Massive Crackdown on Kurdish Journalists

In Diyarbakir, a Kurdish-majority south-eastern province of Turkey, 20 journalists who were working in various media outlets such as Dicle Firat Journalists Association (DFG), Mesopotamia News Agency and Jin News have been under arrest since 8 June. No official charges have been pressed.

Erol Onderoglu, the Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that “As the RSF, we are astonished at the extensity of an investigation based on ‘terrorist propaganda’ targeting of so many media workers. Evidence must be disclosed as soon as possible by the law.” 

Gulnoza Said, Program Coordinator of Europe and Central Asia program of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also commented on the crackdown on the Kurdish journalists and said that “Turkish authorities arbitrary detention of journalists (…) marks another dark day for the press in the country. Authorities should be ashamed of their raids on newsrooms and journalists’ homes. The journalists targeted for detention should be released immediately and without charge.” 

The criminalisation of journalism is unacceptable. SPOT stands in solidarity with the journalists who are under attack in Turkey.

Erdogan calls protestors sluts

President Erdogan once again used cheap words to insult the dissidents in Turkey. On the 9th anniversary of the Gezi protests, the fiercest anti-government unrest in Turkey for years, he branded the protestors as “sluts”, “terrorists” and “rotten”. 

Erdogan, who is known as the “most insulted” head of state, did not hesitate when using offensive terms to refer to the gezi protestors. Ironically, thousands of citizens are subject to lawsuits for insulting the president.

The President also repeated his allegation -which yet needs to be proven true- about people drinking beer at a nearby mosque during the unrest.

“These terrorists and bandits had contaminated the inside of the mosque with beer bottles. These are rotten, these are sluts” Erdogan said in his speech at the parliament. 

Erdogan’s comments sparked a public outcry. #sürtük (slut in Turkish) hashtag has become a trending topic with fiercely comments on Erdogan.

Kurdish Culture Banned

Kurdish musicians and actors are being banned from performing in Turkey.

Prominent Kurdish singer and composer Aynur Dogan – who recently performed at the Barbican as part of the London Jazz Festival- was one of the banned artists. An Islamist-Nationalist municipality in Kocaeli cancelled Dogan’s concert without specifying any reason. 

Soon after leading Kurdish duo Metin and Kemal Kahraman’s concert was also cancelled by the order of the Mus Governor for being “inappropriate”. 

Another Kurdish band Sterka Karwan’s concert which was part of the youth spring festival in Bitlis State University was also banned. 

Amed City Theater’s Kurdish “Don Quixote” play was also banned by another municipality in Kocaeli held by Islamist AKP. 

Imposed bans mark the ideological Turkish state policy on Kurdish culture and underlines the repressive character of the AKP regime. 

SPOT stands in solidarity with the Kurdish people and artists in Turkey.

Crossroads for Opposition in Turkey

Canan Kaftancioglu, a leftwing leading Turkish politician who challenged the ruling Islamist AKP’s power during 2019’s mayoral campaign has been banned from politics. 

Kaftancioglu has been sentenced to 4 years 11 months in prison for insulting “the President of Turkey” via her tweets in 2013 and 2014. 

Kaftancioglu was expecting this sentence for sometime since she is a key figure in the Republican People’s Party (CHP) as a chair. She said that it is time to raise the hope (political promise) which can be achieved through organising and this sentence will act as another challenge for Erdogan and his circles. 

This political ban for Kaftancioglu is no doubt a reprisal for the regime which lost the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) to the opposition. 

Judicial crackdown on political opponents will make Erdogan’s job easier in the coming presidential elections. 

In response CHP has called for an urgent executive board assembly to decide the political roadmap. Analists and leading progressive figures argue that opposition is at a historical crossroad. 

Statement of Solidarity with Imprisoned Gezi 8

Signatories of a petition released today in Turkey sent a message of solidarity with the Gezi 8.

“Whatever they said or did during the Gezi movement, we did the same, we said the same words. If they are convicted, we must be convicted too. If they are considered guilty, we are guilty too. We are reporting ourselves to the prosecutor’s office by declaring that we are in agreement with their ideas and actions” said the 888 signatories of the petition. 

You can access to the list of the signatories making the call for solidarity with the Gezi 8 though the link:

https://m.bianet.org/english/human-rights/261608-in-protest-of-8-convictions-in-gezi-trial-888-people-file-report-themselves-to-prosecutors

PROTEST – Free the Gezi 8!

Saturday 7 May 2022 at 11am / Turkish Embassy, London


Join the protest against Turkey’s criminalisation of Gezi and help strengthen the call for the Gezi 8 to be released.


On 25 April, a Turkish court sentenced Osman Kavala to life imprisonment for allegations of “attempting to overthrow the government by force” during the 2013 Gezi Park protests.


A further 7 activists were also given 18-year sentences and were immediately imprisoned. Those imprisoned are Mücella Yapıcı, Çiğdem Mater, Hakan Altınay, Mine Özerden, Can Atalay, Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi and Tayfun Kahraman.


The criminalisation of the Gezi resistance is unacceptable. The right to protest and provide democratic opposition must be defended.


All those imprisoned in connection with Gezi, those imprisoned for exercising their right to free speech and for defending democracy must be freed immediately.


Pegasus Sacks Workers for a Drinking Post

Pegasus Airlines – a privately owned economy airline in Turkey – sacked their workers due to a shared photo of a social gathering.

Workers from the airline shared a photo on social media showing them drinking alcoholic beverages with a note saying “may God accept” and a tag related to a holy Islamic day. 

The Nakliyat-Is Union, which the dismissed flight workers are organised under, said “According to the current labour law, this cannot be grounds for dismissal for any workers.”

Pegasus Airlines argued that this kind of a post is “an insult to religious belief” and said that the company finds its sharing unacceptable.

A Public prosecutor in Istanbul also found the post unacceptable and took legal action against the workers on the grounds that they had committed a crime of “inciting the people to hatred and hostility or humiliating them” via the tagged photo.

Under the ruling of the Islamist-nationalist coalition many religious duties are gradually becoming imposed as a way of ordinary life in Turkey. In most cases people who do not adhere to the strict rules become subject to social harassment and some are being prosecuted. The most visible of these incidents are the ones related to alcohol consumption and womens rights.

SPOT Supports The Gezi Resistance

A Turkish court in Istanbul has sentenced Osman Kavala to aggravated life imprisonment on the account of allegedly “attempting to overthrow the government” in 2013. The court also sentenced seven activists to 18 years imprisonment with an order for their immediate detention for “aiding the attempt. ” 

The trial, widely referred to as the Gezi trial, accused Kavala and a wider group of activists, journalists and individuals of organising the Gezi protests with the aim of overthrowing the government. The Gezi Park protests started in 2013, with opposition to the bulldozing of Gezi Park in Istanbul – which sparked protests across the country against the government.

Nils Muiznieks, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, said:

“Today, we have witnessed a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions. This verdict deals a devastating blow not only to Osman Kavala, his co-defendants and their families, but to everyone who believes in justice and human rights activism in Turkey and beyond.”

“The court’s decision defies all logic. (…) This unjust verdict shows that the Gezi trial was only an attempt to silence independent voices.”

Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey representative for Human Rights Watch, said the verdict was an “active defiance against the Council of Europe”.

Following the decision of the court, Gezi Park activists expressed that they will not bow down no matter the consequences.

Can Atalay, one of the defendants said “We will resist oppression!” 

Today’s notorious convictions confirm that the “Gezi Trial” is politically designed to punish and harass dissidents in Turkey. As SPOT we are supporting Gezi and express full solidarity with the defendants.

Following the court’s decision, Taksim Solidarity announced that it would be holding an ongoing vigil outside Caglayan Court. The Izmir Law Society will also be starting a vigil outside the law society against the decision.

Background of The Gezi Park Protests

Gezi events started as a protest against the redevelopment plan for Gezi Park in Istanbul in 2013. 

At the beginning local residents were objecting to the destruction of the park. After police forces’ violent attacks against the local protestors, well attended demonstrations were organised to protest against the planned destruction of Gezi. 

Various non-govermental organisations set up a collective platform to coordinate the protests. These protests led to national protests against the regime’s attacks on the environment, human rights and any democratic opposition to the ruling AKP. 

The park turned into a protest camp with similar protests, in solidarity with the protestors, emerging across the country. Protests shook the country with 11 deaths. Large scale arrests were made and protests eventually evolved into a loud call for Prime Minister Erdogan’s government to resign. 

Since then Erdogan has been pursuing his personal vendetta against Gezi activists, and the Gezi Park Trial has been pursued on fabricated charges, a complete lack of evidence and a  to comply with the rule of law. 

Anti-refugee Hostility Rises in Turkey

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of Turkey’s ruling Islamist-nationalist coalition recently said that “We are trying to send migrants by their own will. ” 

Erdogan’s statement came amid rising hostile environment towards migrants in Turkey in recent times. 

Public misery due to the soaring living economic conditions accompanied by social polarisation has made the hostility more dangerous then ever. 

Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) anti-refugee campaign promising to  “send them home” if they gain power is another determinant factor which has increased the hostility towards refugees. 

Ercument Akdeniz, chair of Labour Party of Turkey (EMEP) said in an online discussion – broadcast on Thursday via Twitter Spaces- that the tension is very high and the country is on the brink of massive attacks towards migrants. 

Akdeniz said that it is important to defend the unity of the migrant workers and to build a joint struggle. 

“It is not possible to compete with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the basis of hostility to refugees. With this oppressive authoritarian understanding, no one can gain anything by competing over hostility to immigrants.” said Akdeniz and urged the main opposition to change their discourse regarding the migrants. 

Akdeniz also warned about an ongoing preparation of sending scores of migrants abroad before the general elections:

“Such an operation would not be a surprise when AKP is most comfortable. It will also create an environment in which the opposition could be weaken and get out of the place where it is assumed to gather votes.” 

Intention to Abolish Co-education in Turkey

A school head teacher in Turkey has formally announced an arbitrary classroom sitting plan which bans interaction between boys and girls. 

Haydar Akin, the Islamist head teacher in Bursa (a northwestern province in Turkey) ordered the school staff in official correspondence not to allow girls to sit next to boys in the classroom.

The Bursa Governor made a written statement following the public outcry saying that there is an ongoing investigation about the school. 

Critics are warning that this should be considered as another sign of the intention to abolish co-education in Turkey and the final aim is to construct an Islamist regime through education policies. 

Polarisation increases in Turkey

Mahire Yenturk, a council worker in Turkey has lost her job for sharing a photo of Selahattin Demirtas’, former co-chair of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on her personal social media account. 

Yenturk was forced to resign after she was labeled as a “terrorist” on a local newspaper that published a story about her social media post. 

Apart from losing her job Yenturk said in a letter to opposition MP’s that ever since the story was published in the newspaper she and her family have been excluded from their social circles in Bolu where she has been living for 25 years. 

Yenturk was working in Bolu Municipality. Although the mayor Tanju Ozcan is from the main opposition political party namely CHP and not a member of the Islamist  nationalist coalition, he is known for his discriminative and racist policies against refugees in the city.

Doctors on strike over worsening conditions in Turkey

Healthcare professionals across Turkey, represented by the Turkish Medical Association(TTB) are on a one-day strike today. 

Doctors say that they are calling on the government for new regulations since they are suffering from the worsening economy  and the dysfunction of the national health care system in Turkey. 

TTB made a statement saying “We are on a one-day strike on February 8 against the withdrawal of the draft law regulating economic and personal benefits of physicians. ” 

Medical workers are also complaining of  an increase in physical violence towards them. 

Doctors in the country are leaving their posts in huge numbers and increasingly looking for working opportunities abroad due to worsening social and economic  conditions.  

Privatisation Policies Kill

Isparta, a southwestern city in Turkey has been without electricity since Thursday 3 February. 

The Governer’s office made a statement saying “There is a delay in restoring power due to disruptions on power transmission lines.”

This power cut is solely because of the privatisation policies. Eighty percent of the electricity distribution has passed to private companies in recent times and government’s solution to the current crisis is to ban use of electric scooters and pause education in schools in the city .

A man named Ramazan Nazli (70) froze to death at his house due to  power cuts in Isparta.

The Chamber of Electrical Engineers (EMO)  – representing Electrical, Electronics, Control, Biomedical Engineers and with members over 50000- called for restoring to public ownership the transmission and distribution of electricity in Turkey.

In the wake of the Isparta case the privatisation of TEIAS (Turkish Electricity Transmission Corporation) should be canceled immediately, said EMO in a statement.

Rising Electricity Prices Spark Protests

Meanwhile protests broke out in several cities against rising electricity prices, in the last few days.

Thousands of people in Agri, Izmir, Diyarbakir, Mardin, Urfa and Mugla protested sharp electricity price hikes and rising cost of living.

Electricity prices increased by 50-125 percent in Turkey compared to last year since the start of 2022.

Workers’ Resistance Map

In Turkey workers from all branches of the labour force are demanding that employers pay the price of the failures of the ruling class. 

Do not expect us to pay for the crisis, say workers from various cities. 

From couriers to metal workers, 

you can follow the resistance all over Turkey on this workers’ protests map, which is kept up-to-date:

https://evrn.sl/hHyDLG?utm_source=paylas&utm_campaign=twitter&utm_medium=etiket454269

Prisoners with underlying health issues at risk in Turkey

Turgay Deniz, 39,  a prisoner in Turkey, passed away on 1 February. Deniz, was a tuberculosis patient with a tube inserted into his left lung for nearly 12 years.

According to Meltem Akyol’s report from Evrensel daily, Deniz was imprisoned pending trial since February 2021. 

Turgay Deniz was one of many in Turkey’s overcrowded prisons with underlying health conditions. Evrensel report says that there are at least 1600 prisoners with health issues in Turkey, 600 of whom are seriously ill. 8 prisoners died in the last 3 months and  the number of sick prisoners who lost their lives in 2021 is at least 59.

SPOT Calls For Farplas To Respect Trade Union Rights

Workers at the Farplas in Gebze occupied the factory on January 31. They urged employers to respect the right to join a trade union and to reinstate their dismissed unionised co-workers.

Protests at the factory began last week after Farplas, which manufactures components for the major automotive brands, fired 150 workers for leading an unionisation effort. Workers eventually stopped production and locked themselves in the factory.

Farplas employers acted aggressively against the protests and after several hours of the occupation, police forces attacked workers in the factory.

Birlesik Metal Is (United Metal Workers Union) announced that 108 people, including union representatives, have been detained. In the wake of the police attack, workers from other factories showed solidarity with the Farplas workers by gathering in front of the factory. Detainees were released several hours later.

Representatives of progressive unions and political parties -including main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Labour Party of Turkey (EMEP)- also expressed solidarity with the workers and condemned the Farplas’s violation of the fundamental workers’ rights.

As SPOT we are calling on Farplas to respect trade union rights and to reinstate fired workers. We also urge all friends to support #Farplas workers in their fight for unionisation.

Solidarity posts are being shared under these hashtags: 

#FarplasİscisiYalnızDeğildir

#Farplastaİşgal

“Do Not Overreact to The Killing”

Abdulgaffar Dayan, 23, died on 26 January after being hit by a state-owned vehicle on January 24 in the Sirnak province in the southeast of Turkey.

Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reported that the vehicle which hit him was an escort vehicle of the trustee mayor of municipality of Cizre, located in Sirnak. 

Mehmet Sait Dayan, the deceased’s uncle said that the deputy district police chief visited them in the hospital and told them “not to overreact to the incident” because the vehicle belongs to the police.

District authorities forced the family to bury Dayan’s body at night. 

Upon an inquiry, Sirnak Police Department also made a statement regarding the state owned (armoured) vehicle killings saying that “these incidents do not concern the public”.

This is the latest killing of many, involving vehicles belonging to the state in Turkey’s Kurdish populated provinces. 

Erdogan’s “necessary measures” is a further assault on the media

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey yesterday issued a circular designed to muzzle the media under the pretext of protecting “youth and the family values.”

President says “necessary measures” will be taken against media outlets that endanger “family and common values.”

Erdogan’s Islamist rule systematically assaults media by shutting down critical outlets and by arresting journalists by accusing them of being “terrorists”.

The latest news is that access to the web sites of Yeni Yasam, a Turkish daily newspaper and Xwebun, a Kurdish weekly newspaper, were blocked by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BIK) on January 29.

Turkey currently ranks 153rd out of 180 in the Press Freedom Index 2021 issued by Reporters Without Borders.

Islamists Target Famous Singer

Sezen Aksu, a famous Turkish pop star is the latest target of the ruling Islamist-nationalist alliance of Turkey. 

Bigoted Erdogan supporters targeted Aksu on the pretext of “insulting religious values” citing lyrics in a song recorded five years ago. In the song, the lyrics references are “Say hello to the ignorant Eve and Adam…”. 

Fanatics filed a criminal complaint about the singer, arguing that “this is an unacceptable insult to Adam.” 

Later Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs indirectly slammed Sezen Aksu for “being disrespectful” in a written statement. 

Radio and television governing body (RTUK) also took part in the attack by threatening the media stations with heavy penalties for playing the mentioned song. 

Erdogan’s ultra nationalist ally Devlet Bahceli, chair of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), also targeted and threatened Sezen Aksu in his speech at the parliament by saying “watch your step”. 

And today President Erdogan made a highly provocative speech regarding the incident about the lyrics. He called on his supporters not to be silent against such an insult to Adam.

“No one could say such things to prophet Adam. When necessary, it is our duty to cut off the tongues saying such things. ” said Erdogan during Friday prayer in a mosque. 

Vendor Burns Himself to Death Over Poverty

Suleyman Ekici, a 63 year old street vendor, set himself on fire and last week died in a hospital in Muğla, in the southwestern province of Turkey.

According to Health and Safety Labour Watch bulletin, Ekici burnt himself to death after police did not allow him to work on the street. He was living in extreme poverty and trying to pay his debts by selling charcoal sacks.

Protest for Free Sanitary Towels

Women activists demanding sanitary products to be free of charge, were arrested in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey on January 18.

“Sanitary towels and tampons are basic necessities, they are not luxury products” said the protestors who were gathered in front of the parliament.

The number of women who are unable to afford sanitary products rose sharply last year due to the economic turmoil in the country.

The commercial products for sanitary products are subject to 18% VAT in Turkey (the highest VAT category) and have increased in price by 58%. The cost of sanitary products for many women in Turkey was already unaffordable (relative to the average wage) and this increase is causing significant further hardship.

Attacks On Refugees Intensify In Turkey

Racists have attacked a shopping mall with shops owned by Syrians at Esenyurt district of Istanbul on January 9, Sunday. A dozen racists chanting anti-Syrian slogans threw stones at the shops. According to the shop owners, the attack in the neighbourhood came after a refugee from Palestine who was escaping the attackers took shelter in the shopping mall.“Two people were injured and seven people, including four children, were taken into custody.” according to the Istanbul Governor’s Office in a statement. 

In a separate incident, an Afgan refugee family were been threatened and tortured in Ankara, Turkey’s capital city on 8 January.

Ercument Akdeniz, the chair of the Labour Party of Turkey (EMEP) commented on the recent lynch attempts and anti-migrant sentiment in Turkey in a live stream on Artı Tv which was broadcasted yesterday. Akdeniz said that since there is hate speech towards migrants involved, these attacks can not be seen as singular judicial incidents. Akdeniz added that immediate action must be taken towards these political cases which are results of racism and an intensifying nationalism.

Youth despairs due to poverty in Turkey

Enes Kara, a 20 year old medical student, killed himself two days ago. In his final note Kara says that poverty forced him to resort to a dorm run by an Islamist sect and he can not stand the compulsory “religious” practices and degrading treatment anymore.  

As the political and economic conditions deteriorate in the country there is a significant increase in suicide rates for the last five years. Rising living costs and unemployment rates alongside with the political Islamist path of Erdogan regime “to mould a generation of pious Turks” is leading youth into desperation.

Kara’s suicide note, where he described the enforced prayers and compulsory indoctrination lessons, stirred a fierce debate in Turkey in which progressive youth organisations are calling for religious sect dorms to be banned.

Racist Burns Syrian Workers to Death in Turkey


The Human Rights Association Izmir branch (IHD) reported that three Syrian men were burnt alive in a racially motivated killing on 16 November 2021 in Turkey.

According to the press release of IHD, a Turkish man (identified just as Kemal) set alight Mamoun al-Nabhan (23), Ahmed Al-Ali (21) and Muhammed el-Bish (17) after pouring gasoline on them while they were sleeping.

Ercument Akdeniz, the chair of the Labour Party of Turkey (EMEP) made a statement on Twitter regarding the killings.

Akdeniz underlined the media black out about the incident -up until now- and said that immediate clarification is needed about the facts surrounding the deaths of three Syrian workers.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK based non-governmental organisation is the initial source of the report of the killings and no further details were provided by the authorities.

Political prisoner Hanged in solitary confinement

Garibe Gezer, a Kurdish woman has died in a suspicious way in the Kandıra F-Type Prison, which  is known as one of the most notorious secure prisons in Turkey.

Garibe, a member of the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) died in solitary confinement after speaking out about the sexual assaults and torture she was subject to while in the prison.  In her letters Garibe says that she has been raped and subjected to systematic torture in  prison.

Turkish authorities claimed that Garibe hanged herself. Pro-government Islamist media outlets published the story of Garibe as “a relief for the state” using the headlines “a terrorist eventually died in  prison.”

Collective Punishment for Demirtas Family

A court in Turkey has sentenced Basak Demirtas, former People’s Democratic Party (HDP) co-leader Selahattin Demirtas’s wife to 30 months in prison  on “document forgery charges” due to a date typo in a medical report for sick leave. She had medical operations to resolve complications of a miscarriage and her physician is also convicted on forgery.

The lawyers stated that the verdict was made deliberately when Basak Demirtas is being targeted about her statements about her husband. “The original of the report was not checked and this verdict is not a coincidence. This is the result of a collective punishment manner” says Demirtas’s lawyers.

Kurdistan is being denied


“Our language, identity and Kurdistan are denied.” said Cemil Taskesen, a Kurdish worker (Turkish citizen)  who is living in Siirt, a province in the South East of Turkey. He spoke to Meral Aksener during her visit to the region. Aksener is leader of The Good Party (IYI Party) which is affiliated with the nationalist far right Turkish movement in Turkey.

The Kurdish man was later arrested in the night at his home on terorism related charges and released the next day upon public unrest. He commented that he was arrested because he was “telling the obvious truth” .

Taskesen said that the land where Turkish nationalist Aksener is visiting is actually Kurdistan and he further elaborated his views to reporters:

“I asked her if Selahattin Demirtas is a terrorist? Because they are constantly voicing this in the parliament. They are accusing Kurdish voters and Demirtas of being a terrorist. If Demirtas is a terrorist, then we are all terrorists.(…) I expressed that we are Kurdish people and this is where we live, they are ignoring the truth. (…) Kurdistan has existed for thousands of years. (…) and I was expecting to be detained for what I have said.”  

Pro-goverment Islamist and far right nationalist media immediately condemned IYI Party leader Aksener for lack of a proper response to this kind of “arrogant manner.”

Aksener, who is currently a leading political figure for the aftermath of Erdogan era, was the infamous interior minister of 1990’s in Turkey associated with unindentified political murders. She is denying any wrong doing during her post.

Turkish Minister Targets LGBTQ

Suleyman Soylu, Turkey’s Interior Minister, once again used hate speech aimed at the LGBTQ community. 

LGBTQ was one of the targets in his speech at Hak-Is confederation, a pro-Islamist AKP trade union, meeting. 

The Minister said that they  (AKP government) have prevented LGBTQ activities so that “they will not spoil Turkish family values.” Soylu said that the LGBTQ community is “immoral” and “deviant.”

“We are a Muslim nation. You could not succeed to corrupt our culture and civilisation with your broadcasting, your television channels (…) . ” said Soylu. 

Soylu also used hate speech towards the community earlier this year via his social media account saying that “LGBT deviants committed disrespect to the Kaaba-i Muazzama” regarding the detained students from Bogazici Resistance.

(http://spotturkey.co.uk/2021/01/30/turkeys-interior-minister-uses-hate-speech-against-lgbt-community/

Meanwhile Soylu is facing serious accusations about corruption and drug trafficking. The allegations surfaced as convicted organised crime leader Sedat Peker’s YouTube disclosure videos received great attention. 

Turkey’s Business Association Targets Erdogan’s Regime

The Association of Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen (TUSIAD) has called for a change in the current political system of Turkey.

TUSIAD criticised the current presidential system in Turkey which they’ve paved the way for by supporting President Erdogan for many years.

The Businessmen’s Association called for the need of democratisation and secularism in Turkey at their 50th annual high advisory board gathering today.

The Association shared their agenda with the right wing opposition parties beforehand.

Erdogan’s latest family scandal

TUGVA (Turkish Youth Foundation), which is affiliated with TURGEV (Turkey Youth and Education Service Foundation) is the latest scandal linked to President Erdogan in Turkey.

Erdogan founded TURGEV in the 1990s, and his close family members and his inner circle sit on the board of the foundation. After the corruption scandal about Erdogan’s family in 2013, TUGVA was founded as a cloak for other corrupt activities. Currently Bilal Erdogan, the President’s son is on the advisory board of the latter foundation.

Last week Metin Cihan, a freelancer journalist, shared a leak of documents and files exposing the deployment of unqualified individuals -who are affiliated with TUGVA and Erdogan’s Islamist party AKP- into the public enterprises and their harmful, corrupt practices. The lists include appointments to almost every public institution in the country, from army to education.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Chairperson of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) commented on the scandal via his social media account. “It’s just a matter of time before the power shifts in Turkey and then the investigations will begin.” said Kilicdaroglu and urged for a new chapter in public as of this Monday:

“There is a person (Erdogan) and his family who have transformed the Turkish state into a state of their family. Government officials are forced to serve his personal interests. (…) Everybody must keep in mind that there is a price to pay when you serve personal interests rather than public.

We are watching the TUGVA scandal together. The smell of dirt is again all over the place. The person and his family are trying to take control of the state with a parallel structure that they pretend to be a foundation. (…) The Turkish state has once again entered the path of being the state of the people. Those who turn institutions into their own barn will of course be held accountable.”

Meanwhile TUGVA officials initially denied the allegations but later accepted that there is a leak. They are now targeting the journalists and newspapers who are investigating the incident saying that this is “an operation against Islam”.

Turkey’s “Moral” dresscode in public dorms


“Cihannuma Kız Ogrenci Yurdu”, a public funded dormitory for higher education in Turkey’s İzmir distict has announced a “moral” dresscode for students. Administration ordered the residents to dress “morally. ”

According to Derya Dogan’s report from Yeni Yasam, a public funded dormitory announced to the students that they could no longer walk inside the perimeters of the dorm wearing “immoral” outfits (such as in pyjamas or gym clothes).

Anonymous students asked for solidarity against this oppressive new dresscode saying that “Be our voice and support us to resist this regressive obligatory rule. “

The dresscodes for women has always been a controversial issue in Turkey. Today critics fear that AKP is pushing a religious agenda on to future generations of women in the country.

Turkey Deports Cypriot Journalist


Ali Kismir, President of the Press Workers’ Union (Basın-Sen) of northern Cyprus, was detained at Istanbul Airport and deported for “security reasons.”

The journalist said that he was deported due to his support for the presidential candidate Mustafa Akinci in the latest election in northern Cyprus. At the time of the elections there were serious allegations of interference by the Turkish government against Akinci.

Kismir also said that he is deeply saddened for his colleagues in Turkey who are subjected to such a “dictatorship” constantly.

The Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) condemned the deportation of Kismir and said that “Intimidation operations against Cypriot journalists are unacceptable.”

According to Avrupa (a daily newspaper published in northern Cyprus), apart from Ali Kismir, 42 people from northern Cyprus who criticized AKP’s policies were also banned from entering to Turkey. Former President Mustafa Akıncı’s name is also on the list.

Baldur Srike Ends After Workers Win Their Union Rights

A strike involving workers at the Baldur Factory in Sekerpinar Organised Industrial Zone in Gebze, has been called off after a massive win for workers. 

Baldur workers who manufacture suspension components and other parts for the automotive industry went on strike for 281 days in order to push for recognition of their trade union rights.

Along with the determination of the striking workers, the powerful solidarity of representatives of major labour organisations both from Turkey and abroad paved the way for the victory.  

Further background: 

Police Attack Waste Pickers in Istanbul

Turkish police raided waste warehouses yesterday in Istanbul on the pretext of public order and attacked workers with tear gas and rubber bullets. Three waste pickers have been arrested.

There has been tension for some time between the Governor Office and waste pickers about the recent regulations on waste which are in favour with some big investors in recycling sector.

Ali Mendillioglu, president of The Recycling Workers Association said that the governor’s office laid the groundworkfor the arrests.

“Three of our friends were arrested. It doesn’t matter, let them take us all, let’s stay inside (the prison). It’s like a prison outside in Turkey anyway. We will not abandon our friends.”said Mendillioglu and called for solidarity.

Waste pickers, the most important link in the recycling chain in the country, face the worst conditions, working for almost 15 hours every day and suffering extreme poverty. 

Erdogan Attacks Bogazici Students Once Again

President Erdogan once again targeted the Bogazici Resistance and branded the students as terrorists in a speech yesterday.

The Turkish president said: “I cannot accept a Turkey where there are students stamping on the rector’s car. We don’t need such students (…) these are terrorists who have infiltrated the university.”

Since the start of 2021, Bogazici university students, staff, alumni and the broader civil society are demanding a return to the democratic process in the university and an end to outside interference.

More info here:

http://spotturkey.co.uk/2021/02/02/spot-calls-for-academics-to-sign-solidarity-statement-in-defence-of-bogazici-students-and-academics/

Turkey’s Separatist Kebab Shops

“Separatist kebab shops” said Devlet Bahceli, “are one of the reasons of unemployment”.

Speaking at parliament today Bahceli, Chair of extremist right wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), incomprehensibly blamed the kebab shops for “aiding and abetting terrorism” and argued that they are one of the reasons of unemployment among the country.

No one could understand what Bahceli is talking about and soon this nonsense statement became a topic trend in social media with #kebapci hashtag.

Armed Men Attack MP’s Home

Tulay Hatimogullari, Deputy Co-Chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was attacked at her home last Friday by two armed men claiming to be undercover police officers.

MP Hatimogullari said that this is not an isolated event since abductions of dissidents became widespread recently in Turkey. She also stated that they (HDP) have a pretty good idea about the intent and they will not allow chaos to reign in the country.

Ex-EMEP Chair faces 15 Years Imprisonment

Levent Tuzel, the former MP and the former chair of the Labour Party of Turkey (EMEP) faces trial and up to 15 years jail over charges of terrorism and propaganda for participating in the activities of DTK. 

DTK stands for the “Democratic Society Congress”, a non- governmental organisation that aims to draw attention to democracy problems, particularly the Kurdish question in the country.  DTK has a wide profile of participants, from political parties to trade unions, academics and writers.

Last year Yusuf Karatas, columnist for Evrensel daily, was also put on trial and sentenced to 10 years and 6 months in prison for participating in the DTK panel as a member of the executive board of EMEP.

Students call for affordable student accommodation

There is a growing “Movement of the Unsheltered” protests against rising living costs and lack of affordable accommodation for students who are enrolled in universities in Turkey. Since last week students in seven cities are sleeping outdoors and camping, mainly at parks where they conduct their vigil.

Students also have launched a campaign on social media under the #barinamayanlar hashtag to call for solidarity. They are basically demanding rent controls, reduction in dormitory fees and a decent rise in higher education scholarships.

Education and Science Workers’ Union (Egitim-Sen) accused the government of failing to provide proper accommodation for students and forcing them to resort to the dorms run by Islamist sects.

“You are lying. Your life is a lie!” said President Erdogan in response to ongoing protests of the unsheltered students and claimed that some “irrelevant people” are sleeping on the park benches as part of “an ugly campaign”.

So far some major opposition municipalities -such as Ankara and İzmir- and a nongovernmental organisation -namely The Federation of Alevi Foundations- offered temporary accommodation for students in urgent need.

“We have just begun! We have nothing to lose and we are getting more crowded every day. Let’s extend this movement everywhere, starting with the campuses.” says the students within the movement in their Twitter account. (@barinamayanlar)

Remarks on the Kurdish Question

Ercument Akdeniz, the chair of the Labour Party of Turkey (EMEP) said on Tuesday, that the Kurdish question is a fact in Turkey and “the denial of the democratic demands of the Kurdish people is the main source of this question.”  Akdeniz made his statement on Twitter regarding the current discussions about who will be the interlocutor for the solution of the Kurdish question.

EMEP Chair Akdeniz also criticised the continuing discussions about the legitimacy of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) by underlying that “HDP is a democratic, legal and legitimate political party” and said that “The democratic solution of the Kurdish question is the responsibility of the people of Turkey as a whole, beyond the HDP.”

Debates on the interlocutors in resolving the Kurdish question sparked as Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Chairperson of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) commented on the Kurdish question in a documentary saying that his party could work with HDP to resolve the issue.

Sezai Temelli, former HDP Co-Chair commented on Kilicdaroglu’s remarks saying that Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is “the interlocutor” on the Kurdish question.

The extremist right wing political formations reacted fiercely to the statements of both Kilicdaroglu and Temelli. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) argued that the “CHP administration’s actions and statements have turned into a national security threat.” Bahceli the chair of MHP accused Kilicdaroglu for “legitimizing HDP” and said that there is not a “Kurdish issue” in Turkey and the ones who claims there is are “cravens.”

