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

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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

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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

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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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365 Days

One year ago today, Amnesty Turkey’s Honorary Chair Taner Kilic was imprisoned on false charges. He has missed a year of his life and a year of his family’s life.

 

Despite Taner’s extended imprisonment, Turkish prosecutors have not presented any evidence that he is guilty of any crime. It is only the fact that he is a passionate, life-long defender of human rights that is keeping him in jail.

Today we mourn the year of Taner Kılıç’s life that Turkey’s government has unjustly taken from him, but this is also a moment to redouble our efforts to secure his release and that of many other civil society activists whose work has cost them their freedom,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “The evidence of Taner’s innocence is emphatic. His detention is a gross injustice that exposes Turkey’s flawed justice system and the government’s cold-blooded pursuit of anyone deemed to oppose them.”

Taner’s next hearing is June 21 and we are doing everything we can to secure his release.

Read more about Taner’s case here and send Taner a message to let him know he is not alone. We will not stop fighting until Taner is home with his family.

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LGBTI+ Turks Still Need Your Support

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Copyright Getty Images. Not for download or reproduction.

On May 11, hundreds of LGBTI+ students and their allies at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara defied an official, province-wide ban on LGBTI- focused events and marched in support of LGBTI+ rights. Unlike other recent LGBTI+ marches in Turkey, including the annual pride parade in Istanbul, the student’s march proceeded without police intervention.

In response to the march, Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s Campaigns Director for Europe said:

Today love triumphed in Turkey as hundreds of university students defied a blanket ban on LGBTI events in Ankara and went ahead with their annual Pride march. Their action sent a message of hope to all those struggling to withstand the climate of fear and uphold fundamental rights in Turkey and beyond.

But whilst their courage and determination is an inspiration to all activists fighting for freedom and equality in the face of repression, the fact these students had to fight for their right  to hold a peaceful march in the first place is disgraceful. Ankara’s authorities must now lift the unlawful and ridiculous blanket ban on all LGBTI events.

The student’s march was a small victory, but all events in support of or discussing LGBTI+ individuals must also be allowed to proceed in the same manner. Click here to tell the Governor of Ankara to lift the ban on LGBTI+ events in his province.

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Amnesty’s new report on human rights and human rights defenders in Turkey: “In today’s Turkey, even merely existing is a struggle”

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Human Rights Statue in Ankara, which was fenced off by authorities after it became central to a series of protests in 2017

Amnesty’s new report detailing the decline human rights in Turkey over the past several years, titled “Weathering the Storm: Defending human rights in Turkey’s climate of fear” was released today. The report highlights “the ways in which the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, to liberty and security, and to fair trials have been eroded” with damning statistics on the number of civilians arrested, NGOs and media outlets closed down, and journalists imprisoned since the failed coup attempt in July of 2016.

In today’s Turkey, even merely existing is a struggle. —Murat Celikkan, journalist and human rights defender

The bulk of the report focuses on some of the most iconic and important cases of prosecuted and imprisoned civil society figures, journalists, lawyers and NGO workers, included Osman Kavala, Eren Keskin, Zehra Dogan and Amnesty’s honorary chair Taner Kilic.

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Zehra Doğan, the editor of JINHA, was detained on 21 July 2016 in Mardin, southeastern Turkey, and remanded in pre-trial detention on 23 July on charges of membership of and making propaganda for a terrorist organization. 
“I was strip searched [by two women police officers] when I was detained in Mardin. When they took me to the Anti-Terrorism branch, I was strip searched again. Police officers told me ‘there is a state of emergency now, all the rights are ours, we can do whatever we want.’ They threatened me with torture. One of them suggested I should become his lover, that if I did so, he would save me. It was awful. I kept on saying I am a journalist.”  Photo by Refik Tekin

The report emphasizes the fear and self censorship that are now pervasive among Turks in all walks of life and the extremely damaging effect this has on civil society and human rights.

The aim is to maintain the climate of fear. When you are in police detention you are very scared for your family. We are all scared… It’s arbitrary, it’s not predictable, it cannot be effectively challenged so there is impunity. — Osman Isci, General Secretary of the Human Rights Association

The legal cover for this civil society crackdown is primarily attributed to the ongoing state of emergency, which was just renewed for a seventh time since the coup attempt. Amnesty calls it an “increasingly permanent feature of how Turkey governed” and warns that independent civil society may be completely wiped out in Turkey if it is not lifted.

You can take action, read and download the entire report here.

 

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