METU Rector Issues Last Minute Ban on Pride Parade

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A recent court decision had ended the blanket ban on LGBTQ events in Ankara, clearing the way for the annual Pride Parade at Middle East Technical University (METU) to move forward on May 10. However, on May 6, just days before the event, the school’s rector emailed the student group organizing the event and informed them that the parade would not be allowed to take place.

Despite the province-wide ban on LGBTQ events, the METU Pride celebrations went forward last year without incident after international pressure.

In response to the rector’s decision, Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s Campaigns Director for Europe issued a statement condemning the ban and urging the rector to reconsider.

For the last eight years students at this university have marched through their campus to celebrate pride and demand equality and dignity for LGBTI people. It is celebration of love which sends a message of hope to all those struggling to uphold fundamental rights in Turkey and beyond.

Rather than banning Pride events, the university should be supporting and protecting such marches and challenging homophobia and transphobia. Students must be allowed to march without fear of intimidation or violence.

The Rectorate needs to reverse its decision and students must be allowed to march without fear of intimidation or violence.

Show your support for the METU students and tell the rector to allow the Pride celebrations here.

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World Press Freedom Day Draws Attention to Plight of Turkish Journalists

Action at the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam

On World Press Freedom Day, which was observed on May 3, activists all over the world drew attention to the impact rising authoritarianism has had on press freedom and journalists. For the third year in a row, Turkey had the ignominious honor of imprisoning more journalists than any other country in the world. Driving the point home, on May 3, Turkey’s Constitutional Court rejected the appeals of journalists Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, finding that their rights were not violated when they were convicted of attempting to overthrow the government.

To amplify the voices of Turkey’s embattled journalists, Amnesty Turkey launched a campaign under the hashtag #NeHaberGazeteci, translated roughly as “How is it going, journalists?” Amnesty also interviewed jailed journalists and published full letters from them online.

Amnesty’s Press Coordinator Beril Eski visited both the Bakırköy women’s prison and the infamous Silivri prison to interview these imprisoned journalists. Journalist Reyhan Hacıoğlu told Eski that “They [the authorities] fear the press. I wish all these human rights violations had not taken place so that we would not have to write about them, but unfortunately they happened.” When I asked what she missed the most about the outside world,  Hacıoğlu replied, “I miss reporting news about a better country”.

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Zehra Dogan Wins 2019 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Arts Award

ZEHRA DOGAN - Free Turkey journalists

Kurdish-Turkish painter, photographer, and journalist Zehra Dogan has been award the 2019 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Arts Award.

Dogan is a preternaturally tireless creator and activist. In 2016, she was imprisoned for her artwork depicting Turkish military operations in the Kurdish majority Turkish city of Nusaybin. In March 2017, she was sentenced to nearly three years in prison for creating “propaganda” for a terrorist organization. Essentially, her painting was deemed to be supportive of the Kurdish guerilla organization, the PKK, even though the court could not prove Dogan had any connection to the group.

While in prison, Dogan continued to create art with found materials and homemade paint. Despite the fact that guards would seize and destroy the paintings they found, some were smuggled out by friends and colleagues. Dogan continued her journalism behind bars as well, reporting on her fellow prisoners, their hardships, and the conditions in the prison. Some of Dogan’s prison-produced artwork will be exhibited starting next week in Izmir alongside the works of 19 other imprisoned artists and cartoonists.

In her acceptance speech for the Index on Censorship award, Dogan was defiant.

As an artist, imagine yourself in a city destroyed by war. Can you think about anything other than portraying the destruction you see around you?…

Turkey’s prisons are filled with artists, intellectuals and politicians, because we reject these limits forced upon our freedom of expression and we will continue to reject them.

Dogan dedicated her award to her fellow imprisoned artists.

Although they are trying to restrict our freedom of expression in the prisons through the books they refuse to give us and the letters they find “suspect”, there are countless inmates who have overcome this situation through their own productivity. I dedicate this prize to them.

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Human Rights Organizations and the EU Condemn Indictment of Turkey’s Human Rights Leaders

Osman Kavala

Osman Kavala and 15 other Turkish civil society leaders are facing life in prison, charged with purportedly trying to overthrow the government during the 2013 Gezi Park protests. The Gezi protests, which were violently suppressed by the Turkish government, started out as an environmentally-focused protest movement but eventually came to encompass a whole range of grievances, including greater rights for ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities.

