Parliamentarians call for UK government to take action to prevent human rights violations in Turkey

On Tuesday, May 11th over 50 Parliamentarians co-signed a joint letter by Crispin Blunt MP and Hilary Benn MP regarding Britain’s relationship with Turkey.

The letter outlines the sharp decline in human rights under President Erdogan’s leadership. It called for the Government to take a more active stance in seeking to prevent human rights violations in Turkey and called for the UK to add its voice in calling to account Turkey’s Human Rights violations. 

The letter highlights that the “UK owes the people of Turkey a duty to speak up openly for a return to the path of democracy and respect for human rights and pluralism. We request that [the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs) make an early statement to Parliament, making clear to the Turkish government that the United Kingdom’s public friendship cannot be unconditional and that we will always stand up for human rights. The UK’s many friends in Turkey would welcome and draw strength from such a statement of Britain’s position as they work to restore a properly open society.’


SPOT SENDS SOLIDARITY TO SISTERS IN TURKEY


On the 10th Anniversary of the Istanbul Convention SPOT sends solidarity to the hundreds of thousands of women in Turkey fighting back against the Turkish State’s attacks on women’s rights and gender equality.

Violence against women has intensified during the Covid-19 pandemic in Turkey and gender inequality has been rife, with women workers more likely to be in low paid insecure jobs, sacked, discriminated, and forced to work overtime. Particularly after the outbreak of Covid-19 we have heard from women in Turkey, how they have been forced into the home into ever more difficult domestic violence situations, which have been compounded by challenges relating to childcare and increasing debts.


In these circumstances the Istanbul Convention provides desperately needed protections and safeguards for women in Turkey, and SPOT condemns Erdogan’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention by Presidential Decree on 20 March.


As SPOT we stand with the women in Turkey fighting for their right to safety, justice, liberty and equality at home, in society and at work. The Women’s movement in Turkey is an inspiration to us here in the UK.

As SPOT we support your demands for the reinstatement of the Istanbul Convention, and call on the UK Government to end its silence on the Turkish state’s attacks gender equality, perpetuation of violence against women and girls, exploitation and discrimination of women in the workplace, and criminalisation of the women’s movement.

#İstanbulSözleşmesi10Yaşında @ekmekvegul @esik_platform


Turkey bans sale of alcohol citing the precautions against the pandemic

The AKP and Erdogan’s regime has banned the sales of alcohol as part of its announcement that there will be a complete “lock down” between 29 April and 17 May in the effort to fight the spread of Covid-19. No support is to be available for workers and those living in poverty. 

The decision to ban sales of alcohol is considered a further step in the regime’s imposition of Islamic rules and values on the country. 

Many people in Turkey were supportive of a “lock down”as factories and many non-essential businesses remained opened even as Covid cases increased. However, while the government has called this a “lock down”, it is no different to previous measures. Shops and supermarkets selling essential groceries can remain open, however they will not be allowed to sell alcohol. Opposition groups have attacked the restriction of alcohol sales, stating that this is ideologically led and a further example of interference in the private lives of Turkey’s population. 

The AKP and Erdogan’s regime have been exposed for significant breaches of social distancing, demonstrating that there is one rule for the ruling AKP and another for members of the public. Recently Erdogan’s AKP party transported thousands of supporters to their party conference at which no social distancing measures were in place for participants – at the same time other parties were banned from social gatherings/conferences citing the need for social distancing in order to take precautions against the spread of Covid-19. The government also allowed thousands (including the Minister for Health) to participate in the funeral of a religious leader, whilst restricting all other funerals to 30 participants.  With no hint of irony, the Minister for Health appeared on national television in the evenings calling on people not to participate in social gatherings. 

Turkey’s Constitutional Court refuses examination of Cizre Massacre


The Constitutional Court in Turkey has rejected another application seeking accountability for the deaths of civilians who died in the basements of buildings in the Kurdish town of Cizre (in the province of Sirnak) during the imposition of curfew 5 years ago.

Cizre was turned into a war zone under a round-the-clock military lockdown lasting 78 days from December 2015 to March 2016, during which civilian life was heavily impacted and             people lost their lives as a result of the lockdown and military intervention. There was particular outcry when more than 100 civilians who were sheltering in three basements in Cizre were burned alive. 

