I was planning to write a short blog today, noting that today, March 8, is International Women’s Day and perhaps drawing the readers attention to the on-going issue of violence against women in Turkey and Bill Jones’ recent blog on the shameful lack of shelters available to victims of domestic violence.
As I wrote in December, Hakan Yaman was in the wrong place at the wrong time. For this,
he was beaten so badly by police that his skull partially collapsed. An officer then gouged out one of Yaman’s eyes (he also lost 80% of his vision in the other eye from the injuries he sustained that night). Then the police dragged him onto a fire to sustain burns over much of his body. Then they left him for dead.
Hakan was profiled in Amnesty’s Write for Rights 2013 campaign [see video here]. The response from activists around the world was overwhelming. To date, more than 130,000 appeals have been sent to the Mister of Justice. Hakan has received nearly ten thousand solidarity messages in the form of letters, postcards, etc.
In the intervening months, the prosecutor has continued to gather information in the case. We will be following the progress of the prosecution closely.
For his part, Hakan is in better spirits. He has had five operations on his face so far and more are scheduled. His struggle, and ours, will continue.
St. Lawrence University
In 2005, there were only 16 shelters in Turkey for survivors of domestic violence. To deal with this, Turkey passed a law mandating that municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants open at least one shelter for survivors of domestic violence. According to this 2005 law, over 3,000 shelters should have been opened around the country.
Fourteen years later, there are now only 90 government shelters in all of Turkey. According to the latest U.S. State Department Human Rights report on Turkey,
Observers noted that there were an inadequate number of shelters, or no shelters at all, in many such cities [over 50,000 inhabitants]. . . Two shelters in Ankara and Istanbul were closed through March due to insufficient funding. Through August 31, the government’s domestic violence hotline received 75,836 calls regarding violence, negligence, or exploitation.
As Al Monitor correspondent Thomas Siebert noted, “polls suggest that almost 40% of women in Turkey suffer domestic violence at least once in their lives.” And yet as women’s activist Tevhide Yagan tells Siebert, Sakarya, a Turkish province of 900,000 people, has only one women’s shelter with a capacity to house 10 victims of domestic violence.
In its executive summary on human rights in Turkey, the U.S. Department of State notes that “the government did not effectively protect vulnerable populations, including women, children, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, from societal abuse, discrimination, and violence. Violence against women, including so-called honor killings, remained a significant problem, and child marriage persisted.”
March 8 is International Women’s Day. One can only hope this may inspire the Turkish government to provide more adequate protection for this besieged sector of its population.
Bill Jones, Chair
Turkey Country Group, Amnesty International – USA
In an official statement published today, Amnesty International has voiced its concern over legislative amendments which, it says, threaten to “weaken the independence of the judiciary and reverse the important reforms to the HCJP brought in constitutional amendments adopted only four years ago.”
The new legislation has been rushed through Parliament following attempts by the government to block a corruption investigation targeting public officials and business leaders close to the Prime Minister. Thousands of police officers and scores of judges and prosecutors have been transferred from their posts in the wake of the investigation.
A lengthy conversation with Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Turkey, was published in Today’s Zaman. the interview focused on a new bill which threatens to fundamentally undermine judicial independence in Turkey.
Gardner noted that the reform, which has been rushed through parliament, “[is clearly an] attempt… to stop possible abuses or wrongdoing by senior public officials [from] being subjected to the scrutiny of the courts.”
Gardner also argued that the HSYK bill represents “a much more long-term problem” of the Turkish judiciary. He said the judiciary has been used to prosecute the expression of peaceful ideas “unfairly,” and yet it remains ineffective against alleged wrongdoing, “be it allegations of corruption or human rights abuses” by public officials. “Unfortunately, it seems with these recent changes [to the HSYK], it is going to be even less effective in bringing these abuses by public official to account,” he added, stating what he called AI’s assessment that the changes to the HSYK “very clearly” damage the independence of the judiciary.
“It seems clear that the attempt is being made to stop possible abuses or wrongdoing by senior public officials being subjected to the scrutiny of the courts.”
News reports from Istanbul this evening describe police attempts to cordon off sections of Taksim from protestors. The reports describe police using tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds.
According to Reuters:
Riot police advanced along Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue behind armored vehicles firing water cannon at protesters, some of whom waved flags and held up placards.
Some demonstrators responded by throwing stones or setting off fireworks aimed at police before scattering into side streets.
The protests were in response to a troubling new law aimed at asserting greater control over the internet. Continue reading
On February 5, the Turkish Parliament passed a law that further tightened the government’s control over the internet.
The government already blocks some 40,000 internet sites, but the newly enacted legislation goes well beyond previous restrictions. Continue reading
With good reason, Turks take pride in their traditions of hospitality. And seldom will you meet any one who has visited Turkey from abroad who will not mention the real warmth that Turks can show to visitors.
Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that Divan, a Turkish hotel has been awarded a “hotel innovation award” this year. Admittedly, however, it was not the warmth of the hotel’s service, the quality of its rooms, or its fine restaurants that won it this accolade; rather, it was the sanctuary that it provided Turkish protestors fleeing police violence and the excessive use of tear gas this past June. Continue reading
The wheels of justice in Turkey sometimes turn slowly or not at all. Consider the case of Ali Ismail Korkmaz, where key evidence incriminating police in his death was “deleted.” Or the shocking lack of credible investigation in the Turkish bombing of more than thirty civilians, eighteen of whom were children. Impunity and justice denied… the list is a long and painful one stretching across many years, and many shattered lives.
And then there are the times that justice moves in strange and unfathomable ways. Such is the case of Sevan Nişanyan, an Armenian – Turkish writer and public intellectual who is currently in prison for… illegal construction on his own property. Continue reading
Amnesty International Turkey Researcher, Andrew Gardner, is in Kayseri, where he is observing the trial of police officers and civilians implicated in the killing of a protester, Ali Ismail Korkmaz, during the Gezi protests this past June.
This is the statement that Korkmaz gave before he fell into a coma and died on 10 July 2013:
Five or six people came up to me, they beat me with clubs on my head, back, shoulder and legs. I fell to the ground…Yesterday I didn’t have difficulty in speaking but today I can’t remember. One of my teeth is loose because of the incident. My head hurts, I have difficulty speaking. I don’t know who beat me or why. They were wearing civilian clothes. I want to make a complaint.”
In a blog posted today, Gardner reports:
The day didn’t start well. Morning news reported that the Governor of Kayseri had forbidden any demonstrations related to the trial in the city. Two thousand riot police had been sent, including reinforcements from neighbouring cities. Buses carrying demonstrators to the city were stopped by police.
You can read more on the case and how the trial has begun here.
More importantly, there are ways you can take action!
#AliIsmailKorkmaz End impunity in Turkey!
Justice for #AliIsmailKorkmaz – End impunity now!
#AliIsmailKorkmaz Non à l’impunité en Turquie!
Justice pour #AliIsmailKorkmaz – Non à l’impunité
2. Take a photo with the hashtag #AliIsmailKorkmaz with calls to end impunity. Please send the photo to AI Turkey firstname.lastname@example.org. AI Turkey will post the photo on their Facebook page. Photos which stress the international nature of the concern would be particularly helpful.