Economic and social inequality, and violence against women and girls continues to rise in Turkey, but women refuse to bow to the AKP’s regressive policies and attacks on women’s rights.
In preparation for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, SPOT, together with Day-Mer Women, have organised an online webinar which will provide a closer inspection of gender inequality and violence against women in Turkey.
Watch online from Tuesday 17th November at 18:00 here:
Filiz Kerestecioğlu, HDP MP
Cevriye Aydin, Lawyer
Journalist Hilal Tok, Journalist Ekmek ve Gul (Bread & Roses)
The President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Robert Spano paid a controversial visit to Turkey and met with President Erdogan. Many members of the judiciary and lawyers have criticised the visit.
Spano, after a number of engagements, met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had previously said that the ECHR decision calling for the release of Selahattin Demirtas was “not binding for us”.
Basak Demirtas, from her Twitter account tagged Spano in a post saying “If you will be our guest in Diyarbakir I would like to tell you about the cases of my husband Selahattin Demirtas and other HDP politicians at the ECHR. I am sure that during your visit you will have already had more than enough time to learn of the government’s position from your meetings with the authorities. It will be enough for you to spare me one hour to hear the situation from our side too.”
Dr Kerem Altiparmak, a member of the Human Rights Association Central Steering Committee, commented on Spano’s visit saying “Turkey is bleeding”. He added that Spano had previously worked for three years in the Turkey office of the ECHR and it would be impossible for him to be unaware of the human rights violations being experienced in Turkey. Altiparmak interpreted Spano’s visit; “You cannot come to a country where there are many serious problems in the international oversight mechanism, and comment on the ‘rule of law is this and that, and governments must give direction’ in a way that is ambiguous as to who it is aimed at. This will be interpreted as: I do not have a problem with you”.
On September 4, after meetings with top government officials and the President, Spano received an honorary doctorate from the University of Istanbul. Many lawyers, academics and politicians have criticised Spano’s acceptance of the honorary doctorate and there have been calls for him to resign on social media platforms, such as Twitter. Exiled journalist Can Dündar commented on Twitter that Spano had destroyed the 30 year reputation of the ECHR in three days.
Despite warnings workers continue to die in workplace accidents. This year already there have been 1306 workplace deaths in Turkey. In August 208 workers died in workplace accidents because of lack of safety precautions.
The construction industry had the highest number of workplace deaths, but “accidents” are killing workers in mines, agriculture and factories too because of the lax health and safety, and lack of precautions. Turkey is already leading in workplace deaths in Europe but without any steps to call to account employers there is no sign that health and safety will improve in Turkey’s industries.
It is reported that 16 workers from the Kurdish region of Mardin Mazidagi, who went to Western Sakarya as hazelnut pickers were attacked by their employers and villagers. The workers had to return to Mardin after the attack.
One of the victims of the attack, Baris Demir, said that they did not have any issues with their employer before the attack but that when they were going to work in the morning their employer called them “a pack of dogs” and in after this they left the garden.
When they were leaving the employer threatened them and said “do you think this is your home? This is ours” and then Baris says “they attacked us. 8 people with sticks attacked 3 people”. After the attack the seasonal workers returned to Mardin.
Many Kurdish and Syrian workers come to the west of Turkey as seasonal workers despite the low pay and they often face racism. These workers are treated with contempt and such racist attacks are increasing.
As of 3rd September access to all news stories relating to the arrest of Uşşaki Cult Leader Fatih Nurullah’s sexual abuse of a 12 year old girl have been blocked in Turkey. Nurullah, who is known for his closeness with Erdogan and the AKP, is reported to have offered 70,000 Turkish Liras to the child’s father to silence them.
There have been a number of high profile exposes of religious schools and clerics abusing and raping children in Turkey. Such abuse is widespread across the country but it is common place for these to be covered up or buried by the authorities, or perpetrators are protected by Erdogan himself and his family members. The case of Fatih Nurullah is another example of the authorities and Erdogan protecting perpetrators of sexual violence and child abuse.
Media freedom is quickly becoming a thing of the past in Turkey. TELE1, a television channel that is not aligned with the Government, has been punished with a five-day black-out for critiquing President Erdogan and the AKP government.
The Supreme Council for Radio and Television (RTÜK) , which is known for its close ties with President Erdogan, issued the five day black out penalty to TELE1 because a guest on the news show on 30 April criticised Erdogan and the Ministry for Religious Affairs. The penalty began today (3rd September) at midnight. If TELE1 receives a further penalty, it’s broadcasting licence will be revoked.
In Turkey the Ministry for Religious Affairs has a budget equivalent to eight ministries, and critiquing Erdogan or the Ministry is considered a crime. A career in journalism is considered “dangerous” because media freedom is completely denied in Turkey.
In the past Hayat TV, another opposition channel which aired similar broadcasts, had received similar penalties and numerous channels (including Hayat TV) were closed down on the pretext of clamping down on supporters of the attempted coup in 2015.
