Campaign: write to your MP to call to account Turkey’s attack on the HDP and its MPs

Erdogan and the AKP’s attacks on elected democratic opposition, particularly the HDP have reached new heights.

Many HDP MPs were already in prison and facing false charges of “terrorism”, including the former co-chairs of the HDP Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag. In recent weeks we have witnessed prominent HDP MP Gergerlioglu stripped of his MP status and forced out of parliament and Turkish prosecutors have taken steps to shut down the HDP completely.

These developments are hugely worrying. For some time Erdogan and the AKP have been dismantling the foundations of democracy and using presidential powers and the politicised judiciary to suppress all forms of dissent. 

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.

Please join us by writing to your local MP to raise the issue and ask them speak out with us!

Write to your MP, template below:

Dear <<name of mp>>

My name is << insert name here>> and I’m writing to you today about serious concerns about democracy in Turkey, an ally of the British government. The People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which received 11.7 per cent support with nearly 6 million votes in the 2018 parliamentary elections, is facing yet another attack.

Most recently, a Turkish prosecutor has filed a case to demand the closure of the party. Turkey has a long history of shutting down pro-Kurdish political parties, and the crackdown against the HDP has been escalating since 2016 when its former co-chairs were imprisoned. HDP MPs have also had their parliamentary immunities removed and imprisoned by the politically led judiciary system.

The recent indictment demonstrates the scale of pressure on the HDP which has consistently opposed the interventionist politics of the ruling party, advocated democratisation and pushed for the recognition of fundamental rights for Kurdish people.

The court case against the HDP will impact the future of the country and is unacceptable both from a political and a moral perspective.

I call on you to urge the UK government to condemn these attacks on the HDP and call to account President Erdogan and the ruling AKP for its attacks on democracy, rule of law and human rights in Turkey.

Please respond to my letter as soon as possible and outline the steps you intend to take to address my concerns.

I look forward to hearing your response in due course.

Yours sincerely,

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WITHDRAWAL FROM THE ISTANBUL CONVENTION SPARKS OUTRAGE




Turkey has pulled out of the Istanbul Convention -which protects victims of domestic and gender-based violence and prosecutes offenders- by an abrupt midnight presidential decree.

The Council of Europe “Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence” entered into force in 2011. At the time Erdogan proudly announced the treaty by saying “Violence against women is human rights violation. The Convention was prepared under the leadership of Turkey.”

Withdrawal from the Convention is a huge step backwards in the struggle to combat gender inequality and violence against women in Turkey where at least 419 women have been killed by men in 2020.

Islamist AKP regime perceives the Convention as adverse to the “Turkish family values”. Last year when the law was under the threat of withdrawal, progressive forces rose up and called on the government to fully implement the Convention. Back then the AKP government delayed the withdrawal to find a way to avoid a major backlash. Women organisations and progressive forces once again called for protests under the “Istanbul Convention Is Ours” banner in all major cities across Turkey following the announcement of the withdrawal.

Since consolidating his power and assuming the Presidency, Erdogan has no limits on crushing the rule of law. However according to the lawyers, under the Turkish Constitution, international agreements on human rights are above internal laws thereby overturning the Convention via presidential decree is void and null in itself without the parliament approval. Prominent human rights lawyer Kerem Altiparmak criticised the decree on Twitter by underlining that “Parliament’s will and legislative power were ignored” and said that “The Convention is still in effect.”

SPOT stands with the resistance against attacks on women’s rights and the rule of law in Turkey and condemns President Erdogan and the ruling AKP for their draconian actions.

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Turkish Police arrest Human Rights Association Co-chair

Ozturk Turkdogan, Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD) Co-Chair was taken into custody in the early hours of today in Istanbul. He has since been released. 

“This is the latest and obvious example of the pressure on human rights defenders. We will keep informing the public about the process.” said IHD in a statement and added that the reason for taking Turkdogan into custody is unknown.  

Recently IHD was on the target list of the government due to the statements about the Turkish military’s attack on Gare region of Iraqi Kurdistan which has raised many questions. Back then Turkdogan said that the killing of 13 people in Gare was a “war crime” and added that “An effective investigation should be carried out by impartial and independent bodies.”

In the wake of these remarks Interior Minister Soylu targeted IHD in a speech addressing the parliament about the assault to Gare.

At the time Turkdogan responded to the Minister’s remarks saying that “Soylu does not tell the truth about Gare” and he also stressed that IHD has been targeted by authoritarian powers so many times before.

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SPOT condemns attacks on HDP and it’s members

A Turkish prosecutor filed a case demanding the closure of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) which won 11.7% support with nearly 6 million votes in the 2018 parliamentary election.

