even women have been beaten by the police. In Turkish, we call it işkence. Işkence (pronounced "ishkanjya") means torture.
"Do you think the protests will make him stop?" I asked.
"I don't know. I would still be in jail if my wife wasn't American. Erdogan fears that American passport. He wants to look good to his friend Obama. Since he came back from Africa, he has been making big speeches to his Islamist followers. He imprisoned the top army officers who followed Ataturk. I don't think Erdogan will back down. Dark days are coming."
If Erdogan really does fear an American passport, then he's overestimating Obama by quite a bit.