At the time various human rights organisations wanted an inquiry in the aftermath, and complained that no judicial authority was allowed into the basements to investigate the crimes.  International organisations including United Nations and  European Parliament formerly have stated that serious violations of human rights occurred in the region during the period of curfews.

The Turkish government also blocked independent investigations, with bodies being taken away and the basements were filled up with rubble to cover up the crimes. Nonetheless the remnants of human bones and military ammunition were found in the basements later. 

“Academics for Peace” organised at that time in opposing state violence and the use of  “heavy weapons and equipment that should only be mobilised in wartime” in Kurdish towns including Cizre. The academics were clear, they said “We will not be party to this crime”. As a result they were all accused of terrorist propaganda and dismissed from public duty. 

Asli Erdogan, prominent renowned author and activist, described the events in Cizre -in an interview published at 2019 in Kedistan magazine- as “beyond war”, and “a policy of massacre” and said that Cizre was a turning point for fascism.

“Where is the $128 billion?”

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in Turkey has accused Erdogan and his party of misuse of central bank foreign reserves to uphold the Turkish Lira in 2019-20.

Economist have calculated that back then the sales by state banks to support the Turkish lira totalled $128.3 billion.  

“Where is the $128 billion?” question has become the slogan of the CHP with posters on billboards all over the country.  The ruling AKP, annoyed by this campaign, has deemed the banners on billboards “Insult to the president.” Police forces removed the banners from the billboards and also from the windows of the CHP offices in Istanbul and elsewhere overnight.

This slogan has also became a trending topic on social media. People are asking a straightforward question: “Where is the money? Who stole it?”

Turkish Medical Associations Protest Government’s Pandemic Response

“We don’t give up our right to life, stop deaths” protests, a growing movement of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), were due to take place across Turkey today.

In Istanbul representatives from various Medical Associations came together in front of the Istanbul Provincial Health Directorate to make a press statement about increasing concerns over the management of the Covid-19 pandemic in Turkey.

Over the course of the gathering police blocked the press statement and attacked the protestors.

Representatives from the Medical Chamber, Dentists’ Chamber, Pharmacists’ Chamber and Veterinarians’ Chamber wanted to call on the government to take into account the long-term consequences of their actions in order to prevent the increasing number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the country. Protestors who were chanting “Do not stop the health care workers, stop the virus” were urging the Turkish government to consider new public health regulations across Turkey.  Organisers have stressed that the government’s approach to the pandemic will not reduce the spread of virus in Turkey which has recorded the highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the pandemic began with 60 thousand daily cases.

“The government sees the outbreak process as an opportunity. This disease is a working class disease. All production must be halted except essentials where alternate working conditions in well-ventilated environments must definitely be introduced for workers.” said TTB Chair Prof. Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci in a news programme that was broadcast on CommUnity Web TV on 12 April.

TTB has also released a press statement saying that “The correct method in combatting the outbreak is adherence to the science of epidemiology. Treatment is important, but success in any outbreak lies in preventing disease transmission. (…) The management of the outbreak is under the responsibility and coordination of the Ministry of Health, which must be based on scientific knowledge, and carried out in a transparent manner and in collaboration with other relevant components of the society and medical profession.”

According to the Bianet’s report, another press statement planned in Diyarbakir has also been prevented by the police forces. The Health and Social Workers’ Union (SES) Diyarbakır Co-Chair Siyar Guldiken has protested the prevention and said that due to the lack of the  preventive measures 403 health workers have died as of today.

Turkish police abduct MP Gergerlioglu from intensive care

Turkish police detained Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, former People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP on Friday at his home. Gergerlioglu’s parliamentary status was revoked last month due to a prison sentence on “terrorism” charges and he was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison based on his social media post in 2016 where he retweeted a call for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. Since then he has started a “justice vigil” to protest this shameful situation in Turkey’s parliament.  

Footage of the moment police arrested Gergerlioglu at his home on Friday was broadcast live through social media.  “The same scandal was repeated,” said his son in a posted message, referring to Gergerlioglu’s detention at the parliament two weeks ago when police did not allow him to put his shoes on.  Once again police did not let him to put his shoes on.

Moreover the attitude of the police officers looks like a reprisal for Gergerlioglu’s stance against torture and ill treatment practices of the Turkish security forces. Gergerlioglu later revealed that they threatened him with physical violence. His lawyer has published the medical assessment report of Gergerlioglu that marks of physical maltreatment.