Turkey has a long history of shutting down pro-Kurdish political parties. The People’s Labour Party (HEP) in 1993 and People’s Democracy Party (HADEP) in 2003 were banned from politics. The Democratic Society Party (DTP) was the latest of the series, in 2009.

The crackdown against HDP started to escalate in late 2016, including the detention of its former co-chairs. Since then the Party has faced constant suppression via the politically led judiciary targeting its members, the removal of parliamentary immunities and imprisonment of MPs.

“The AKP government has turned the judiciary into a subsidiary and partisan instrument which it is now using as a stick to design politics. The court case to close our Party is a severe blow to our country’s democracy and law. This government has inscribed its name in history as a coupist government.” HDP said yesterday in a statement. Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar, co-chairs of HDP also stated that “HDP is not just a party but also an idea” and “millions of people will stand in defence of their political will and future.”

The details of the indictment were published today by the Anadolu Agency which is considered one of the mouthpieces of the ruling AKP. In the indictment the prosecutor claims that HDP plays an active role in recruiting members for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and demands a five-year political ban on 687 HDP officials. The list includes almost anyone who once served in the party organs and some of the names on the list are already jailed.

The prosecutor, Bekir Sahin, blames the HDP for not standing by the Republic of Turkey in “national affairs.” He listed the names of the military assaults in the indictment as “national affairs”: Olive Branch, Euphrates Shield, Spring Shield and Gare.  

The recent indictment demonstrates the scale of pressure on the HDP which has consistently opposed the interventionist politics of Erdogan’s Islamist party and its ultra nationalist allies, advocated democratisation and pushed for the recognition of fundamental rights for Kurdish people.

The court case against the HDP will impact the future of the country and is unacceptable both from a political and a moral perspective. 

As SPOT we condemn these attacks on the HDP and its members. We also call on the UK government, Labour Party and trade unions to condemn these attacks on the HDP and call to account President Erdogan and the ruling AKP for its attacks on democracy, rule of law and human rights in Turkey.

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Turkish Parliament Expels Prominent Opposition MP Gergerlioglu

A court in Turkey has sentenced Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP to 2 years 6 months in prison on terror charges. Turkey’s parliament also stripped Gergerlioglu of his MP status today.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a written statement yesterday urging Turkey to not expel Gergerlioglu from the Parliament. Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW said “Jailing Gergerlioglu would look like a reprisal by the Erdogan government for his brave and vocal stance in support of thousands of victims of human rights violations.” 

Gergerlioglu’s conviction is based on his social media post in 2016 where he called for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.  

 “Everybody in Turkey sees that ‘The King is Naked!’. They want to punish me for saying this out loud. (…) I am proud of my struggle as a human rights defender.” said prominent MP in a news programme that was broadcast on CommUnity Web TV on 1 March.

Gergerlioglu also stated that he is “an antimilitarist human rights defender” and fights against ill-treatment in prisons, strip searches and enforced disappearances. “As a physician, I defend the right to life and as a human rights advocate I promote peace. These do not suit those in power” said the MP and stressed that people are aware that this fast-track conviction is a political verdict. 

Gergerlioglu has said that he will resist what he called a “coup” against the assembly. He shouted in Kurdish shortly after the speaker read out the court ruling at the parliament “Biji biratiya gelan. Berxwedan jiyane!” (Long Live International Solidarity. Resistance is Life!)

Baroness Christine Blower, a Labour peer and SPOT Steering Committee member commented “I understand that the Turkish Parliament has today expelled the Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu MP. This is indeed an unacceptable occurrence. As I understand it, they have sentenced him to two and half years in prison on terror charges simply for retweeting a news article from a legal news organisation. It cannot be right that in a country claiming to be a democracy that people are charged, imprisoned and expelled from parliament on the basis of retweeting material from legal sources.”

SPOT calls for solidarity in the fight against the politically led judiciary targeting and imprisoning progressive forces in Turkey.

#GergerlioğluYalnızDeğildir

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Bogazici Indictment based on Religious Prohibitions


Seven students from Bogazici University, two of whom had been held in detention, have been acquitted at the first hearing in which they were charged with “publicly provoking the public to hatred and hostility”. The trial was held today in Istanbul.

The prosecutor had demanded that the seven students be sentenced to between 1 and 3 years in prison. 

According to Canan Coskun’s reporting from Diken newsportal, the indictment charging the students takes its reference from the religious practices of Islam. 