Kavala, who was one of the most well-respected civil society leaders in Turkey, has already spent more than a year in prison.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights organizations reacted to the indictment by calling for all charges to be dropped against Kavala and his 15 colleagues.

Amnesty International’s Andrew Gardner said:

These outlandish allegations are an attempt to rewrite history and to silence some of Turkey’s most prominent civil society figures who now face the prospect of being tried by Turkey’s deeply flawed justice system…

The Gezi protests were overwhelmingly peaceful with people simply exercising their rights. They were met by arbitrary and abusive force by police. It should be the authorities’ denial of these rights and the police violence against peaceful protestors that should be examined by the courts, not these 16 civil society figures who have not committed any crime.

A spokesperson for the EU said that the indictments “raise questions as to the adherence of the Turkish judiciary to international and European standards.” The foreign affairs committee of the EU Parliament recommended that the EU freeze its accession talks with Turkey because of its poor human rights record.

Kati Piri, the parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, tweeted:

 

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Turkish Lawyer Eren Keskin, Finalist for Human Rights Award, Denied Right to Travel to Award Ceremony

AI Algeria W4R 2016 - portraits - Eren Keskin

Eren Keskin, outspoken human rights lawyer and co-chair of the Human Rights Association (IHD) has been named one of three finalists for the Martin Ennals Award, which recognizes individuals who have “demonstrated a deep commitment to human rights, often working under threat of imprisonment, torture, or worse.” The award is named after former Amnesty International Secretary-General Martin Ennals and the finalists and laureates are chosen by representatives from ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.

The award will be presented next Wednesday, February 13, in Geneva, Switzerland. However, Keskin will not be in attendance. She has been banned from overseas travel by order of the Turkish Prime Minister.

Keskin’s work on behalf of vulnerable communities has made her a target of the Turkish government for years. In 1995, she served time in prison for using the term Kurdistan in an article she wrote for a Turkish Kurdish newspaper. Keskin has 143 legal cases open against her, in 69 of which she has been found guilty. She is appealing these verdicts and currently faces a 12.5 year prison sentence and fines totaling $85,000. Her next court hearing is scheduled for March 28.

“People ask, ‘How do you live? How do you endure it?’” Keskin told the Turkish news site Ahval. “For me, the job we do is a way of life and I have never regretted it.”

In December 2016, Keskin talked to Amnesty about the crackdown on free media in Turkey and how Amnesty’s support has helped her endure years of government persecution.

 

 

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Turkey Continues its Crackdown on Civil Society

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On Friday, 13 members of Turkey’s already embattled civil society were detained. The 13, who range from film producers to academics, were apparently targeted as part of the ongoing investigation against Osman Kavala, one of the most prominent civil society figures in Turkey who has been detained for over a year without charges. Amnesty has demanded the release of Kavala in the face of his prolonged detention and the fact that no evidence has presented linking him to the failed coup attempt.

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey Strategy and Research Manager, Andrew Gardner observed that

This latest wave of detentions of academics and activists, on the basis of absurd allegations, shows that the authorities are intent on continuing their brutal crackdown of independent civil society, and shatters any illusion that Turkey is normalizing following the lifting of the state of emergency.

In fact, Turkey seems to be widening its crackdown. According to Amnesty, the 13 detained on Friday are accused of

organizing meetings to “deepen and spread” the Gezi Park protests, inviting trainers and moderators on the subjects of “civil disobedience and non-violent activism,” carrying out media activities to continue the “Gezi Park process” and activities to stop the export of tear gas to Turkey.

Amnesty goes on to note that “even if true, all these are legitimate activities protected under the rights to freedom of expression, association and the right to peaceful assembly.” Cracking down on those who participated in the Gezi protests would potentially ensnare millions of Turks. According to the Turkish government’s own estimates, around 3.5 million people participated in the protests, which swept from Istanbul and engulfed the entire country in the summer of 2013.

Several of those detained on Friday have been released, but the majority remain in custody.

Download and read Amnesty’s report on this most recent crackdown here.

