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

248774_Human rights statue Ankara

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.


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


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!


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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Today Should Be Taner’s Last Day in Prison

Taner_human rights

Today, more than a year after he was first imprisoned, Taner Kilic, Amnesty Turkey’s Honorary Chair, will appear before a judge. Just a few days ago, a police report submitted on his case found no evidence that Taner ever had ByLock, a messaging app, on his phone. The entire case against Taner centered around the accusation that Taner had this app, which the Turkish government claims was used by conspirators involved in the July 2016 coup attempt to communicate. In response to the report Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, emphasized that

The failure to substantiate the accusation against Taner comes as no shock. What is shocking is that it has taken more than a year for this police report to be submitted, and during that time Taner has been locked behind bars.

Despite the injustice that Taner has been subjected to, he remains resolute about his commitment to serving the cause of human rights.  Secretary General Shetty spoke with Taner yesterday and relayed the following message.

Even while suffering this injustice, Taner is thinking of others. Rather than talk about his own situation, he was keen to focus on the wider issue of human rights violations in Turkey and stress his ongoing commitment to continue his fight against rights abuses. He also wanted to send his gratitude to all those around the world who have supported calls for his release.

Tomorrow I will be in court for Taner’s fourth hearing. Not a shred of credible evidence has been presented to substantiate the absurd charges made against him, so Taner must now be released.

Nothing can bring back the precious moments that Taner has missed, but tomorrow the court can put an end to this injustice and allow Taner to return to his family and resume his vital work.

A number of representatives from Amnesty International will be in court today. Follow  @salilshetty @KateAllenAI @ManonSchick @GaurivanGulik @Fotis_Filippou @andrewegardner @MilenaBuyum for updates on the hearing and Taner’s status.

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European Officials Speak Out on Anniversary of Taner’s Imprisonment


June 6 marked the 1 year anniversary of Amnesty Turkey’s Honorary Chair Taner Kilic’s arrest and imprisonment. Ordinary citizens as well as government representatives marked the day with renewed calls to end this injustice and release Taner.

The spokesperson for the European External Action Service (EEAS), the diplomatic service and foreign and defence ministry of the European Union, acknowledged that Taner is not alone in being unjustly detained

Taner Kılıҫ, the Head of Amnesty International in Turkey, was detained a year ago. Mr. Kiliç is a lawyer and human rights defender and like him, many other human rights defenders such as Osman Kavala, as well as journalists, members of Parliament, judges, prosecutors, and academics remain in detention.

The authorities in Turkey – a EU candidate country and member of the Council of Europe – need to ensure the right to fair trail, a legal process, on the basis of the principle of presumption of innocence and in line with the European Convention of Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

Bärbel Kofler, the Gernman Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy, pointed to the lack of evidence that Taner is guilty of any crime.

Exactly one year has passed since Taner Kılıç, a respected lawyer and former Chair of the Board of Amnesty International in Turkey was arrested in Izmir.

I am most concerned by the fact that Taner Kılıç is still in custody, even though law enforcement authorities have yet to produce any evidence to substantiate the serious allegations made against him.

His trial stands as a symbol of the large number of accused representatives of civil society who are now subject to criminal prosecution in Turkey.

I therefore urgently call on Turkey, in line with its international obligations, to grant Mr Kılıç and all other affected individuals a fair and transparent trial.

If the charges brought against him remain unsubstantiated, then he must be released immediately.

Taner’s next hearing is on June 21st. Help support Taner by sending him a message of solidarity and join the more than a million voices worldwide who haver already called for Taner’s release.

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