Later, MP Gergerlioglu was transferred to the hospital where he underwent an urgent angiogram due to a severe chest pain. Shortly after the operation he was taken to a high security prison by the police right from intensive care unit. His family learnt his whereabouts hours later.

As SPOT we are urging our elected MPs and the UK government to call to account Erdogan and the AKP’s unacceptable attack on democracy and human rights in Turkey.

Read our solidarity campaign statement in defence of HDP and its MPs here: http://spotturkey.co.uk/2021/03/22/campaign-write-to-your-mp-to-call-to-account-turkeys-attack-on-the-hdp-and-its-mps/

SPOT calls for an end to advertisement bans on Evrensel

Evrensel, a daily newspaper in Turkey, has once again been fined for using the word “attack” while reporting about the Bogazici resistance. The newspaper has been subjected to considerable harassment since it first went to print in 1995 but recently the AKP government has put the paper on its punishment agenda.  

The Public Advertising Agency (BIK) -the authority in Turkey responsible for the distribution of state advertising and which is under the tight control of the government- has imposed another advertisement ban on Evrensel for allegedly aiming to create a negative perception in Turkish society regarding Turkish enforcement forces loyalty to the republic of Turkey. This accusation solely depends on choosing the “attack of the police” phrase instead of “intervention of the security forces”.

The suppression of Evrensel is part of the ongoing crackdown on independent media outlets that are not pro-Erdogan.

The latest ban came amid the Constitutional Court’s affirmative decision about Evrensel’s appeals regarding the earlier imposed bans by BIK.

As SPOT we are calling for the advertising bans on Evrensel to be lifted with immediate effect which threaten the survival of the newspaper. We also call for solidarity for the survival of the journalism in Turkey.

SPOT calls for the immediate release of detained Bogazici students

Bogazici University students in Istanbul are still under the attack of the reactionary AKP Government in Turkey and its police force. 12 students were detained on Thursday on campus as they gathered to protest against a university investigation into a student for carrying a rainbow flag during the earlier demonstrations.

In addition to yesterday’s detentions, today at least 44 students were detained at the Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul who wanted to express solidarity with the earlier detained students. Journalist Yagmur Kaya from ArtıTV was also detained while reporting the police attack on students attempting to make a statement to the the police. 

According to ArtıTV’s report, police tried to get the detainees on to different police vehicles based on  their gender. In response to objections by students, one police officer said “This is Turkey, get used to it.”  

Academic staff at Bogazici made a statement regarding the detentions saying that it is the duty of the appointed rector to protect the rights of the students: “This situation is the result of the systematic discrimination, hate speech and violence applied to the LGBT community by the government itself. The task of the appointed rector is not to throw its students into the middle of government supported police violence. He must protect their rights and ensure their security. ”

Protests against the appointment of a trustee rector to the university by President Erdogan started on January of this year.  As the resistance of the students grows, systematic police brutality becomes more visible.

SPOT calls on the Turkish president and his security apparatus to release all students in detention immediately, to stop harassments and hate speech against LGBT community and to respect the right of Bogazici staff and students to choose their rector.

Erdogan abuses powers to interfere in private lives of public in Turkey

Turkey’s President Erdogan is using executive powers, including arbitrary decrees to imprison politicians, declare anybody he disagrees with as terrorists, and shut down political parties. 

He is taking decisions in the middle of the night on issues in which he has no authority. In a country where at least 400 women were killed in the past year, he unilaterally withdrew from the Istanbul Agreement which contains important elements for the prevention of violence against women. He has also, in the middle of the night, sacked the governor of the central bank and is bringing land into public ownership only to hand it over to developers within his own party. 

Most recently at his party conference on 24 March, he called on citizens to sell their gold and foreign currency. And, as if this wasn’t enough he called for people to have more children, saying “The age of marriage has almost reached 30. Some families don’t have more than 1 or 2 children”. 

Erdogan constantly tries to enforce his own will, with no regard for any domestic or international law. Meanwhile western countries that claim to be progressive democracies, not least the UK, stand idly by.

Western countries that support Erdogan’s AKP Government to further their own economic interests must also be called to account, because they too are responsible for the authoritarianism and oppression that the people of Turkey continue to face.