Amnesty: Pride march ban is a new low

In a statement issued today, Amnesty International voiced its dismay at the unwarranted ban on the annual Pride March in Istanbul, describing it as “a new low.” The statement also noted the use of excessive force by the police in suppressing the march, saying that “police arbitrarily used force against peaceful demonstrators attempting to celebrate Pride, who were targeted with water cannon, tear gas and pepper-ball projectiles.” Continue reading

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Pride March Banned, Protestors attacked in Istanbul

For over a decade, the Pride March in Istanbul has been a centerpiece of Turkey’s active LGBTI community.  For over a decade, it has been staged with surprising freedom from repression.  Even after the Gezi protest, the Pride March went forward without incident.  It is a tradition to be proud of.

Sadly, shockingly, this tradition was broken today with the sudden ban of the march and police mobilized to suppress peaceful demonstrations that have been a cornerstone of Turkish political life since 2003.  Social media is awash with images of water cannons being deployed against peaceful protestors.

We’ll have more as additional information as it becomes available.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

Posted in Freedom of Expression, LGBT Rights, Turkey | Tagged , , ,

Two documentaries worth watching

Looking for something to watch this evening?  I’d like to call your attention to two recent documentaries which address Turkish human rights issues.


The first, Persona Non Grata, was produced by P24 and addresses the pressures placed on journalists in Turkey.  It can be viewed with English subtitles here.


The second documentary is an episode of MTV’s Rebel Music series, addressing the aftermath of Gezi.  The series has been developed in cooperation with Amnesty International’s Art for Amnesty program.    The full episode can be viewed here.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

Posted in Amnesty International, Excessive Force, Freedom of Expression, Gezi | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Ahead of May Day protests in Turkey, Amnesty warns against suppression of free expression

In advance of May Day, Amnesty International has issued a public statement on the suppression of free expression and free assembly in Turkey, calling on Turkish authorities to respect the rights of protestors.

May Day, 2013.  Protestors fleeing tear gas. Photograph by Burak Kara.  Used with Permission

May Day, 2013. Protestors fleeing tear gas. Photograph by Burak Kara. Used with Permission

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Posted in Amnesty International, Freedom of Association, Freedom of Expression, Taksim | Tagged , , , , ,

Two good court decisions. Two bad prosecutions.

n_48530_1Yesterday, saw two positive court decisions in Turkey.   But the sad fact is that the judges made the right decision in two cases that should have never been brought to court, that represent a terrifying politicization of the criminal justice system, and that represent a sustained attack on freedom of expression.  The sad fact is that this sort of prosecution continues unabated in Turkey.  Yesterday’s decisions, were positive signs of judicial resistance.  But the ugly pattern continues.

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Posted in Amnesty International, Andrew Gardner, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression, Gezi Protest, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Guest Blog: Trial of Çarsı football fans accused of attempting to overthrow the government is as farcical as it sounds.

I was present on 2 April at Europe’s biggest court house, the Cağlayan Courthouse in Istanbul, to observe the second hearing in the prosecution of members of the fan club Çarşı of the Istanbul football club Beşiktaş. Thirty five people stand accused of a “attempting to overthrow the government” through their participation in Gezi Park protests that shook Turkey in summer 2013. They face up to life imprisonment if found guilty.

Start of Besiktas' soccer fans Carsi members trial in Istanbul

A few other international observers were present, among them two lawyers and some football fans from Germany.. Unlike the first hearing on Dec. 16, 2014, Çarşı fans did not hold a solidarity demonstration outside the courthouse out of respect for the Istanbul prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, who was killed at the courthouse during a siege by the armed leftist group DHKP-C the previous day.

The indictment submitted by prosecutors accuses leaders of the group of inciting protesters and seeking to overthrow the government by creating an “Arab Spring-like” situation in Turkey.

Drafted by Prosecutor Adem Meral, the 38-page indictment accuses the defendants of violating articles of the Turkish Penal Code as well as anti-terrorism laws and the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, and possession of fire arms. Some of the charges included “attempting to demolish or impede the functioning of Republic of Turkey, forming a terrorist organization, resisting public officials and damaging property”.  Both the 35 people on trial and the Çarşı supporters group reject the accusations.

At the court hearing the last 7 of 35 defendants to do so made their statements to the court. Ayhan Güner, a prominent figure of Çarşı, rejects all accusations against its members and says: “The Çarşı group is not a coup-plotter. The Gezi protests are the renaissance and Çarşı is its Michelangelo.”

Four police officers, there as plaintiffs, were questioned by the judge. All of them said they did not see the Çarşı group during the clashes. One police officer said he was wounded during a clash with another group. Unexpectedly, they all withdraw their complaints.  There is no plaintiffs left!

Afterwards two police officers are asked as witnesses about a piece of evidence, a bottle, which had been found during a search of a defendants house?. Both police officers stated that it was a plastic bottle containing a substance that turned out to be water, belonging to the brother of the suspect for his drug use. It was a bong and not a “bomb equipment” as presentenced in the indictment!

The next hearing is due to take place on 26 June.

Barbara Neppert
Amnesty International-Germany Turkey co-ordinator

Posted in Amnesty International, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression, Gezi Protest | Tagged , , , , ,

Impunity and death in Turkey: Another young life cut short

A tragic turn in a tragic story today, as news sources reported that a teenaged boy, Serhat Savaş succumbed to a wound he received from being struck in the head by a teargas canister last October.  He had been in critical condition for the past seven months.

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Posted in Amnesty International, Excessive Force, Impunity | Tagged , , , , , ,

Another appalling prosecution of journalists in Turkey

It didn’t take long.  After yesterday’s good news in the trial of Dutch journalist Fréderike Geerdink, in which the prosecutor moved for acquittal, came news from Istanbul that another prosecutor was asking for 4.5 years each for journalists Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya for their republication of  a cover image of the Prophet Muhammad from Charlie Hebdo. 

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Posted in Amnesty International, Freedom of COnscience, Freedom of Expression, Press Freedom, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Guest Blog: Seeking Justice for Abdullah Cömert

Abdullah Cömert

Abdullah Cömert

“You killed my son on purpose!”

These are the words that Hatice Cömert cries out in the courtroom as she bursts into tears while watching the footage from the scene of the crime where her 22 year-old son, Abdullah Cömert, was hit in the head by a tear gas canister on 3 June 2013, and died of his injuries. The footage shows a police “scorpion” armoured vehicle firing tear gas canisters. All of us present in the courtroom can hear two shots and then people screaming out in fear “Abdullah, Abdullah”.

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Posted in Amnesty International, Excessive Force, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression, Gezi, Impunity, Turkey | Tagged , , , , ,

Guest Blog: Surprising turn in trial Dutch journalist: good news?


Fréderike Geerdink

Fréderike Geerdink

April 8, 2015 | The trial of Dutch journalist Fréderike Geerdink took an unexpected turn this morning in Diyarbakır’s 6th High Criminal Court. After she delivered her statement pleading not guilty to the charge of making propaganda for a terrorist organisation, the prosecutor went over the indictment. To everyone’s surprise, he demanded her acquittal.

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