Meanwhile HDP Co-Chair Mithat Sancar has welcomed the remarks of main opposition leader and stated that the Parliament is the place of resolution and yet there are also other actors in the resolution of the Kurdish question.

Selahattin Demirtas former HDP Co-Chair also commented on the debate via his attorneys. Demirtas said that HDP is a political actor that aims to resolve all problems of Turkey, including the Kurdish question.

Emine Senyasar calls for support on 200th day of vigil for justice

Emine Senyasar, who lost her husband and two sons three years ago is calling for solidarity on Friday, September 24 which marks the 200th day of her vigil for justice.

The Senyasar family were subjected to a brutal attack on 14 June 2018 which was launched by the relatives of Ibrahim Yildiz, an MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Suruc district of Urfa, a southern province of Turkey.

According to security camera footages and eyewitnesses, in 2018 MP Yildiz’s family went to Senyasar family’s store asking for their votes as part of their election campaign.  During their visit a political argument took place between the families after which Yildiz’s family members went  back a second time to the shop and opened fire. After the incident all family members were transferred to Suruc State Hospital.

Emine Senyasar went to the hospital to see her sons with her husband, where all three were brutally killed the same day by a later raid 

by Yildiz’s family. A member of Yildiz family also lost his life at the same hospital as well. 

According to Turkish Medical Association’s (TTB) report about the massacre the raiders also destroyed the security cameras at the crime scene.

Fadil Senyasar, one of Emine Senyasar’s sons, who survived the attacks, has been sentenced to 37 years, 9 months in prison despite acting in self-defence.

“Emine Şenyaşar is the portrait of injustice in Turkey” says Ayse Acar Basaran, MP from Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Basaran also states that “the trial process shows how justice has been shaped by the interests of the government.”

“I want this cruelty to end and justice to be served. We need legal support” says Emine Senyasar, who is calling on lawyers to gather infront of Urfa Courthouse on Friday where she has been on justice vigil.

Another Kurdish Child Killed by Armoured Police Vehicle

Mihrac Miroglu (7) was killed by a Turkish policeman while riding his bicycle in front of his house in Sirnak province in the southeast of Turkey. According to Mezopotamya News Agency, Mihrac died shortly after the crash of an armoured vehicle on 3 September 2021.


“The deaths involving the security forces and the vehicles they use in Kurdish provinces are not accidents but massacres.” said Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in statement via Twitter.
Mihrac’s death is the latest incident of many, involving armoured vehicles belonging to the Turkish forces in Turkey’s Kurdish populated provinces. At least 40 people, 20 of them children, in the last 13 years have died in armoured vehicle killings. Particularly in Sirnak at least 76 children have been killed via police shooting or armoured vehicles in the past ten years.

Another recent armoured vehicle incident which could make the headlines was killings of siblings Muhammed (7) and Furkan Yildirim (6) again in Sirnak. The siblings were killed while they were sleeping inside their house on 3 May 2017. Omer Yegit, a Turkish policeman who crashed the armoured vehicle into their house almost acquitted on November 2020. 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 Yegit’s supervisor at that time, was acquitted of all charges.

Recently a footage of an armoured police vehicle trying to run over children in Batman (another Kurdish populated south-eastern province of Turkey) also created a public outcry. Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) condemned the incident and called on the justice and interior ministries for an official investigation.

At the time an investigation have been launched to the HDP Batman branch for “inciting the public to hatred and enmity” for sharing the footage via social media. (The footage can be reached at: https://twitter.com/HDPElih/status/1366101751007502339?s=20)

There are too many incidents involving armoured vehicles in Turkey’s Kurdish populated provinces and generally there are extraordinary obstacles to bringing perpetrators to justice. Even when a judiciary process takes place, there is a climate of impunity for government security forces.

Kurds brutally killed by Turkish Gang

Seven Kurds from the same family were brutally murdered today in a racist  attack in their home in Konya; a central province in Turkey.  

The Dedeoglu family was threatened and racially abused by a gang of 60 grey wolf members earlier this month. The racist group said to the Kurdish family, “We are nationalists, we will not let you live here. We don’t want Kurds here.” After that attack some of the perpetrators were detained but soon after released from custody. And today gunmen shot the family and set their house on fire.  

In a video footage filmed at the crime scene, voices were heard still shouting “We will not let a single Kurd be left here!” 

Turkey saw a big jump recently in politically motiviated racist crimes and offences against Kurds committed by supporters of the ruling party. 

Recent political murders include the shooting of Deniz Poyraz, a party member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) by a racist hitman in İzmir. 

“Racist attacks that have been forcibly flared up recently are starting to claim lives, and constitute a threat to every person who is different, starting with the Kurds. These racist attacks are being encouraged. This perilous game must end.” HDP said in a statement. 

“Seven Kurds, from the same family, three of which were women were murdered in Konya. The rulers who have been fueling hate speech for days and the bourgeois opposition that lends support to chauvinism is responsible of this attack. Let’s unite for fraternity against racism and fascism!” Labour Party of Turkey (EMEP) said in a statement. 

The massacre created a public outcry. Thousands of social media users, including representatives of community organisations, associations, politicians, journalists and academics, blamed the government and local authorities as abettors of this brutal attack. 

As SPOT we call for solidarity with the Kurdish people.

Gunman attacks HDP offices and kills employee in Turkey

Deniz Poyraz, a party employee at the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Izmir branch was killed today in a brutal attack at the party office.  

An armed attacker has been identified as  Onur Gencer. It is believed he entered the building in the early hours despite the presence of constant police force at the gate of the party building. He took Poyraz as a hostage and burned the property, and then killed her.

“Our friend, Deniz Poyraz, was murdered in the attack on our İzmir district building. The instigators and abettors of this brutal attack are the AKP-MHP government and the Ministry of Interior which constantly targets our party and our members” HDP said in a statement.

As the incident created a public outcry, Izmir Governor’s Office released a statement saying that the attacker was a former health care worker and has been detained. Onur Gencer is believed have been sent to fight in Syria against the Kurds and has previously shared armed photos from his time in Syria on his instagram. 


Onur Gencer (Instagram)

Democratic forces in Turkey have called for urgent solidarity stating that this brutal attack -which by itself has the capacity to be a trigger- has been triggered by AKP’s all-out attack against HDP and the constant harassment of democratically elected opposition politicians and the utter intolerance for criticism of government policies or officials.  


As SPOT we are calling on the progressive forces in UK to stand up for the people of Turkey.

Gendarmerie opens fire on peaceful protest in Turkey


Turkish gendarmerie opened fire against villagers protesting the demolition of their barns for a marble quarry in the village of Gurpinar in Van eastern province of Turkey on 26 May 2021.

“Where shall we go?” said the villagers stressing that their only source of income is livestock and they are afraid of the death of their animals.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP’s shared video recordings of the incident via their official social media accounts. The footage showing villagers screaming and running away while shots are being fired has caused outrage. Social media users expressed their reactions under the #VanGurpinardaVahset hashtag.

The mentioned footages can also be reached at: https://twitter.com/ekolojibirligi/status/1397912566978863107

SPOT calls for the immediate release of health care workers

Trade union leaders and the members of the Turkish Health and social service workers union (SES) were arrested last week.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office claims that the SES members “operated under the name of ‘the public health committee’ but were connected with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).” It is believed that the prosecution’s claim is connected to the previous accusations related to the round-the-clock military lockdown lasting 78 days from December 2015 to March 2016 in Turkey’s Kurdish populated towns. At the time SES members were accused of aiding “terrorists” due to their volunteer ambulance service in the area which saved lives during the military lockdown.

Turkey’s leading progressive unions and associations including Public Employees Trade Union (KESK) and Turkish Medical Association (TTB) released a joint press statement calling on the AKP government to release the SES members.

“The arrest of health workers is an intervention in the fight against the pandemic” said SES and Ankara Chamber of Medicine in their recent press statement.  

The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), Unison and Unite the Union (UNITE) has also expressed international solidarity with the Turkish health workers and called for their immediate release.

As SPOT we are calling on the Turkish government to release the health and social service workers immediately.

Organised Crime Leader Exposes AKP Corruption on Youtube

Sedat Peker, who was convicted for organised criminal activity in 2007 in Turkey, has broadcast a series of videos via his personal YouTube account. He has been in exile in Dubai for the last two weeks.

He released allegations against well-known figures in Turkey including Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, former Interior Minister Mehmet Agar and his son Tolga Agar – MP from ruling AKP.

“You will be defeated by a camera on a tripod” says Peker.

Mehmet Agar’s drug trafficking and illegal confiscation of a marina; Tolga Agar’s cover up about the death of a journalist who filed a complaint of sexual assault against him are among some of the revelations of Peker.

But Peker’s main target is Interior Minister Soylu. He claims that he heavily invested in Soylu in politics for the last 20 years, so much that he even is at odds with Berat Albayrak (Erdogan’s son in law) because of his support of Soylu which was going to be a license to get him back into the country. The Criminal leader also said that Soylu tipped him off about a legal action targeting himself so that he could escape abroad. 

Furthermore Peker doesn’t stop there, he exposes public offices of criminal activity, confesses that he is accustomed to such practices and even shared videos and exposed an individual close to the government who publicly denied speaking to him. 

Peker’s expose of senior Ministers and those close to Erdogan demonstrate the scale of corruption and illegality within the ruling AKP.

In the face of Israel’s brutal crimes, we can’t remain silent!

SPOT Statement on Palestine

Israel is attempting to ethnically cleanse Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, occupied Jerusalem.

As Palestinians protest in Jerusalem against these evictions, and Israel’s ongoing programme of ethnic cleansing, Israeli forces have responded with brutality, including an assault on worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque that has wounded hundreds.

Israel has now started bombarding the population of besieged Gaza, many refugees from Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948. So far, dozens of Palestinian civilians have been killed, including children.

The plans to forcibly dispossess the families is part and parcel of Israel’s attempt to alter the demographic balance of the city, by ethnically cleansing Palestinians, while simultaneously providing financial and political support for illegal Jewish-only settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.

The UK government must take immediate action and stop allowing Israel to act with impunity. It must demand an end to current proceedings to evict these families, and start holding Israel accountable for all its actions ,which contribute to the crime of apartheid. This includes through implementing sanctions, and banning the import of goods from Israel’s illegal settlements.

In the face of Israel’s brutal crimes, we can’t remain silent!

We demand that the UK government take action.

SAVE SHEIKH JARRAH, STOP BOMBING GAZA, FREE PALESTINE!

#SaveSheikhJarrah #FreePalestine

Turkish Army Kills Civilian in Dersim

Murat Yildiz, a 28-year-old Kurdish man was killed by Turkish soldiers in Dersim (Tunceli) in eastern Turkey on 7 May 2021.

Local sources said that Yildiz may have been killed by a drone (UAV) attack which occurred near the village of Agacpinar.

Tunceli Gendarmerie Command said in a written statement that three members of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were killed in the scope of “Operation Eren-7” in Tunceli and has released footage of the weapons and equipment allegedly belonging to the three people who died in a civilian car alongside Murat Yildiz. The earlier statements which were shared on the social media saying that “The operation was led by the Tunceli Gendarmerie Command and was assisted by the Turkish Air Force.” were deleted afterwards. At the time no official source shared any statement mentioning Murat Yildiz’s name or an incident concerning the targeted killing of a civilian.

Upon public reaction on the killing of Murat Yildiz -who was a great-grandson of a prominent spritual figure of the Dersim Alevi culture, Seyit Riza- official sources made contradictory statements. Murat Yildiz’s parents were summoned to the district gendarmerie headquarters and were asked to provide DNA samples for identification of a body. Yet the Governor’s Office of Tunceli said that “There is no civilian death and there has been no air or land bomb attack in any way.” The Governor’s office claims that “the terrorists detonated explosives in the vehicle.”  

Alican Onlu, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP for Tunceli gave an exclusive interview to SPOT regarding his visit to the Yildiz family. Onlu said that Mazlum Yildiz, father of Murat Yildiz was summoned to the Torunoba police headquarters where a police officer told him that his son’s car has been hit from the air. The father saw the remains of the vehicle and afterwards the remnants of the burnt body that still awaits identification. Onlu stressed that some social media accounts linked to the JOH (Gendarmerie Special Operations) members shared graphic images of the corpses which were deleted shortly after the official statements denying any drone (UAV) activity. Onlu also pointed out that the Governor’s Office has claimed that they have the video images of the full operation to deny the reports about a targeted killing of a civilian but have not not shared any recordings yet.

Dersim Bar Association has made a written statement calling for a comprehensive investigation into the incident, in their statement they highlight that “The villagers cited that there were two explosions, with helicopters and UAVs at the scene. Those who saw the vehicle reported that the vehicle was burnt and there were hundreds of bullet marks.”

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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

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/

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!

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. 

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. 

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. 

Boğaziçi Online Day of Action – Virtual Rally

Hundreds of academics, students, activists and trade unionists joined us in a day of action in solidarity with the Bogazici students in Turkey. Messages of support flooded in and a virtual rally was live-streamed on our facebook page.

Chaired by Baroness Christine Blower, speakers included Tariq Ali (Journalist and Writer), Jeremy Corbyn MP, Umut Turem (Bogazici Academic), Olgun Dursun (Bogazici Student), Vicky Blake (UCU President) Louise Regan (NEU/ETUC).

Find out more about the ongoing fight for academic freedom in Turkey and be inspired by the messages of support and commitment to international solidarity.

Our online rally is available to watch below:

Gare operation being used as an excuse for further crackdown in Turkey

The illegal assault of Turkish military in the Iraqi region of Gare has devastating consequences both for Turkey and the region.

The attack on Gare, where 13 Turkish security personnel held captive by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and 53 Kurdish guerrillas lost their lives alongside 3 high-ranking Turkish military officials conducting the assault, has raised many questions.

The families of the killed security personnel had been carrying out various activities via official channels for their relatives release since 2016.

Opposition parties have accused the government of failing to act for a peaceful release of the captives since the calls for negotiation made by Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were left unanswered by the Islamist AKP regime in the past six years.

“The government itself must be held accountable before the families of the captives and the public. (…) We call on national and international human rights organisations to take action to investigate the incident and the ensuing deaths in full detail.” said HDP in a statement. 

Ozturk Turkdogan, IHD co-chair, said that the killing of 13 people was a “war crime” and added that “An effective investigation should be carried out by impartial and independent bodies.”

Meanwhile AKP and its nationalist ally instantly vowed to expand operations against PKK.

“We will expand our operations into areas where threats are still dense. We will stay in the areas we secure as long as necessary to prevent similar attacks again.” said Erdogan.

Immediately after the incident, Communication Director of Erdogan released a video accusing HDP -the second biggest opposition party in the parliament- of being equal to PKK.

Analysts commented on the event saying that it looks like an operation designed entirely with domestic politics in mind; as an opportunity to put pressure on the Kurds, Bogazici students and other dissidents and as a path towards closing down the HDP before the elections. More than 700 people who have supported these comments and expressed similar criticisms have been arrested in Turkey since Monday for alleged PKK support, including HDP’s remaining provincial and district chairs.

It is evident that the regime in Turkey is using the death toll – that they caused themselves – as a pretext for new military invasions across the region, a way further to crackdown on dissidents inside Turkey and move toward a total authoritarianism.

Turkey accelerates steps towards facism as 718 people arrested in 40 provinces in 24 hours

Anybody who dares to criticise or defend the truth faces arrest and imprisonment in Turkey. The oppression of opposition groups, particularly HDP members continues. 

In the past 24 hours house raids and police operations have taken place in 40 provinces. 718 people, including HDP members and leadership,  have been arrested. The arrests in provinces such as Sirnak, Agri, Diyarbakir, Urfa, Van, Mardin, Siirt, Hakkari, Mersin and Elazig are a response to criticism expressed by those arrested against the state’s military operation on Gare in Iraq. 

On Saturday, the Turkish military organised an operation on Gare and no effort was made to rescue the 13 hostages held by the PKK, instead the Turkish military bombed the area with no calculations or precautions in place. Those who are saying that Erdogan and the Government should be held responsible for the deaths of the 13 soldiers who were held hostage are all being arrested. The immediate mass arrest and censorship of any criticism raises further concern about the speed at which facism is being established in the country. 

Poverty and desperation in Turkey lead to increasing suicides amongst workers

The deep socio-economic crisis under the AKP regime has led to working families and individuals facing poverty and desperation, with an increase in suicides particularly amongst young people. 

Unal Cetinkaya, a 25 year old construction worker killed himself in what appears to be one of a series of five suicides in the last five days in Kocaeli, Turkey.

“These are my final hours. I never wanted to do this but I cannot cope with the financial trouble.” Cetinkaya said in his suicide note.

Tugay Adak (28), Ahmet Tari (26), Samet Ozer (32) and Kadir Gunduz (28) also committed suicide at the same province in the last week to escape hunger and extreme poverty.

There is a strong correlation between the socio-economic circumstances in Turkey and suicidal despair. As the political and economic conditions deteriorate in the country, deaths from suicide cannot be seen as isolated individual cases.

Writer and women’s activist Aysen Sahin arrested

Aysen Sahin, writer at Evrensel newspaper and women’s rights activist was arrested at her home today and taken to İstanbul Police Headquarters. She shared news of her arrest on Twitter saying “Friends police are at the door, I am being taken to Vatan Police Station. I will get changed and leave. I was unable to let people know individually”. 

Evrensel Chief Editor Fatih Polat, stated that the police have not given a reason for arrest but that it is possibly in relation to the Bogazici protests. 

Student remanded in custody for insulting President Erdogan because her phone number ends in 12

Beyza Buldag, a fine arts student at Mimar Sinan university, has been arrested in relation to the Bogazici protests. In her questioning by prosecutors, she was accused of “insulting the president” and inciting the public to hatred and hostility through her posts on Twitter. The reason cited for the allegation was the use of account @boundayanisma and that the phone number registered to the account ended in 12. 

The purported link was that President Erdogan is the 12th president of Turkey. After her statement was taken, Buldag was referred to the court with an application for her to remain in custody. Buldag was remanded in custody by the court for having “incited the public to hatred”. 

“I salute your courage”

Tariq Ali, sends solidarity message to the Bogazici resistance in a special interview with Evrensel.

TARIQ ALI: I salute your courage. How and when the struggle for academic and other freedoms for minorities of every sort will end I cannot predict. But this moment in the history of modern Turkey will not be forgotten thanks to all of you. In the Western world they have found other ways to crush academic freedoms that were once taken for granted. And not just for students but also for the staff. Here money becomes the weapon. Many universities in Britain, for instance, are intellectual deserts. Your actions are an inspiration to your peers in Pakistan and India and Arab world too. More power to you, my friends.

Erdogan attacks Bogazici Resistance

President Erdogan once again branded the students of Bogazici University as terrorists in a speech to members of his ruling Islamist party today. Throughout his speech, Erdogan took several shots at the protestors who are demanding academic freedom. “This country will not be run by terrorists. We will do whatever is necessary to prevent this. (…) Are you students or terrorists trying to raid the rector’s room?” said Erdogan.

Erdogan also declared that his government will take an uncompromising stance against the protests. His response to the students right to protest shows that he is still in fear of the anti-government protest movement which occurred back in 2013: “This country will not again live a Gezi event in Taksim, we will not allow it.”

Erdogan’s nationalist ally Devlet Bahceli, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader, similarly targeted Bogazici resistance by claiming that “the terrorists” are disguised as students and added that they are not “children of the country.”

Countless people have been criminalised under the AKP regime in the last decade and currently Bogaziçi University staff and students are under attack.

Read our solidarity statement in defence of Bogazici students and academics here: https://tinyurl.com/bogazicisolidarity

SPOT calls for academics to sign solidarity statement in defence of Boğaziçi students and academics

Boğaziçi University staff and students are under government attacks. As SPOT we support their demands for academic freedom and freedom of expression, and call on academics to join our statement confirming our commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression as global values that should be upheld in Turkey and all over the world.

The statement calls on the Turkish president, his government, his governors, and his security apparatus to end the demonisation of Boğaziçi students and staff; release all Boğaziçi students in detention immediately, and respect the right of Boğaziçi staff and students to choose their rector.

The statement also calls on all heads of governments, higher education institutions, and UNESCO to call on the Turkish officials to respect the demands of Boğaziçi staff and students.

Add your signature now: https://tinyurl.com/bogazicisolidarity


Bogazici resistance call for solidarity as detainees are beaten and tortured

Students at Bogazici University in Istanbul began their protests nearly a month ago against the appointment of a new rector by President Erdogan. As resistance grows, more than 220 people were detained over the solidarity protests in Istanbul and Ankara in the last two days. There are numerous posts on the social media displaying torture or other ill-treatment footages against the protestors.

One of the videos of police brutality during protests in Istanbul has caused outrage which captures multiple police officers physically assaulting an already detained protestor. Police also used disproportionate force against the students and the public ahead of the solidarity protest in Ankara.

Bogazici University students, who were released after being detained, filed criminal complaints over torture and ill-treatments under detention.

Police also targeted journalists reporting at the rally. Halk TV reporter Erdinc Yılmaz and cameraman Murat Erkmen were both hit by rubber bullets as they were covering the demonstrations in Istanbul. Documentary director Kazim Kizil also suffered a serious injury on his face, near his eye.

Bogazici solidarity group said in their Twitter account that earlier today police had made other detentions at bus stops across Istanbul without valid justification to prevent a large crowd gathering in one place.

Bogazici students are calling for solidarity under these hastags:

#9dacama #AsağıyaBakmayacağız #BogaziciDireniyor #BogaziciSusmayacak

Turkish police deploy snipers as Bogazici resistance grows

Bogazici University students gathered today following a call from the campus solidarity group to protest in support for the students who were arrested on 30 January. 

The students were arrested over a collage illustration at a campus exhibition last week.  The exhibition where the mentioned artwork was displayed was part of the ongoing protests against the appointment of a new rector by President Erdogan early this year.  The collage depicts LGBT rainbow symbols alongside an image of a sacred Islamic site. 

Following the arrests, numerous officials from the government including the Interior minister made offensive statements about the students.

Police have been deployed to oversee todays planned solidarity protest and have even positioned snipers at surrounding buildings. During the protests police clashed with students who gathered at the gates of the Bogazici University campus and made further arrests. 

According to Turkish media, journalists were prevented from recording any images of the incident. 

The UK Government must end its silence on the increasingly authoritarian and regressive AKP regime. 

As SPOT we also call on MPs, Trade Unions, Human Rights Organisations, campaign groups and individuals to condemn the horrific attacks on democratic protests in Turkey. 

Turkey’s Interior minister uses hate speech against LGBT community

Students from Bogazici University have been arrested because of a collage at a campus exhibition. The artwork illustrates LGBT rainbow symbols alongside an image of a sacred Islamic site.  

Arrests come on the heels of academics and students at Bogazici University protesting against a government appointed rector since the early days of January 2021.

Since the news broke about the collage arrests, the Governor of Istanbul issued a statement about the incident and accused the students of “mocking religious beliefs.”

Suleyman Soylu, Interior Minister has also used discriminatory remarks about the LGBT community on his twitter account, saying, “4 LGBT deviants who committed the disrespect to the Kaaba-i Muazzama were detained at Bogazici University”.

Omer Celik, spokesman of the AKP, similarly targeted the students by depicting the illustration as “full of hatred and a deviant act.”

Hate speech towards the LGBT community has become a permanent fixture of the AKP’s political rhetoric. According to the Erdogan regime, approved sexual roles are limited to manly men and feminine women, whose principal task is to bear children.  

As this latest attack demonstrates, it is well evidenced that AKP uses the same old narratives concerning religious values for the criminalisation of individuals and groups who are demanding a secular and democratic society.

Farmers to march to Turkey’s Capital against agricultural policies

Farmers across Turkey will march to the capital city on 2 February to protest the agricultural policies of AKP. This is their fifth protest in the last two months.

According to Dilan Kutlu’s report from the ANKA Agency, farmers are warning that farming is no longer a viable livelihood and Turkey will face a devastating food crisis in soon. Farmers especially find it hard to adapt to the increasing costs, which they blame on government policies such as the privatisation of the fertiliser industry.

Huseyin Demirtas, Turkish Agriculturers’ Association (TZD) Chairman, similarly points to the privatisation of the fertiliser industry that occurred in the last decade and says that farmers cannot cope with the excessive fertiliser prices. Demirtas also told Evrensel newspaper that national agricultural policies are being planned by food monopolies.

In addition to the high input costs, farmers are also facing unfair and low initial purchase prices which pushes them into a deep debt cycle. As delinquent loans have increased, agricultural lending institutions are confiscating the tractors and the lands of the farmers. Farmers complain that the bulk of the money is going to the construction companies which work extensively with the ruling AKP and that the government is on the side of Limak, Kolin and Cengiz groups. Farmers are urging the government to erase the debt interest and find a sustainable solution for the agricultural crisis in Turkey.

Solidarity forced abducted Gokhan Gunes release

Gokhan Gunes, a left wing activist has returned to his home six days after he went missing.

At the time Gunes’ family had accessed a surveillance camera footage which captured the abduction of the 23 years old worker and stated that Turkish security forces were involved in his disappearance.

As the incident created a public outcry, Gunes was dropped off blindfolded in a remote district of Istanbul yesterday morning.

“The people who kidnapped and tortured me for days were calling themselves ‘the invisibles’” said Gunes at a press conference on Tuesday organised by the Human Rights Association.

Gunes also stated that the reason for this attack is his socialist identity and his abductors were trying to recruit him as an informant on the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP).

Overwhelming solidarity forced Gunes’s release but still the perpetrators of the incident have yet to be identified.

Suspicions mount over Turkish security force involvement in disappearance of Gokhan Gunes

Gokhan Gunes, a member of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) in Turkey has been missing since 20 January 2021. The disappearance of Gunes, a left wing activist, has brought to the fore the increase in disappearances in Turkey and there is now a widespread call for accountability as to the whereabouts of Gunes.  

Video footage shows that four people surrounded Gunes on his way to work in Istanbul and dragged him into a waiting car. The footage of the abduction was captured by a surveillance camera which the family were able to obtain by their own initiative. Gunes’ family have contacted the police but the authorities have so far denied that he is being held in custody and have launched an investigation into the person that passed the surveillance footage to the family.

Gunes’ family strongly believes that the unknown perpetrators are from state forces since Gokhan has been subjected to threats and harassment and an attempted kidnapping by them in the past. According to the report by the Morning Star newspaper, an ESP spokesperson, Cengiz Fidan said that one of the methods used by the state to stop socialists is through forced disappearances and pressure to become a state agent. Meanwhile police have also arrested 12 people who were protesting the abduction of Gokhan Gunes.

Feryal Clark, Labour MP for Enfield North, also commented on the kidnapping of Gunes on her Twitter account.  “It’s extremely concerning to hear about further forced disappearance of political activist in Turkey, the latest Mr Gokhan Gunes.” said Clark and called on Amnesty International for an investigation to determine the whereabouts of Gokhan Gunes.

SPOT calls for solidarity against these increasing attacks on the members of progressive forces in Turkey and for accountability for Gokhan Gunes and all enforced disappearances. 

#GökhanGüneşNerede

Tanrikulu Report Reveals 27,493 Cases of Torture and Ill Treatment under AKP

At least 27,493 people were subjected to torture and ill-treatment by the police or the gendarmerie in Turkey during the 2002-2020 period.

A total of 86 people have died as a result of torture under the ruling AKP government according to a report prepared by Sezgin Tanrikulu, regarding torture and ill-treatment in the country.

Tanrikulu, an opposition MP from the Republican People’s Party (CHP and the deputy chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Inquiry Committee, recently announced the findings of the “Report on Torture and Ill-Treatment under AKP Governments in 2002-2020 period.”

The report illustrates a growing pattern of torture, particularly in 2015 during which there were 5,671 documented cases.

Tanrikulu’s report also highlights that enforced disappearances  are also widespread since the failed coup of 15th July 2016. 

The increase in the serious abuses carried out by the law enforcement agencies seems to be part of the polarised violence climate reigning in the country.

There is an urgent need to act to end torture, inhuman and degrading treatment in Turkey. Standing up against breaches of human rights in Turkey is about standing up for our collective democratic future.

“We do not fear investigation” says Ankara Bar Association

In April 2020, the Ankara Bar Association criticised the Ministry for Religious Affairs for claiming that homosexuality and extramarital relationships spread illness in society. At the time, the Ankara Bar Association, criticised  Ali Erbas’ retention of his position as the Chair of the Ministry for Religious Affairs after his comments about homosexuality and noted that “having retained his role despite the statements he has made about women and children, we shouldn’t be surprised if he goes on in future talks to invite the public to come out in a witch hunt with torches to burn women”.

In a further act of intolerance for any form of criticism, the Ministry of Justice has allowed an investigation into Ankara Bar Association. 

The Chairman of the Bar Association in Ankara, Erinc Sagkan, has replied defiantly saying “There is nothing in our statement which insults religious values. (…) What we wrote is clear. It does not constitute crime. In response to the targeting of a particular group, as a Bar Association which understands human rights and our responsibilities, we reminded the Chair of the Ministry for religious Affairs the human rights contained in our constitution and in the European Convention on Human rights. We are not scared of this investigation. Our actual concern is the independence of the judiciary. It has to be said that in the 2020 Rule of Law Index we are 107 out of 128 countries”. 

Absurd reasons used to deny political prisoners parole

Didar Bozan, Merve Nur Isleyici and Ceylan Bozkurt were imprisoned for “terrorism” offences for attending press conferences and posting on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) social media group while they were university students. 

The three Kurdish women were convicted of “disseminating propaganda for an outlawed organisation” in 2016 as part of the politically motivated crackdown against dissidents in Turkey.

They all became eligible for parole in January 2021 in accordance with the government’s parole law permitting prisoners who have served at least half of their sentence to be released early. According to Ayca Soylemez’s report from Bianet they were denied parole because the prison administration is of the opinion that the students are not feeling “regretful for their crimes” and can not integrate with society.

“Parole has been virtually ruled out for political prisoners via new regulation which came into effect as of 1 January” said Imdat Atas, the representative speaking on behalf of the students.

According to Penal Execution Institution’s report – dated 7 January 2021 – regarding Didar Bozan’s psychological-social assessment, she cannot integrate with the society since she reads too much. (The Institution refers to the 57 books that Bozan could obtain from her family during her jail time.)

More notably, her eviction is not deemed appropriate in the report also on the grounds of rejecting “spiritual guidance” sessions with an Islamic religious official- which is provided by the Directorate of Religious Affairs.

This case shows how the AKP regime is suppressing the freedom of thought by abusing its powers over the judiciary and prisons to continue the oppression of political prisoners and deny justice.

Erdogan Insulted by Opposition Leader’s “So-called President” Remark

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) criticised Erdogan on the occasion of January 10 Working Journalists Day in Turkey for targeting an opposition daily newspaper. “If, in 2020, a country’s so-called president is directly targeting a newspaper and telling people, ‘I am not reading that newspaper, you should also not buy and read it,’ then think about the tutelage and oppression on the media there” said Kilicdaroglu.

Erdogan has strongly reacted to the “so-called president” description and filed a court complaint against Kilicdaroglu over his remarks.

As a matter of fact Erdogan himself is fond of the “so called” expression and never hesitates to use it. For example he spoke of the peace academics in the country as “so-called intellectuals” or has used the phrase “the so-called advocates of justice” when referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Recently he even said that the rights of the jailed Kurdish opposition leader are “so called”: “We are not going to protect the so-called rights of a terrorist like Demirtas.”

Erdogan’s list of his usage of the term “so called” goes on and on and with his latest reaction – when it was applied to himself – shows that he deems the phrase an insult.


Worker Death Toll in Turkey at least 2,427 in 2020

Health and Safety Labour Watch (ISIG) published its “Year 2020 Report of Workplace Manslaughters”. According to the report, last year, at least 2,427 workers lost their lives in workplace manslaughters.

The report is compiled using information from the national press (66%) and workplace safety specialists, workplace doctors, trade unions and local press (34%). The number of unannounced worker deaths is unknown.

In the report, the monthly distribution of workplace manslaughters was provided as follows:

January – 114 workers

February- 132 workers

March – 113 workers

April – 223 workers

May – 166 workers

June – 190 workers

July – 164 workers

August – 218 workers 

September – 211 workers

October – 232 workers

November – 308 workers 

December – 356 workers

In the gender distribution of workplace manslaughters in 2020, it was stressed that 148 women, 2,279 men workers lost their lives.

In the age distribution of workplace manslaughters, there were 22 child workers under the age of 14, and 46 workers aged between 15 and 17. It was noted that “between the ages 18 and 27, 258 workers; between the age of 28 and 50, 1,079 workers; between the age of 61 and 64, 708 workers; over the age of 65, 159 workers; and 155 workers at unknown age, lost their lives.”

SPOT is concerned by the large number of workers losing their lives everyday in Turkey, and supports trade unions, strikes and wider campaigns aimed at securing workers’ rights, particularly with respect to health and safety. 

Turkey’s media penalised for publishing news on government corruption

In 2018 it was revealed that Erdogan’s AKP, which governed Istanbul for 25 years, was responsible for embezzling 15 million Turkish Lira. In March 2019, the CHP, the opposition party which won the local elections in Istanbul began legal proceedings against the AKP.

