Erdogan’s mocking freedom of press speech

President Erdogan has claimed that under his rule media has become “more vocal and more free” in Turkey. The reality is that Turkey remains the worst jailer of journalists globally and is 154th inin the 2020 World Press Freedom Index. 

Speaking on the occasion of January 10 Working Journalists’ Day, Erdogan said “As Turkey, we will never give up on freedom of the press”.  These lies by Erdogan cannot mask the reality that journalists across Turkey that dare to write, speak, publish or broadcast anything  critical of Erdogan and the AKP face criminalisation and harassment.  The severity of the repression of the media can be see in the increasing number of systematic investigations, prosecution, intimidations and harassment towards journalists and is a constant reminder of Erdogan’s  total lack of respect for freedom of press and the freedom of expression in Turkey.

At least 808 journalists have been arrested during the AKP rule and 87 journalists were sent to prison in 2020 alone. For example Evrensel, a daily newspaper in Turkey, was fined for an advert featuring a girl holding a yellow, green and yellow scarf.

International solidarity is crucial to oppose the oppression by Erdogan’s government against freedom of press.

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Baldur Factory Workers Strike for Union Recognition


Workers at the Baldur Factory in Sekerpinar Organised Industrial Zone in Gebze, which manufactures suspension components and other parts for the automotive industry, were fired in 2016 for joining a branch of Birlesik Metal Is (United Metal Workers) Union, a progressive labour union.  

At that time the workers were forced to become members of Turkish Metal Workers Union which is a union supported by bosses, known as a yellow union. However workers continued to resist despite facing various pressures and after years of struggle they once again unionised under the Gebze No.2 branch of the United Metal Workers’ Union (Birlesik Metal İs).

Recently the union received the authorisation for to represent the workers’ rights and contract procedures. During this process, the Baldur bosses continually objected to the authority of the union. Once again the workers from Birlesik Metal-İs Union were fired on the same day that the union gained their authorisation at the Sekerpinar.

As a result Baldur workers have voted in favour of a strike in order to push for recognition of their trade union rights. Baldur bosses have hired 15 workers as strike-breakers, and the police force have threatened striking protestors and arrested four of those on strike.  Despite these intimidation tactics, the workers of Baldur factory did not allow their unity to be broken and as of today have started their resistance.

Representatives of major labour organisations and members of progressive political parties have joined the picket lines to show solidarity with the workers.

Ercument Akdeniz, General Chair of Labour Party, joined the picket line to support the workers and stressed that these kind of foreign capital forces flourish with anti-labour policies, “They can get strength from the one-man regime, but here we have the working class, we have our party. We will carry this strike to success, arm in arm with the workers.”

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Impunity for killings by police in Kurdish Provinces

 

Omer Yeğit, a Turkish policeman crashed an armoured vehicle into a house in Silopi -a town in Şırnak province in the southeast of Turkey- killing siblings Muhammed (7) and Furkan Yıldırım (6) as they were sleeping inside their house on 3 May 2017.

Shortly after, Ali İhsan Su, who was then the governor of Şırnak described the incident as “destiny” and the policeman Yeğit was released immediately at the first hearing.

The trial was completed last year and the policeman -who lacked a licence to operate the vehicle- was convicted of “involuntary manslaughter” and sentenced to two years and one month in prison. This was later reduced to a 19,000 Turkish lira (£1680) fine.  Policeman Murat Maden, who was Yeğit’s supervisor at that time, was acquitted of all charges.

The representatives of the Yıldırım family went to the appeals court, which yesterday ruled that the lower court’s sentences are “in accordance with the law.”

There are too many incidents involving armoured vehicles in Turkey’s Kurdish populated provinces. According to the Human Rights Association (İHD) in the last decade armoured police vehicles have killed 36 people and 16 of those were children.