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Purged with No Recourse: Amnesty’s Report on Dismissed Civil Servants

Last week, Amnesty issued a second report on the 130,000 civil servants purged from their jobs since the attempted coup in July 2016. This report examined the ability of purged individuals to appeal their dismissal and return to their jobs. The State of Emergency Inquiry Commission was set up to consider these appeals in January 2017, but according to Amnesty’s research, the Commission rarely rules in favor of the purged individual. According to Amnesty, among other failings,

The Commission lacks genuine institutional independence, uses protracted review procedures, fails to provide applicants with the chance to effectively rebut allegations, and presents participation in everyday lawful activities, such as depositing money in a certain bank or enrolling a child in a certain school, as ‘evidence’ for upholding dismissals.

The statistics Amnesty has published are bleak.

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Andrew Gardner, Turkey Strategy and Research Manager for Amnesty International, spoke to Ahval about the report. Listen to the podcast below.

Listen to “‘No light at the end of the tunnel’ – Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International” on Spreaker.

Read the full report here.

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Turkey Detains Construction Workers Protesting Working Conditions

On Wednesday, two dozen construction workers who took part in protests against the conditions they endured on the job site of the new Istanbul airport were detained and remanded pending trial. Over a dozen others who were arrested during the protests were released but subject to judicial control pending indictment.

Over 500 protesting workers were detained after protests triggered by a shuttle bus crash that injured 17 on September 14. This crash was just the latest incident involving injury or death of workers at the site of Istanbul’s new airport, which is set to open October 29. According to the Transportation Ministry, 27 workers have been killed on the job at the airport construction site. However, workers claim that the number of lives lost is in fact closer to 400.

More than thirty were also detained at solidarity protests in Ankara and the Kadikoy neighborhood of Istanbul on September 15.

Andrew Gardner of Amnesty International spoke out against the detentions

Rather than stifle legitimate peaceful protest with water cannons, tear gas and detentions, the Turkish authorities must listen to the complaints of the workers and ensure they have a safe and dignified place of work.

The mass arrests were also condemned by the International Trade Union Confederation.

 

 

Follow Amnesty’s Turkey country page to keep up to date on the latest news and actions.

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THANK YOU for Helping to Free Taner

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After 435 days, Taner was finally released from prison yesterday and reunited with his overjoyed family. I don’t think I was the only one who got teary-eyed when I saw the images of Taner, his wife, and daughters meeting for the first time in over a year.

Taner would still be behind bars if it wasn’t for the more than a million people world-wide who spoke out and demanded his freedom. So on behalf of Taner, his family and Amnesty- Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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Yesterday also happened to be the first day on the job for the new Secretary General of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo. Kumi celebrated Taner’s release with a short video message.

 

Weighing on the levity of the day was the fact that the false charges against Taner still stand. Releasing Taner is just the first step. Amnesty will continue to work to make sure the charges against him are dropped and that Taner and his family will not be unjustly separated again.

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Amnesty Calls for Turkish Government to Restore Freedoms Now That State of Emergency Has Ended

248774_Human rights statue Ankara

The State of Emergency in Turkey, which was implemented in the wake of the failed coup two years ago, was finally officially lifted on July 19. However, as Amnesty outlines in its updated campaign against rights violations in Turkey, lifting the State of Emergency will only make a difference if the government actively rolls back the legal and social restrictions that were implemented under its guise. The five primary steps Amnesty recommends are:

  • Repealing all unnecessary and disproportionate emergency measures
  • Releasing all those unjustly imprisoned, including human rights defenders, journalists, and academics
  • Ensuring freedom of assembly, especially for LGBTQ+ individuals and groups
  • Ending arbitrary purges of public employees
  • Allowing media and human rights organizations that have been closed to reopen

Amnesty has been keeping track of the toll the State of Emergency has had on both civil society and individuals.

70,000+ people are currently in prison pending prosecution or trial

170+ media outlets have beenclosed down

150+ journalists and media workers are currently in prison

360+ academics have been prosecuted for peace appeal

1500+ associations and foundations have been closed down

130,000+ public sector workers have been  summarily dismissed

Sign up now to show the Turkish people that you stand with them.

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