Following this development the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Adil Karaismailoglu, banned the news stories relating to this corruption scandal. As if this wasn’t enough, he also banned news stories reporting on the ban itself. Media and news organisations which have defied the ban have been penalised. Most recently, Evrensel newspaper was issued a penalty (banning any advertisements in the paper for three days) for publishing a news story about the Cumhuriyet newspaper’s publishing of the Minister for Communications, Fahrettin Altun’s illegal housing development as a result of which Cumhuriyet itself was taken to court. These latest developments show that Turkey is progressing towards fascism, and yet Europe and the UK continue to support this regime. 

The oppressive regime in Turkey must be opposed and SPOT calls for solidarity against these increasing attacks on fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey.

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.

Everyone can be branded a terrorist in Turkey


Bogazici University academics and students continued their fifth day of protests, which were sparked by the latest appointment of the rector Melih Bulu (a member of Erdogan’s Islamist AKP party).

Erdogan accuses protestors, who are defending academic autonomy, and those supporting them of being “terrorism-related.”

Meanwhile, students are rejecting the accusations and have posted a video on social media remarking that in Erdogan’s Turkey, everyone can be branded as a terrorist. One of the students said: “I was declared a terrorist because I am exercising my democratic right to protest”.

Erdogan specifically targeted Canan Kaftancioglu, Istanbul Chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), due to her public support for the students at Bogazici and accused her of being a militant of an outlawed organization which is known as the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).

Kaftancioglu is widely recognised as a key factor in her party’s success against Erdogan in the municipal elections in Istanbul. Previously Istanbul had been held by AKP and its Islamist predecessors for 25 years.

In 2019, Kaftancioglu was sentenced to nearly 10 years on a range of fabricated charges including “terrorist propaganda” and insulting President Erdogan. The charges were related mostly to tweets that she has posted. An appeals court upheld the mentioned prison sentence on June 2020, this decision was later appealed against. 

After two decades of AKP rule, society and its institutions have been transformed and Turkey is increasingly shaped by nationalist, Islamist and authoritarian forces. 

As SPOT we support both the fight for academic freedom at Bogazici University and across Turkey, and the ongoing fight for democratic freedom. 

Evrensel newspaper fined for anniversary advert featuring Kurdish colours

Evrensel, a daily newspaper in Turkey, which has been under intense pressure since it first went to print in 1995, has been fined for an advert featuring a girl holding a yellow, green and yellow scarf. The advertisement commemorated the 25th anniversary of the newspaper.

The Ministry of Trade issued the fine alleging that featuring these colours meant that the advert contained  “elements that disrupt the public order, leading to acts of violence and illegal or condemned behaviour or encouraging or supporting such behaviours”.

TELE1, a television channel that is not aligned with the AKP, was also fined recently for airing the same advert.

Turkish authorities continue to punish dissident voices and suppress independent media sources. And this latest attack on Evrensel is part of the ongoing crackdown on independent media outlets that are not pro-Erdogan.


Erdogan tightens grip on universities

President Erdogan tightens his grip on universities as he directly appoints Professor Melih Bulu as the rector of Bogazici University, which is one of the most respected universities in the country.

Bulu has extremely close connections to Erdogan’s ruling party and is not from the university’s own academic community. The appointment has sparked reaction and criticisms include reference to Bulu’s lack of academic credentials and poor academic record. 

Academics at Bogazici University have released a statement saying that this is the first time since the “1980s military tutelage” that an academic from the outside of the university’s own community has been appointed as rector, ”We do not accept it as it clearly violates academic freedom and scientific autonomy, as well as the democratic values of our university.”

As if the AKP’s dismissals, expulsions, arrests and detentions of the academics since July 2016 were not enough, directly appointing university rectors sets both a dangerous precedent and greatly reduces the institutional autonomy of the universities and academic freedom in Turkey.

Police wait at hospital room to arrest woman following labour

Lawyers have criticised police in Turkey who have been waiting for Hacer Yildirim to be discharged from the hospital where she has just given birth. The decision to take into custody relates to the Bylock investigation (which concerns the use of a messaging app the government believes is linked to the Gulen movement). 

34 year old Yildirim’s baby is in intensive care due to water in the baby’s lungs. Yildirim’s lawyer Çiğdem Koç was outraged, saying “I am curious as to what her crime is…she cannot go anywhere in her state, there is no suspicion that she will run away. Detaining in custody is a precaution. What evidence do they expect her to tamper with? I don’t know how we can explain this? How can we explain the legal rights of women who have just give birth?”

Yıldırım is a sociology graduate from Erzurum Ataturk University. She was previously employed at Gaziantep District Governor Rehabilitation, Social Support and Solidarity Trust, and later Bolu Town Social Support and Solidarity Trust. In September 2016 Yildirim lost her job. Her husband, a teacher, was also dismissed from his work by decree and served 15 months in prison as part of the Government’s purge of public sector workers. Since that time Yildirim has been making ends meet selling hand made knitted bags, socks and dresses.

Regular monitoring shows dire state of media freedom in Turkey

Baris Yarkadas, ex-opposition MP and journalist continues to release regular reports on attacks on journalists and the media.  The latest report paints a tragic yet unsurprising picture with respect to press and media freedom in Turkey, showing that in December 2020 alone:

  • 35 journalists were brought before the courts,
  • 4 journalists were sentenced to 42 years and 6 months in prison,
  • 1 newspaper was given a 3 day ban on adverts,
  • 1 journalist was given a 10,000 Turkish Lira penalty, and 
  • 1 TV channel closed leaving 180 journalists unemployed

The report also shows that in 2020: 

  • 491 journalists were brought before the courts,
  • 37 journalists received a total of 151 years in prison, and 
  • 33 channels were subject to financial penalties and temporary closure. 

Protests called across Turkey after triple femicide in one day


Women across Turkey will take to the streets in protest following the murder of three women in one day. 

In 2020 at least 419 women have been killed by men in Turkey. Yesterday three more women died in this way. In Istanbul, Aylin Sozer’s throat was slit and she was burned to death by Kemal Delbe (allegedly her ex-boyfriend). In Malatya, Selda Tas was killed by her husband and in Antep, Vesile Donmez was killed by her son. 

There has been outrage at the ongoing impunity with which these murders continue to happen, especially in the context of growing concerns around the AKP’s failure to honour the Istanbul Agreement. Earlier in the year protests erupted against the AKP Government’s intention to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, which is widely regarded as providing an effective framework for the prevention of Violence Against Women. 

These horrific murders further amplify the failure of AKP government to effectively protect women at risk and apply much needed prevention measures in relation to escalating rates of femicide and violence against women. 

Protests have been called across Turkey: 

Dr Aylin Sozer’s students will be protesting her death at 14:00 today at Istanbul Aydin University where she taught.  

The End Violence Against Women Platform will be protesting 16:00 at Maltepe Karanfil  Street, Istanbul where Aylin Sozer was killed. 

The Campaign Group for the Implementation of the Istanbul Agreement will be holding a rally at 19:00 at Kadikoy Eminonu pier, Istanbul. 

Ankara Women’s Platform will be protesting outside Cankaya Municipality at 17:30.  

The Campaign Group – We are not giving up on the Istanbul Agreement is calling a protests at 17:30 at Karsiyaka Pier in Izmir. 

Adana Women’s Platform have also called a protest for 14:00 on 31st December. 

Turkey’s main opposition leader warns “Erdogan is a dictator”

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the main opposition the Republican People’s Party (CHP), warns that Turkey is on course for a deeper economic and social disaster and reiterated his call for a snap election.

“At present Turkey is ruled by a dictator. All Erdogan’s features are in keeping with the definition of a dictator by any political textbook”, said Kilicdaroglu who supports a reinforced role for parliament in the constitution.  

According to Birkan Bulut’s report for Evrensel Daily, Kilicdaroglu has said that despite all the negativity he is not pessimistic since he believes that “Turkey will surpass the current problems with its own internal dynamics and democracy.”

Kilicdaroglu also said that Turkey must implement the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) final judgment which orders immediate release of prominent Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas. “Constitution obliges the implementation of the ECHR decision. It will take a heavy toll if they won’t implement it. Though it would not be surprising. (…) This will result in breaking ties with the European Union.”

The case of Olay TV – A new low in Turkish Broadcasting History

Privately owned Olay TV has been subject to intense questioning by pro-government circles over its nonpartisan coverage of news stories and has been shut down after just 26 days on air on National TV. 

Suleyman Sarilar, Chief Editor of the channel said that Cavit Caglar (the channel’s owner) claimed he is under “great pressure from government and can not continue with this broadcasting team.” On the other hand Caglar also said he deemed the station’s editorial line was too pro-Kurdish and has personally decided to shut the channel down. 

Caglar, a controversial business figure and also a former Turkish government minister in 1990s, said “I have been active in centre-right politics and served this country. I was unsettled by the broadcasts of Olay TV’s editorial team”. 

In terms of media freedom we are already witnessing one of the most difficult periods in Turkey. Media ownership is concentrated in the hands of a few companies which are allied with Islamist AKP and has overlapping ownership in almost every sector in the country. 

Numerous independent TV channels, including Hayat TV and IMC TV were closed down in the last 5 years on the pretext of terrorism charges. As part of this ongoing suppression campaign, closure of Olay TV due to the hidden pressure mechanisms of the AKP regime, reflects a new low in Turkish broadcasting history. 

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.”

Notorious Judge Gurlek Sentences Exiled Journalist Can Dundar to 27 years in Jail

Can Dundar, a prominent journalist in exile since 2016, has been sentenced to 27 years in prison. This sentence is considered a continuation of the imprisonment of journalists through the use of arbitrary terrorism charges, as well as persistent harassment and suppression of media freedom by Turkey’s ruling AKP.

The sentence issued to Dundar relates to the publication of a news story evidencing the complicity of the National Intelligence Organisation of Turkey (MIT) in providing arms to ISIS in Syria. The story exposed the AKP government’s lies at the time. At the time some representatives of the government said that the arms were being transported to “Turkmen”, while others said that this was a transfer of “humanitarian aid.” In response to the news story, President Erdogan labelled Dundar as “the enemy of the state” and threatened that Dundar would “pay a heavy price”. Subsequently in 2016 Dundar, was sentenced to five years in prison and later released pending appeal.

In March 2018, the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed Dundar’s conviction for disclosing classified documents, saying that he should have been charged with espionage. A retrial began later the same year to which the current sentence relates.

Following outcry by journalists, political parties and democracy campaigners all over the world against Dundar’s latest sentence, President Erdogan’s communications director claimed that Dundar’s sentence does not violate freedom of expression and said that Turkey expects Germany to accept the court’s decision and extradite Can Dundar.

Meanwhile the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas responded to the extradition demand of exiled journalist by calling the verdict “a hard blow against independent journalistic work in Turkey.”

There has also been fierce reaction against the presiding judge in the sentencing of Dundar, who cited charges including “political espionage” and “aiding a terrorist organisation” in his decision to hand down a 27 year sentence. Few months ago the same judge also ordered the seizure of Dundar’s properties in Turkey as well as bank accounts in his name.

The judge, Akın Gurlek, is notoriously known for the heavy prison sentences in politically motivated lawsuits, and is frequently chosen to lead high-profile cases closely followed by the public. His history is full of rulings reflecting Erdogan’s significant control over the decisions of the judiciary. 

Notably, Gurlek’s list includes the trials of Selahattin Demirtas – former co-leader of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selcuk Kozagacli, – the Chair of Progressive Lawyers Association, and Canan Kaftancioglu – Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul Chair.

Gurlek was also the judge in the trial of Academics for Peace and behind the prison sentence issued to Sebnem Korur Fincanci, a prominent medical human rights expert and current Chair of Turkish Medical Association (TTB).  He also refused to implement the Constitutional Court’s “rights violation” decision regarding Enis Berberoglu, former MP from CHP.

These cases are all cited as evidence of the lack of independence of the judiciary in Turkey and how through hand picked judicial appointments President Erdogan exercises direct control over the actions of the judiciary. 

As SPOT we stand in solidarity with Can Dundar and all journalists who are facing oppression and imprisonment under the Erdogan regime.


Journalist Özcan Yaman fined for criticising President’s son

Özcan Yaman, an Evrensel journalist in Turkey has been fined 10 thousand lira for an article in which he criticises the Turkish President Erdogan’s son. The article concerned the 2014 telephone calls between the President and his son, Bilal Erdogan, which were leaked to the press. The phone calls revealed the bribes and corrupt way that Erdogan and his family made fortunes worth millions of dollars and euros. In the phone calls Erdogan calls his son to discuss how they can rescue the money, revealing money laundering activity. 

Yaman wrote an article on the subject on 4 April 2014 using a photograph taken by a photographer colleague. This article became the subject of legal action by the Erdogan family against Yaman. The case was heard in the court on 23 December as a result of which Yaman was fined 10 thousand lira. 

The lack of independent judiciary and the routine bowing of judges to the wishes of Erdogan means that no journalist in Turkey is offered a fair trial – both in the criminal and civil courts. It appears that this ruling, like many others in Turkey, is a further example of President Erdogan undermining the rule of law and stifling the freedom of the press. 

On the other hand, despite evidence of corruption and money laundering, no legal action has been taken against Erdogan, his family and or his close circle. 

European Human Rights Court orders immediate release of Selahattin Demirtas

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Turkey to immediately release from prison the prominent opposition politician Selahattin Demirtas (former co-chair of Peoples’ Democratic Party – HDP). 

The grand chamber ruling found that Demirtaş has had his freedom of expression, liberty and right to free elections breached, stating that his detention had “the ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate”. 

Demirtas has been imprisoned since 2016, accused of more than 100 separate charges (including being the leader of a terrorist organisation and insulting the president). He faces a total of 142 years.

In today’s binding judgment the Court stated that they did not see any evidence that established a link between Demirtas and the alleged offences. Demirtas is a leading figure and highly respected opposition politician, and it is widely acknowledged that his imprisonment is motivated by President Erdogan’s wish to entrench a one-man regime and stifle all democratic opposition.

The grand chamber judgment also states that the prolonged detention of Selahattin Demirtaş is contrary to “the very core of the concept of a democratic society” (…) and sends “a dangerous message to the entire population.”

SPOT calls for the immediate release of Selahattin Demirtas and all opposition politicians who have been arbitrarily detained in Turkey. 

SPOT calls for Freedom for Leyla Guven

Leyla Guven, former Peoples’ Democratic Party MP (HDP) and co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), has been sentenced to 22 years and 3 months in prison under the pretext of “establishing and leading a terrorist organisation.”

The ruling AKP accuse all progressive democratic opposition of terrorism as a means of silencing and suppressing growing dissent, and the imprisonment of Leyla Guven, prominent female politician is unacceptable. There has been an outcry by progressive organisations, political parties and democracy campaigners against the sentence and detention of Guven in Turkey. As SPOT we call for Leyla Guven’s immediate release.

Leyla is known for her hunger strike over 200 days, calling for an end to the isolation of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. She ended the strike in May 2019, following Ocalan’s meeting with his lawyers.

She was arrested in 2009 as part of a large crack-down against Kurdish politicians and was released in 2014. She was also imprisoned for a year in 2018 for calling the Turkish military operation against  Syrian Kurdish militia an “invasion.”

She was stripped of parliamentary immunity June this year due to another prison sentence she had received. Yesterday, while police were taking her into custody from her home in Diyarbakır, Guven said that “If I were to escape, you won’t even notice whatsoever. I am not going anywhere. Whether inside or outside, I will continue to do politics.”

In a statement, HDP said:

“Leyla Guven is the will of the people. Her resistance and struggle have been an inspiration to the people of the world. (…) This hostile decision is not only against Leyla Guven, not only against the DTK, but also against all the Kurds and the entire opposition. (…) Neither Leyla Guven nor we will give up the struggle because of punishments and arrests.”

Scores of women detainees reveal prevalence of torture and degrading treatment

Recently the declarations of an increasing number of woman detained on terrorism charges show that Turkish security forces are using strip searches systematically to enforce fear and to humiliate.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, MP from Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who brought up the claims regarding strip searching of female detainees across Turkey, said that in some cases detainees were asked to undress in front of several police officers and squat multiple times while naked.

In an interview on Euronews, Ozlem Zengin, vice chair of ruling lslamist AKP parliamentary group, denied the allegations by saying “I, by no means, believe that there are strip searches in Turkey.” She also accused Gergerlioglu of “terrorising the parliament” with these allegations. She even claimed that “the conditions in Turkey’s prisons are incomparably better than the rest of the world.”

Zengin’s denial stirred a debate on the social media. Even though the issue is still a taboo in Turkish culture, scores of woman detainees have found the courage to speak out, exposing their torture experiences under the hashtag “ÇıplakAramaya SessizKalma” (Don’t stay silent to strip searches).

Academic calls universities brothels

Known for his closeness to AKP, Sakarya University Faculty Member Prof. Dr. Ebubekir Sofuoğlu targeted young people by saying ‘Universities are brothels’

In the program named “Derin Kutu”, presented by Sabri Balaman on Akit TV (a mouthpiece for AKP and Erdogan’s propaganda), Prof. Dr. Ebubekir Sofuoğlu, speaking about the generation Z, said that participation in university classes is low.

Sofuoğlu, who had previously been shortlisted to run as an AKP MP, continued by saying “Our President has also stressed this. They are almost brothels”. When guests on the show challenged the remarks, Sofuoğlu offered to show them around adding that this was common place. 

Sakarya University Rector Prof. Dr. Fatih Savaşan made a statement on the subject on his social media account. Rector Savaşan said, “It is by no means possible to accept and tolerate the statements made by Prof. Dr. Ebubekir Sofuoğlu, a faculty member of our university, on a national channel.” 

Istanbul Prosecutors are investigating Sofuoğlu following his remarks and Sakarya University has also announced that it will launch an internal investigation into Sofuoğlu for degrading treatment based on social class, race, religion, denomination, sex or geography.  

Students, including the youth wing of Turkey’s Labour Party (Emek Genclik), have called for Sofuoğlu’s academic titles to be withdrawn and for him to be dismissed from the university. 

Erdogan directs judiciary to keep Demirtas and Kavala behind bars

Turkey’s President Erdogan has given a clear instruction to the judiciary to keep the jailed former co-leader of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas, and the human rights campaigner, Osman Kavala, behind bars.

When asked to comment on the unjust ongoing detention of Kavala and Demirtas, Erdogan said “Demirtas is a terrorist” and the “judiciary will not protect a terrorist like him.” In a statement, which is clearly aimed at warning the judiciary, he said “It is not for me to intervene in the business of the judiciary but we are not going to protect the so-called rights of a terrorist like Selahattin Demirtas. (…) I believe that our judiciary won’t provide an opportunity for a terrorist like him. We will never pave the way for his release.” 

These words show Erdogan’s intention to continue to deny justice to thousands activists, journalists and politicians (including those from the HDP) who remain behind bars.

It is well evidenced that Erdogan exercises significant control over the decisions of the judiciary and statements such as these result in the continued denial of justice for those already detained or in the criminalisation of individuals and groups he publicly targets. 

AKP registers all rainbow themed products 18+


Recently colours of the rainbow have become a political issue in Turkey.

A few months ago Egitim-Sen, the Teachers’ Trade Union in Turkey announced that school principals were receiving orders from local education directorates raising concerns about rainbow drawings. According to the Union’s statement, the Ministry of National Education has ordered teachers not to allow students to draw rainbows during the COVID-19 pandemic, amid fears that the drawings will “turn children gay.” 

The Ministry of Trade has also ordered the mandatory registration of rainbow coloured goods as “+18 label required products.” 

Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, yet this attempt of the ministry is based on the decision of the “Board of Advertisement”- to ban the patterns that resemble LGBT colours with the aim of “saving the kids” from the “sexual inversion”. 

Under the rule of Erdogan’s Islamist party, Turkey has become more and more conservative in recent years. Lately hate speech towards the LGBT community has become a permanent fixture of the AKP’s conservative political rhetoric. This +18 age warning on rainbow themed products is the latest example of the government’s attempts to suppress Turkey’s secular public. 

In addition to these homophobic regulations and political narratives of the AKP, other controversial changes which have sparked anger amongst the public include religion oriented new education curriculums and restrictive regulations on the sale of alcoholic beverages.

These overwhelming examples reflect the reality of living under the AKP regime, which has made significant moves away from being a secular state.

Reporting ban on new child abuse revelations in Batman

It has been reported that on 12 November 2020, a 15 year old child reported that she had been raped and got pregnant, to the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in the southeastern Batman province of Turkey. 

Further revelations about the sexual abuse experienced the minor were uncovered by Jinnews, a women-centered news agency, however many questions remain unanswered.

The tragedy has become a top-trending topic on Twitter in Turkey -under the hashtag “#GercüşteNeOluyor”- with people calling on authorities to reveal the claims of a child being sexually abused by 27 men, including soldiers and police officers.

After the sexual abuse was reported and caused a widespread outrage on the social media, Turkish authorities have imposed a publication and broadcast ban on the news regarding the allegations.

Since the news broke, the Governor of Batman issued a statement about the case and accused Jinnews of being “a supporter of a terror organisation”. Access has been blocked to the news agency’s website.

Suleyman Soylu, the Interior Minister said no public official has been identified as a suspect in the investigation despite numerous allegations. But the public has a deep rooted mistrust about Soylu as a result of his stance towards another sexual abuse offences, including one recently committed by a sergeant in the Turkish Army. On that occasion – which also occurred in Batman- a soldier kidnapped a teen and repeatedly raped her over a 20-day period and drove her to suicide. At the time, in response to the mounting reactions, Soylu issued a statement threatening legal action against media organisations that reported on the incident. Soylu has also accused women’s organisations of “constantly bringing this issue to the agenda in order to cover up the things done by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).”

With each passing day, an increasing number of women are becoming victims of femicide, violence and sexual abuse in Turkey.

Impunity is encouraged with reduced sentences and the release of perpetrators becoming routine. The public has lost trust not only in government officials but also the judiciary.

In the face of a growing epidemic of violence against women and girls in Turkey, the Governing AKP proposed withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, a European treaty designed to prevent violence and domestic abuse against women. This attempt in itself reflects AKP’s policies towards the women.

SPOT issued a call to action to end violence against women in Turkey on 25 November, and today we call again on MPs, Trade Unions, Human Rights Organisations, Women’s Organisations Campaign Groups, media and individuals to support the Women’s movement in Turkey.

Read our call to action here

#GercüşteNeOluyor

Teenage boy shot and killed by Turkish soldiers

Ozcan Erbas, a 16-year-old Kurdish boy was killed by Turkish soldiers in Hakkari -a southeastern province of Turkey- on 30 November 2020.

According to the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), SabriErbas, the victim’s uncle, said that Ozcan Erbas was having picnic at Anadag district with his two friends when the soldiers opened fire on them.  “We went to take him after learning about the incident, soldiers did not allow us to help him. Ozcan was shot by a bullet in the back. I finally carried Ozcan on my back and took him to the Hakkari State Hospital for a post-mortem examination.” told uncle Erbas.

The Hakkari governor called the teenagers “smugglers” in a written statement, said that Ozcan Erbas “was killed accidently while the soldiers were firing their guns into the air.”

People in Turkey’s Kurdish populated areas feel under siege because of the heavy presence of the military in the region and frequent crimes committed by the government security forces. Despite strong evidence of guilt, perpetrators often benefit from the deep rooted culture of impunity in Turkey.

Female worker at Kromsan factory fired for complaining about violence

A female Kromsan factory worker in Manisa named Selma Cetin shared her story on social media, after she experienced violence at the hands of an assistant foreman and then had her rights infringed by factory management.

The factory management declined to watch the security camera footage and instead decided to fire Selma Cetin by alleging that she “breached the rules of morality and goodwill” in the workplace.

Bosses continue to use article 25/2 to fire workers even though it is forbidden to fire workers during the pandemic. 

Women are particularly impacted as Article 25/2 allows an employer to terminate the employment of a worker without having to comply with prescribed notice periods or pay severance pay if the worker is found to engage in immoral or dishonourable conduct. Workers dismissed in this way struggle to find work with other employers because their employment record is marked with a code 29 and they are also not entitled to unemployment payments from the government.

This element of Turkish employment law has been used frequently in Turkey to dismiss women who complain about working conditions or have experienced harassment or assault at work. 


The myth of the “Independent Judiciary” in Turkey

Turkey’s Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) has appointed 11 judges and prosecutors as new members to the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The appointment came shortly after President Erdogan’s highly debated announcement about new judicial reforms aimed at stabilising the legal situation – one of the most fiercely debates topic in the country.

In the context of the biased composition of the HSK, these latest appointments do not offer any safeguards for the independence of the judiciary. On the contrary today’s appointments are yet another example of Erdogan’s control over the courts. The new list of appointees includes controversial prosecutors and judges, whose personal records thus far have demonstrated their lack of independence. For instance Irfan Fidan, Istanbul’s chief public prosecutor was mostly known for his notorious indictment against the human rights defender Osman Kavala.  

Another newly appointed member of the Supreme Court of Appeals is Yuksel Kocaman -Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor- who recently sparked controversy when he visited President Erdogan after his own wedding day. Afterwards Kocaman prepared an absurd new indictment to prevent the release of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) former co-chair Selahattin Demirtas. 

The list also includes Selfet Giray, chief judge of a High Criminal Court, which ruled on the most important mass trial known as the Akıncı case, regarding the coup attempt in Turkey in 2016.

These appointments show how appointments are made based on alliance or dependence on the AKP and President Erdogan, and further undermine the independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial in Turkey. 


Global coalition calls Turkey to account for lack of effective investigation into Elci’s death

Five years ago, on 28 November 2015, Diyarbakır Bar Association Chair Tahir Elçi was murdered while making a statement to the press in Sur, Diyarbakır. 

Elci was a highly respected lawyer who was well known for representing victims at the European Court of Human Rights in a cases relating to forced evictions of Kurdish villages, disappearances, and torture and ill-treatment by the security forces and the Turkish state. 

Shortly before his death on live TV Tahir Elçi stated, “The PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] is not a terrorist organisation.” The CNN, which aired the show, was fined 700 thousand lira and Tahir Elçi was detained as a result. 

Elci had also spoken publicly about death threats he recieved, including some which described how they would kill him. Five years after his death, those responsible for murdering Elci have not been brought to justice. 

The Turkish government, judiciary and police have shown a complete lack of respect for the rule of law, and failed in their responsibility to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the murder of Elci. 

The Turkish authorities’ failure to carry out a prompt, effective, impartial, and independent investigation into Tahir Elci’s death and bring to trial those responsible for his death is unacceptable. 

This year international lawyers and human rights organisations have issued statements and written to the Turkish State to call to account the lack of effective investigation into Tahir Elci’s death. 

A global coalition of human rights organisations and law societies have written a joint letter to the Turkish authorities to call for: 

  • the case to be heard by an independent, impartial, and competent court that is capable of establishing the facts and truth around the killing of Mr Elçi
  • all future hearings comply with international standards regarding the right to a fair trial, in which the victims’ rights are also recognised
  • the lawyers for the Elçi family be given reasonable opportunities to be heard and to make their applications in relation to the procedure and the evidence
  • where submissions are refused, reasons for refusal are given in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights 
  • a fair judicial procedure be followed, that those who are responsible for Tahir Elçi’s killing are held accountable and serve sentences appropriate to the gravity of the crime committed
  • the Elçi family be provided with appropriate redress for the violations they and their loved one have suffered in accordance with the international obligations of Turkey and the Minnesota Protocol. 

The full letter and signatories can be found here

Unionised Metal workers targeted by employers

Turkish authorities, who are notorious for breaching the international labour standards, continue to violate fundamental labour rights through illegal tactics.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, unpaid leave has been used as a stick against workers which reveals the unequal impact of the pandemic in the labour market compared to the other segments of the society.

The workers of Systemair HSK, Ozer Electricity and Baldur factories -which are the Turkish supply chains in the metal industry of major multinational companies- have been put on unpaid leave or fired for joining a union (without any severance pay). 

Birlesik Metal-Is (United Metal Workers’ Union) members decided to hold a protest march from Gebze, an industrial town in Kocaeli, to Ankara to fight back against the open and illegal assault on their right to freedom of association.

The police attacked the march and detained 99 people, including workers, union leaders and members of opposition political parties that stand in solidarity with the Birlesik Metal-Is.

Adnan Serdaroglu, the chairman of Birlesik Metal-Is said in a statement that there is a shameful process going on in the Turkey’s largest, most advanced industrial site “to keep the wheels turning.”

“The workers have a much higher risk of catching Covid than all other segments of the society. And these workers are condemned to low wages or put on unpaid leave or dismissed (…) for becoming a union member.” said Serdaroglu.

We urge all friends of labour to support this struggle of the metalworkers of Birlesik Metal-Is.

#MetalİşçisineYoluAç

#MetalciyleYürü

@BirlesikMetal

SPOT Call to Action on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Violence against women and gender inequality have intensified in Turkey in the past year, even as the women’s resistance has grown in Turkey against the relentless attacks on women’s rights and failure of the judiciary and police to bring to justice perpetrators. 

On 17 November, we met with women in Turkey to better understand the reality on the ground and the biggest issues for them. Joined by Filiz Kerestecioglu (HDP MP), Cevriye Aydin (Laywer) and Hilal Tok (Ekmek ve Gul) we hosted a webinar in which we discussed the lived experiences of women in the home and at work, as well as issues relating to judicial and police protections, the Istanbul Convention and the growing women’s movement. You can watch our subtitled webinar here or read an English transcript here:

Today, we published a Call to Action, which provides an outline of the latest developments on women’s rights in Turkey and a call to action to build international solidarity with the women’s movement in Turkey.  Read and share our Call to Action here:

What is SPOT calling for? 

The UK Government must end its silence on the increasingly authoritarian and regressive regime in Turkey. Parliament should debate the issue of violence against women in girls in Turkey, and call on Turkish Government to:

• end its criminalisation of progressive and democratic opposition, including the women’s movement, and

• improve gender equality, prevent violence against women and girls, end the exploitation and discrimination of women in the workplace, and fund organisations supporting women.

We also call on MPs, Trade Unions, Human Rights Organisations, Women’s Organisations Campaign Groups, media and individuals to support women in Turkey by:

• SPOT regularly releases news stories and updates. Help us by sharing updates with your organisations, followers, members and communities to increase the visibility of women fighting against gender quality and violence against women in Turkey. 

• Trade Unions and branches can affiliate to SPOT and adopt motions on Women in Turkey. SPOT can also provide support to build links with women’s sections of trade unions in Turkey to amplify the voices of women workers in Turkey.

• Human Rights Organisations and Women’s Organisations can proactively engage with developments on women’s rights in Turkey and promote the demands of the women’s movement in Turkey through social media and innovative campaigning.

• Work with us to monitor trials of notable femicides, as well as female activists, political leaders, journalists and public figures. Close trial monitoring has in the past been shown to be effective in putting pressure on the Turkish judiciary to act lawfully. 

• MPs, Mayors and Council Members can send video or written messages of solidarity to arrested and detained political leaders in Turkey.

• Write to the Government and your MP asking them to publicly condemn the AKP Government’s attacks on women in Turkey, call for the effective implementation of legislation to protect women from violence and take steps to address gender equality. 

SPOT is ready to work with interested organisations and individuals to continue building solidarity with the Women’s movement in Turkey.

Police officer guilty of killing student is acquitted

Kemal Kurkut, 23 year old university student at the Fine Arts Faculty, was killed by police during the Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır -a southeastern province of Turkey- on 21st March 2017.  

According to the Dicle News Agency (DIHA) Kurkut was shot despite a “Don’t shoot” order of the police chief. 

The published photos of the murder were documented by DIHA editor Abdurrahman Gok at the time of the incident. 

The photos show that Kurkut was arguing with police at the checkpoint and started to run shirtless through the checkpoint. Some police officers fired in the air and some fired on him. 

The expert report from General Command of Gendarmerie states that the bullet which killed Kurkut was fired by the defendant police officer Yakup Senocak.

Senocak who suspended from duty 3 months and was facing 9 years prison term for “deliberately causing death by negligence”. And today, despite the clear evidence and expert reports Senocak was acquitted at the Heavy Penal Court in Diyarbakır at the 12th hearing of the case. 

Gok’s photo journalism refuted the claims that Kurkut was “suspected to be a suicide attacker.”  Gok’s home was raided by police one month after the photos of the fatal shooting were published. Since the incident Turkish authorities have launched several investigations about the journalist’s reports and once he was detained for 3 days based on fabricated witness claims. Finally he was accused of “making terrorist propaganda” and now faces 20 years in jail. The first hearing of the indictment about Gok will be held on February 23, 2021 at Diyarbakır High Criminal Court.

Impunity for the police and a crackdown on journalists who dare to report the crimes of the security personnel are very common in Turkey. Authorities are trying to create a “climate of fear” for journalists by mass arrests, detentions and trials. The allegations of terrorist links has become a tool of suppression used frequently by the current AKP government, which exercises significant control over the police and judiciary.


WEBINAR: Women’s Rights and the Struggle in Turkey

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:

Speakers:

Filiz Kerestecioğlu, HDP MP

Cevriye Aydin, Lawyer

Journalist Hilal Tok, Journalist Ekmek ve Gul (Bread & Roses)

Sarya Tunc, Day-Mer Women’s Committee

Release for men who violently kill innocent woman

Kudret Yener’s throat was slit by two men during a violent robbery in the southern Turkish city of Adana in 2017.

A criminal court yesterday sentenced the defendants, İsmail and Vural Yetik to aggravated life imprisonment for the murder of the 72 year old woman.

Aggravated life sentences of the offenders were reduced to a life sentence due to “good conduct abatement” and both have been subsequently released with a conditional discharge.