The indictment -dated 24 February 2021- states that “images of homosexuality and similar sexual orientations, which are prohibited in Islamic religious literature”, were used in a collage illustration at a campus exhibition alongside an image of a sacred Islamic site. The figure of Shahmaran – a mythical creature, half woman and half snake- in the collage illustration is considered to be against the Islamic belief about “the uniqueness” of God as the sole creator of everything.

This politically motivated judicial process against the Bogazici resistance is unacceptable. Moreover, as a secular country, religious beliefs cannot be invoked in Turkey as a legitimate justification in any indictment for discrimination against the LGBT community.

Background

On 1 January 2021, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appointed a rector to Bogazici University in Istanbul from outside the Bogazici community.

Bogazici University students, staff, alumni and the broader civil society have organised peaceful protests and online campaigns demanding the appointee’s resignation, a return to the democratic process, and an end to outside interference.

These protests were met with escalating attacks by the president, the ministry of the interior, the AKP establishment, and the AKP-controlled media. The political attacks have been accompanied by excessive use of force by the police, supported with snipers located around the campus.

Hundreds of academics, students, activists and trade unionists came together in solidarity with Bogazici University at SPOT online day of action on 21 February.  

Online rally is available to watch:

https://www.facebook.com/spotturkey/videos/799610820651637/
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SPOT sends International Women’s Day message to women in Turkey

As we celebrate international women’s day, your growing resistance against government attacks on women’s liberty, exploitation and discrimination in the workplace, gender inequality and violence against women is an inspiration to women all over the world.

We stand with you and will continue to amplify your fight for democracy, freedom and equality in Turkey for all women!

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Erdogan’s Son-in-Law and ex-Treasury Minister still missing

Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, had resigned publicly on social media from his position as Treasury Minister on 8 November. Since then Albayrak has not been seen and suspicions mounted that Erdogan is punishing him. 

The opposition party expressed concerns about how 128bn dollars had been spent by the treasury whilst Albayrak was minister and began a campaign asking “where is the son-in-law?” In response Erdogan and Albayrak’s lawyers claimed that Albayrak is spending time with his children. However, the CHP is not content with this inadequate response and so continues to ask where Albayrak is and is calling for an explanation for 128bn dollars of spending by the treasury. Albayrak’s lawyer, Sinan Goktas has said he will be taking CHP to court for the campaign and claiming 500 thousand TL in damages. 

It is suspected that Albayrak is being kept under house arrest by Erdogan. When Albayrak resigned as Treasury Minister via social media, pro-government news outlets did not report the story out of fear of repercussions and it was only a few opposition news outlets and journalists that reported the development. Albayrak’s disappearance and suspected punishment by Erdogan is thought to be in relation to his publicly resigning from his post, not as a punishment for misusing public funds whilst in public office. 

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Police prevent 8 March exhibition organised by women’s platform

A group of women congregating to set up the “8 March women’s resistance” exhibition, organised by Avcilar Women’s Platform, were blockaded by the police. The women who were kept waiting under blockade held up photos from the exhibition and staged a sit-in protest. 

The Avcilar Women’s Platform met today at Marmara Street at the Egitim Sen Avcilar Branch to set up the “women resisting” photography exhibition. The women who wanted to make a public call for the 5 March protest in Kadikoy and 8 March protest in Taksim, were prevented as soon as they left the building. The women were forced to leave Marmara Street by the police blockade. The police also tried to prevent journalists from capturing images. 

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Erdogan government targets opposition after failed military operation

Dilan Dirayet Tasdemir, HDP MP for Agri spoke out in response to Suleyman Soylu, Home Affairs minister, who described her as the “MP that went to Gare”. 

Tasdemir, reacted to Soylu’s claim that she had previously been to Gare where 13 people recently died, saying “If you have this evidence, why didn’t you pass this onto prosecutors? Why did you wait for the Gare operation? We know why you are doing this now. This is an operation to save your position. We know the extensive steps taken in this country to  protect your seats”. 

Pervin Buldan, HDP joint chair also added that the photos shared by Soylu with the press are from a previous visit to Qandil and that that visit was during the “peace process” and with the approval of Erdogan. The pro-government media have ignored both these statements which expose both Soylu and the government’s lies. 

On the other hand, Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu commented on the prison sentence he received, saying “I won’t bow down. If I was that type of person, I wouldn’t have been out on the squares, on political platforms, or defending human rights”. 

After the failed Gare operation 718 HDP members were arrested and investigations started into 9 MPs. This was despite the opposition parties having no knowledge of the military operation and the absence of any evidence to support the allegations against opposition party members. The Erdogan government while claiming successes for itself, lays the blame for its own failures on the opposition. 

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