Erdogan and the AKP government is targeting all sources of criticism. The UK must end its support for the Erdogan regime. To maintain alliances with Turkey even as it criminalised democratic opposition and free speech is to be complicit in these breaches of human rights.
We know that after the five-day black out, TELE1 will return bold and committed to free speech and diversity in its programmes, and stand in solidarity with TELE1 and all media organisations/professionals fighting back against Erdogan’s attacks on media freedom.
The Turkish state is destroying historical sites belonging to Assyrians, Jews, Armenians, Kurds and Christians across the country. Just recently the world famous Hagia Sofia Museum was converted into a mosque, and buildings of worship belonging to minority faiths Turkey regularly face either forced conversion into a mosque or wilful neglect and disrepair by the State.
The latest victim is the St Georgios Greek Orthodox Church in Bursa. The Church is estimated to have been built in 1896 and had been turned into a mosque after the war. The Church, known as the Hagia Sophie of Bursa, had been taken into the management of the Nilufer municipality when it was opened as cultural centre. However, the State Directorate for Foundations, forced the authority to pass on ownership to the Inesiye Village Mosque foundation, which left the Church in such disrepair that it collapsed. The Nilüfer Municipality tried to take back the ownership and rehabilitate the structure in 2016 but failed.
The case of the St Georgios Church is just one example, of the contempt towards different cultures, religions, languages and traditions by the Turkish state. We must not remain silence as Turkey’s religious, ethnic and cultural diversity is destroyed, and must call for an end to Erdogan and the AKP government’s destruction of Turkey’s heritage.
On 1st September the 2020-21 judicial year was opened with a ceremony at the presidential palace in Turkey. The Bar Associations were not invited to the ceremony. In their absence, President Erdogan boasted about the reforms to “rights and freedoms” they had implemented and justified the purge of lawyers who stood in solidarity with the Lawyer Ebru Timtik (who recently died on 238th day of a hunger strike demanding a fair trial).
Erdogan singled out the Istanbul Bar Association in particular, saying “It is not possible for lawyers who defend terrorists to become terrorists. If they do so there should be a consequence. In no country around the world would this crooked situation be allowed. We will do whatever it takes to end this bloody route from lawyer to terrorist. A lawyer in the course of their public duty cannot do what a judge, prosecutor, police or military is unable to do. The judiciary cannot be under the control of any other elements or ideologies. The judiciary must have only one ideology, and that is justice. It is sad that some Bar Associations, which should be judicial institutions have become back gardens for terrorist organisations, a source of propaganda and illegal activity”.
The CHP Mersin MP and member of the Turkish Parliament Justice Committee, Alpay Antmen, also made a written statement to the press to coincide with the opening of the judicial year. In this press release Antmen stressed that “Members of the judiciary are making judgments within compliance with [Presidential] palace, not the constitution.”
The Platform for Ending Femicide in Turkey has published their report on the murders of women in Turkey in August 2020. The report reveals that in August, 27 women were killed by men, and 23 women were found dead under suspicious circumstances.
Of the 27 women murdered, the motivation was unclear in 16 cases. In the remaining cases economic reasons, seeking a divorce, refusing a relationship were amongst the motivations cited. The failure to identify the motivation for 16 women is a result of the invisibility of violence against women in society. For as long as there is a failure to identify perpetrators and investigate these murders, it will be impossible to ensure justice and perpetrators will continue to walk free – thereby further emboldening other perpetrators and legitimising violence against women.
The report highlights that the Coronavirus pandemic has forced women into the home and that this has created risks for women. That the attacks on the Istanbul Convention have also escalated during this period was also noted and that “in relation to the attacks on modern women’s rights, there is an increase in women being murdered, violence against women, and attacks on our right to live free and equal”.
The report goes on to state that “Women continue to struggle to protect the Istanbul Convention and for its full and effective implementation”
SPOT stands in solidarity with the women’s movement in Turkey and welcomes partnerships with women’s organisations in Turkey and the UK to campaign jointly against further attacks on women’s lives and rights in Turkey.
Baris Yarkadas, ex opposition CHP MP and journalist, released a report on attacks on journalists and the media in August. Yarkadas publishes the report monthly, which shows that attacks on the media have been significant in August.
The report shows that in August:
2 journalists were arrested, 2 journalists detained, 4 journalists faced trial, and 3 journalists faced a new investigation. 1 journalist was also sued and 1 journalist had their home raided by the police. 1 journalist was attacked with a gun and 4 journalists were physically assaulted.
In August access to hundreds of websites were blocked and one website had access barred ten times. 6 TV channels were given financial penalties and legal proceedings were started against 1 channel.
Also Evrensel journalist, Diyarbakir representative Cengiz Anil Buyukbas was approached by three people who introduced themselves as spies and put pressure on Buyukbas to act as an agent.