“This release decision is an obvious judicial scandal, we are petrified. (…) How can one free the criminals that were sentenced to life? Now they’ll run freely, maybe they’ll kill someone else.” said Nesibe Gencer, sister of the murdered woman.

Certain categories of defendants such as “murderers, sex offenders, violent inmates, and domestic violence offenders” usually benefit from unreasonable “good conduct abatements” whilst those who are imprisoned solely for expressing their political views get no reduction in their sentence.

Likewise gender biased judgement of offenders is common practice in Turkey. Male offenders almost always receive reduced sentences compared to women that have been convicted based on similar crimes.

Turkish authorities wage war on colours… Yellow, Red and Green

The deputy mayor of Istanbul’s Kucukcekmece district – which is led by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) – has been suspended from his duty following an investigation related to a playground renewal in the region.

The investigation is about the colours and shapes on the rubber surfacing of the playground allegedly resembling the colours of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) flag: yellow, green and red.

Kemal Cebi, mayor of Kucukcekmece municipality describedthe incident as unfair and has urged for an end to this nonsense. He said “We cannot remove these colours from our lives just because the PKK uses these colours. Are we not going to use stars because there is a star in the PKK flag?”

Turkish state’s wage against the three colours: yellow, red andgreen is nothing new. Formerly the colours of the traffic lights in Kurdish provinces had been changed to yellow, red and blue, just to differ from the yellow, red and green combination.

And recently the media watchdog in Turkey fined a TV broadcaster, which published the video of the 25th anniversary of Evrensel newspaper, on the charge of “praising and encouraging terrorism, invigorating or justifying terrorist organisations” because of a girl holding a scarf with patterns of yellow, red and green in the video.

Organised crime leader welcomes finance minister’s resignation ahead of official confirmation

Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s finance minister, and also the son in law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, yesterday announced his resignation in an Instagram post.

Albayrak, who mentioned health reasons for his resignation also deleted his Twitter account at the same time.

Albayrak -who was previously Turkey’s energy minister for nearly three years- resigned a day after the replacement of the governor of the central bank in Turkey (TCMB).

Long before authorities issued an official confirmation or denial about Albayrak’s statement, Alaattin Çakıcı, a notorious mafia figure who is known for his affiliation with Erdogan’s ultra nationalist ally Devlet Bahçeli – commented on the resignation on his Twitter account.

“If our head of state reshuffles him (his son in law) due to opposition pressure, he is basically saying that ‘for the survival of the state, if necessary, I will cut off my arm, if the economy will improve with this resignation for the state and our nation, it will be good.’”

At Bahçeli’s special request Cakici was released from prison on April 2020, benefiting from a bill releasing prisoners due to COVID-19 concerns. Meanwhile numerous political prisoners remain imprisoned.  

Cakici also said that “If the captain at the head of the state told the vice-captain to rest for a while, it is normal. If the dismissal is in the interest of the state, God bless you.”

Cakici’s comments attracted attention on social media since the pro-government media in Turkey were unwilling to announce the resignation of the President’s son in law until receiving official confirmation.

Cakici is known for sending threatening letters addressed to Erdogan whilst in prison.  The utterly discriminatory pandemic amnesty which Cakici benefited from, raises questions about the level of  influence a convicted organised criminal has over the government and also Turkey’s direction of travel towards a mafia state.

AKP’s spokesman Omer Celik today acknowledged Albayrak’s resignation during a press conference, saying only that “it is solely up to Erdogan to accept the resignation or make an announcement.”

Eventually after hours of uncertainty a statement was made by the Government’s Communications Directorate on Twitter: “As a result of the evaluation by our President, Minister of Treasury and Finance Berat Albayrak’s request to be relieved of his duty has been accepted”.

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.

Earthquakes don’t kill people but Governments do

As of today at least 111 people died and 1034 people have been injured in İzmir, the coastal city of Turkey, after a strong earthquake struck in the Aegean Sea on Friday 30 October.

According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) the magnitude of the earthquake was 6.6, on the other hand the United States Geological Survey put the magnitude of the tremor at 7.0.

9 buildings in İzmir completely collapsed and lots of others are heavily damaged and search and rescue operations are ongoing on the fifth day.

Turkey is among the most earthquake-prone countries in the world but is ill-prepared against them.

More than two decades after the devastating earthquake in which according to official numbers more than 18,000 people died, this latest disaster revealed that Turkey is still ill prepared for such big tremors.

Following the massive earthquake disaster in 1999, extraordinary measures were declared and a “special communication tax” was one of them. Since then Turkey has collected around 66 billion Turkish liras through this tax “in order to relieve the damages” and prepare for future earthquakes. Today people are questioning what the collected taxes have been spent on.

Mehmet Şimşek, Turkey’s former Minister of Finance once told reporters that, the government had spent the special tax revenues largely on motorways rather repairing buildings damaged in the previous tremor.

In addition to this reckless misconduct the AKP government also issued several amnesties for unregulated construction works and hundreds of thousands of illegal buildings were registered. This means that there are no actual deterrent sanctions for the violations of construction laws and regulations.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has brought the earthquake discussion into the parliamentary agenda 58 times and the government has rejected all of the presented motions.

Earthquakes do not kill people but governments do, and Erdogan’s AKP and the far-right Bahceli’s Party are partners in this crime.

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.

 

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.”

Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking Erdogan stirs new debate on freedom of speech

Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magasine, caused a stir by publishing a cartoon, mocking Turkey’s President Erdogan.

The front page caricature of the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo, depicts Erdogan in underpants and lifting up the skirt of a woman wearing a hijab to reveal her naked bottom and his speech bubble says “Ooh, the prophet!”

Charlie Hebdo’s Erdogan cartoon came after last week’s diplomatic row between Turkey and France following the cruel murder of a teacher in Paris.

Samuel Paty, the teacher was beheaded by a jihadist for showing his students Charlie Hebdo caricatures of the prophet Muhammad in a lesson on freedom of speech.

French President Macron defended Charlie Hebdo and cartoons of the prophet Muhammad were projected onto government buildings in France as part of a tribute to Samuel Paty.

Erdogan urged Turks to boycott French products in response to Macron’s defence of Charlie Hebdo.

Back in 2015 the satirical magasine itself also became a target of Islamist jihadists in which 12 people were killed after publishing the mentioned cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

Charlie Hebdo is part of a tradition in French journalism which uses political satire to mock anything deemed as taboo.

The caricature of Erdogan sparked anger among the proponents of the Turkish government. “We condemn this most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred” said Erdogan’s Communication Director.

Erdogan himself has no tolerance for this kind of criticism and has sued many Turkish cartoon magasines for illustrations of him. He even sued Jan Böhmermann, a German comedian, for a poem which offended him. A German court ruled in favour of Erdogan then and prevented comedian Böhmermann repeating his poem about Erdogan.

At that time Boris Johnson also won the English magasine The Spectator’s “President Erdogan Offensive Poetry Competition”. In his poem he calls the president a “wankerer”, criticising the German court’s ruling.

Back then Johnson said that “Erdoğan may imprison his opponents in Turkey. Chancellor Merkel may imprison Erdoğan’s critics in Germany. But in Britain we still live and breathe free. We need no foreign potentate to tell us what we may think or say.”

Turkey forbids healthcare workers from resigning or retiring

Turkey’s Health Ministry issued a circular today announcing that “due to the coronavirus pandemic measures” resignations of the health workers would not be accepted.

According to the document, healthcare workers will not be allowed to take their annual leaves and retirement procedures were also suspended with mandatory exceptions.

Healthcare workers in Turkey were resigning to protest the lack of measures to contain the pandemic and harsh working conditions.

Disbelief over official Covid-19 figures is common among healthcare workers due to inconsistencies between the official counts and reports from the ground.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) -which has long been a target of Erdogan- has repeatedly stated in recent months that the outbreak is much worse than what is being reported in the national tally.

Commenting about the ban on resignations on healthcare workers, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the chairwoman of the TTB said that this decision “demonstrates the (true) extent of the pandemic in the country.”

Opposition figures stated that despite the significant danger of the coronavirus pandemic, government is hiding the true extent of the spread to keep the economy moving.  There is also a high level of public mistrust of official coronavirus data released by the Health Ministry in Turkey.

Opposition events and protests banned in Van province in Turkey for five years

 

The governor of Turkey’s eastern province of Van, has once again issued an order which bans all protest marches, open-air meetings and press statements within the boundaries of the city for 15 days as of October 21.

The ban which supposed to be temporary under exceptional circumstances has been extended for multiple times since it was first imposed in November 21, 2016.

The everlasting extensions have made the State of Emergency permanent for the opposition parties and for NGO’s in the region. On the other hand the alliance of Islamist Erdogan’s Party and the far-right Bahceli’s Party are not restricted by any means. Members of these pro-government groups can hold demonstrations and events in the city. There is no prohibitive attitude towards them.

Kurdish populated cities like Van have a long history of discriminatory practices by governors.

President Erdogan says Macron “needs mental health treatment”

Turkey’s president, Erdogan, has criticised the projection of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad onto buildings following the beheading of a teacher in France and targeted Macron. Erdogan said of Macron that he needs “mental health treatment”.

French president Emmanuel Macron, recalled Herve Magro, his ambassador in Ankara to Paris to consult. In relation to Erdogan’s comment, Macron said it was “unacceptable”.

A statement was made at the Elysee Palace that “Erdogan’s comments are unacceptable. Outrage and rudeness are not a method. We want Erdogan to change his policy, which is dangerous in all aspects. We will not get involved in unnecessary polemics and we cannot accept these insults”

Turkey to build 39 new prisons in 2021

Turkey’s parliament discussed the country’s 2021 budget which aims to allocate 24 billion Turkish lira (£ 2.4 billion) for expenditures of the Ministry of Justice.

According to Turkish media the Ministry of Justice plans to spend significant portion of this amount for the construction of 39 new prisons. This means that Turkey’s already extremely high incarceration rate will increase much more. As of May 2020 the incarceration rate in Turkey was 344 prisoners per 100,000 residents which is the second highest rate in OECD countries.

In the last decade hundreds of thousands of people who were considered critical of the current government -in particular opposition politicians, journalists and political activists- have been jailed on terrorism charges and subjected to ill-treatment in Turkey.

Politician’s supporting Erdogan must remember that anybody can become a victim of the judiciary in Turkey where the court rulings are influenced by Erdogan’s decisions.

Governor orders closure of restaurant because the worker did not recognise him

Ali Fuat Atik, the governor of Denizli -southwestern province of Turkey- has stirred a debate on the social media about his attitude towards shopkeepers and workers.

As seen on the videos uploaded to various Twitter accounts, Atik was visiting shops as part of Coronavirus inspections and a worker at a restaurant did not recognise him.

The worker continued doing his job and did not answer the governor’s conversation attempt.

Atik got furious at the lack of attention he received and ordered the shop to be closed under the pretext of enforcing Coronavirus pandemic measures even though there were no violations. Such incidents are a common occurrence across Turkey, with AKP politicians frequently abusing their authority. 

It was only after public outcry and criticism on social media that the governor was forced to apologise for his behaviour and apologised to the worker. 

According to the governor’s statement the order closing the venue has been cancelled.

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.”

 

Turkish Court refuses to comply with Constitutional Court Order in Berberoglu case

Today a Turkish court refused to comply with a retrial order by the Constitutional Court, despite being legally required to do so. The retrial order states that Enis Berberoğlu’s (a former MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party – CHP) right to be elected and engage in political activities and right to personal liberty and security have been violated, and orders a retrial.

The Constitutional Court sent Berberoğlu’s file to İstanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court for retrial. However the Penal Court unconstitutionally rejected the ruling.

A complex judicial process has been ongoing for sometime in relation to Berberoğlu’s conviction.

Many opposition figures from pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were jailed before but he was the first CHP MP jailed in a crackdown by President Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of CHP held a protest march from Ankara to İstanbul in 2017 when Berberoğlu was convicted and sentenced for espionage.

Berberoğlu was convicted of espionage for giving an opposition newspaper a video about Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT) trucking weapons into Syria.

A short while ago in September, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu started a debate on the Constitutional Court’s rulings. Subsequently Erdogan’s nationalist ally Devlet Bahçeli from Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said that The Constitutional court needs “a reconstruction in accordance with the nature of the new government system.”  

And finally asked about Bahçeli’s proposal, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – who had previously made clear that he does not respect the court’s rulings – said that he will be glad to approve such an amendment if the legislative body ratifies it.

 

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.

“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.  

 

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.

 

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.

“September is the Darkest Month” says Turkey Press Freedom Report  

Utku Çakırözer, MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has published the Press Freedom Report in Turkey for September 2020.

Çakırözer said that “September is the darkest month of this year with regard to freedom of press.”

According to the report, during September more than 60 journalists were on trial and 14 journalists face a total of 54 years in prison. Two more journalists have been arrested and six more detained.

Halk TV and TELE1 TV, broadcasters in Turkey, have been ordered to black out their screens for 5 days by Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), the broadcasting regulation body in Turkey. Furthermore 4 different TV channels were fined.

Yeni Yaşam, a daily newspaper, was also fined and had access blocked to their web site.

Turkey has also widened its already strict regulation of online broadcasting via a new legislation which controls and monitors use of social media platforms as of October 1. “Such a regulation will deprive millions of citizens of their freedom of expression.” said Çakırözer.

Social media platforms represent the last open channel for dissident journalists in Turkey. This regulation will restrict both freedom of expression and access to independent information in Turkey, which already ranks 154 out of 180 countries, according to Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

 

More HDP members detained as Turkey’s crackdown on Kurds deepens

Ayhan Bilgen, ex-MP from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the co-mayor of Kars province in the east of Turkey, was detained on 25 September for participating in the October 2014 protests against the siege of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani by Islamic State, alongside of many other prominent members of the party.

And in the early hours of today another operation targeting the HDP members was carried out in Kars. 19 HDP members including co-mayor Şevin Alaca Kars, Deputy co-mayor Muazzez Çağrıtekinci,

and provincial co-chair Cengiz Anlı HDP were detained on the allegation of being a member of an illegal terrorist organisation.

The latest detention of HDP members have overlapped with Ayhan Bilgen’s announcement about his resignation decision via his Twitter account on Sept. 30. Bilgen has stated that he will resign from his post if no trustee is appointed when his detention period ends.

Bilgen also said that “Kars is competent enough to govern itself” since municipal council has made decisions unanimously for the last one and a half year. Bilgen suggested that five parties can form a new administration for the Kars municipality by coming to an agreement.  

Since the March 2019 municipal elections, mayors have been replaced by trustees in more than half of the municipalities won by the HDP. Kars is the latest province which is governed by HDP co-mayors.

HDP is a legal political party in Turkey, but participating to the party activities can easily result in charges of “terrorism”.

Appointing trustees by fabricated allegations is a violation of the right to vote and harms democracy.

We urge British politicians to respond to the crackdowns against HDP and to condemn AKP’s attacks on democracy.

 

Controversial Regulation to Tighten Turkey’s Grip on Social Media

Turkey, the world’s worst jailer of journalists, continues its crackdown on dissident voices.

Turkey has introduced new legal provisions, which controls and monitors use of social media platforms. Social media is currently the main channel for opponents and campaigners, and these new rules threaten the existence of social media platforms in the country both through costly fines and bandwidth restrictions up to 95 percent.

According to the legislation, social media platforms are obligated to have a representative in Turkey and these representatives have to share the IP addresses or user information upon request. The basic aim of this regulation is to make it impossible for the dissidents to be anonymous on social media.

Until today blocking access to the URL addresses was the main tool for censorship but from now on search engines and content providers can be forced to delete information.

This regulation is both a violation of freedom of expression and also a direct restriction of the right to access information.


Turkey punishes another TV channel by blackening out its screens

Halk TV in Turkey has been ordered to black out its screen for 5 days by the TV and Radio governing body (RTUK) for a program they broadcasted. The body accuses the channel of offending and underestimating the Turkish Armed Forces. It also accuses the channel of going against the rules set by the governing body which allegedly protects the principles of the Republic.

For this reason Halk TV will be forced to have its screen shut between 28 September and 3 October. Freedom of press and expression in Turkey is near non-existent and fines are enforced at all levels.

On 25 September Yeni Yasam newspaper was fined and had access denied to the paper. Only last month TELE1 TV channel was also fined and had their screen blacked out for 5 days.

 

 

Prosecutors order the arrest of dissidents, including Kurdish Opposition

In the early hours of 25 September in Turkey, 82 people, including former executives and prominent members of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), were arrested for participating in the October 2014 protests against the siege of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani by Islamic State.

Back then huge protests took place in Turkey’s southeast in which protestors accused the Turkish army of protecting Islamic State.

President Tayyip Erdogan’s government accuses anyone who is not supporting AKP’s Islamic-nationalist alliance in the country with having links to terrorism and/or being a traitor. This has resulted in the prosecution of thousands.  

Mayors have been replaced by trustees in municipalities won by the HDP, thousands of members including former co-leaders and the MPs of the party were detained.

There is also a climate of intimidation against journalists and writers. Prominent journalist Can Dündar, was arrested and charged with aiding an armed terrorist organization after publishing photos and videos of Turkish intelligence officials trucking arms to Syria in 2014.  

Similarly, acclaimed writer Aslı Erdoğan was arrested in 2016 alongside more than 20 other journalists for being an advisory board member and columnist of a pro-Kurdish newspaper.

And yet again today in addition to the arrested HDP members, dissident writers were also on the target list of Erdogan’s prosecutors. Members of the “Anonymous Movement” (İsimsizler Hareketi), a social media solidarity group of writers and journalists with different political backgrounds aiming to fight against the propaganda of pro-government trolls, have also been targeted and detained.

We urge the UK government to end collaboration with Erdogan’s oppressive regime and stand with dissidents and democratic institutions.

 

Presidential Decree Issued To Confiscate Villagers’ Land

Every day Turkey is becoming a more eco-destructive country and a highly controversial project is again on the country’s agenda.

The Biogas plant project at Çapaklı, a village in Turkey’s western Manisa province, is another example of the Turkish government’s support of construction with no regard for the environmental impact.

Residents of Çapaklı, a village surrounded with fertile farmlands and olive gardens, have been resisting the construction project, saying that they are the owners of these lands and will be displaced, with nowhere else to go, if the plant goes ahead.

As seen on many other occasions, once again security forces were brought in and used disproportionate force to break the villagers’ resistance back in July and detained more than 30 villagers at the time.

Now a presidential decree has been issued in the country’s official gazette which begins the procedure for land expropriation in the region to make way for the biogas plant construction.

Seçil Ege Değerli, lawyer representing the villagers, criticised the decision saying that “immediate expropriation is an extraordinary method that can be employed only under exceptional circumstances.”

Değerli also described the ongoing process as “legal but unlawful” and stated that “there is no benefit to the overall public nor the villagers, and the decision is solely for the interests of the private (biogas) company.”

We call for solidarity with the resistance and stand against the capitalist exploitation of the environment.

Security Forces raid activists’ resistance area in Mount Ida

The resistance against the mining operations of Canada-based Alamos Gold Inc and its Turkish subcontractor Doğu Biga Mining at Mount Ida (Kazdağları) in Turkey’s north western Çanakkale province has been continuing for 425 days.

Activists say that the mining project will harm the natural cycle irreversibly by contaminating soil and water sources to extract gold. Over time ad-hoc protests in the region evolved into a large-scale solidarity campaign against the destruction of the precious ecological structure of the mountainous area.

Alamos Gold and Doğu Biga are still operating in the area despite their legal mining licence being expired, and according to the satellite images, they have cut down more trees than they earlier claimed. Yet protestors have been fined 500,000 Turkish Liras under the pretext of enforcing Coronavirus pandemic measures for their ongoing resistance.

Turkish gendarmerie raided the protestors’ Kirazlı campaign area at Mount Ida on September 22 and detained four of them.

Government and its security forces are the protectors of this project which is plundering the areas natural resources and as the social solidarity gains momentum they are making efforts to block the resistance, both locally and globally.

We call for solidarity with the resistance and stand against the ecological destruction of Mount Ida.

#KazdağlarınıSavun

#KazdağlarıHepimizin

 

 

Evrensel columnist sentenced to 10 years and 6 months imprisonment

 

Yusuf Karatas, columnist for Evrensel Newspaper has been sentenced to 10 years and 6 months in prison for participating in the Democratic Society Congress (known as the DTK) panel in 2011.

Karatas spoke at the DTK as a member of the executive of the Labour Party of Turkey (Emek Partisi, or EMEP). Like Karatas, other executives and MPs from the current ruling party, the AKP, also spoke at the event. However Karatas has faced charges of “terrorism” whilst AKP representatives have not faced any proceedings.

Karatas who has been sentenced for his participation in panels in 2011, was detained in July 2017 and imprisoned for 57 days at the time. He was later released pending the trial.

EMEP is a legal political party in Turkey, but speaking publicly on behalf a legal party can easily result in charges of “terrorism” and imprisonment if you do not support the ruling AKP.

 

 

 

Soldiers throw villagers out of military helicopter in Turkey

Servet Turgut and Osman Şiban were detained on September 11 by soldiers conducting an operation in the Çatak district of Van province in the east of Turkey.

According to eyewitnesses the two men were subjected to torture in the village square and then detained in a military helicopter. Other villagers who defied the detention were also threatened with death by the soldiers.

Relatives tried to find the whereabouts of the detainees but could not get an answer from the soldiers. When the relatives threatened to go to the press, an unnamed official told them that they are receiving treatment in the Van Regional Training and Research Hospital.

Later Servet Turgut ve Osman Şiban were found by their families at hospital under intensive care after they were thrown out of the helicopter by the soldiers. The families have applied to the Van Bar Association Human Rights Commission and filed a criminal complaint for manslaughter.

There have been numerous reports about the ill treatment to the Kurdish people by Turkish soldiers, and in recent months human rights violations and particularly the cases of torture in Turkey have increased.

We urge all human rights organisations not to be silent and stand up for the right to life and freedom from torture in Turkey.

 

 

Journalist Can Dündar’s property to be confiscated

Turkish courts have ruled in favour of confiscating Can Dündar’s property. Can Dündar was imprisoned for espionage in Turkey after exposing the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation’s (known as MIT) complicity in the provision of arms to ISIS. Dündar had taken the decision to publish the story when he was the chief editor of Cumhuriyet.

During Dundar’s trial he was the victim of armed assault. The experienced journalist was forced to flee the country as his life was at risk and a decision was made in the case against him on 17 September. According to the judgment, if Can Dündar does not return to Turkey within 15 days, he will be considered a fugitive and his property in Turkey will be confiscated.

Can Dündar made a statement following the judgement of the court, saying that in the past 40 years he has worked as a journalist, documentary maker and writer, and that it has been through his and his wife’s labour that they have been able to buy a home and summer home. He said that these kinds of actions cannot stop people telling the truth.

When the complicity of the National Intelligence Organisation in providing arms to ISIS in Syria was exposed, the Turkish state authorities did not refute the existence of the arms and gave conflicting explanations. Some representatives said at the time that the arms were being transported to “Turkmen”, others said “a secret service can do anything.
Exposing these secrets is a betrayal” – showing that even when the National Intelligence Organisation is giving weapons to terrorist organisation ISIS, publishing this as news is considered “treason” and treated as criminal.

100 musicians commit suicide in Turkey

100 musicians commit suicide in Turkey

It has been announced that 100 musicians and singers have committed suicide in Turkey since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has caused significant hardship for those employed in the music  industry.  Throughout the pandemic there has been no government support provided to artists and musicians, many of whom have committed suicide because they have been unable to work or provide for their families.

Gamze Tascier, MP for the main opposition party CHP, shared with the public information from the Musician’s union (Muzik-Sen). Tascier highlighted that many have had to sell their musical instruments and said that “most work with no security and workers in the music and performing arts industry do not benefit from any government support. Hundreds of thousands of people have been left to starvation and death”.

 

Turkish Medical Association under threat in the midst of the pandemic  

Like countries all over the world, coronavirus continues to threaten lives in Turkey. Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the racist MHP (nationalist movement party) has called for the shutting down of the Turkish Medical Association.

The Turkish Medical Association had said previously  that the Government are withholding the truth from the public and that the number of coronavirus cases in Turkey are higher than stated, insufficient precautions are being taken and everyday one medical professional is dying.

In Turkey, the Minister for Health owns private hospitals. Erdogan’s wife Emine Erdogan tubs a hospital in partnership with the Health Minister. Private hospital owners have turned health into a market place for trade.

Birleşik Krallık’taki sağlık emekçileri örgütlerinin Türk Tabipleri Birliği’ne destek olmaya çağırıyoruz. Çünkü tüm dünyada sağlık emekçileri hepimizin gururudur.

All political parties in Turkey have opposed this call by Devlet Bahceli, except for the MHP and the ruling AKP.

SPOT stands with medical and health workers all over the world, and calls on the British Medical Association and Health Professionals to support the Turkish Medical Association.

Racist attacks in Turkey at dangerous levels

 

Doğan Çetin, who was doing his compulsory military service in the western Turkey in Edirne was physically attacked by two soldiers for saying “wish we had been educated in Kurdish”. The attack took place on 15th August during which Çetin fractured his nose and forehead.  Çetin, who filed a complaint with the police, said that the attackers are being protected by some of the military commanders and his life is at risk.

Despite making up at least a quarter of the population in Turkey, in practice Kurdish remains banned. It is claimed that people can speak whatever language they choose but, as this example shows, even the simple desire to be taught in Kurdish can result in an attack.

In recent times racist attacks have been increasing in Turkey. Just yesterday in Konya, western Turkey, Ozkan T – a Kurdish worker – was killed and two others were injured in another racist attack. In Samsun, Northern Turkey,  Eymen Hammami a 16 year old Syrian was also stabbed to death.

Erdogan and the AKP government have been igniting racial tensions and using racist rhetoric, including that “the Turkish race is superior” and that everybody living in Turkey is Turkish.  It is these politics that have led to the increase in racist attacks on Kurdish people and minorities in Turkey, and emboldened racist groups and individuals.

 

 

 

 

A man appointed to lead women’s office

In Mardin, a city in the south east of Turkey, where the people’s democratic party (HDP) won the local mayoral election, the government has dismissed the elected representatives and appointed Mustafa Yaman as the new administrator and also appointed a male administrator to the Women’s Office within the council. The appointed Abdurrahman Sahin is also the branch chair of the educational office within the council which means he will receive two salaries.

This reaffirms that AKP and Erdogan government cannot tolerate women representatives. It is for this reason that they unashamedly accuse women of committing a “crime” when they are killed by men. Even if male perpetrators are charged they serve no more than 2 years in prison for their crimes.

The media which is 90% under the control of AKP and Erdogan appear to discuss these issues on TV without any women present at these discussion programs.

The Bar Human Rights Committee publishes Turkish version of Gezi Park Report

The Bar Human Rights Committee (“BHRC”) has published the Turkish version of its trial observation report of the “Gezi Park” trial of sixteen leading civil society individuals in Turkey.

The report was first published in English in May 2020. BHRC closely monitored the “Gezi Park” trial of sixteen leading civil society individuals in Turkey and conducted trial observations of this case, on various dates between June 2019 and February 2020. The trial ostensibly ended on 18 February 2020 with the acquittal of Osman Kavala and nine defendants, although the case is not yet concluded against others who are based abroad. Following his acquittal, Mr. Kavala was immediately re-arrested and detained in relation to new allegations of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence, in effect re-opening the criminal investigation against him.

On 3 September 2020 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which monitors the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, urged Turkey to ensure the immediate release of jailed businessman and human rights campaigner Mehmet Osman Kavala.

The full report in English and Turkey can be viewed here

 

 

 

SPOT sends message of solidarity to SF Trade workers

We stand in solidarity with the SF Trade workers who were sacked for their membership of Deriteks and are now facing a compensation claim for 200,000 TL

SF Trade in Izmir Turkey, which produces luxury goods for international brands, has taken to court four leather workers who they previously unfairly dismissed for union membership.

The women workers have been on protesting at the picket line for 170 days (but had to temporarily suspend the protest due to the Covid-19 pandemic). SF has now sued all four of them individually for financial losses equating to 100,000 TL and non-pecuniary damage in the sum of 100,000 TL for “unfairly paving the way for competition” and “sharing company information”. Each worker faces a compensation claim for a sum of 200,000 TL. The first hearing in the case is being heard on 10 September at 9:30am at the Regional Court.

It is unacceptable for these workers who have already been unfairly dismissed from their jobs to now be sued by the same employer.

Solidarity with the People of Turkey (SPOT) – supported by trade unions such as NEU, Unison and RMT, as well as campaign groups, political parties, MPs, journalists and writers in the UK and Turkey – stands in solidarity with SF Trade workers and will continue to support the struggle of the workers against the SF attacks on workers rights.

We will continue to raise awareness of this injustice in the UK, by sharing the anti-worker practices of SF and exposing how it is using the profits from its exploitation of workers to take the same workers to court.

SF Trade must stop attacking workers exercising their democratic right to organise and must reinstate the four women union members immediately.

Journalist Müyesser Yıldız remains imprisoned but still no clarity on accusation against her     

 

 

Following a decision by Ankara 4. Criminal Court Judges Journalist Muyesser Yildiz is to remain in prison. It was noticeable that the judges made a decision without waiting for Yildiz’ lawyer to attend the trial.

Muyesser Yildaz was the Ankara News Director of OdaTV and has been in prison for the past three months. At the hearing on 9 September, the court refused to wait for her lawyer to represent her and decided that she should remain in prison.

In her statement Yildiz said “I am being accused because of the articles I wrote. Because there are restrictions on the files I do not know what I am being accused of. I did not commit any crimes, I only carried out journalism activities”.

The court’s decision cited that Yildiz is to remain detained because there is a “strong suspicion of guilt”.

Many journalists, like Yildiz, are kept imprisoned using  “secret witness” evidence. In these cases it is unclear whether there are even any “secret witnesses” and press freedom is being severely restricted in Turkey. Journalists face long prison sentences even for simple tweets, and access to a fair trial is denied.

Turkey’s taxes are being used to line the pockets of private companies

The AKP government claims to “bring to life new projects” and is having bridges, hospitals, tunnels, airports, dams and roads built all over the country. Private companies are carrying out these works which are being presented as “government services” to the public.  But all of these companies have “customer guarantees”.  When the companies building these constructions are unable to find enough “customers”, tax payer’s money is transferred to cover this gap.

When a hospital is built, there is a guaranteed number of patients. When a road is built, car usage of the road is guaranteed. When an airport is built, flight and customer guarantees are provided. Companies that build hospitals, roads, and similar facilities with customer guarantees have high road tolls or patients fees which mean people are unable to access these services. Erdogan promotes the building of bridges at every opportunity but the government still makes regular payment to the company that built the Osmangazi bridge because there is insufficient cars using the bridge.

In the first six months of the year, the government had to pay 1.75 bn Turkish liras to the company because not enough cars have been using the road. Similar contracts are in place for new hospitals.

Using tax payers money to prop up major companies is not a service, it is defrauding the public.

Mother and sister arrested for sit-in protest calling for her missing daughter to be found

 

A mother and daughter were arrested yesterday in Munzur for protesting the police failure to find their daughter and sister Gulistan Doku, a student at Munzur university who has been missing since 5 January. Gulistan’s mother, Bedriye Doku and her sister, Aygul Doku began a peaceful sit-in protest against the failure of the authorities to find and try suspects yesterday but were both detained by the police for refusing to comply with a decision to prohibit the protest. They were released from detention later that evening.

 

Gulistan’s sister, Aygul shared their experience on social media, saying “ we were arrested during the sit-in protest we held for my sister, when we asked why, the female police officer kicked me in the back, two, three more times. I tried to film them and another police officer took my phone and deleted it. My mum fainted. We are at the hospital getting a medical report on the assault. Why did you arrest my mum, why didn’t you arrest Zaynal [the suspect]?”

 

Efforts to find Gulistan Doku were brought to an end by the authorities on 18th August. Her family held the sit-in protest at Seyit Riza Square in Dersim, in response to the failure of the authorities to investigate and find Gulistan and  to call for the search to continue.

 

Much of the search effort has been led by the community as opposed to the authorities, and the suspects in the case are thought to be connected to and being protected by the State.

Criticism of ECHR President Spano’s visit in Turkey  

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.

Workplace deaths continue

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.

Racist attacks on Kurdish workers

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.

 

 

Turkey censors news of cult leader’s arrest for child abuse

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.

TELE1 punished with five day black-out

 

 

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.

 

Turkey’s cultural and religious heritage is being destroyed

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.

Erdogan targets the lawyers in his opening address for the judicial year

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.”

Perpetrators walk free as 27 more women murdered in August

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.

 

 

Attacks on media in Turkey continue at pace in August


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.

 

 

Turkey is the only country to ban the celebration of World Peace Day

Countries all over the world have been recognising World Peace Day and calling for peace on 1st September. Meanwhile in Turkey calling for peace is considered as “terrorism”.

The People’s Democratic Party (HDP) wanted to call for peace in Diyarbakir, Van and Ankara but were met with police prohibitions and many people were arrested.

The police attacked HDP members and supporters who wanted to commemorate the deaths of 103 people who died on 10 October 2015 (in a terrorist attack on a peaceful demonstration) and hand out peace messages.

It is clear that anybody wanting “peace” in Turkey is declared a “terrorist”.

