Yannis-Vasilis Yaylali is a peace activist and journalist in Turkey, jailed by the Turkish government since April 22nd of 2017. He is a Turkish citizen of Greek origin born in the Bafra area of the Black Sea coast.
Yannis-Vasilis has published a lot of articles about the 1914-1923 Genocide commited by the Turks, the human rights of the Kurds in Turkey and the massacres of Roboski in 2011. In order to support the Kurdish people of Roboski he and his partner Meral Geylani moved and settled in the Roboski village in 2012.
Yannis-Vasilis is a peace activist and conscientious objector and prior to his imprisonment he was also organizing every year anti-military youth workshops, dated close to the Roboski massacre commemorations. He is a member of the conscientious objector organization “Vicdaniret.org” member of the global “War Resisters International” an organization with presence in 40 countries.
Yannis-Vasilis was jailed in 22 of April 2017, two days before the commemoration of the Armenian genocide after publishing an article about the Genocide of the Armenians and the Greeks. You can still see his last two tweets from the same day…
Vasilis is now detained in a closed military prison, in Elazığ1, that means:
a) That the jail is geographically remoted, difficult for someone to visit either to stay on the local area, that stands even for his lawyer.
b) It is very difficult for someone to contact Yannis-Vasilis. His lawyer is not allowed to talk to him on the phone and his family is discouraged to call him due to several bureaucratic difficulties.
c) The procedures are very strict and as special permission is needed in order someone to visit him.
d) For the above reasons from April till today only his lawyer has spoken and visited Yannis-Vasilis and that happen only twice. He has also sent and received a couple of letters by his partner Meral.
e) The conditions of the military jail of Elazığ is two to three times worse than the average jail in Turkey. Also some money sent to Yannis-Vasilis by his own people to improve his everyday conditions where not given to him by the jail authorities.
Consequences due to his acts as an activist.
Yannis-Vasilis has three accusations for his work as a conscientious objector and one on his articles about the Ottoman Turks Genocide 1914-1923 against Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Yezidis. His research has leaded to publishing articles proving Mustafa Kemal pasha, founder of the Turkish State, guilty for the crime of genocide.
Yannis-Vasilis indictment has to do with:
-Inciting disobedience to the Turkish laws
-Encouraging people to refuse compulsory military service in the Turkish army
-Spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization
-Insulting Mustafa Kemal and the Turkish parliament
-Insulting the president T. Erdogan
There is also another older lawsuit, we ‘d rather say a bit comical, that has to do with the “Declaration of the autonomy of their home & uploading photos of washing the dishes on Facebook” … we know it sounds ridiculous… still Yannis-Vasilis had 5.5 months for this “case” and it is still on.
About the above incident that lead to a 5.5 months sentence Meral Geylani, Vasili’s partner gave us the following information: …We decided to declare the “autonomy of our home”, you know, it is something that big areas of Kurds do from time to time here in Turkey. So we said “let’s declare the autonomy of our house and see what is going to happen”, so I uploaded a photo on Facebook of me and Vasilis washing the dishes and Yannis-Vasilis added some political comments under the photo”. The result was that the government took down the photo and the couple went to court, Meral Geylani was found innocent but Yannis-Vasilis stayed for 5.5 months in jail and believe it or not, this “case” is still to be examined before the Highest court of the Turkish state.
It is important to be mentioned that for the accusations keeping him in pre-trial detention from April till today, no court date has been announced and that he is being kept in jail denied the basic human right of a court.
Two important points for Yannis-Vasilis case are:
a) The insane political situation in Turkey after the 2016 failed coup attempt. From June 2016 more than 100.000 people have been sacked or suspended of any public position, whereas 50.000 people have been arrested and the universities are being deprived of their right to elect their own vectors2.
Amnesty International states that “about 118 journalists were remanded in pre-trial detention and 184 media outlets were arbitrarily and permanently closed down under executive decrees, leaving opposition media severely restricted. People expressing dissent, especially in relation to the Kurdish issue, were subjected to threats of violence and criminal prosecution. Internet censorship increased. At least 375 NGOs, including women’s rights groups, lawyers’ associations and humanitarian organizations, were shut by executive decree in November”3 .
Regarding the case of Yannis-Vasilis it is obvious that anyone who expresses a different view from the mainstream governmental is immediately thrown to jail. And that includes the Director of Amnesty International Turkey, Idil Eser and the Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, Taner Kiliç who remains on pre-trial detention on the same accusation of “membership of an armed terrorist organization” an accusation that was characterized as “baseless and ridiculous” from Amnesty International. Exactly the same framework stands for Özlem Dalkiran member of the well known organization of Avaaz also kept in pre-trial detention from July 2017.
b) The fact that Yannis-Vasilis is a Pontian Greek and has an unbelievable story to tell, born and raised as a Turk, learning his Greek identity in his 20’s serving the Turkish army.
Yannis-Vasilis Yaylali was born in Bafra-Samsun of the Black sea coast in 1974, his name was Ibrahim Yaylali and as a boy he grew up being a proud Turk.
In his 20’s, in his compulsory military service asked to join the Turkish special forces and then to be sent to fight in the 1994 clashes with the Kurds, that were on the rise. Joining the Turkish special forces he witnessed massive atrocities and crimes against the Kurdish civilians and soldiers4.
As a Turkish commando and during the clashes he was captived by the PKK forces and so his family asked for help from the Turkish military office. They were insisting so as to ensure him any possible help, such as the chance of the Turkish authorities negotiating with the Kurds, about his return. The answer from the Turkish officials to his father was “We know you. You are Greek after all. We can call you ‘Greek members of the PKK’ and if we say that, you will be in a bad situation. So, don’t tamper with this too much.”
Yanni’s father could not say anything. His family members knew they were converts to Islam but they felt genuine Turks. As they were seeing themselves as Turks, they thought the State also saw them as such, but the state does not forget5.
Still Yannis didn’t know anything until his captivity, he learned all that from the press… Having witnessed the Turkish army practices and having the Kurdish soldiers treating him well he was troubled, they used to tell him “If you had died, you would have been declared a ‘martyr’, but now in captivity you are a ‘Greek’ for the Turkish state”…
He stayed as a captive with PKK soldiers for two years and three months. When he was released he started his research on his family story descending, a research of his homeland history, Bafra of Pontos, because of these he changed his name from Ibrahim to Yannis-Vasilis, and started politically expressing his anti-military thoughts and experience.
He learned that his grandfather’s name was “Konstantin”, who’s son was taken and given to a Turkish family during the Genocide period 1914-1923. So when he speaks of the second article of the U.N. Genocide convention6: “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” Yannis-Vasilis refers to it as an act of “stealing the consciousness” of a man, he probably has his own perception…
Please support us getting him out of jail signing our safe Avaaz signature campaign here: http://bit.ly/2kdlxbW
1 Elazığ on the map here: http://bit.ly/2gRx9jo
2 Read the whole article on AlJazzera here: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/turkey-failed-coup-attempt-161217032345594.html
3 Read this report from Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/turkey/report-turkey/
4 Read the full article from Armenian Weekly: http://armenianweekly.com/2017/06/23/the-evolution-of-yannis/
Also read the very interesting interview of Yannis-Vasilis at Corporate Watch (UK): https://corporatewatch.org/news/2016/may/16/fascist-anti-militarist-interview-turkish-ex-soldier
5 As above, from Armenian Weekly: http://armenianweekly.com/2017/06/23/the-evolution-of-yannis/
6 Find the second article of the Treaty in the third page of this pdf: https://treaties.un.org/doc/publication/unts/volume%2078/volume-78-i-1021-english.pdf