Particularly in Şırnak at least 76 children have been killed via police shooting or armoured vehicles in the past ten years. In Turkey there are extraordinary obstacles to bringing perpetrators to justice and even when a judiciary process takes place, there is a climate of impunity for government security forces.

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We stand with Jeremy Corbyn

As Solidarity with the People of Turkey, we stand with Jeremy Corbyn and condemn his suspension from the Labour Party.

Corbyn has a strong record of campaigning against racism in all its forms and repeated this week that one antisemite in the Labour party is one too many. He has actively stood up for the rights of all communities and backgrounds both in the UK and across the world.

For many years Corbyn has stood in solidarity with the Turkish and the Kurdish community in the UK and has helped to challenge the attacks on democracy and minority rights in Turkey.

We call for the reinstatement of Corbyn to the Labour Party, and for an open and respectful debate within the labour movement about how to combat antisemitism and other forms of racism.

 

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Turkey downplays strength of earthquake as death toll rises

Turkey’s coast (Izmir) and north of the Greek island of Samos were struck by a 7 magnitude earthquake yesterday, in which homes were destroyed and many have been killed and injured.

Turkey claimed the magnitude was lower, at 6.6, but it is widely accepted that this is inaccurate. Prof Dr Övgün Ahmet Ercan from Istanbul Technical University spoke on Fox TV news in relation to the earthquake in Izmir, saying that the official figures by the Turkish government purposefully down played the strength of the earthquake, “there is a large difference between 6.6 and 7, one is almost the strength of 2 atomic bombs and the other is almost the strength of 40 atomic bombs”.

At least 25 people have died and 831 people were injured in the province of Izmir.

Ercan also said “For the earthquake problem to be resolved in this country you need to sort out the economy. The more poverty there is the closer an earthquake is. It is the poor that die in an earthquake, not the rich.”

Ercan added “You have never heard of a famous person or a wealthy person being pulled out from under the rubble, and you will not because in the making of the building they won’t have tried to save money. Earthquakes are a problem for the poor. For as long as we don’t defeat poverty earthquakes will mean death.”

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Turkey monitors activists using illegal German Spyware  

German authorities have raided the offices of FinFisher, a Munich software company, which makes surveillance tools and has been accused in the past of providing software to oppressive regimes. German prosecutors launched the investigation upon the criminal complaint of GFF (Society for Civil Rights), a Berlin based non-profit human rights organisation.

According to “zdnet.com” – a website which provides technology news- FinFisher software has been “used against Turkish opposition activists.” The spyware can access address books, photos and listen to phone calls.

The surveillance program manufacturer is accused of violating Germany’s “Foreign Trade Act” via selling software system abroad without proper authorisation.

Germany strictly regulates this kind of technology exportation and Turkey does not have a licence to buy the monitoring software.

In 2018 German media reported that, this surveillance software had been used against opposition activists in Turkey. Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) made similar accusations about Finfisher back in 2017.

Sarah Lincoln, a lawyer at GFF said that “German companies should not be pawn of an oppressive regime.”

 

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Turkish Forces Kill Four People By Forcing Them Into Minefield

Four people from the northern Syrian city of Heseke have died in a border minefield at the Kızıltepe district of Turkey’s Mardin province.

According to Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), the horrendous incident was revealed when the survivors of the refugee group were taken into custody and were brought to the public prosecutor’s office for deportation.

A 16 year old refugee who testified to the public prosecutor said that his elder brother is one of the victims that died in the minefield.

MA cites from the statement of the refugee: They were noticed by the gendarmerie on October 5 as they tried to cross the border, and six of them were caught. One person managed to escape into Turkish territory, and three people got stuck in the border area between the wall and the barbed wire. Turkish soldiers forced the refugee -who managed to get to the Turkish side- to go back and search for the three people stuck in the mined area. The soldiers opened fire to force the refugee back and all four died from detonating mines when they started to run.