The Labour Party of Turkey issued a message for World Peace Day on 1st September, in which they stressed that peace can only be achieved through the struggle for equality and fraternity. In its message the Labour Party stated “In our country interventions in Syria and Libya continue with the aim of broadening the influence of the one man regime, and [our government] is dragging the country into these regressive wars which benefit capitalist monopolies and risk the lives of the people of Turkey with new threats everyday”.

MP Baris Atay attacked after being publicly targeted by Turkish Interior Minister


The Turkish Interior Minister, who had previously protected Musa Orhan (Ipek Er’s rapist), publicly attacked Worker’s Party MP Baris Atay.

Soylu accused Baris Atay of being a rapist on social media. On the same evening (30 August) Atay was physically assaulted by 5 people and taken to hospital where he is recovering. 

Ironically, the Interior Minister recently stood up for Musa Orhan, who raped Ipek Er. Ipek Er later killed herself and Musa Orhan was freed. 

Erdogan and the AKP accuse all those that oppose or critique them of being “traitors”. 

Atay, a well known actor and politician, has been an outspoken critic of the AKP government, and it is clear that the physical attack on him is a result of the Interior Minister’s public incitement and targeting on social media.

Turkish Health Minister lies about daily Covid-19 numbers

A number of Local Authority leaders in Turkey, including the Mayors of Ankara and Istanbul have publicly stated that the true number of Covid-19 cases and related deaths are not being disclosed.
For some time medical chambers across the country and local authorities in areas such as Diyarbakir, Antep and Adana had been stating publicly that the numbers announced by the Health Minister are wrong and that there are many more cases of Covid and deaths.
Instead of accounting for this error and responding  to these criticisms, the Health Minister has labelled as “national traitors” those exposing the government’s cover up of the number of covid cases and deaths.

Erdoğan is warmongering in attempt to prolong presidency

The Turkish President Erdogan and his party the AKP, are meddling with their neighbours again with the aim of extending their time in government.

A few years ago Erdogan used the Assad regime as a pretext for two major military operations targeting the Kurds in Northern Syria and occupying the area. In recent days the regime has its sights on the East Mediterranean and Greece because of the natural wealth of the area.

The relationship between Turkey and Greece has come to breaking point with warships in a standoff. It is likely that NATO, particularly the USA, will prevent further escalation into a war between these two allies but we may yet hear gunshots. The Turkish Navy has said that it plans to hold live-fire exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, which will no doubt stoke tensions further.

Erdogan is also increasing tensions further using chauvinistic propaganda against Greece to rally the Turkish public around this issue.

Even as starvation becomes even more widespread, the economy hits rock bottom and Erdogan’s popularity falls, racist nationalist propaganda reaches new heights. The government has gone into a phase of labelling anybody who is not a nationalist as a “traitor”.

Everyday Syrians are killed on the streets and the government is encouraging racism. There is only one reason for these policies and that is to keep Erdogan in the 1100 room palace built with taxpayers and siphon off the country’s wealth.

Erdogan has used the state’s resources to make his family, friends and contacts rich, and one of the biggest supporters of his racist nationalism and war mongering has been the UK.

We call on the UK government to stop working with the Turkish government and review its relationship. The UK government should know that in supporting Erdogan and the AKP, it is emboldening a regime that is oppressing and trampling over the human rights of its people.

TELE1 fined for airing an advert using Kurdish colours


Media outlets that are not pro-Erdogan and the AKP continue to be penalised in Turkey.

Most recently TELE1 (which has previously aired Evrensel newspaper adverts) was fined for airing an Evrensel advert which contained Kurdish colours. This blatant racism and interference in media freedom is unacceptable.

The Supreme Council for Radio and Television (RTÜK) in Turkey decided to impose the fine after TELE1 aired Evrensel newspaper’s advert because they said the advert used the phrase “the voice of those who want to live together, in peace and fraternity” and showed images of demonstrations.

RTÜK claimed that the advert “praised and encouraged terror, and showed terrorist organisations as strong or in a positive light” and decided that a penalty at the highest threshold should be imposed on the television channel.  

RTÜK’s reasoning for the penalty included the image of a little girl holding a red, yellow and green scarf.  

As SPOT we condemn this unacceptable interference in media freedom and stand in solidarity with progressive media outlets in Turkey.

 

 

Rapist Musa Orhan released by Turkish State


Military Seargent Musa Orhan raped 18 year old Ipek Er in the Batman in Eastern Turkey. Ipek Er committed suicide as a result. Musa Orhan, who is responsible for the death of this young woman, is being protected by the Turkish state because he served in the military and comes from a nationalist racist family.

He was released from prison after only 1 week. There has been outcry across the country with women’s organisations, campaign groups and celebrities calling out the Turkish state’s systematic protection of perpetrators of violence against women, and calls for the imprisonment of Musa Orhan have been growing. The Turkish authorities have been tightly policing dissent, exemplified in the abrupt removal of Melek Mosso (a singer) from the stage during a concert at which she called for the Istanbul Convention to be honoured and said it saved women’s lives.

Everyday there are more and more reports of women being murdered and raped across Turkey. This is fueled by the Turkish state’s open support and protection for perpertrators of violence against women.

The criminalisation of democratic protest/opposition and the protection of perpetrators of violence against women and girls in Turkey must be stopped.

Join us to strengthen solidarity in the UK with progressive forces and women’s groups in Turkey.

‪Ebru Timtik, lawyer, dies after 238 days on hunger strike


Ebru Timtik, who was on indefinite hunger strike demanding a fair trial, has died in Bakırköy Dr. Sadi Konuk Hospital after 238 days.

Timtik’s only demand was a right to fair trial and she had called on the Minister for Justice to intervene, but despite numerous warnings the government stood idly by – choosing instead to watch as she slowly died. During her 238 day hunger strike many human rights organisations and campaign groups called for the government to take steps to prevent her death. 

Even though Timtik had not committed any crime, she didn’t refuse to be tried. All she asked was for a fair trial and this was denied to her even as she lost her life. 

The Turkish government has set aside the rule of law and the right to fair trial. Britain and other countries supporting the Turkish government must review their relationships in light of the worsening human rights record of Turkey. Please support us to bring an end to this injustice.

Profiteering leads to loss of lives in flood hit Blacksea in Turkey

Floods hit the shores of Giresun in the Blacksea region of Turkey. Huge devastation hit the area of Dereli in particular. So far 8 people have died and 11 are missing. 17 buildings have collapsed and 351 buildings are damaged. Over 100 villages have become blocked off and 78 residential areas have lost their electricity.  The floods engulfed in muddy waters not just small vehicles, but also minibuses and buses. Debris built up on pavements reaching heights of 3 metres. 31 buildings are being evacuated.

The rainy seasons saw much heavier rainfall than usual. The streams didn’t overflow, the water levels simply rose and the primary reason for the significant damage was because the homes and businesses had been built in the stream bed itself. The Minister for Agriculture and Forests, Bekir Pakdemirli, exonerated the officials who granted permission for the buildings and instead blamed local residents for residing there. Just last year houses built by the collective housing association (known as TOKI and directly linked to the Ministry) were flooded in Samsun and lives were lost as a result.

The Management Board of Turkey’s Association for Architects and Engineers (TMMOB) in their press release stated that “the fundamental reasons for the flooding disasters in the last few years have been human destruction of the environment, wrong water policies and the building of hydroelectric power stations, ill-judged and unplanned urbanisation of stream stream beds, insufficient foundations and central and local government leader’s profiteering politics in cities, and not necessarily climate change”

As SPOT we send our solidarity to those impacted by the floods and call on the Government of Turkey to call to account unscrupulous officials for the lives lost and the damage done, and support those in need of emergency and long term support as a result of these devastating floods.

Turkish government watches as lawyers on hunger strike reach critical condition

The health of two lawyers, Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal, on indefinite hunger strike demanding a fair trial has reached a critical point.

Ebru has been on indefinite hunger strike for 240 days and Aytac for 210 days. Their health is at risk and the Turkish government is standing idly by.

The Justice Minister has not even responded to their call for a fair trial and is practically waiting for the lawyers to die.

As SPOT, we call on the British Government to put pressure on the Turkish government and call for the demands for a fair trial to be accepted by the Turkish government.

Turkish Bar Associations fight back

The Turkish Bar Associations stand firm against attacks on their independence

Last week the main agenda across Turkey was the Government’s plan to change the way that the Turkish Bar Associations are organised and their electoral system. The Bar Association’s believe that the legal changes proposed would make the Bar Associations undemocratic and would result in them losing their independence from the government.

The Bar Associations, outraged about the proposed legal changes, organised a series of protests and events to protest the planned changes. The events culminated in a “Defense March” in which the presidents of the most progressive local bar associations, representing a large majority of lawyers in Turkey, marched to the capital Ankara.

When the Bar Association presidents arrived in Ankara to voice their demands and raise awareness of their protest, they were prevented from entering the Capital and were not allowed to continue their march. They were arbitrarily kept waiting at the border of Ankara for almost 27 hours, and were effectively detained without access to basic facilities during this time in contravention of the law.

Despite this the presidents of the Bar Association made clear that preventing their protest is illegal and were determined to enter the Capital. The prevention of this demonstration by the Bar Association presidents led to almost all other Bar Association presidents to participate in the struggle and increased public awareness and support. As a result, the Bar Association protests became a symbol against the arbitrary use of power by the Government.

Following public outcry, after 27 hours, the Government were forced to allow the Bar Association Presidents into Ankara and continue their demonstration.

The Bar Associations are considered one of the biggest obstacles to the establishment of a one-man regime and the government had hoped that it could force the lawyers into submission. This is because the Bar Associations are rarely aligned with Erdogan’s regime, and he wishes to change this so that the Bar Associations are under his control. That these attacks on lawyers in Turkey have resulted in such organised resistance has shown that the government’s tactics have backfired.

The measures taken to stop the Bar Associations protest shows that even lawyers are faced with illegal oppression by the government when exercising their democratic right to protest. The experience of the Bar Association’s Defence March shows that even the most basic democratic principles, such as the right to freedom of expression and protest are are not protected in Turkey.

On the other hand, the success of the Bar Association protest in terms of both accessing Ankara and completing their march, has been a significant boost of morale for democratic organisations. However, Erdogan and the Government is using all means at their disposal, including arbitrary use of power and actions in breach of the law to suppress the freedom of the Turkish Bar Association. This struggle will no doubt escalate in the coming months.

Public letter from international press organisations: Lift embargo on newspapers, stop penalties

20 international and local media freedom groups sent a joint public letter to the General Director of Turkey’s Public Advertising Agency, Rıdvan Duran, regarding the suspension of public ad bans imposed on the newspapers.

The International Press Institute (IPI) and 19 other international press freedom and freedom of expression groups sent a joint public letter to the General Director of Turkey’s Public Advertising Agency, which is responsible for the fair distribution of public ads in national and local newspapers. Public ads provide considerable ad revenue for newspapers and are therefore essential for the survival of their print editions.

In the letter, press freedom groups underlined the increasing trend of the number of public ad bans on newspapers under “press ethics violations” issued by BIK in 2020 compared to last year. The letter stated that in the first five months of 2020 alone, BIK issued bans on 39 national and local newspapers totaling 316 days. By comparison, between January and September 2019, BIK issued bans on only six newspapers totaling nine days. The groups raised concerns about the justification for this increase in ad bans and called on BIK to make reports on the distribution of public money and the statistics of advertising bans on newspapers public.

An IPI-led delegation previously met with BIK General Director Duran on February 6, calling for an end to the indefinite ad bans on independent newspapers. Several independent newspapers have recently been hit with bans, including Evrensel, BirGün, Cumhuriyet and Sözcü.

The letter was signed by Articolo 21, Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Danish PEN,
English PEN, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), erman PEN, Index on Censorship, International Press Institute (IPI), Norwegian PEN, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa, PEN America, PEN Canada, PEN International, PEN Turkey, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), Swedish PEN, WAN-IFRA.

You can read the full letter here.

Source: EVRENSEL DAILY

Human rights defenders react to the police violence in Turkey

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) Chairwoman Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Human Rights Association (İHD) Chairman Öztürk Türkdoğan evaluated the police violence cases for Evrensel.

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) Chairwoman Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Human Rights Association (İHD) Chairman Öztürk Türkdoğan reacted to the incidents of police violence from various parts of the country. Over the past few days, videos posted on social media showed police officers beating citizens in İstanbul (Kadıköy, Sultangazi, Eyüp, Zeytinburnu), Tekirdağ (Çorlu), Edirne (Keşan), Ankara (Etimesgut), Mardin (Nusaybin), Şırnak (Cizre) and Adana.

Fincancı said that when the Minister of the Interior, Süleyman Soylu has a similar attitude and sees the right to insult the citizens who pay their salaries from their taxes. These insults have no consequences but are legitimized when citizens are convicted for exercising their right to criticize, thereby justifying authoritarianism. Those that are violently detained have investigations against them on the grounds of resisting police which is a widespread form or intimidation.

Stating that these events occurred because those who authorized the police did not apply the brakes, Türkdoğan said, “There is a state of unconstitutionality, not an authority. The Speaker of the Assembly, the Minister of the Interior should make a statement saying, “The police cannot do this,” but we do not hear this.  Someone has to say stop to the police”.

FİNCANCI: THOSE THAT EXPERIENCE VIOLENCE FACE WIDSPREAD INTIMIDATION PRACTICES.

TİHV Chairwoman Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı evaluated the violent images to Evrensel.

Fincancı said, “I think that the police practices in Istanbul Kadıköy, which started with Çorlu, are important in terms of showing how the law enforcement officers perceive their relations with the citizens, and that the information about the violation of the curfew according to the statement in Çorlu is just as important. Outbreak conditions; Unfortunately, allowed the authority, which started with voluntary abandonment of rights, to become widespread, and thus to legitimize authoritarianism.”

“The informer understanding which is a growing trend in society along with the discourse hostility of politics should not be forgotten. The police violence starting in front of the garden door with no lead to the street, witnessed and recorded by another citizen as a hopeful action, is met with threat and verbal intervention which is regarded as a consequence of the impunity of law enforcement violence in Turkey”. Said Fincancı and continued as follows:

“It is also a common intimidation practice to open an investigation against those that are detained on the grounds that they resisted the police. In the İHD (Human Rights Association) 2019 report, the number of investigations opened against resistance to the police is over 163 thousand. This figure shows that 1 in every 500 citizens have resisted the police when in fact the reality is the unjust detentions and police violence, met with legitimate resistance from people. It is the aim to prevent such lawsuits as a means of intimidation”.

Recalling the violence in Kadıköy, Fincancı said, “While a police officer was shouting at a citizen and saying ‘because I made that decision’, he is acting above law imposed on him and he should know this, however,  the Minister of the Interior himself had a similar attitude towards citizens that pay his salary through their taxes. When they find the right to insult the citizens, these insults are legitimized through judicial convictions which take away the right for people to criticize. It seems that there is a need to rethink citizen and bureaucracy, to establish institutional relations in place … ”.

TÜRKDOĞAN: THESE ARE HAPPENING BECAUSE THOSE THAT GIVE THE AUTHORITY DO NOT HIT THE BRAKES.

İHD Chairman Öztürk Türkdoğan said, “The main reason behind the police violence in Çorlu is this: Police say, “I am the state”. Nobody that receives a salary from the state can say this. He President cannot either because he has limited powers. The primary duty of the police is to protect the life safety of the citizen. However, if the police endanger the life safety of the citizen, there is illegalness here”.

However, Türkdoğan stated that these incidents occurred because those who authorized the police did not hit the brakes. The Speaker of the Assembly, the Minister of the Interior should make a statement saying, ‘The police cannot do this’, but we do not hear about it. Someone has to say stop to the police”.

In addition, Türkdoğan pointed out that the curfew could be taken as a state of emergency and quarantine, and that the government did not do both. However, Türkdoğan stated that there are districts and villages in which quarantine decisions were made and said that the curfew decisions were based on the authority of the governorships and therefore there was already a legal problem.

Stating that citizens have already complied with the measures taken by the government, Türkdoğan said, “Therefore, there is no need for detective measures. Despite this, perhaps more than a hundred thousand people were fined fees. These penalties need to be forgiven because you have made a decision with a legality problem to people. In addition, you have to warn people who do not comply with the curfew once, and give fines when they repeat”.

Translated by Dilan SEÇGİN

Source: Evrensel Daily

The leaders of the ’68 youth movement were commemorated on the 48th anniversary of their executions

The leaders of the ’68 youth movement Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan, Hüseyin İnan were commemorated on the 48th anniversary of their executions.

People’s Liberation Army of Turkey (THKO) and the leaders of the youth movement of ’68, Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan and Hüseyin Inan were executed by the junta on March 12. They were commemorated by their graves on the 48th anniversary of their death. The Karşıyaka Cemetery, where thousands of people flock every year, has witnessed the memorials made with representative participation and physical contact rules due to the coronavirus outbreak this year.

However, it was observed that many people came to visit Deniz and friends individually as of the morning hours. Political parties and youth organizations made commemoration with limited participation. Members of the Labour Party (EMEP) and the Labour Youth (Emek Gençliği) met at 12:00 at the Karşıyaka cemetery gate with limited participation. From here, by paying attention to the physical contact rules, slogans of “Long live revolution and socialism” were chanted. After the carnations were left on the graves of Deniz and friends, speeches were made.

‘EXPERIENCES ARE NOT RESTRICTED JUST BY THE OUTBREAK’

Speaking on behalf of Emek Youth by the grave of Deniz and friends, Meri Kelleci said, “We know very well that what is happening today are not just problems related to the pandemic! The imperialism, which Deniz and friends strived to destroy, has today become unable to carry itself. The system that hung Deniz and friends has continued to kill a young 20-year-old who had no choice but to work”.

‘WE LEARNED THE STRUGGLE FROM DENIZ AND FRIENDS’

Stating that although imperialism continues to hold the people responsible for their own dilemmas, they have learned how to fight against it from Deniz and friends, Kelleci added that today they have not only commemorated them, but have also increased their struggle. Remembering Deniz and friends, means being amongst the ranks of the working people against the capitalist looting, and amongst the ranks of international solidarity against imperialist barbarism. Kelleci added ‘Commemorating Deniz and friends is to oppose capitalism and the pandemic for the growth socialism’.

‘THE UNDERSTANDING THAT HUNG DENIZ AND FRIENDS IS STILL IN POWER’

Labour Party (Emek Partisi) Chairman Selma Gürkan said that they reminiscent of Deniz Gezmiş Yusuf Aslan, Hüseyin İnan and their lawyer Halit Çelenk by growing their values. Indicating that the understanding that sent Deniz and friends to the execution table is still in power today, Gürkan stated that those who grew the economy through the exploitation of labourers and at the cost of their lives, turned the exploitation wheel for the sake of monopolies during the pandemic.

‘WORKERS ARE THE CANDIDATES TO RESTORE LIFE’

Gürkan, “We saw in the pandemic process that if workers and labourers do not produce and provide services life stops. Those who stop this life are also candidates for rebuilding life. Those who deem the 6th Fleet in Qibla and those who prostrate to the 6th Fleet in Dolmabahçe continue their power for the interests of monopolies.”

TO THE TREASURY MINISTER: WHICH SOURCES WILL YOU MAKE AVAILABLE TO THE MONOPOLIES?

Noting that the Treasury and Finance Minister will hold a closed meeting with the international investment companies in the evening, Gürkan said, “What is this meeting? What resources of the country will be negotiated to monopolize monopolies? Are they going to negotiate to put the working class labour at the disposal of monopolies which they think weakened or silenced during the pandemic process?”. Expressing that this is undoubtedly the framework of the meeting, Gürkan said that how to put the resources of the country under the command of monopolies will be discussed.

‘THE SOCIALISM IDEAL OF DENIZ AND FRIENDS WILL WIN’

Stating that they promised Deniz and friends, Gürkan continued her speech as follows:

“Freedom, not oppression, public sovereignty and power of the people, not a single man. We say this against the system of exploitation and plunder; long live socialism. Long live the fully independent Turkey. Long live peoples’ brotherhood and peace. We know that one day, the ideals of the Deniz and friends, socialism and popular power will win”.

After the commemoration held at the grave of the Deniz and friends, the grave of their lawyer Halit Çelenk were visited and carnations were left.

DENIZ AND FRIENDS LIVE FOR 48 YEARS THROUGH THE NAME OF THOUSANDS OF YOUNG PEOPLE

Despite the pandemic conditions, the memorial in Istanbul for Deniz and friends was held in Dolmabahçe, where they pushed the 6th Fleet into the sea. “We will keep our promise to the Deniz and friends, we will enlarge our struggle for independence, democracy and socialism, and destroy the order of those who execute them”.

The commemoration event started with a moment of silence.

In the commemoration of the slogan of “Yusuf, Hüseyin, Deniz; our struggle to continue”, “Imperialists, collaborators, don’t forget the 6th Fleet”, “From Deniz and friends those amongst the ranks of youth labour”, “Youth are the future, the future is socialism”. Emek Youth of Istanbul Provincial Youth Manager Mete Kağan Yıldırım spoke.

Yıldırım, who said that the struggle of Deniz and friends will not be forgotten in the 48 years that passed, said, “Those who hung them, those who passed the string of death, believed that it would be a solution to hang them, but their expectations were destroyed! Deniz and friends have been living in the name, struggle, determination and courage of hundreds of thousands of young people for 48 years,” he said.

Photograph: Eylem Nazlıer/Evrensel

Source: Evrensel Daily

Members of European Parliament call on Turkey to end the public advertising ban on Evrensel

10 Members of the European Parliament called on Turkey’s Public Advertising Agency to lift the indefinite ban on Evrensel.

In a letter addressed to Rıdvan Duran, the general director of the Public Advertising Agency (BİK), the authority in Turkey responsible for the distribution of state advertising, ten members of the European Parliament called for the immediate end to the public advertising ban that has been imposed on the Evrensel newspaper since September 2019.

On March 28, 2020, the six-month deadline for Evrensel to regain its right to publish public advertisement will end. According to BİK regulation, should the ban last for a full six months, Evrensel faces being removed from the system for at least three years, which would be catastrophic for its financial stability.

Last week, 24 international and local press freedom organizations sent a joint letter to Duran calling the ban to be lifted. In February an IPI-led delegation met with Duran and raised concerns about how advertising bans on independent newspapers were being used by the authorities to stifle the free press in the country.

Read the full letter below:

“Dear Mr. Duran,

We, undersigned Members of the European Parliament who follow developments related to press freedom in Turkey closely, are writing to express our concerns regarding the indefinite ban on public advertising against the independent newspaper, Evrensel.

Media freedom and pluralism in Turkey are important to the European Union. Both are pillars of democracy as they represent essential components of open and free debate. The role of Basin Ilan Kurumu, BIK, in overseeing the distribution of public sector advertising budgets evenly and fairly across the newspaper sector, is of great importance in this respect.

However, since September 2019, Evrensel has been subjected to an indefinite advertising ban. If the ban remains in place for a full six months, until March 28, 2020, Evrensel faces being removed from the public advertising system for at least three years.

Such a decision would have a devastating impact on the finances of the newspaper, threatening its closure and weakening the diversity and pluralism of Turkey’s newspaper market.

Evrensel is judged to have breached technical regulations with respect to bulk purchases. Evrensel has since made the changes requested of it but has twice had their appeals refused after new audits conducted by BIK.

Evrensel is known for its independent reporting and has, in recent years, been subjected to considerable judicial harassment as a result. The indefinite ban by BIK together with a series of limited bans for alleged ‘violations of press ethics’ give the impression of a coordinated campaign against the newspaper as punishment for its editorial independence.

We urge you therefore to swiftly lift the ban on Evrensel prior to the end of the six month deadline.

For media pluralism in Turkey to grow, it is important that publications like Evrensel retain the economic means to survive and continue to contribute to a rich and vibrant media in Turkey.

Best regards,

David Casa MEP

Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield MEP

Kati Piri MEP

Katrin Langensiepen MEP

Michaela Šojdrová MEP

Salima Yenbou MEP

Ernest Urtasum MEP

Reinhard Bütikofer MEP

Sven Giegold MEP

Terry Reintke MEP”

Posted by EVRENSEL DAILY

We have lost our columnist, architect Cengiz Bektaş

Cengiz Bektaş, one of Turkey’s leading architects who for long years wrote articles in our newspaper, has lost his life.

We have lost our newspaper’s columnist, architect and poet Cengiz Bektaş. Holder of the Aga Khan and Mimar Sinan Grand Awards, Bektaş had been undergoing treatment for diabetes-related heart failure in an intensive care unit at a hospital in Istanbul for one week. Bektaş, who had penned his columns entitled “The Culture of Living” from our newspaper’s early years, was 86.

WHO WAS CENGİZ BEKTAŞ?

Born on 26 November 1934 in Denizli, Cengiz Bektaş underwent his secondary education at Istanbul Boys’ High School and his higher education in the Departments of Decorative Arts and Architecture of the Fine Arts Academy and the Faculty of Architecture at Munich Technical University. He completed his higher education in 1959. He attended German urbanization courses in 1960. He worked as a self-employed architect in Germany. He gained awards in two contests in which he competed there. He returned to Turkey on being summoned to a teaching post at the Middle East Technical University. He headed civil engineering and directed architectural affairs at the Middle East Technical University for one year in the 1962-1963 academic year.

He established his own architectural business along with Oral Vural in Ankara in 1963. He took part in architectural-urbanization contests for just six years over 1963-69. He won more than 25 awards. He brought into being buildings considered exemplary in Republican-period architectural history. He received the National Architectural Award twice. He won the international Aga Khan Award for the Akdeniz University (Antalya) Social-Cultural Centre building in 2001. The Turkish Language Institute building in Ankara is deemed by architects to be one of the twenty buildings symbolic of the Republican period.

Cengiz Bektaş was deemed worthy of the Aga Khan Architectural Award in 2001 and of the International Mimar Sinan Award in 2014. He was also deemed to merit the Mimar Sinan Grand Award at the National Architectural Exhibition and Awards in 2016.

HIS POEMS TRANSLATED INTO SIXTEEN LANGUAGES

Cengiz Bektaş embarked on his literary life with the columns he wrote in a local paper published in Denizli. He came first in a poetry contest at the State Fine Arts Academy in 1954 with Bedri Rahmi on the jury. Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca published Bektaş’s poems for the first time in Turkey in Türkçe Dergisi in 1960.

His poems have been translated into sixteen languages. Along with his poetic writings, he has 106 works devoted to architecture and culture. He has participated and submitted papers at countless meetings abroad and at home.

He served as Second Chair in PEN’s Turkish section for one term, Chair of the Turco-Greek Friendship Association for six years and for six years as Chair of the Turkish Authors’ Association.

From the early years of Evrensel newspaper onward, Cengiz Bektaş wrote a column entitled “The Culture of Living.”

Turkish Writers’ Union Chair Adnan Özyalçıner and PEN Turkey Chair Zeynep Oral had the following words for Cengiz Bektaş:

EYÜP MUHÇU: HE WAS A SENIOR OF OUR PROFESSION

Chamber of Architects General Chair Eyüp Muhçu:

“Cengiz Bektaş had a special place in architecture and the history of architecture. He carefully formulated the relationship between nature and the city in his buildings. His works reflect a culture of living. For this reason, he won the Mimar Sinan Grand Award given biennially by the Chamber of Architects. He was an exemplary and colourful senior of our profession in all respects. He is known not just as an architect, but simultaneously for the many other sides to him such as poet, writer and journalist. He has bequeathed a very important legacy to the Chamber of Architects, the architectural community and society. We as a professional organization will stand by the values he produced and created. There have come most valuable contributions from him towards promoting architecture and fusing architecture with society in both Turkey and the international community. We will forever remember him with respect, love and longing.”

ADNAN ÖZYALÇINER: OUR LITERATURE HAS LOST A POET WHO WAS DECENT IN SPIRIT AND WORD

Turkish Writers’ Union Chair Adnan Özyalçıner:

“Cengiz was my school friend, my pal and a poet. He believed poetry was and should be language, and language poetry. He argued for his entire life that art was for people, not for art. His was a poetry that was of the populace and had a popular twang.

EYÜP MUHÇU: HE WAS A SENIOR OF OUR PROFESSION

Chamber of Architects General Chair Eyüp Muhçu:

“Cengiz Bektaş had a special place in architecture and the history of architecture. He carefully formulated the relationship between nature and the city in his buildings. His works reflect a culture of living. For this reason, he won the Mimar Sinan Grand Award given biennially by the Chamber of Architects. He was an exemplary and colourful senior of our profession in all respects. He is known not just as an architect, but simultaneously for the many other sides to him such as poet, writer and journalist. He has bequeathed a very important legacy to the Chamber of Architects, the architectural community and society. We as a professional organization will stand by the values he produced and created. There have come most valuable contributions from him towards promoting architecture and fusing architecture with society in both Turkey and the international community. We will forever remember him with respect, love and longing.”

ADNAN ÖZYALÇINER: OUR LITERATURE HAS LOST A POET WHO WAS DECENT IN SPIRIT AND WORD

Turkish Writers’ Union Chair Adnan Özyalçıner:

“Cengiz was my school friend, my pal and a poet. He believed poetry was and should be language, and language poetry. He argued for his entire life that art was for people, not for art. His was a poetry that was of the populace and had a popular twang.

 

Nazife YAŞAR
İsmail AFACAN
Posted by Evrensel Daily

 

SPOT Conference 2020 – What’s the latest?

The Turkish state’s attacks on human rights, workers rights and democracy is
relentless, and President Erdogan’s war politics is fuelling further tension and
instability, not just in Turkey but across the region. It is in this context that we have
pulled our sleeves up and are finalising preparations for SPOT’s 4 th Annual
Conference, which will take place on 28 th March at the NEU, Hamilton House.
SPOT’s campaigns and activities have played a crucial role in raising awareness and
actively supporting progressive groups and unions in Turkey fighting for democracy.
As the conference approaches, we spoke with Louise Regan, Chair of SPOT who
explains what to expect and why you should be there with us.
SPOT is having its 4th conference on 28 march. What issues will you be
focusing on this year?
The SPOT conferences have been a huge success for us not only in building
solidarity but also in raising awareness and understanding about the situation in
Turkey.
This year we will be particularly focussing in women and the increasing oppression
that they are facing including the ways that they are fighting back against this.
We will be hearing from striking women workers at the SF Trade Leather factory in
Turkey and talking about further action that we can take here to support them.
We also have members from Egitim Sen the education union attending the
conference and we will be hearing about the attacks on trade unionists and workers
in the education sector who are speaking out against the oppressive government
and the restrictions that they have imposed.
Finally, we will be hearing from journalists who have faced unprecedented
oppression at the hands of Erdogan. Turkey has the highest number of imprisoned
journalists in the world and the regime continues to try to silence all those who speak
out against them. Turkey is one of the worst countries globally to be a worker and therefore it is even
more essential that we as trade unionists speak out about the situation.
Do you think fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey have deteriorated
further in Turkey?
The situation in Turkey for workers, women, trade unionists and many others
continues to deteriorate. In the ITUC global rights index Turkey was in the top ten of the worlds worst
countries for workers. The attempts to silence anyone who speaks out against what is happening
continues. Trade union and progressive media outlets have their offices closed, workers
sacked or imprisoned and resources and equipment destroyed or confiscated.

Education is controlled by the government with no ability for free speech or
democratic discussion. These are all clear attempts to shut down dissent and to breed fear amongst people
about speaking out.

Do you think that the British population and media are sufficiently informed of
the developments in Turkey?
There is not enough knowledge amongst the population here in the UK about the
situation in Turkey however the trade union movement here is doing much work in
this area and I think that this is having a positive impact. The unions here have a
significant role to play in pressurising our government and in raising awareness
nationally and internationally about the ongoing injustices and attacks on workers.

Why do you think the British government is supportive of Turkey’s repressive
regime?
Unfortunately, we have re-elected a Tory government who now have a bigger
majority and who will use this to continue to attack workers here and globally.
The UK is one of the largest arms suppliers to Turkey and although these sales were
partially suspended in October this was only for weapons that may be used in Syria.
Turkey hosts a greater number of refugees than any country in the world and our
government believes that it plays a crucial role in preventing irregular migration into
the EU.
Finally. there is clearly a view that post Brexit there will be an opportunity to develop
a strong trade deal with Turkey. Given the attacks on workers and the oppressive
regime in Turkey this is something which we must oppose.
Successive governments in the UK have stood with the oppressors not the
oppressed. Our current government continues this.

What are your aims for the conference this year?
It is essential that we continue to raise awareness about the current situation in
Turkey and build the solidarity movement here in the UK but also where possible
globally. Personally, I am really concerned about the attacks and violations against women
and I think that this is an area we should really focus on over the coming year.

What are your expectations of delegates attending the conference?
I want the delegates to listen to the personal testimonies that we will hear from our
speakers, to ask questions and develop their knowledge and understanding.

Most importantly I want them to go away from the conference and spread our
message to others. By doing this we can continue to build the solidarity movement
here.

Who is making money out of the war in Syria?

As President Erdoğan’s Idlib obduracy and AUAV strikes continue, the ruling media is making “national pride from national arms” propaganda, and son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar is making money, too.

Object of the power holders’ relentless obduracy, Idlib remains high on the agenda. Compared to before, it has become tougher to air the voice of truth among the media bombardment that each day creates yet more disinformation and ruling propaganda.

