Emma Draper

Are these the most tasteless commemorative coins ever made?

on 19 January 2011


2011_01_19 Incirlik coins

While most of us are trying to forget the excesses of the 'War on Terror', it seems some people are keen to remember them.

On Monday the Guardian published a note written by the then US ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, in June 2006. In it he describes Turkey as a vital ally in the “global war on terror”, and goes on to state: "The Turkish military had allowed us to use Incirlik as a refuelling stop for Operation Fundamental Justice detainee movement operations since 2002, but revoked this permission in February of this year.” Six days later a spokesperson for Turkey's foreign ministry told reporters: "The Turkish government and state never played a part [in secret renditions] ... and never will."

The laughably-named Operation Fundamental Justice was a renditions programme for the transfer of those suspected of terrorism offences from one location of unlawful detention, and most likely torture, to another. It is hardly surprising that the Turkish authorities were so ashamed of their participation that they denied all knowledge of the operation. However, one company saw it as a cause for celebration – and profit: Incirlik Coin Ltd have produced a delightful pair of commemorative coins, which are still for sale on their website. One depicts a pair of crossed assault rifles, a pair of handcuffs and the legend ‘OPERATION FUNDAMENTAL JUSTICE – IRON CLAD’. The other, even more grotesquely, bears the enamelled image of a masked, goggled and shackled prisoner clad in an orange jumpsuit. Around the edge it reads ‘SO YOU WANTED TO FLY ON OUR PLANES – BRINGING JUSTICE HOME’.

Incirlik Coin Ltd’s website boasts: “if you can think of it…we CAN create it!!” If these tasteless mementos of human rights abuse are anything to go by, the only limits to what Incirlik will put on a coin really are the boundaries of the human imagination – an instrument that is unfortunately capable of great cruelty.

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