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“Turkey threatened me” says Turkish Cypriot Leader Akıncı

Mustafa Akıncı, Turkish Cypriot leader, who is running for a second term for presidency, said in a TV interview today that he has been threatened for being a candidate, by an authority who is affiliated with Turkey’s leadership.

Akıncı said that they conveyed their message through his own executive assistant and told him that it will be best both for him and his family, if he withdrew his candidacy.

Akıncı on other occasions had commented that he “has never seen so much intervention by Turkey” throughout his 45 years in politics.

Critics have expressed concerns over Turkey’s interference into Turkish Cyprus politics in advance of the October 11 presidential election.

On 6 October the Turkish Cypriot government collapsed following a press briefing in Ankara, at which Minister Ersin Tatar (also a presidential candidate) announced that they will be reopening the Varosha. The press briefing announcing the reopening of the tourist resort which has been sealed off for decades was announced alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Akıncı commented that he was not informed in anyway about the decision to reopen the Varosha and said that “it is a mistake that will put the Turkish Cypriot people in a difficult situation on the international stage.”

Turkey’s leaders see Mustafa Akıncı, who is supporting a federal solution to the Cyprus problem, as an enemy due to his criticism of Ankara’s policies   including Turkey’s interventions in Syria.

This is not the first time that presidential candidates have felt threatened in Cyprus. Previously in 2000 Rauf Denktaş and Dervis Eroglu were competing in the presidential elections. However Eroğlu withdrawal in the second round, allowing Denktaş became president. Eroğlu later revealed that the Turkish National Intelligence (MIT) agents were following him.  

 

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Journalists detained for exposing the torture of Kurdish villagers by soldiers

Turkish police have raided the office of Mezopotamya Agency (MA) and the homes of several journalists in Turkey’s eastern Van province on October 5.

MA reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur and Jin News reporters Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala have been detained.

Police forcibly deleted the other reporters’ camera shootings of Cemil Uğur’s detention.

According to MA, a 24-hour lawyer restriction order was also imposed to the detained journalists.
Cemil Uğur is one of the journalists who exposed that Kurdish villagers, Servet Turgut and Osman Şiban were dropped from a military helicopter after they had been taken into custody by the soldiers in Çatak district of Van.
Servet Turgut, died on September 30, after twenty days in intensive care.
“These detentions are unacceptable. We call for immediate release of our colleagues. Journalism is not a crime. ” said Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) in a statement and condemned the detentions.

 

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Controversial Bill targeting Turkish Bar Associations is passed

Despite public outcry in July, the Turkish government has passed a controversial bill which changes the Turkish Bar Associations election procedures.

The main purpose of this legislative amendment is to disempower bar associations in larger cities in the country.

Bar associations are fierce critics of the government and their violations of human rights. The amendment paves the way for heavily biased new associations consisting of pro-government lawyers.  

Until this new legislative amendment, pro government lawyers had failed to form new bar associations, despite overwhelming support from the government.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the government seeks to get rid of remaining obstacles to the cementing a one-man regime. Reducing the representation of dissident lawyers at the national Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) is of these steps.

A confrontation between the government and Ankara Bar Association took place in April 2020 over the discriminatory remarks of a public official about LGBT community. Following this, President Erdoğan immediately said that they will change the law on lawyers.

There was outrage from the Bar Associations about the proposed legal changes who in response, arranged a series of events to protest the planned changes. The events culminated in a “Defense March” where the presidents of the most progressive local bar associations, representing a large majority of lawyers in Turkey, marched to the capital Ankara.

On October 2, the Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a circular on postponing all the assembly activities in the country until December 1, 2020. This was enforced under the pretext of enforcing Coronavirus pandemic measures.

The president of the Ankara Bar Association, Erinç Sağkan, described this declaration as “a political decision” which specifically targets the general assemblies of the bar associations’.

Bar associations are public legal entities alongside being a professional body. These interferences to their structure breaches the principle protecting the right to an effective remedy in Turkey.

Solidarity with Bar Associations means defending the right to defend democratic society.

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