And, most of the time, if you dig deeper into a piece of news widely covered in the ruling media you reach another important truth. By way of example, following the officially announced loss of 33 soldiers’ lives resulting from the Syrian military’s air attack on 27 February, the responses the Turkish armed forces mounted with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and armed unmanned aerial vehicles (AUAVs) began to make news. The front pages of the power-aligned newspapers assumed an arms fair-like appearance with photographs of UAVs and AUAVs

A Russian military reporter’s clip that started to circulate on social media on 29 February was covered as follows in Yenişafak newspaper: “Turkish AUAVs are striking night and day. The course of the war changed the moment AUAVs started to be seen in the skies above Idlib. They are striking convoys or even soldiers on motorbikes. What’s more, despite the great cost, Turkey continues to strike without fretting about the cash.” Let us now continue with a question that Yenişafak and the rest of the ruling media, festooned with ads for UAVs and AUAVs, passes over. Who is making money from these UAVs and AUAVs, the “pride of the national arms industry”? Turkey is one of eight countries to manufacture UAVs and AUAVs. Let us recall an announcement that was made with reference to this arms technology, which was first mooted for use in the Turkish armed forces’ anti-PKK campaign and we have most recently witnessed in use in Syria.

Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank, addressing the “BMC Future Fifty Years Gathering” held in Sakarya’s Karasu sub-province, said, noting that Ukrainian Head of State Petro Poroshenko had announced on his own social media account the signing of an agreement to buy unmanned aerial vehicles from Turkey, “Look, Ukraine is a country having a century of experience in space and aerial technology and which has manufactured thousands of planes, but it opts for Turkey in unmanned aerial vehicles because we currently have Turkish companies which manufacture UAVs and AUAVs that are the best of the most advanced technological class in the world with indigenous capabilities.” (13.01.2019, Habertürk) Turkey’s UAV-development process had its inception with the contract signed between SSM and TUSAŞ in 2004. Then, in 2009, Bayraktar Block A successfully completed its first automatic flight test. For its part, the Anka performed its first test flight in 2010, staying in the air for ten minutes. Bayraktar, in turn, was placed in service as an armed UAV in 2016. Under a resolution that took effect with President Erdoğan’s signature promulgated in the Official Gazette on 5 September 2019, unmanned aerial vehicle-manufacturer Baykar Defence (Bayraktar Brothers) set the ball rolling for a 600 million Turkish lira investment over an eight-year period. Baykar Makina, whose manufacturing capacity was announced to increase three-fold under this investment alongside the opening of a new R&D centre and which was said to have tax exemption for the duration of the investment period, stated that it would increase annual production of the TB2 Bayraktar from 46 to 92, the Communications System from 23 to 60, the Avionic System from 45 to 100 and the Ground Control System for the tactical unmanned aerial vehicles from 23 to 26. And Sabah newspaper reported as follows on the role of AUAVs in the latest Idlib proceedings, “With a stream of breaking news from Idlib, the success of the AUAVs has become the talk of the world. Experts state that the distance that could be covered in one month by firing from the ground can be covered in one day by AUAVs. With Turkey’s indigenous and national AUAVs causing a storm, some attention-grabbing words have been spoken with reference to T3 Foundation Board of Trustees Chairman, Selçuk Bayraktar. Portuguese Political Scientist and Hudson Institute Researcher Bruno Maçaes said, ‘Selçuk Bayraktar, technical manager of the Baykar company that manufactures the AUAVs and architect of the Turkey’s first national AUAV system Bayraktar TB2, is the man who changed the fate of the Middle East.’” (2 Mart 2020, Sabah)

As is known, Selçuk Bayraktar is President Erdoğan’s son-in-law. The predilection for war of those in power in Turkey, even in a period in which the sectoral consequences of the crisis in the economy are being debated, exerts an expansionary effect on the arms industry’s production and profit capacity. As Erdoğan’s Idlib obduracy and AUAV strikes continue, the ruling media is making “national pride from national arms” propaganda, and son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar is making money, too.

Against this backdrop, Ertuğrul Özkök wrote in his column yesterday, “In selecting the ’20 people of the year in Turkey’ at New Year, I also put Selçuk Bayraktar, head of the company that manufactures AUAVs and UAVs, on that list. I was seemingly quite right.”

You have grasped it, haven’t you? The praise is for Ertuğrul Özkök and the legal action for me!

Article by Fatih POLAT
(Email: fpolat@evrensel.net)

Translated by Tim DRAYTON

EMEP: For the withdrawal of Turkish army and all foreign powers in Syria – Peace, not war!

The Labour Party (EMEP) made a written statement after the soldiers’ deaths in Idlib, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign forces in Syria, including the Turkish soldiers.

The Labour Party (EMEP) made a written statement after the soldiers’ deaths in Idlib, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign forces in Syria, including the Turkish soldiers.

The statement of the Labour Party is as follows:

“The death of 34 soldiers in recent attacks in Idlib has shown once again the high cost of Turkish government’s foreign policy, which is one of intervention in Syria and collaboration with the jihadists.

Following the Syrian army’s operation in Idlib against the jihadists, the Turkish government ignored the calls for the retreat of its soldiers, despite the fact that Turkey’s observation points were under fire, and thus paved the grounds for this bitter result.

The politicians, on the other hand, who do warmongering on these deaths and talk about destroying Syria are feeding on war and just thinking about their future at the expense of opening Turkey to bigger threats.

The use of Turkish soldiers as a shield for the jihadist gangs in Idlib, which is controlled largely by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, recognised as a terrorist organisation by many countries, including Turkey, has nothing to do with the interests of our country and its people.

Yet, the Erdogan government insists on this wrong policy, which has made the country to pay a heavy price for the past 9 years, a policy which is based on intervention in Syria and the use of jihadist gangs as an instrument for the expansionist desires.

If it is question of national security, as is claimed, then the right thing to do would be the withdrawal of the Turkish soldiers and to take steps to resolve the problems with Syria with peaceful means, rather than putting the soldiers into a position of war with the Syrian army.

The government’s efforts to negotiate with the US on Idlib and to call NATO into action has no use but to drag Turkey into a wider war and open the country to imperialist interventions.

This is confirmed by the fact that the US imperialism was quick to turn the Idlib attack into an opportunity to bring Turkey against Russia and called the Erdogan government to cooperate with the US.

The solution is not in calling NATO into action or turning the country into an area of the ongoing inter-imperialist fight between the USA and Russia for the re-division of the Middle East.

The Labour Party calls on the government and its supporters to stop warmongering and immediately withdraw the soldiers who are under fire in Idlib. The intervention in Syria and cooperation with the jihadist militias must end as this policy has cost the so much and brought it face to face with the threat of war.

The road to peace in Syria and in the region depends on putting an end to imperialist interventions and on the withdrawal of all military forces. Thus, all pro-labour, peace and democracy forces in Turkey and in the Middle East have the task of heightening the struggle for peace on the face of warmongering. Therefore, our party will continue to be part of the fight for democracy in the country and peace in the region.”

Article posted by EVRENSEL DAILY

The Erdoğan administration’s jihadist impasse and Kurdish quandary

With it now apparent that the Erdoğan administration’s aims are no longer feasible, one could describe the way it has become bogged down thanks to its obdurateness over its Syria policy as its “jihadist impasse and Kurdish quandary.”

There is no let-up in either the Erdoğan administration’s obdurateness over Idlib or the deaths of soldiers in the clashes occasioned by this obdurateness. Yesterday, the Ministry of National Defence and President Erdoğan first announced that two soldiers had lost their lives in air raids and then a further three soldiers in clashes. On the one hand, talks are being held on Idlib between Turkish and Russian delegations and, on the other, the Syrian army’s operation with Russian air support to remove jihadists from the city continue. Having previously announced that a “quadrilateral summit” would be held on March 5 in Istanbul with the participation of Germany and France as well as Russia, President Erdoğan said in the statement he made in the plane returning from Azerbaijan – Russia evidently not wishing to involve other actors – that on this occasion he would hold bilateral talks with Putin.

Well, if the leader of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS – formerly al-Nusra), which Turkey and the UN officially regard as being a “terrorist organization,” al-Julani says, “HTS is waging at least seventy-five per cent of the war going on in the region. Hay’at is in at least eight of the ten regions in which there is resistance and attacks,” why the obdurateness over the policy of acting as a shield for jihadists?

This is because the campaign the power holders in the country launched nine years ago to conquer Syria with expansionist designs and neo-Ottomanist dreams is today bogged down in Idlib and through support for the jihadists in Idlib who are resisting the Syrian army that is intent on capturing the city.

With it now apparent that the Erdoğan administration’s aims are no longer feasible, one could describe the way it has become bogged down thanks to its obdurateness over its Syria policy as its “jihadist impasse and Kurdish quandary.”

Why jihadist impasse?

This is because the situation in Idlib bears testament that the end is nigh for the policy of using jihadists to prop up the intervention in Syria.

The period in which jihadist groups such as ISIS and Ahrar al-Sham were influential on the ground was the period in which the Erdoğan administration’s interventionist Syria policy had the most props. In this period, these jihadist groups were supported in conjunction with the policy, on the one hand, of overthrowing the Syrian/Assad administration and, on the other, of destroying the autonomous administration the Kurds had created in Rojava. However, for one thing, as part of the “Strategy of Combatting ISIS” it put into implementation to restore its authority in the region (Middle East) that was starting to wane, the USA’s move towards cooperation with the Kurdish forces (Syrian Democratic Forces-SDF) that were battling ISIS and, for another, Russia’s post-2015 military engagement in support of the Syrian administration changed the balances and upset the calculations.

Russia’s military engagement and involvement in the operations led to the shelving of calculations to overthrow the Syrian/Assad administration. Meanwhile, faced with the USA, moving towards cooperation with the Kurds (SDF), providing heavy weapons to the SDF for the operations undertaken most prominently in Raqqa and the subsequent staging of the coup attempt in July 2016 that drew strength from tension between the USA and the Erdoğan administration, the Erdoğan administration moved into cooperation with Russia. Of necessity, cooperation with Russia resulted in the sidelining of the goal of overthrowing the Syrian administration and the prioritization of the policy of eliminating the attainments in Syria of the Kurds, also perceived as being a threat with regard to the furtherance of the policy being waged at home within the Kurdish problem.

For Russia, the cooperation with Turkey was fairly expedient cooperation when it came both to eliminating the jihadist bands and engaging NATO-member Turkey to upset US calculations. On this basis, the jihadist bands in areas such as Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta and Dera’a were on the one hand liquidated bit by bit and moved to Idlib under the auspices of the power holders in Turkey, and, on the other, Turkey’s operations targeting the Kurdish autonomous administration starting with “Euphrates Shield” were permitted in the interests of both limiting the Kurds’ power and upsetting US plans.

In short, both their influence over jihadist groups and their potential to upset US plans led to Russia making the power holders in Turkey into one of the major actors in Syria. However, this situation started to change after Turkey’s “Fountain of Peace” operation. The US withdrawal from the border regions where it had been cooperating with the Kurds and the brokering by Russia, having subsequently become involved, of an agreement on border security between the Kurdish forces and the Syrian administration altered the balances here, too. Russia’s involvement brought the operation to an end and the preconditions no longer applied for Turkey’s intervention in regions apart from Tell Abyad and Serêkaniyê (Ras al-Ayn) which it had taken in the initial periods of the operation. Moreover, under Russia’s guarantee, negotiations were started between the Syrian administration and the Kurdish forces (Syrian Democratic Council) on the Kurds’ status in the new Syria.

These developments pressed the power holders in Turkey bit by bit into their impasse because, even though, to halt the operation the Syrian army had commenced, the Erdoğan administration signed the Sochi Agreement with Russia in September 2018 in which it made undertakings concerning the liquidation of jihadists, it did not fulfil these undertakings, nor could it. It could not do so because the fulfilment of these undertakings would entail losing the most important card it had used to become an influential actor in Syria. But their current plight shows that there was/could have been no possibility of the non-fulfilment of the undertakings altering the outcome apart from gaining time for the power holders in Turkey.

At this juncture, it can be said that a fresh agreement may also emerge from negotiations held/to be held with Russia whereby Turkey and the jihadist groups consent to the new situation in Idlib, that is Syria and Russia having captured many of the city’s strategic points. Erdoğan’s pronouncements signal their readiness for such a compromise with a view to at least delaying departure from the other regions of Syria that have been taken and not fully relinquishing the position vis-à-vis the Kurds.

However, the jihadist impasse for the Erdoğan administration does not amount purely to the jihadist groups becoming functionless with regard to the interventionist Syria policy because going forward it will face the problem/question of what is to become of the tens of thousands of jihadists who will throng to the border gates and pose a significant security threat to Turkey.

Essentially, what has been said until now also applies to various aspects of the power holders’ Kurdish quandary.

The Kurds’ attainments in Syria also played a decisive in role in the ending of the “solution process” by the Erdoğan administration, seeing that under these conditions it would be unable to impose its own solution. Hence, the policies of oppression domestically – and Erdoğan once again signalled fresh operations against the HDP on his return from Azerbaijan – and the operations against the Kurdish autonomous region in Syria were waged simultaneously. However, as has already been stated, we have reached a point at which the preconditions for waging these operations against the Syrian Kurds no longer apply. Conversely, the talks between the Syrian administration and the pollical structures in the autonomous Kurdish region show that the Kurds in Syria will be part of the solution, even if its framework/scope will be shaped in keeping with the balances and developments in the region. This process will most certainly have inevitable effects/consequences as far as policies that are pursued in the country within the Kurdish problem are concerned.

In conclusion, the jihadist impasse and Kurdish quandary summarize the point the incorrect policies of nine years have reached. Rather than reverting from this error and adopting a policy based on popular interests, Erdoğan is attempting to lengthen the life of this policy that today is bogged down in Idlib even though it will impose a heavy price on the country and create fresh dangers because he regards it as a prop for furthering his own rule.

 

Article by Yusuf KARATAS
Email: yusufka17@gmail.com

Translated by Tim DRAYTON

 

 

It has come to this: Refugees as instruments of war

Turkey is pushing refugees over the border and Greece is pushing them back. What we are watching is a Turkish-Greek jointly produced film of shame. The refugees are like a ping-pong ball toing and froing across the tennis table.

The right-wing government in Greece is pitiless towards refugees. Be they old, children or handicapped, the people massing at the border gate are stifled with gas and bombarded with stun grenades. The war launched against refugees is called a “push back.” Greece previously came to attention for the countless cases of torture along the Maritsa river.

So, what should the method the Turkish government is implementing be called? I think it could be called a “push forward.” Turkey is pushing refugees over the border and Greece is pushing them back. What we are watching is a Turkish-Greek jointly produced film of shame. The refugees are like a ping-pong ball toing and froing across the tennis table. The false hopes and torment are incalculable.

Becoming isolated in the Syrian theatre, the AKP administration is using the refugees as a political trump card. It wants to spread the crisis to Europe by means of the refugees. This is what it basically boils down to. The world saw two big imperialist wars in the twentieth century and millions of refugees were displaced. But it fell to the AKP in the twenty-first century to use refugees as an instrument of war.

Nothing but disgrace meets the eyes:

Millions of refugees are transported in municipal vehicles in the knowledge that the gates will not be opened. Speaking to NTV, a woman refugee says, “Officials say, ‘The gate is closed. Go by sea.’”Human traffickers brag, “The Chief has given permission anyway. We have started to transport the refugees.”The boarding of children and babies onto dinghies is broadcast live, gangs dispatch people on deadly journeys, etc.

All of these things are for sure crimes against humanity. Those who turn a blind eye to and facilitate this need shed no crocodile tears when the first child drowns in the Aegean because they hold political responsibility for this entire disgrace.

So, what about society?

You see the throngs along Vatan Street in Istanbul seeking to get aboard the buses. Refugee babies are tossed from hand to hand. A woman refugee is separated from her husband and screams. And, with all this going on, passing cars honk their horns and swearing emerges from the windows. Some shout, “Piss off and don’t come back again.” While in Adana, shops are shuttered and people stay indoors to keep Syrians from being lynched.

Do you know what this means? This means the pent-up hatred of Syrians over nine years is manifesting itself as a social eruption. How can there be intermingling under such circumstances? Where will things end up when those who leave are forced to return? We are clearly in a period in which everyone needs to exercise common sense. Questioning government decisions? OK. Criticizing political power, erroneous foreign policy and the erroneous refugee policies this policy engendered? This, of course, is what is called for at the same time. But directing the anger towards refugees can and must never be accepted.

Do you know who the first to go were when it was announced that the border gates would be opened? Those at the bottom – Syrians, Afghans, Uzbeks, Congolese. Those incapable of enduring a life devoid of status, harrowing working conditions and half-price wages, in short, the cog wheels of capitalism. A textile-worker refugee in Istanbul has the following comment: “It’s better if I go to the border rather than living under the fear of repatriation and dodging the police on the way to work.”

Are all these circumstances not being experienced thanks somewhat to the inability of workers, local and refugee, to join hands and their failure to change this ruleless working order in unison?

Look what a father on the Edirne border says speaking to Evrensel with his child in his hands and among a cloud of gas: “This is a political game. They made plenty of mistakes towards us. Neither Turkey nor Greece or Europe recognize us as people. You won this game so well done.”

The European Union also bears plenty of guilt in this refugee exchange founded on political disputes. They asked EU spokesperson Stano in Brussels about the refugees crossing the Greek border. The man’s reply was precisely, “If we are witnessing any increase … we will act accordingly.”

So, how will these developments change course?

It is clear that, however much they have been tabled, imperialist solutions have not been the solution in Syria. If the region is to breathe freely, the bloodshed is to stop and the tears are to cease, the brotherhood of peoples and struggle for peace will open the way to this. Only then will refugees avoid being made into an instrument of war.

A final note:

Why, faced with the human drama taking place at the border gates, are Thrace’s and Istanbul’s trade unions, associations and democratic mass organizations unable to display effective solidarity? Let us ask ourselves this question on behalf of every woman, child and even swaddled baby refugee. And, whatever steps can be taken, let us take them quickly.

 

Article by Ercüment AKDENİZ

Translated by Tim DRAYTON

 

Idlib message from Selahattin Demirtaş

Former HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş has made a statement following the death of 33 soldiers in Idlib.

Former HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, detained for more than three years in Edirne Prison, has sent a message regarding the 34 soldiers who were killed in the air raid staged by the Syrian army in the Syrian town of Idlib.

Demirtaş’s message read as follows:

“May God bless the souls of the security staff who lost their lives in the attack in Idlib and I send my condolences to their relatives and wish the injured a speedy recovery. I share their pains and concerns with all my heart.

I hope the policies of war, conflict and tension being pursued at home and abroad will not lead to further destruction and pain.

Pushing for the solving of problems through peace and dialogue under all conditions is the most honourable and virtuous approach. Let us raise our voice of peace, not cries of war.” (EVRENSEL DAILY)

 

Is a government to promise “martyrdom” to its citizens?

Erdoğan appears to have reached the stage of holding “martyrs” in a tighter embrace and saying, “God willing, the mound of martyrs will not remain empty” in accentuating the religious-ideological grounds for his policy.

Speaking at a foundation-laying ceremony for the tram line in Izmir’s Kınık sub-province, for the second time in the past two weeks Erdoğan again aired the promise, “God willing, the mound of martyrs will not remain empty.”

This is because Erdoğan is now having great trouble replying to the questions, “Why are we in Syria?” and “Why are we in Libya?” through advancing political justifications. This is because the Erdoğan administration, which now portrays Idlib as being Turkish territory, not Syrian territory, and has reached the stage of going to war against Syria to topple the Syrian government, has become incapable of maintaining its defence of its current position in Syria with its former justifications.

The arrival now of soldiers’ remains from Libya will also bring the reason for being in Libya into greater questioning. Hence, faced with the collapse of the political justifications for his neo-Ottoman foreign policy, Erdoğan has turned to trotting out ideological reasons of Medieval provenance so as to prevent disintegration in his own base if nothing else!

CONFESSION TURKISH ARMED FORCES AND SNA ARE FIGHTING WITH HAFTAR IN LIBYA

Arguing in his speech in Kınık that, “Turkey’s Syrian and Libya policies are neither an adventure nor a trifling matter,” Erdoğan, in saying, “We say that we are engaged in a new independence struggle as a country and people. We are there (Libya) along with our directing heroic military and our teams from the Syrian National Army (SNA). Of course, we have a few martyrs. My brothers, we will never forget that the mound of martyrs will not remain empty!” clearly articulated the jihadist, conquestorial mentality behind the neo-Ottomanist policy in Libya, Syria and in all corners of the globe.

Let me point out straight away that the Erdoğan administration’s neo-Ottomanist policy is in dire straits in both Syria and Libya. These straits have by now stripped demagogic justifications aimed at concealing the truth of their credibility. Indeed, in invalidating propaganda premised on “We do not have our eyes on an inch of Syria’s territory” or “We respect Syria’s territorial integrity,” the Erdoğan administration has reached the stage of speaking of going to war against the Syrian regime.

And, on the day following that on which he spoke of war in Syria, Erdoğan, by saying the other day, “We are there along with our directing heroic military and our teams from the SNA” following on from his comments, “We are consulting with the Serraj administration. Members of the Turkish armed forces are not participating in the war” acknowledged that Turkey was waging war along with the Haftar forces in the guise of the Turkish Armed Forces and SNA.

Here, Erdoğan brushes off the affair by saying, “We have a few martyrs,” but, in conjunction with the deaths of three Turkish armed forces members, one of whom was Colonel Okan Altınay, in clashes in Libya, it will be no great error to say that the “numerical measuring of martyrs” will also raise questions in his own base.

WHAT DOES “THE MOUND OF MARTYRS WILL NOT REMAIN EMPTY” MEAN?

The Erdoğan-AKP administration, its political justifications gradually losing credibility, needs to cloak events in an ideological sheath to prevent disintegration among those of its own persuasion if nobody else.

With the political justifications for his Libya and Syria policies becoming less credible, Erdoğan appears to have reached the stage of holding “martyrs” in a tighter embrace and saying, “God willing, the mound of martyrs will not remain empty” in accentuating the religious-ideological grounds for his policy.

What this means, in turn, is, “We will and must yield far more martyrs on the road embarked on today!”

This thinking constituted one of the predominant concepts of Islamic culture in the “wars of religion” that Islam waged against non-Islamic religions, chiefly Christianity, in the seventh century in which Islam’s period of “conquest” occurred and which has become crystalized in the “martyrdom” that such bunches as ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood have popularized.

Indeed, to cover up the administrative issues and administrative liability that was clearly apparent in the Elazığ earthquake and in Van, on 7 February following the avalanche disaster in Van Erdoğan attributed what had happened to “accident and fate.” However, Erdoğan did not stop at this and, saying, “We will walk undauntedly and fearlessly towards the Shahada so that, God willing, the mound of martyrs will not remain empty,” set out to make the declaration that “the mound of martyrs will not remain empty” not just into a veil for his own liability but, at the same time, into good tidings, a promise!

AIM SHOULD BE TO ENSURE CITIZENS’ SAFETY OF LIFE

As has been seen, to prevent its own goals from henceforth coming into open view and the quagmire into which it has dragged Turkey in the interests of a handful of capital groupings from becoming visible and to furnish legitimacy for its bankrupt foreign policy, the Erdoğan administration is using the slogan of the jihadist and conquestorial mindset of “martyrdom” and trying to save face.

Today, unless it is of a jihadist and conquestorial ideological persuasion, no sensible government or state promises becoming martyrs to its people and populace! And, for sure, it does not try to turn the “arrival of martyrs” from across borders into a “martyrdom” that is the product of its own policies and an occurrence that is to be “coveted” and “encouraged” based on “nature,” “fate” “faith” and “hadith.” On the contrary, today, the first duty of every state, every political party and every administrator imbued with a degree of modern thinking is to ensure citizens’ safety of life.

The chief aim of domestic and foreign policy is thus ensuring citizens’ safety of life!

If the government’s domestic or foreign policy opens the way for the “martyrdom of youth,” to secure the success of these foreign policies, it renews policies, not in a way that encourages the yielding of far more martyrs and becoming martyrs, but that changes these policies and prevents citizens from becoming martyrs.

The eighteen-year AKP rule has brought Turkey into a domestic and foreign political orientation fashioned on a foundation that is rooted in seventh-century jihadism and hallows the concepts of “jihad,” “conquest” and “martyrdom” of such bunches that conduct politics through religion as ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood and that is combined with the issue of “survival” coloured by these concepts.

This orientation will see far more “martyrs” coming from Libya, from Syria, from Iraq, …!

Article by İhsan Çaralan

Translated by Tim Drayton

İlhan Uzgel and Kerim Has’s assessment: Idlib doggedness full of risk

Prof. Dr. İlhan Uzgel and Russia expert Kerim Has assessed the latest developments in Syria and Idlib for Evrensel.

The Idlib tension continues to mount. The Ministry of National Defence announced the deaths of two soldiers and the wounding of another five soldiers in İdlib. At around the same time, the Anadolu Agency intimated that members of the “moderate” opposition had launched an operation against the Syrian army in the Idlib-located town of Nayrab. Issuing a statement following the reports, the Russian Ministry of Defence in turn stated that the assault had been repulsed with the intervention of Russian air forces and called on Turkey to stop supporting armed militants.

Experts who have assessed the ongoing developments for Evrensel stress that the doggedness in Idlib is full of risk.

Recalling that there had been previous losses of lives of soldiers in Idlib, Prof. Dr. İlhan Uzgel pointed out that the military operation would have high-cost consequences in both political and diplomatic as well as legal and military terms. According to Uzgel, who says, “America is not troubled by the conflict in Syria,” the carrying of this conflict into a new dimension by Turkey is compatible with America’s interests.

According to Russia expert Kerim Has, for his part, what is entailed in Idlib is not Turkey’s interests but the AKP-Erdoğan’s “political” ambitions. Saying that for this reason the soldiers under the Syrian army’s control at the observation points have not been withdrawn, Has commented, “The power holders in Ankara think that ‘news of the fallen’ coming from Syria serves as it were as ‘petrol’ for the perpetuation of their own existence.”

İLHAN UZGEL: THE POLITICAL, MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC CONSEQUENCES WOULD BE SEVERE

Prof. Dr. İlhan Uzgel considers there to be a low probability of a direct operation. Recalling that Turkey had primed itself as if conflict was in the offing and had amassed troops in the region, Uzgel said, “I mean, the prevailing intention in military terms here was for deterrence. Why do I say this? You know the Turkish observation points in Idlib have remained in places the Syrian army controls and it is at the very least trying to secure these and to attain deterrence with a strong build-up to ward off attack. This is the first stage.”

Saying that the second stage is, “Expelling the Syrian units beyond the Sochi Agreement borders,” Uzgel continued, “This would be a riskier action. It would be an action that engenders far more high-cost consequences in both political and diplomatic as well as legal and military terms. There is a lower probability of encountering this because in the end you are in another country’s territory and would be battling it to secure spatial expansion. The perception of this in the world, including the Arab world, and especially the perception of this in Russia, would be extremely negative. I mean, build up as many troops as you like, in the end you are in another country’s territory. Furthermore, Turkey’s military units and observation points are at extremely fatigue-prone locations. The operation would have high-risk consequences because a countermove could come and military fatalities have previously been experienced in any case. If further such instances occurred, it would come at a heavier price in domestic politics and I do not really imagine this would be a strain it could withstand.”

Saying that there may nevertheless be surprise steps, Uzgel continued, “All of this has to do with the extent to which it takes these risks, for example will it risk the loss of soldiers or will it risk appearing more aggressive in the international arena, given that Turkey has appeared to be complying with the agreement until now?”

“IF THERE IS TALK OF ‘STRATEGY’ SOMEWHERE, IT MEANS AN ATTRITION OF PEOPLES”

Assessing the unfolding process in Syria since 2011 also from the viewpoint of the peoples of the region, Uzgel had the following to say: “With talk of strategy, security and such like starting, the attrition of peoples is beginning. That is, if there is talk of a strategy somewhere, it means a process in which there is an attrition of peoples has begun. And this is what we are experiencing, not just in Syria; all the peoples of the region are experiencing this.”

“AMERICA WANTS THE CONFLICT IN SYRIA TO CONTINUE”

Well, where is the USA in these discussions? With US President Donald Trump saying, “We are working together with Erdoğan over Idlib,” President Erdoğan has pronounced, “We may have all kinds of solidarity with the US at any time.”

Assessing the US’s attitude, Prof. Uzgel says, “America wants Turkey to stay in Idlib and for the presence of Islamist radicals to continue, too. In the end, a portion of them were trained under America’s train-equip programme and it inserted a portion of them there in conjunction with Turkey; they consist of warriors to which it blinded its eyes. America is not actually troubled by the dynamic of conflict in Syria, and the carrying of this conflict into a new dimension by Turkey is not contrary to America’s interests and America is consequently at Turkey’s rear in this affair. This in fact is one of the reasons lying behind the ease with which Turkey acts.”

Stating that America and Russia have never come into confrontation and will not do so, Uzgel said, “Just as today, they get on pretty fine by involving other countries. It is taking place through Turkey’s frontal war with Syria, not with Russia – Russia will not wage war with Turkey, it has America and NATO behind it and it has called them to duty, too. America has found a fresh means to keep Turkey on the anti-Russian front and, as such, it hopes to confront the Syrian army here without touching Russia.

KERİM HAS: OPERATION BEING MOOTED DUE TO ERDOĞAN’S “POLITICAL AMBITIONS”

According to Russia expert Kerim Has, President Erdoğan’s pronouncement, “The operation against Idlib is imminent” and Russia’s reply, “Ankara waging war against the Syrian armed forces on Syrian territory is the worst-case scenario” need to be taken seriously. Has said, “I am of the opinion that President Erdoğan is seriously contemplating the option of war with Syria, not because Turkey’s interests demand it, but to further his own political ambitions and cravings. In my estimation the power holders in Ankara think and are calculating that ‘news of the fallen’ coming from Syria serves as it were as ‘petrol’ for the perpetuation of their own existence.”

Considering the non-withdrawal of troops from the remaining Turkish observation points in Idlib that are besieged on all sides by the Syrian army and have to meet all their needs including day-to-day provisions under Russian supervision as a pointer towards this, Has commented, “If a war breaks out, it is probable that the Turkish troops surrounded by regime forces which will become priority targets will needlessly be left virtually hostage.”

COUP DEBATE NOT INDEPENDENT OF THE SITUATION IN SYRIA

Pointing out that the tension the AKP is experiencing with Russia over Syria has further accentuated the squabbles and differences of opinion between groups known to be “nationalist and Eurasianist” and the “components in the depths,” Kerim Has thinks that the discussion of coups and assassination allegations that have become hot issues of late are directly related to developments in Syria.

IT WOULD INCREASE RUSSIA’S SUPPORT FOR DAMASCUS

According to Kerim Has, assessing Dmitri Peskov’s comment, “It would be the worst-case scenario for Idlb” in responding on Russia’s behalf to Erdoğan’s operation pronouncement, Russia’s policy is clear: “It is an updated Sochi Agreement whereby the M4 and M5 motorways pass into Damascus’s control, the terrorist and jihadist elements are shoved away towards the Turkish border and at the very least the besieged Turkish troops are removed from the region. But it is abundantly clear that this agreement will also be temporary and regime forces, having rested for a while, will advance inside Idlib.

Secondly, President Erdoğan directly and openly targeting Syrian military positions in Syrian territory without any attack would lead to an increase in the support Russia gives the Damascus administration, which it stands behind anyhow. In this case, the Turkish army would be confronted not just by Assad regime forces, Hezbollah and Iranian-supported militias, but by Russia. If the conflict did not remain confined to Idlib and spread to Afrin and the Peace Fountain region, Russia might engage the Syrian Kurds and take certain critical steps that could lead to Ankara suffering ‘rout’ on the ground.

The AKP administration for its part appears to wish for the regime to withdraw to the borders of one and a half years ago in Idlib. It is no exaggeration to say that it is impossible for Ankara to attain this goal under prevailing conditions.”

Has stresses that all these possibilities depend on whether “President Erdoğan will acquiesce even temporarily to an updated Idlib with a changed map.”

“RUSSIA MAY BRING OLD AND NEW DOSSIERS DOWN FROM THE SHELVES”

Russia expert Kerim Has noted that, if Ankara embarks on direct war with Syria, Moscow may bring the ISIS dossiers down from the shelves that it submitted to the UN Security Council at the time of the plane crisis which initiated the process leading to President Erdoğan apologizing or that fresh ones may follow these. Has continued, “Such personal ‘blackmail tools’ that may lead to the airing of ‘dirty laundry’ ranging from relations with diverse warriors in Syria to transfers of Jihadists to Libya and from the ledgers of Reza Zarrab, whose men were apprehended at Moscow Vnukovo airport, to the lowdown on 15 July are contained in Pandora’s Box and its opening and use has in fact been awaited for a long time.

One of the most important points the Kremlin learnt in the plane crisis is that it can attain a speedier and easier result if, rather than bringing itself into confrontation with Turkey as a country, it squeezes its rulers. Otherwise, it would neither have been able to sell Ankara the S-400s for which Turkey has absolutely no need in military terms nor construct TurkStram without giving Ankara anything in return. Hence, the price of such actions as calling NATO into Idlib, needing Trump’s aid or adopting a position that encourages the US to stage an air operation in Syria will most probable serve no other purpose than increasing the cost of the war for Ankara.”

Article by Meltem Akyol

Translated by Tim Drayton

 

 

 

The on-stage rifle is starting to go off in Idlib!

The picture painted in Idlib conjures up the words spoken by Russian playwright Chekhov to emphasise the connection of the stage set: “If in the first act there is a rifle hanging on the wall, it absolutely must go off at the end of the play.”

Each day fresh news of conflict and death comes in step with the build-up that has been going on for weeks in Idlib and the increased number of tanks, howitzers, armed vehicles, thousands of soldiers and tons of ammunition being sent in 100-200 vehicle convoys.

The picture painted in Idlib conjures up the words spoken by Russian playwright and poet Anton Chekhov to emphasise the connection of the stage set, narrative and play with reality: “If in the first act there is a rifle hanging on the wall, it absolutely must go off at the end of the play.” It has become a veritable “maxim” in the political debate of recent years in the political and military arena as talk turns from “must go off” to “goes off.”

Taking stock of events in Idlib, we see the laconic remark drawing its inspiration from Chekhov seemingly operating as a “rule of war.”

WORDS TURNING INTO GUNS

So much so that, as the end of the scene nighs, the barrels of the rifles alleged to have been stacked up “for peace” and “to save people’s lives” turn to the people said to be “enemies!” This is accompanied by such clichés as “We may come suddenly one night,” “The blood of our fallen will not be shed in vain,” “We’ll match like with like” and “We’ll strike the enemy everywhere.” In short, even the heroics aimed at domestic politics are turning on the ground into guns ready to go off.

With the situation on the ground becoming so sensitive that conflict may erupt at any moment and becoming conducive to jihadist-terrorist groups’ provocations, Idlib is becoming and has become catalytic for every kind of nightmare scenario for Turkey.

This is because ten of the twelve observation zones Turkey set up under the Sochi Agreement have become stuck in the area under the Syrian army’s control in the past fortnight. This boils down to a lack of anything out there remaining to be observed and, moreover, the observation zones having become surrounded by the Syrian army.

Indeed, it emerged the day before yesterday that members of the “moderate opposition” said to be under Turkey’s supervision attacked the town of Nayrab under Syrian military control in a rural part of Idlib and the Turkish armed forces provided artillery support for the attack.

The attack on Nayrab was repelled with Russian warplane support.

ERDOĞAN REMAINS TRAPPED BETWEEN RUSSIA AND THE USA

The President and government spokespersons say at every opportunity, “We have no intention or goal of clashing with Russia.” Delegations come and go between Ankara and Moscow and there is blunt talk of no result ensuing from the talks held. If there are those who say, “Only Putin and Erdoğan talking can halt the process that is sliding towards conflict,” Putin evidently is not talking since the environment for doing so has yet to emerge.

Russia’s wishes of Turkey are that it:

Does not forget that Idlib is Syrian territory,Refrains from exaggerated comments that inflame the ground situation, andCeases arming and supporting terrorist groups.

And the US intervention in the Idlib crisis has started to assume a degree of shape.

It is beyond debate that Western imperialists such as the US, UK, France and Germany, whose wish of Turkey is that it houses the jihadists-terrorists in Idlib, want Idlib to be a “protected area” for terrorists as it is today.

The US and Western imperialists want Russia and Turkey to come into confrontation in Idlib, to give unconditional allegiance to Western imperialism and for Russo-Turkish relations to implode under the given circumstances. In fact, Merkel and Macron spoke to Putin yesterday and asked for the making of a ceasefire in Idlib.

With the Erdoğan administration having taken a position that questioned US support in the form of giving a “blank cheque” for Turkey’s Idlib policy, it has put this questioning to one side in recent days as things get stickier for it in Idlib. Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu showed that objections and concerns have been put to one side in saying, “We will be in cooperation in all forms with the USA.” Indeed, announcement has been made by both Turkey and the US that Turkey has asked the US for Patriot missile systems to cleave out the corridor they will open for its warplanes in Idlib air space.

IF TURKEY PERSISTS THE CONFLICT WILL HARSHEN FURTHER

Looked at in the light of developments in Idlib, there remains on the ground no counterpart of the Astana and Sochi agreements which portray Turkey’s presence in Idlib as “legitimate:”

The Turkish armed forces observation points are now in locations where they come into confrontation with the Syrian army.Russia and Iran stand behind Syria and both countries are Turkey’s partners in both the Astana and Sochi processes. This is a contradiction but has become a contradiction that can be resolved by Turkey withdrawing from Idlib.Russia has given a negative reply to Turkey’s request for the opening of Syrian air space to its warplanes. Turkey has asked for Patriot missile systems for use against Russia and Iran. However, an affirmative response has yet to come from the US.

The way things stack up is that if Turkey entertains any other option apart from withdrawing from Idlib, which is Syrian territory in military terms, it will get into a far greater mess militarily. However, despite this reality, Erdoğan wants the Syrian army to withdraw to behind Turkey’s observation points by the end of February. It thus appears that in the coming days the contradictions between Russia-Syria-Iran-Turkey over Idlib are set to sharpen and the conflict to harshen.

In Idlib, the rifles “on stage” have started to go off!

We will shortly see more clearly if they go off to the extent of leading to war with the Syrian army.

 

Article by Ihsan Çaralan

Translated by Tim Drayton

IPI: BirGün’s announcement ban lifted, Evrensel’s to be lifted too

The International Press Institute (IPI) has announced that the announcement ban given to BirGün has been lifted by the Press Notices Institute and appealed for the same ban issued to Evrensel to be lifted at once.

The International Press Institute (IPI) has announced that the announcement ban given to BirGün has been lifted by the Press Notices Institute and appealed for the same ban issued to Evrensel to be lifted at once.

The IPI has announced from its social media account that the announcement ban given to BirGün by the Press Notices Institute has been lifted. In addition the IPI also appealed for the fine issues to Evrensel to be lifted with immediate effect too.

The IPI message published in Twitter reads “Great news as #Turkey’s state ad agency @basinilankurumu ends 6-month ban on @BirGun_Gazetesi yet IPI demands urgent lifting of public ad ban on @evrenselgzt.

Ban must end w/out delay or face permanent exclusion to threaten survival of the newspaper. #FreeTurkeyJournalists”.

The General Editor of Evrensel newspaper, Fatih Polat, who quoted the message, said the following: “Get well soon wishes to our neighbour newspaper, BirGün. I would have wanted to say we wish the same for ourselves, alas, the Press Notices Institute, on the grounds that such a decision has been given, may persist on the cancellation of Evrensel’s right to notices on the pretext that ‘See, we are not biased against anyone’. This is what their attitude seems to be. This is because Evrensel has nothing missing. I wish I will be proved wrong.”

(EVRENSEL DAILY)

PAA rejects Evrensel’s objection to announcement ban decision – embargo continues

The Press Advertisement Agency has dismissed our objection to the announcement and advertising decision it issued whereby more than one newspaper may not be purchased.

The Press Advertisement Agency (PAA) has once more dismissed the objection we made to the announcement and advertising ban penalty it imposed premised on newsagent sales.

The Press Advertisement Agency has dismissed the objection we made after it ruled “the purchasing by one reader of more than one newspaper” to be a crime on the basis of inspections made in the Adana, Ankara, Diyarbakır, Istanbul, İzmir and Kocaeli provinces on 28 October 2019. Alleging that Evrensel was bought by newspaper staff and this situation was of a constant nature, the PAA intimated that for this reason it had decided to continue suspension of the official announcement and advertising right. This decision was served on our paper on 14 January 2020. Purchasing more than one newspaper was deemed to be a crime element in this decision.

IS IT A CRIME TO BUY TWO PAPERS?

In the 14 January decision, the purchasing by one person of five newspapers in Diyarbakır and taking them to a prison, the purchasing by one person of eight newspapers in Meydan Market and three newspapers in Has-Er Market in İzmir, the purchasing of five newspapers from the Nesrit Bulut newsagent and two from the newsagent named Aktif Gıda Pazarlama in Adana and the purchasing of fifteen newspapers from the Şen Gıda newsagent and eight from Zaman Gıda in Gebze was deemed to be a “crime element.”

OUR GROUNDS FOR OBJECTION SUPPOSEDLY UNACCEPTABLE

The objection we made to this decision has been dismissed by the Press Advertisement Agency. In its decision, the PAA dismissed the objection we made, saying, “… It was ascertained that just as no valid and concrete information or documentation was submitted that would constitute a basis for the lifting of the General Directorate decision in question, no cogent explanation was offered with reference to the violations. Consequently, as Evrensel Daily newspaper’s grounds in the (g)-referenced correspondence were not deemed to necessitate the lifting of the (f)-referenced General Directorate decision and to be acceptable, there was no call for the conducting of any procedures in line with the (g)-referenced correspondence of the newspaper at issue.”

NO EXPECTATION OF A LAW-BASED AND INDEPENDENT DECISION FROM THE PAA

Noting that the Press Advertisement Agency was maintaining its double standards, Evrensel newspaper’s lawyer Devrim Avcı said, “It does not accept our readers buying two newspapers, but on the other hand the income other press outlets derive from mass sales is massive. They want us to believe that Sabah newspaper is purchased individually from newsagents.”

Saying that the Press Advertisement Agency alleges that newspaper staff constantly purchase the newspaper and this is untrue, Avcı said, “They say staff buy the paper but staff are in fact notified to both the PAA and the Social Security Institution. Despite this, they persist in saying that ‘Staff buy the newspaper.’”

Avcı stressed that he no longer expected a law-based and independent decision from the Press Advertisement Agency.

ACCORDING TO THE PAA, PAPERS MUST BE BOUGHT INDIVIDUALLY

The Press Advertisement Agency also recalled its decision, “In paragraph four of Article 46 of the Regulation on Official Announcements and Advertisements and Periodicals Which are to Publish These concerning the number of actual sales and their averages as well as distribution and sales principles, sales at final point-secondary newsagents must be made in fact and individually, with multiple sales being exceptional on reasonable and acceptable grounds.” In other words, the purchasing of more than one newspaper is deemed a “crime” under the Press Advertisement Agency decision.

OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS MAY FULLY COME TO AN END IN ONE MONTH’S TIME

Evrensel was penalized with the first official announcement and advertisement ban on 18 September 2019. Even if we as a newspaper objected to the decision on 2 October, this met with dismissal on 10 October. This was compounded by the late delivery of the Press Advertisement Agency decisions to our paper by the post office. On 14 October we then requested a “renewed inspection” for this procedure to be reassessed. The reinspection fee for the renewed inspection decision issued on 4 November was also paid by our paper. On 19 December, we subsequently petitioned for a reply to be given to our paper in view of reinspection not yet having been conducted. On 14 January, however, the report replete with outrageous details about multiple purchases was forwarded to our paper. In response to this decision, we further objected to the decision on 20 January. However, from information that reached us on 17 February, the Press Advertisement Agency announced that it would not lift the announcement and advertisement ban penalty. A mere one month remains before our newspaper, designated as being penalized for five months, forfeits its official announcement right. If the official announcement ban penalty does not end by March, our newspaper Evrensel will attain the status of a newspaper unable to carry official announcements.

Article by Gözde TÜZER

Posted by Evrensel Daily

Following signal from Erdoğan, Board of Judges and Prosecutors authorizes probe into Gezi trial judges

The Board of Judges and Prosecutors has authorized a probe into the judges which ordered acquittal in the Gezi trial. Prior to the decision authorizing the probe, Erdoğan said, “They set out with a manoeuvre to have him acquitted.”

Chamber One of the Board of Judges and Prosecutors has authorized a probe into the bench of Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 30 which ordered acquittal in the Gezi trial.

According to a report by Nazif Karaman of Sabah, the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (BJP) has authorized an examination and investigation of Presiding Judge Mehmet Perk and members Ahmet Tarık Çiftçioğlu and Talip Ergen who ordered acquittal in the Gezi trial.

From what has been gleaned, the Board will appoint an inspector into the bench. The inspector will investigate the affair.

ERDOĞAN REACTS TO DECISION

Criticizing the judgment emanating from the Gezi trial, President Erdoğan said, “There are in a serious sense Soros-type characters behind the curtains who by means of getting certain countries to rebel stir things up there and he was within the Turkish leg of this. They set out with a manoeuvre to have him (Osman Kavala) acquitted yesterday. Others are also with him in this affair.”

NINE PEOPLE ACQUITTED INCLUDING KAVALA

The bench in the Gezi trial ordered the acquittal of nine people, including detainee Osman Kavala. The court also ordered Kavala’s release. With Kavala being released in the evening in line with the ruling, a rearrest order was issued against him in relation to the 15 July investigation.

Posted by EVRENSEL DAILY

 

9 People Acquitted and Osman Kavala Discharged in Gezi Trial

The court panel in the Gezi case gave the verdict of acquitting 9 people and discharging Osman Kavala, the only defendant of the case in detention. The files of 7 people abroad were set aside.

The sixth hearing of the Gezi court case of 16 people accused of “attempting to do away with the government of Turkish Republic,” one of whom has been in detention, has taken place in Istanbul Major Crimes Court 30 in Silivri. The court panel arrived at a verdict. Due to the lack of legal evidence pertaining to committing of the purported crimes by the accused, the verdict was the acquittal of 9 people and discharge of Osman Kavala. The court also decided for the files of 7 people abroad to be set aside and resolved for the removal of the orders for their arrest pending any other legal decision on them.

THE VERDICT HAS BEEN GIVEN

Having reminded that legal proceedings about Osman Kavala, Mücella Yapıcı, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Ali Hakan Altınay, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi, Çiğdem Mater Utku and Mine Özerden were started due to “attempts through compulsion and violence to do away with the government of Turkish Republic or to, partially or as a whole, impede it fulfilling its tasks”, “damaging property”, “qualitative looting”, “the unpermitted possession or supply of dangerous substances”, “deliberate cause of injury”, “aggravated injury” and “opposition to the Act of Safeguarding Cultural and Natural Heritage,” the court gave a verdict of their acquittal as “there was not sufficiently concrete or definitive evidence of the committing of crimes accused which would warrant a sentence”. The court resolved to acquit and discharge Osman Kavala.

The court which resolved to set aside the files of Can Dündar, Mehmet Ali Alabora, Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Gökçe Tüylüoğlu, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu and İnanç Ekmekçi, also resolved to quash the order for their arrest. The court issued a warrant for their arrest in order to take their statements.

Presenting his deliberation, the prosecutor had applied for aggravated life sentences for Osman Kavala, Mücella Yapıcı and Yiğit Aksakoğlu, sentences of 15 to 20 years for Tayfun Kahraman, Ali Hakan Altınay, Mine Özerden, Can Atalay, Yiğit Al Ekmekçi and for the files of Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Can Dündar, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, Memet Ali Alabora ve İnanç Ekmekçi to be set aside.

THE DETAILS OF THE HEARING

Observed by representatives of international human rights organisations, members of parliament, journalists and the public, the court hearing opened with the statement of the prosecutor’s demands. Repeating his deliberation, the prosecutor alleged that all defence pleas are to extend the case and that they should therefore be rejected and that the detention of Osman Kavala should continue.

Following the statement by the prosecutor, the head of the court asked for a statement by Osman Kavala which was objected by the solicitors. The head of the court gave the solicitors a chance to speak following these objections.

Kaan Karcıoğlu, the lawyer for Mehmet Ali Alabora spoke first. Reminding the decision for non-prosecution relating to his client’s Twitter activity, Karcıoğlu expressed their wish to analyse the records of phone calls and to look at whether or not the records were tampered with.

Following Karcıoğlu, Evren İşler, the lawyer for Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman and Mücella Yapıcı, spoke. İşler said “The witnesses we would like to hear are in the court. It is not the case that there is an attempt to lengthen the hearings. ”

Aynur Tuncel Yazgan, the lawyer for İnanç Ekmekçi, in her speech to the court panel, said “You gave no decision on the evidence I demanded to be collected. If the witness has been prepared in accordance with the Act of Penal Court and if a document has been submitted, the court has to accept. Our witness is here. The witness is a person to be listened to for us, we demand the witness to be heard.”

Hürrem Sönmez, the lawyer for Çiğdem Mater Utku, stated that “The witness about the allegation directed at my client is here, we demand for the witness to be heard.”

THE COURT REFUSES ALL DEMANDS ON THE GROUNDS THAT “IT WILL NOT BENEFIT THE HEARING”

The court case resumed after the recess. The head of the court refused all demands on grounds that “It will not benefit the hearing” and gave the floor to Osman Kavala for a statement. Kavala said he wished to speak after the witnesses were heard in accordance with the advice given by his lawyers.

KAVALA: I WILL PRESENT MY DEFENCE ONCE THE WITNESSES ARE HEARD

Speaking about the conditions of his detention, Kavala reminded the vote of opposition given by Zühtü Arslan, the head of the court in the European Human Rights Court and Constitutional Court decisions.

YAPICI: PROSECTORS AND COURT PANELS HAVE CHANGED YET I AM STILL HERE AND STILL IN THE RIGHT

Senior Architect Mimar Mücella Yapıcı, being tried for life sentenced said “I am not going to provide a defence; I provided my defence in the court where I was acquitted.” Demanding extended time for all those tried in the case to provide a defence, Yapici said “I said it to the previous court panel, I am here dear chair, you are changing yet I am right here and still in the right.”

Those listening to the case applauded after Yapıcı’s words. The head of the court warned that in case of further applause, those listening to the case will be ejected from the court hall.

THE HEAD OF COURT RESOLVED TO COME UP WITH A DECISION

Baran Ali Şahin, a lawyer for the Home Ministry, then took the floor to express his agreement with the deliberation and the sentences to be issued to all defendants. The lawyer for the Treasury also expressed agreement with the court deliberations.

The court panel, having refused once again all the defence pleas, announced that they will be opening the hearing to the objections to the court deliberation.

BAYRAKTAR: THE DETENTION OF KAVALA VIOLETES EHRC DECION, IT SHOULD BE QUASHED

Stating that he will not speak against the deliberation, lawyer Köksal Bayraktar said he will speak about the detention of Osman Kavala. Bayraktar stated that “The detention of Kavala violates the EHRC decision, there is a reality before us, human rights have been violated and continue to be done so… Our client has been in detention for the last 2.5 years. This is unacceptable. You should not remain a bystander to unlawful activity and cannot remain so. As stated in the EHRC decision, Kavala should be released ‘immediately’”.

THE COURT PANEL LEAVES THE COURT

Without giving permission to all of the lawyers for the defence to speak, the court panel demanded the tried to provide their final statements. Despite all the objections from the lawyers, the tried were asked to provide their final statements. Özgür Karaduman, a lawyer objecting to this was forcibly removed from the court, upon which when those in court reacted to this with applause, the listeners were demanded to leave the court and decision to this effect was given.

Without announcing a recess, the court panel then left the court.

“YOU CANNOT EJECT THE DEFENCE FROM THE COURT”

Gendarmes with headgear brandishing shields entered the section of the court where the defence lawyers were to remove lawyer Özgür Karaduman which the head of the court demanded be removed from the court; the lawyers reacted by demanding a written decision.

Ali Kenanoğlu, the HDP MP reacted saying “You cannot remove the defence out of the court.” With the objections getting stronger, the decision to remove Özgür Karaduman was overturned despite the demand by the court earlier.

The court panel returned to the court. Having refused the lawyers plea for extension, the final statements of the lawyers were taken and then the court decision was announced.

The decision of the court met the applause of those in attendance.

Article posted by EVRENSEL DAILY

An “awareness” question: What business does Turkey have in Syria?

President Tayyip Erdoğan said: “Whoever says, ‘What business does Turkey have in Syria?’ is either unaware or intentionally an enemy of this people.”

In the speech he made at his party’s parliamentary group meeting last tuesday, President and AKP General Chair Tayyip Erdoğan targeted those who criticize Turkish troops coming under fire and a state of war being reached with the Syrian army in Idlib by saying, “Whoever says, ‘What business does Turkey have in Syria?’ is either unaware or intentionally an enemy of this people.” That is, ever since 2011 Erdoğan has accused critics of the intervention-based policy in Syria of either lacking awareness or harbouring enmity towards the nation. As his speech progressed, Erdoğan says the “Adana Agreement” signed with the Syrian administration in 1998 authorizes Turkey to stage operations in Syria and Turkish troops are in Idlib pursuant to this agreement.

Let us start with the issue of “awareness.”

I wonder if Erdoğan accuses askers of the question, “What business does Turkey have in Syria?” of either “lacking awareness” or “harbouring enmity towards the nation” because he is so sure of the correctness of the policies he is implementing and that they are in the popular interest, or to conceal the problems and threats this policy has created.

Yes, I have repeatedly posed this question and will continue to do so.

This is because if in 2011 you set out with the claim of democratizing Syria and turn the country into a motorway of jihadists from all four corners of the globe going to wage war in Syria, we are entitled to inquire, “What business do we have in Syria?”

If jihadist gangs create “emirates” and radical religious militants swarm on our borders as a result of the policies you have implemented and the interventions you have staged in the name of ensuring the country’s security, we are entitled to say, “What business do we have in Syria?”

If, having advertised the camps set up in the country so as to create a basis for the interventionist policy in Syria and encouraged the flow of refugees to this degree, you say, “We are in Idlib to stem the flow of refugees,” we are entitled to inquire, “What business do we have in Syria?”

If, with the table set up for the peaceful solution of the Kurdish problems and talks with the Syrian Kurds making headway, you abandon this policy and obdurately engage in operations that serve no other function apart from aiding imperialists in using this problem for their own interests, we are entitled to say, “What business do we have in Syria?”

This means those who ask, “What business does Turkey have in Syria?” are not asking this question for nothing.

This is because lying at the heart of all the problems and threats Turkey faces today in Syria is the AKP-Erdoğan administration’s policy of intervention in Syria in 2011 on which it embarked with claims to “regional leadership” and dreams of “neo-Ottomanism.”

Let us turn to what Erdoğan says about the Adana Agreement and the presence of Turkish troops in Idlib.

Whichever of Erdoğan’s pronouncements in his group speech you take, you are left with a dud.

In this speech, he both proclaims the Syrian regime to be “illegitimate” and says he does not recognize it and also defends Turkey’s presence in Syria by virtue of an agreement made with this regime. This is not the full extent of the quirkiness: Erdoğan threatens war and grants the Syrian army until the end of the month to withdraw from Idlib which is part of its own national territory.

Let us leave this to one side and inquire whether the Adana Agreement really, as alleged, grants Turkey the right of intervention.

The Adana Agreement was signed on 20 October 1998 with the mediation of Iran and Egypt following the removal of PKK leader Öcalan from Syria (9 October 1998), which created serious tension between the Turkish and Syrian administrations. In this five-article agreement, the Syrian administration undertakes to ban the PKK’s activities in Syria and to prevent threats and actions targeting Turkey on its own territory. There is no wording in any article of the agreement about an intervention right of Turkey. However, despite this, the Erdoğan administration intervened in areas governed by the Syrian Kurds (Syrian Democratic Forces) by arguing that this agreement granted it the right of intervention!

In fact, we encounter a situation today that cannot be accounted for on such grounds, either. The Syrian administration is staging an operation against an organization that the UN and Turkey officially proclaim to be a “terrorist organization” to ensure security in its own territory. Moreover, it is staging this operation to secure the M4 and M5 motorways in the wake of Turkey’s failure to fulfil its commitments in the Sochi Agreement signed between Erdoğan and Putin on 17 October 2018. And, see if the Erdoğan administration is not restricting itself to opposing this operation and is threatening the Syrian army with intervention and, furthermore, is premising this on the Adana Agreement!

A further important point that shows the extent of the contradiction and impasse against which the Erdoğan administration has run up is that Russia is supporting this operation by the Syrian army with aerial bombardment. But, when it comes to Russia which he cannot boss about and which in fact instrumentalizes its relationship and cooperation with the Erdoğan administration in its fight for supremacy with the USA, Erdoğan says and is obliged to say, “We attach special importance to the continuation of our friendship with Russia.”

There remains but a single question. Which betrays lack of awareness: questioning a policy that exposes the country and the people to such great threat and problems, or obdurateness over this policy?

Article by Yusuf Karatas

Translated by Tim Drayton

 

 

IPI-led international press freedom mission: Turkey must end public ad ban on independent newspapers

IPI-led international press freedom mission called for an immediate end to the ban on public advertising on the two independent newspapers Evrensel and BirGün.

The International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters without Borders (RSF), the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), called for an immediate end to the ban on public advertising on the two independent newspapers Evrensel and BirGün.

Both newspapers are part of a shrinking club of media that have stubbornly resisted pressure to curb their independent journalism and readiness to criticize the authorities. Since September they have been subjected to indefinite bans imposed by BIK (Basin Ilan Kurumu), the agency responsible for the distribution of the state advertising budget.

Should the bans remain in place for six months (until March) the newspapers will be formally excluded and unable to reapply for funding for three years. Such a result would be catastrophic for the economic viability of the newspapers.

On Thursday, February 6, the delegation of press freedom groups met with the director of BIK, Rıdvan Duran, and were told that Evrensel and BirGün had breached technical regulations regarding the crediting and sourcing of articles and their means of distribution. Duran insisted that BIK’s ban was not related to their editorial line and that both newspapers still had time to correct their practice to be once more eligible for public advertising funds.

Evrensel has been banned since September 18, accused of bulk buying that distorts their distribution figures against which measure the advertising levels are set. Some of Evrensel’s supporters place group orders of editions before distributing them through their local networks. It is a practice that Evrensel has had in place since they were first appointed to the distribution scheme in 2011.

In September 2019, BIK ruled however this practice as bulk purchasing and against the regulations. BIK added that when municipalities or travel companies purchase papers in bulk for distribution to employees or passengers, they are registered at no more than 50 copies even when the numbers sold are in their hundreds.

BirGün newspaper also received an indefinite ban at the beginning of September. The initial charge was a failure to submit distribution figures in time. When that was resolved BIK added a new charge that BirGün had failed to properly credit authors or sources in its articles.

Daily Cumhuriyet also received a short-term ban in September for a report ruled to have “humiliated the Turkish security forces”. While the paper does not currently face the threat of a permanent ban, the delegation expressed concern about how this power could be misused to stifle legitimate criticism.

BIK was first established in 1961. In 2013 its structure was changed to enable it to impose bans for breaches of its code. It has a General Assembly made up of members appointed by the government, the media industry and civil society. In August 2019 Rıdvan Duran was appointed as the new director.

According to Duran, BIK distributes funds to over 1,000 different newspapers on an annual budget of 450 million Turkish lira (around 69 million euros). The delegation was disappointed that BIK is unable to provide public reports on how these funds are distributed to the different newspapers, nor on the different penalties imposed on media.

“Turkey’s independent media have been under extreme pressure in recent years with around 170 outlets closed in 2016 and the remaining subjected to hundreds of prosecutions against their journalists”, the press freedom delegation said. “Rıdvan Duran has given his assurance that the bans are not politically motivated and can be swiftly resolved. It is imperative that he is true to his word and that the advertising bans are swiftly lifted.”

Article posted by EVRENSEL DAILY

Fighting for the right to join a trade union

CEREN SAGIR reports on an important workers’ struggle at SF Trade Leather in Izmir, Turkey

BRITISH luxury fashion company Mulberry says it prides itself for being “ethically sourced.”

Volkswagen Group UK Ltd says it has a “zero-tolerance approach to any form of modern slavery.”

And Mercedes-Benz UK claims to have a “zero-tolerance policy towards violations of the laws banning forced labour, slavery and human trafficking.”

But these major companies, along with other international brands such as Molift, Odder, Römer, Liko, Babybjörn and Audi source materials from a factory operating in Izmir, Turkey, where an important workers’ struggle is taking place.

Employees at SF Trade Leather have been fighting for their right to organise in the country’s leather workers’ union, Deriteks Sendika, since 2015.

The company initially responded by sacking about 14 workers, offering their jobs back on the condition that they cancel their union membership.

SF also demanded the local court block the union from posting material on their action online, and even filed a claim for damages.

Workers fought against the company and campaigned both locally and internationally for their colleagues’ reinstatement.

Campaigns and protests in front of brands such as Mulberry, supported by British trade unions and campaign groups, led to victory, with the opening of negotiations between SF management and Deriteks.

As a result, SF accepted the right to trade-union membership within the workplace and a protocol was signed stating that mutual dialogue would improve.

But last summer, Deriteks heard from SF workers that harassment and bullying behaviour were still taking place, and a workplace organisation committee was formed by the unionised workers In order to tackle the issue.

Union members Ayse, Pinar, Nurcan and Sevcan were immediately suspended for allegedly “not performing well” and were accused of bringing the factory “into disrepute and endangering other workers’ jobs.”

The four women have since been on a symbolic strike for over 100 days with the support of Deriteks, and continue to fight for their jobs and their right to trade-union membership.

Ironically, SF claims on its website that its core values include to work as a team, contribute to their communities and build open and honest relationships.

And the right to join a union is supposedly protected under Turkey’s constitution.

SF workers are continuing to call for the reinstatement of all sacked employees with immediate effect, for trade0union recognition and the right to organise within the workplace, and for an end to bullying and harassment by SF management.

Their struggle and determination to get their jobs back have become a symbol of resistance in the Gaziemir Zone of Izmir, which is home to many leather factories.

London-based campaign group Solidarity with the People Of Turkey (Spot), which works to build bridges between organisations and unions in Britain and Turkey, has urged trade unionists, politicians and members of the public to contact company owner Frederic Giraud.

Mulberry and BabaBjorn were the only companies that responded to pressure from the group, saying they take the matter seriously and that they have approached relevant departments.

However, Spot said that unless the workers are reinstated, protests in front of their stores in Britain will begin from this weekend.

The four women workers have thanked Spot for their support in their class struggle in a video, adding: “Long live international solidarity.”

MPs such as Labour’s Feryal Clark (Enfield North) have supported the campaign by writing to the employers of SF. Unions including Unison have also backed the campaign.

Tomorrow, demonstrators will be gathering outside Mulberry in London’s Covent Garden at 1.30pm to warn the that they will be taking action against companies that are complacent over workers’ rights abuses.

Spot secretary Cinar Altun told the Star: “We want to make sure that the voices of workers in Turkey are heard and major corporations cannot turn a blind eye to workers’ rights violations within their supply chains.

“Spot has successfully put pressure on the Turkish government, with the support of trade unions in the UK, against some of the atrocities being committed in the country from their attacks on human rights and freedom of speech, to their war against the Kurdish people.

“We hope that organisations, unions and MPs will stand with us and support these four women workers who are simply demanding their basic rights under both Turkish and international law.”

Support this campaign by contacting SF Trade Leather at:
info@sf-trade.com
marketing@sf-textile.com
purchasing@sf-textile.com
hr@sf-trade.com
Please send all messages to the attention of Mr Frederic Giraud

 

This article was posted by: Morning Star

Scandalous reason for cutting ads off for Evrensel: Readers’ solidarity was considered as a crime

According to Press Advertisement Agency (BİK) reports, readers buying more than three newspapers presented as a reason for cutting ads off for Evrensel.

Press Advertisement Agency (BİK) refused our appeal against the decision to stop allocating public sector advertisements in our newspaper. The reasons put forward for the decision were scandalous. One reader buying two papers was given as a reason for the decision.

BİK, whics is affiliated to the Presidency, is responsible for allocating public sector advertisements to newspapers. Most newspapers, especially ones like ours that are not owned by big corporations, depend on income raised via BİK advertisements.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED?

Evrensel called its readers to stand in solidarity against a financial siege by Turkish authorities. The campaign called “Every day buy 2 copies of Evrensel: Read one, give one to someone to read” gained countrywide support in a short time.

However, BİK authorities counted the campaign as an element of a crime. According to BİK reports, readers buying more than three newspapers presented as a reason for ceasing advertisements.

The BİK also reported on where the papers were taken after purchase. Evrensel’s lawyer Devrim Avcı said that this was an attempt to punish the paper through its readership “Are you physically following readers? This is what comes through your reports.”

Following investigations in individual newsagents, BİK claimed that readers purchasing more than one paper constitutes an offense and the paper didn’t meet its minimum actual sales quota. BİK visited individual newsagents in Adana, Ankara, Diyarbakır, İstanbul, İzmir and Kocaeli on 28 December and observed sales against the rule of “final purchase should be the sale of individual papers, except for exceptional circumstances where more then one is purchased” and that readers “purchased more than one paper.”

BİK: COMPLAINANT, VICTIM, ATTORNEY, JUDGE AND POLICE

Lawyer Devrim Avcı said that the role of BİK was to allocate public sector advertisements but that it uses its position to suppress newspapers such as Evrensel, BirGün and Cumhuriyet; “BİK makes a complaint, carries out the investigation and the sentencing. It is playing the role of complainant, victim, attorney, judge and police all at once. This unacceptable in a state of law.”

“ALL READERS ARE WORKERS?”

Avcı said that BİK going to cities and dictating how many copies an individual can buy is an attempt to stop Evrensel’s campaign of “Every day buy 2 copies of Evrensel: Read one, give one to someone to read”. In response to BİK’s decision that “those that purchase the paper work for the paper” she said “so you see all readers as workers? There would be many procedures involved, including national insurance payments if they really were workers of the paper. You show none of these as proof but still see all that purchase the paper as workers of the paper. This is discrimination.”

ARE READERS ACTUALLY FOLLOWED?

Avcı continued: “They say newspapers are bought in Diyarbakır and taken to the prison. Are you following the individuals that bought the papers? How do you know they are taken to the prison? Are you following them? That is the conclusion we reach from your report. The paper is being punished through its readership. We’ll be challenging this through legal means.”

ALLOCATIONS WILL PERMANENTLY BE STOPPED WITHIN TWO MONTHS

In its decision BİK also mentioned that “papers that do not continue receiving public service advertisements for six months following a suspension… will lose permanently their right to receive these advertisements.” Our paper received its suspension on 18 September 2019. We appealed on 2 October but it was rejected on 10 October. The decision was also delayed by the late delivery of the BİK notification by PTT (National Postal Service). We asked for a “re-evaluation” on 14 October. Our newspaper paid for the re-evaluation which was granted on 4 November. By 19 November the re-evaluation had not taken place yet so we wrote asking for a response. Finally, we received the report including the alleged bulk buying on 14 January 2020. The stated decision was that “the newspaper continues to act against clause 19 of the legislation regarding removal of allocations of public service advertisements.” Our newspaper’s right to publish public service advertisements was suspended four months ago and if this ban is not lifted by March, Evrensel’s status will become one that cannot receive public service advertisement.

JOURNALIST ORGANISATIONS CALL FOR SOLIDARITY WITH EVRENSEL: WE WON’T BUY TWO, BUT THREE NEWSPAPERS

Many individuals and institutions in the media stated their support for Evrensel:

Gökhan Durmuş, the general secretary of the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) mentioned that financial sanctions against opposition media outlets by BİK have increased in the recent years and that BİK is trying to economically push them to the brink, issuing suspensions using reasons against legislation. Durmuş said “everyone knows that a newspaper close to the rulership is sold in bulk but Evrensel is punished for one reader purchasing two papers” and continued “as a reader who buys two papers as a part of Evrensel’s campaign do I need to look over my shoulder to see if I’m followed? What kind of a decision is this? How many papers I buy concerns me not the BİK. They should also explain under what legislation they are following people. BİK should return immediately to its principals of equality. The suspension against Evrensel should be lifted immediately and the paper should receive its deserved share from official notices.”

DİSK Media Workers’ Branch General Secretary Faruk Eren said BİK’s decision was “like a joke” and that “they are looking for excuses to pressure people.” He said the rulership doesn’t want the public to hear the truth and “newspaper that report the truth are put under pressure. Some of this pressure is economical just as Evrensel and BirGün faced. Journalists will continue to share the truth with the public. From now on we’ll buy not two but three papers.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative, Erol Önderoğlu, said that “BİK should firstly explain its ‘performance’ against those newspapers involved in political immorality, prejudice and intolerance and feel ashamed of attacking a newspaper that reports on workers’ and peoples’ rights. We know that government institutions buy some papers in bulk or they are distributed freely, which is deemed acceptable; but why is the distribution of a newspaper by its own distributors a problem? Turkey’s media regulators are running a scheme of liquidation through double standards.”

Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD), Can Güleryüzlü said “We are not surprised that Evrensel is targeted. Because Evrensel exposes the rulership’s system of exploitation; carries the rights of the exploited to its pages and reports on workers’ struggles as objective journalists.”

CHP MP Utku Çakırözer, formerly a journalist himself, reacted against the embargo on Evrensel and the reasons for it in the Parliament. He said “BİK suspensions continue despite the reaction. It is unbelievable that Evrensel has been punished! They went to newsagents and blacklisted readers for supporting their newspapers. They were questioned on why they buy more than one newspaper and the newspaper was fined. Reader support is not an offence. This violation of rights against Evrensel, BirGün and Cumhuriyet must be stopped immediately.”

A wave of anger is also burst out over social media. Several people shared their photos while buying ‘more than one copy of Evrensel” as “an element of a crime” through their social media accounts. Also, Evrensel’s call for solidarity campaign gained a lot of attention by re-tweets.

 

Strike bans are unconstitutional

Lawyer Ahmet Ergin discusses rulings the Constitutional Court has passed on strike bans: “Constitutional Court case law provides guarantees to workers intent on striking.”

A fresh strike is in the offing for metal workers, their wages eroding day by day under conditions of economic crisis. Disagreement reigned at the Turkish Employers’ Association of Metal Industries group collective agreement negotiations that were continuing in the metal sector, the mediation phase has been passed through and a strike decision taken. With the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions-affiliated Turkish Metal Union to set the implementation date later, the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions/United Metal Workers’ Union, conversely, have announced their strike resolutions to take effect on 5 February.

Strike action, one of the most basic means of “class struggle,” is one of the fundamental rights and freedoms that is enshrined in both international treaties and in the constitutions of many countries, ours included. Strike action, as well as being a fundamental right per se, is also an important and mandatory component of the right to collective agreements.

The power holders’ practices that have banned all effective strike action over the past decade willy-nilly invite the question of whether the potential metal strike will be postponed (banned). It is worth recalling in this regard the United Metal Workers’ Union’s banned 2015 strike.

The United Metal Workers’ Union’s strikes that took in 15,000 workers and which it launched at twenty workplaces on 29 January 2015 and were to start on 19 February 2015 at eighteen workplaces was banned by the Cabinet on 30 January 2015.

The ban met with resistance among workers and the strike actually continued for a few more days at major plants especially in Gebze and Istanbul and then workers began to return to the shop floor shepherded by trade unionists whose outlook was confined to “narrow legal rights” and whose actions were basically informed by concerns for no “bother to emerge.”

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DECLARED BAN TO BE A VIOLATION

Touted chiefly by those of this persuasion was, “the position of unions holding illegal strikes will put paid to us and workers will become jobless.” However, as was mentioned in that period, strike action is a right granted by international treaties to which Turkey is party and the Constitution, and the power holders with their postponement-cum-ban were acting illegally. Indeed, the Constitutional Court (CC) pointed out in its ruling of 09 May 2018 on the United Metal Workers’ Union’s application number 2015/14862 that the strike postponement was unlawful and violated strike/trade union rights.

It was stated in the CC ruling that approaches of this kind “could engender a conclusion in which all strikes that will have certain economic consequences could hamper national security and lead to infringements of constitutional rights that are unnecessary in a democratic society and are disproportionate.” It was noted in the ruling that the notion, “Economic security is an integral part of national security” mooted in the Cabinet’s postponement resolution and in the Council of State ruling dismissing the stay of implementation application was in need of explanation. The CC stressed that the concept of “economic security” was not enumerated in the law as grounds for strike postponement and the postponement resolution infringed on trade union rights.

SAME RULING WAS PASSED ON GLASS WORKERS

The CC, indicating that the notion of “national security” cited as grounds for banning strikes could well be expanded in scope according to personal views and rationales and, hence, was a general notion that could lead to various and phased implementations that could extend as far as arbitrariness, recalled that this had also been stated in the ruling it had passed on the ban on Glass, Cement, Ceramic and Soil Industries Workers’ Union members’ right to strike. Let us here recall that the Constitutional Court also declared a violation in its ruling of 02 July 2015 with reference to the ban affecting the strike implemented by the Glass, Cement, Ceramic and Soil Industries Workers’ Union at Şişecam workplaces. It is thus necessary and imperative to stress to all workers, not least the metal workers who are about to exercise the right to strike, that there is case law regarding strike bans, the CC’s rulings are of the same thrust and arbitrary “postponement” resolutions are contrary to the Constitution and the law.

In particular, given the argument, ““Economic security is an integral part of national security” has fallen foul of the Constitutional Court, we can say here and now that the passing of a resolution to postpone a potential strike under the metal group collective labour agreement will be unconstitutional and unlawful.

BANS SHOULD GO UNHEEDED

It is by now abundantly clear that no heed should be paid to the Turkish Employers’ Association of Metal Industries’ or the bosses’ veiled threats that your strike will be banned. There is no statutory or constitutional basis for resorting to the reason “our strike will be banned” and claiming that trade unionists need sign low agreements or not actually continuing to strike under such a potential ban. Strike action is a statutory and constitutional right and “arbitrary bans” are unconstitutional. Labour courts, regional courts of justice, the Court of Cassation and the Council of State are obliged to rule in line with Constitutional Court rulings. Consequently, workers and trade unions who do not recognize unlawful bans under normal conditions and under the normal legal order cannot be accused of acting unlawfully and so cannot be deprived of rights.

POSTPONEMENT-CUM-BAN

The statutory basis for banning strikes is Article 63 of the Trade Unions and Collective Labour Agreements Law number 6356. According to this article, “If a legal strike or lockout that has been decided on or started is of a nature that impairs national security, the Cabinet (now the President) may postpone the strike or lockout in this dispute for sixty days. The duration of the postponement starts on the date the resolution is promulgated. On the postponement resolution taking effect, the mediator appointed in accordance with paragraph seven of Article 60 shall expend all manner of effort for the duration of the postponement for the resolution of the dispute. The parties may also reach mutual agreement within the duration of the postponement and take the dispute to a special arbitrator. If agreement is unreachable at the end of the duration of the postponement, the dispute shall be resolved by the Supreme Arbitration Board on application by one of the parties within sixty working days. Otherwise, the workers’ trade union shall be derecognized.”

As everyone who reads the text of the statute can understand, there can be no resumption of the strike at the end of the sixty-day period and the collective agreement is enacted by the Supreme Arbitration Board. This procedure, dubbed postponement, is thus blatantly prohibition.

Article by Ahmet ERGİN

Translated by Time Drayton

 

Cancelled press cards of Evrensel newspaper staff restored

The cancelled press cards of Evrensel newspaper staff have been restored.

The cancelled press cards of Evrensel newspaper staff have been restored. When some Evrensel staff members consulted the “Press card search” section today, they saw the wording “in use” in place of the comment “annulled” they had previously seen. However, no comment in this regard has been forthcoming from the Presidency Directorate of Communications to either our newspaper or the public. The press cards of hundreds of journalists have also been similarly cancelled along with those of Evrensel staff.

After the Press Cards Commission had been attached to the Presidency Directorate of Communications, when journalists who had made much earlier renewal applications called the Press Card Support Line, they received the reply, “You can continue to use your old cards.” Nevertheless, the comment “in waiting” was displayed on the search screen. However, last week the press cards of Evrensel staffers and a great many journalists not on Evrensel’s staff were cancelled.

Notably, the change in question was made on a non-working day, on Sunday.

CLOSED TV STATION CARD STATED TO BE “IN USE”

Among those stripped of their cards was permanent press card holder Sultan Özer. Özer’s most recent search brought an interesting error to light. Sultan Özer’s press card that had been cancelled last week had not been made available for use. The card that had been restored to use was the card issued while she was working as part of Hayatın Sesi television, closed under a ministerial circular, which it returned when the entity was shuttered. This is believed to be the result of error.

TGS: “ORGANIZED STRUGGLE HAS FORCED A STEP-BACK”

The Turkish Union of Journalists (TGS) Ankara branch called on the Directorate of Communications to grant non-issued turquoise cards forthwith. Journalists will stage a protest in front of the Presidency Directorate of Communications tomorrow at 1 pm.

The TGS Ankara branch’s call to the Directorate of Communications and its colleagues is as follows:

“The Presidency Directorate of Communications passed a law-defying resolution last week and cancelled many journalists’ press cards. This has rendered our colleagues incapable of performing their duties. Our colleagues who have been stripped of their cards have been unable to enter parliament, ministries and judicial complexes and follow up the news.

However, the Directorate of Communications has taken a step back and has restored the Yellow Press Cards that it had cancelled. The Directorate of Communications has apparently opted to revert from the error it has made.

We make a repeat call to the Directorate of Communications, which has opted for a course of action that rectifies this injustice our colleagues have suffered, and urge it to issue the turquoise cards that have gone unissued for a year without any grounds being cited.

We invite all our members and colleagues to support this call of ours.”

EROL ÖNDEROĞLU: REVERSION FROM A SERIOUS ERROR

Erol Önderoğlu of the Reporters Without Borders organization issued the statement, “We view the restoration of the press cards to certain Evrensel staff members whose press cards had been cancelled as “reversion from a serious error.” The Presidency Directorate of Communications can only revert from all similar errors if it ends this unjust procedure.”

PRESS CARD ANNOUNCEMENT FROM COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER ALTUN: “MISCONSTRUED FACTS”

Presidency Communications Minister Fahrettin Altun has made a statement in relation to press cards. In his statement, Altun has dismissed the validity of claims that certain media entity staffers had had their press cards cancelled. Last week, the press cards of the entire staff of Evrensel and also many journalists not with Evrensel were cancelled.

Altun made pronouncements concerning press card applicants in a written statement he posted on his social media account.

Fahrettin Altun noted that all procedures by the Communications Ministry relating to press cards were conducted under the Press Card Directions.

Recalling that, alongside applications for initial press cards or permanent press cards, applications were made for new press cards for such reasons as general card change, loss, wear and tear, change of entity or return to the profession, Altun indicated that the Communications Ministry Press Card Application System was open and applications were currently being received.

13,372 CARDS RENEWED, 894 IN WAITING

Altun stated that the post-application assessment process was undertaken meticulously in a manner that guards the prestige and esteem of press cards.

Recalling that, with this in mind, investigation was made to determine whether applicants fulfilled the “conditions sought of persons to whom press cards are granted” set out in the Press Card Directions, Altun commented as follows in his statement:

“The Communications Ministry has since its inception furnished new press cards to 13,372 media members whose assessment processes have been completed. Included among this number are media workers having very different designations from all media entities on a national and local scale. The number of applications currently undergoing perusal is 894. Taken account of in this process, alongside technical criteria, are such various factors as whether applicants indeed conduct professional activity or have connections to any terrorist organization and convictions or demeanour that is detrimental to the honour of the profession. As things stand, cancellation does not apply to any of the cards whose assessment process is underway.”

ALTUN: “THERE ARE RECIPIENTS OF NEW CARDS AT ENTITIES TO WHICH PRESS CARDS ARE ALLEGEDLY NOT BEING GIVEN”

Stressing that renewal applications for press cards not yet concluded were still active, Altun noted the following:

“Hence, claims that the cards in particular of the staff of certain media entities have been cancelled are certainly untruthful. Just as there are those in all entities who have received new press cards, there are those who continue to undergo assessment. The mere existence of recipients of new press cards at entities to which press cards are allegedly not being given gives lie to this bad-faith endeavour. The necessary communications will be made to applicants on completion of the process relating to applications undergoing continued assessment.”

FACT: NOT A SINGLE JOURNALIST AT EVRENSEL HAS HAD THEIR CARD RENEWED

In his statement, Altun spoke of the “existence of recipients of new press cards at entities to which press cards are allegedly not being given” but the press card has not been renewed of even a single journalist who works as part of Evrensel and has made their application from Evrensel newspaper.

However much Altun says, “Claims that cards have been cancelled are certainly untruthful,” the press cards of many journalists were seen to have been cancelled last week on the Communications Ministry press card search screen. Yesterday (Sunday 26 January), however, the cancelled cards appeared to have been restored.

Article by EVRENSEL DAILY

 

“The political wing” of “FETÖ”

As all know, is it not Erdoğan and the AKP who has not only been “the political wing of the coup” or Gülen but its partner? Was there not a partnership of power?

First and foremost, my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the Elazığ earthquake. And my get-well-soon wishes to the injured survivors.

Everyone should take note of the efforts by the Governor of Elazığ and those who have a stake in the city’s administration on behalf of the government to manage the public’s perception so as to avail AKP to emerge unscathed from the events rather than attending to those killed and injured.

And another lesson should also be derived from government officials who allude to “fate” with their talks of “what can we do, we are powerless, the earthquake is God’s work”! There were experts in the subject who warned against the possibility of an earthquake in Elazığ four months ago. As for an earthquake in Istanbul, it is just around the corner, with expectations of its imminent arrival. If the incidents are to be associated with God then one could presumably retort “may God rehabilitate you” to the Government representatives who are currently taking legal action against Berna Laçin for her criticism of deferring the matter to God and the measures taken. How can one have a government like this? It won’t take any measures, remaining a bystander while the earthquake causes such a death toll and then it blames and takes legal action against those who deign to question this state of affairs! No conscience could accept this; it is a sign for those on their way out.

We also witness the same approach of inverting the truth on the matter of Fethullah Gülen.

It is not unknown that the Gülen Congregation, just as the vast majority of congregations, is directly involved in politics as it doesn’t limit itself as an Islamic congregation and is actively concerned with “worldly blessings”.  Such political Islam have caused the bloodbaths in Iraq and Syria with beheadings and people burned alive through ISIS and the confrontation with a Islamic coup in Turkey through “FETÖ”. And now, through the agency of Muslim Brotherhood, it is inducing Turkey to look for adventures in Libya after Syria. It is uncontentious that behind it all there lies the monopolistic capitalist interest with their green dollars. Considered from this fundamental truth, it is uncontentious that it is not the barefooted poor Aczmendis who were wandering around in the days of 28 February [1997 coup] with sticks in their hands and hooded cloaks on their backs but the Islamic congregations holding the such and such state position and offices while hoarding fortune upon fortune, who pose a threat to the people.

The Gülen Congregation or FETÖ, was but only one of these congregations and it is known that state offices have been apportioned by others now. This ministry or directorship belongs to this, and the other to that…

Who does this or is paving the way for it? Is it me? Or is it CHP which the chums of the power filling the government and its subservient media’s columns and the programs of TV channels claim to be the “political wing of FETÖ”? Is it Sözcü or Cumhuriyet newspapers which has been taken to court for being “proponents of FETÖ”? Even HAYAT TV, the voice of millions was closed down with the pretext provided by the “FETÖ coup”!

Who is “FETÖ’s political wing?” Erdoğan is pointing to the CHP. The MHP chieftain Bahçeli concurs with this only to add Akşener [the leader of İyi Parti]. What kind of conscience accepts such allegations? The product of which conscience are these?

In the days of the “struggle against military tutelage,” Erdoğan had proclaimed himself as the judge of the Ergenekon [court case], the entire chain of command was imprisoned including Başbuğ, the Chief of General Staff. Who could deny that this “operation” was organised by the Gülen Congregation? A blatant public spectacle was enacted by the prosecutors under the command of Zekeriya Öz and the judges who were later arrested and tried because of “FETÖ’ism”. How were the FETÖ’ists” presented with this opportunity? Was this possible if it were not for the support and backing by Erdoğan who was proclaiming himself as the prosecutor?

As all know, is it not Erdoğan and the AKP who has not only been “the political wing of the coup” or Gülen but its partner? Was there not a partnership of power? Was it not the case that so many prime ministers, ministers and deputies use to go to Pennsylvania to kiss Gülen’s hand and hold meetings with him? This fact is of an absolutely undeniable kind. Was it not the case that Gülen used to be treated with highest esteem as “his Worship” by primarily Erdoğan and the AKP entourage? Are these not documented in TV archives?

Later on, beginning with “FETÖ”s attempt to start legal proceeding against Hakan Fidan whom Erdoğan called “my black box,” their relationships deteriorated and a period of confrontation ensued. From this point onwards, it is not the case that efforts by “FETÖ” to meddle with other positions were not unseen. Yet, this does not change the fact either that AKP was the partner in power of the “FETÖ” or that this power is full of those with wads of mingling with FETÖ.

Article by Mustafa Yalciner

Posted on Evernensel Daily

END TURKEY’S ATTACKS ON DEMOCRACY AND MILITARY AGGRESSION NOW

END TURKEY’S ATTACKS ON DEMOCRACY AND MILITARY AGGRESSION NOW    

As the general election approaches voters are looking to our Parliament to recognise the impact that our foreign policy is having on the safety of innocent civilians not just in the UK but all over the world. Democracy is under attack in Turkey, with trade unions and civil society facing arbitrary criminalisation and state violence. Turkey’s aggressive war politics, not least its attacks on elected Kurdish opposition politicians and military aggression in Kurdish regions (inside and outside its borders) threatens all prospects for peace inside Turkey, across the Middle East and Europe.

At the time of writing the NATO summit is coming to an end with President Erdogan pushing for NATO to declare the Kurdish YPG and PYD as terrorists – if NATO succumbs this will lead to the further criminalisation and oppression of all forms of democratic opposition both within and along Turkey’s borders.

The UK and its NATO allies have armed and supported Erdogan’s oppressive regime, and the EU has allowed the regime’s abuses of human rights, imprisonment of journalists and suppression of freedom of speech to continue without challenge in negotiations over migrations and Syrian refugees. Moreover, we saw recently that Turkey was able to circumvent a US export ban on killer drones with the help of missiles components developed in the UK, and that this has been crucial in helping Turkey become the second biggest user of armed drones in the world[1]. Sales of defence technology and arms to Turkey is emboldening Turkey’s anti-democratic regime, directly contributing to the deaths of innocent civilians in the region and increasing Turkey’s economic reliance on aggressive war politics as the arms industry is now its fastest growing sector.

As Solidarity with the People of Turkey (SPOT), we recognise the significant influencing power the UK has over countries such as Turkey.

And we call on our prospective parliamentary candidates to:  

  • Work with SPOT and our partners to support democracy in Turkey;
  • Call for an immediate end to the aggression of Turkish forces in Syria and for the release of all opposition politicians who have been arbitrarily detained, starting with the HDP’s ex-leader Selahattin Demirtas;
  • Call for the withdrawal of all UK military/armed forces from Syria and region;
  • Call for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria and the region;
  • Call for an end to sales of defence technology and arms to the Turkish State and Turkish arms industry;
  • Ensure that any future trade agreement with Turkey includes robust protections for human and workers’ rights, democracy and the rule of law;
  • Prioritise the need for reinstating human rights, democracy and the rule of law in diplomatic relations with the government of Turkey.

As SPOT we want to work with our elected politicians and would like to set up an APPG for democracy in Turkey, which monitors the state of democracy and human rights in Turkey and works through parliament to raise awareness and develop appropriate policy responses.

Ahead of the general election, we hope that our parliamentary candidates will share with us and the public their commitment to human rights, not just at home but also abroad.

Solidarity with the People of Turkey

5 December 2019

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/nov/27/revealed-uk-technology-turkey-rise-global-drone-power)

EMEP Chairwoman Selma Gürkan penalized for her Afrin Operation critics

EMEP Chairwoman Selma Gürkan was sentenced on the count of ‘terrorist organization propaganda’ for her critics on the Afrin operation.

Eylem NAZLIER
İstanbul

In a case brought for the speech she made in front of the judicial complex at the hearing of EMEP members who had been detained for handing out “No to war” leaflets, Labour Party (EMEP) Chairwoman Selma Gürkan was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment and the penalty was converted into a 6,000 lira fine. Gürkan said, “This penalty is a penalty imposed on the call for peace, a penalty imposed on the right to engage in politics and a penalty imposed on freedom of expression” and she stressed that she would not stop expressing her thoughts.

Gürkan made a speech about the Afrin operation in front of the judicial complex at the first hearing of the trial in which Neslihan Karyemez and Bilal Karaman were detained for handing out EMEP “No to war” leaflets in Istanbul. The ruling hearing of the trial brought against Gürkan for this speech on the charge of “terrorist organization propaganda” was held at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 26.

At the hearing at which Gürkan was in attendance, her lawyers Devrim Avcı, Yıldız İmrek, Songül Beydilli, Kamil Tekin Sürek, Leyla Han Tüzel, Gamze Gökoğlu, Semir Karataş, Mustafa Söğütlü, Hüseyin Boğatekin and İlknur Alcan were present.

Among those monitoring the hearing were People’s Houses Chair Nuri Günay, EMEP Deputy Chairs Levent Tüzel and Nuray Sancar, Yavuz Okçuoğlu from the Social Democracy Foundation and Begali Kurnaz, administrative board member of the Human Rights Association.

The hearing started with a repetition of the prosecution’s recommendations on the merits.

“OUR RIGHT TO ENGAGE IN POLITICS IS BEING IMPEDED THROUGH THIS TRIAL”

Making a statement contesting the recommendation, Selma Gürkan said, “Initially, voicing criticism against the Afrin operation by way of our party’s opinions is the exercising of our right to conduct politics. The right to engage in politics is essentially being prosecuted in this trial. With the right to engage in politics enshrined in the Constitution, this trial that has been started and is continuing is a violation of the Constitution, I wish to note this. Also, freedom of thought and expression is still under constitutional and statutory safeguard.”

Recalling the comment by organized crime leader Sedat Peker aimed at the peace declaration signatory academics, “We’ll spill their blood in streams. We’ll shower in their blood,” she continued:

“Despite being a clear call to threat and violence and making academics into a target, it is safeguarded to the extent of being treated as freedom of speech. Another example: Presidential Communications Chair Fahrettin Altun even defended the act of punching Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in the attempted lynching in Çubuk saying, ‘The right of protest is under constitutional safeguard’ and treated it as belonging to the democratic plane. Also, attempted lynchings of our Kurdish citizens have been considered to be ‘protests by sensitive citizens.’ We have witnessed the making of similar assessments countless times by members of the ruling party. Now we are being prosecuted for finding a foreign policy decision of the government to be wrong and criticizing it. I imagine that in no democratic precedent are dual standards acceptable in the implementing of political rights and the freedom of thought and expression. If we as a political party are unable to express our opinions and criticise government policies, we probably cannot speak of democracy and freedom.”

Gürkan summed up by saying, “I ask for the immediate ending of this trial that should actually never have been initiated with my acquittal, taking account also of the reasons my lawyers will submit.”

OBJECTION OF UNCONSTITUTIONALITY DISMISSED

The lawyers then made statements contesting the recommendation. Saying it was contrary to Article 7/2 of law number 3713 and in short Articles 1, 10, 25, 26, 28 and 38 of the Constitution, Yıldız İmrek, Attorney-at-Law, said, “We have an objection of unconstitutionality. We call for the case to be remitted to the Constitutional Court.”

The application was dismissed on the grounds of non-fulfilment of the conditions.

“THE RECOMMENDATION AMOUNTS TO AN IMPUTING OF INTENTIONS ON THE PART OF THE PROSECUTOR”

In turn, Devrim Avcı, Attorney-at-Law, said, “A rote application has been made for a penalty contrary to the law and statute. Your use of abstract expressions is contrary to criminal trial principles. The recommendation amounts to an imputing of intentions on the part of the prosecutor. My client’s right to conduct politics is being obstructed through this trial. We ask for a ruling to be passed acquitting my client.”

For his part, Mustafa Söğütlü, Attorney-at-Law, spoke as follows:

“It is impossible to concur with the prosecutor’s recommendation. I will start by criticizing the recommendation. The recommendation has become the ruling party’s bulletin. The recommendation should be independent. Prosecution and judges, you are bound by the Constitutional Court. My client’s freedom of expression is being impeded. Political parties’ activities are safeguarded. Impeding party activities amounts to a crime. It is natural for the chairs of political parties to make statements. My client made a speech in the language of peace in opposition to the Afrin operation. Defending peace cannot be deemed a crime under any modern law.”

JAIL SENTENCE CONVERTED TO FINE

A one-year jail sentence was handed down in the judgment following the taking of a recess. In consideration of Gürkan’s social relations and conduct in the course of the proceedings, it was reduced to ten months and converted to a 6,000-lira administrative fine.

GÜRKAN: THIS PENALTY WAS IMPOSED ON THE CALL FOR PEACE AND THE RIGHT TO ENGAGE IN POLITICS

Speaking to Evrensel following the ruling, Gürkan said, “This penalty is a penalty imposed on the call for peace, a penalty imposed on the right to engage in politics and a penalty imposed on freedom of expression. It is a clear pointer to the gradual democratic recession in the country. This ruling will never be able to deflect us from either conducting politics or voicing our thought and expression.”

EMEP: CALL FOR PEACE PUNISHED

The statement made by the Labour Party (EMEP) about the penalty handed down to Chairwoman Selma Gürkan said, “There was a wish to impede the right for a political party to engage in politics and to punish the call for peace.”

The statement said, noting that EMEP Chairwoman Selma Gürkan had made a brief speech on 27.02.2018 in front of the Istanbul Judicial Complex prior to the trial in which party members were being prosecuted for handing out the leaflet stating “No to the Afrin Operation. We want peace not war” and had criticized the government’s policies of war and voiced the call for peace, “A trial was initiated against Selma Gürkan for this speech on the charge of making terrorist organization propaganda. A ten-month jail sentence was handed down at the 24.04.2019 hearing at the conclusion of the trial conducted by Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 26 and the jail sentence in question was converted to a fine. We will lodge our objection to the ensuing sentence with Istanbul Regional Court of Justice and will appeal it.”

“WISH TO IMPEDE A POLITICAL PARTY’S RIGHT TO ENGAGE IN POLITICS”

The statement, stressing that the case had no legal basis and the prosecution indictment had been compiled entirely with political arguments and resembling a government declaration, commented as follows: “Our Chairwoman Gürkan’s speech was construed as an attempt to disrupt the policies of war and the creation of a charge through imputing intention was attempted. Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 26, for its part, undersigned a legal travesty in passing sentence in the case compiled under this indictment. By means of this sentence imposed on our General Chair there was basically a wish to impede a political party’s right to engage in politics and the call for peace was punished. With the general chair of a political party punished for a speech with no violent content, organized crime bosses who openly speak of killing people, talk of bathing in academics’ blood and continue with threat-laden pronouncements following this rhetoric remain at large within society.”

“THERE IS A WISH TO TAKE SOCIAL POLARIZATION TO EXTREME LEVELS”

Noting that hate speech had continued unabated since the 31 March elections and the seeds of rancour and enmity were being sown by the political rulers themselves, the statement said, “Furthermore, the chair of a political party, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, suffered an attempted lynching in Ankara, while the perpetrators were released virtually as heroes. In these days we are living through, such punishments are not sufficed with and there is a wish to take social polarization to extreme levels by singling people out.”

“WE WILL NOT ABANDON OUR FIGHT FOR JUSTICE, PEACE AND FREEDOM.”

Noting that even equating opposition to policies of war by itself with being a “terrorist” drove home the point the country has reached, the statement noted, “The need of Turkey’s peoples and this country’s workers and wage earners is peace, freedom and democracy. With its persistence in punishing the call for peace, the position the judiciary is taking, conversely, will go down as a black mark in history. We thus state that we do not accept the penalty imposed on our party’s Chairwoman Selma Gürkan and attribute no meaning or value to it legally. We will not abandon our fight for justice, peace and freedom.”

Syrian refugee worker in Turkey: I’ve learnt workers have no nation

​​​​​​​ Saying, “I’ve been living in Turkey for about six years. I’ve learnt about both labour and exploitation here,” a Syrian worker calls for workers’ unity.

A Syrian refugee worker

I’m a 22-year-old Syrian refugee textile worker in Çağlayan. Fighting IS in Syria while aged sixteen, I fled Syria and came to Turkey at seventeen so as not to be an Assad soldier.

They don’t greatly like the Syrians who have fled here but I’m not sorry I fled. People in Turkey have told me for years that I should be sorry. They called me a traitor and said those who stab their own country in the back will do the same to them and then they got us to work for a pittance. Working for a pittance, they said their jobs were being grabbed from them. They were always packed full of malice. The bosses wanted to employ people even more cheaply and we knew we weren’t getting the same rate of pay as the workers working here. Then we learnt to demand the same pay for putting in the same work as Turks and Kurds.

There were Syrians who were employed even more cheaply before me in Çağlayan. They gave thirty lira a week. If we even gave that to a kid they wouldn’t do the same work. With the boss at the workshop not paying the money that was due we went and started work at another workshop the following week. Turks and Kurds, seeing there were no jobs like before in textiles, found socially insured jobs instead of working with time out of known or unknown duration and without insurance. But we’re just managing to get our IDs for the first time. That is, we can get them if we’ve got money. In the end, the workshops had to give us the money we deserved because they couldn’t find decent machinists, overedgers and errand runners to do the work. They saw they couldn’t trick us like they used to if we didn’t get the pay we deserved.

Life was easier for us in Syria before the war. With it being enough if one person in a house worked to cover health, education, fare, rent and shopping costs, here my two big brothers, I and my younger brother work to take care of our family. We both send something back home and spend on our own needs to live here. If we don’t work for a month we borrow and the following month we have to do whatever work is available.

I LEARNT ABOUT THE MAY DAY HERE

I’ve been living in Turkey for about six years. I’ve learnt about both labour and exploitation here.

The exploiters have always been the bosses. Those who put in the labour, though, have been the workers and working people. I also learnt here that there is a May Day, world workers’ festival among working people. A full two years ago. But I have somehow been unable to go. It’s always coincided with times when work is in full swing at the workshop. Then, given it’s a festival, I wondered why we worked on the workers’ festival while Muslims don’t work on all religious holidays. I then learnt that both working without social insurance and working for more than eight hours was a bad thing.

The bosses don’t give what our labour’s worth, but I still think we need to be in unity against the bosses who employ us cheaply so that they will. But this time not just with Syrians, there must be unity among Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Mongols, Afghans and Turkmen, because there is no one nation here. Workers have no nation, either. So, we must be in unity.

I found out about the papers and posters handed out for 1 May by getting my friends who are literate in Turkish to read them. It is actually very hard to find out about this. We can’t speak the same language as workers of other nationalities. So, do they know? I’ve no idea. We don’t know what our rights are and what we should ask for because we fled the country from war and those coming from other countries were getting away from unemployment. We’re afraid that if we ask for our rights, the bosses and their cronies will say get out of the country, then. I have also learnt here about the difficulty of asking for rights in a country where you aren’t a citizen. We all live together. They say having social insurance is a guarantee but even Turks cannot find insured work in textiles. There’s no regular work in the workshops and nobody works regularly. We can only be happy at times when there’s work. What we fear most is the future. We’re afraid of dying of poverty and hunger in this country we have made our home having fled war and unemployment. There’s no guarantee that war won’t break out in this country, either, in which there is no democracy even in elections.

THERE ARE THOSE WHO ARE SEEKING RIGHTS FOR ALL

When one of my friends said we need to call for a human existence here, I used to say how’s that to be, the local people here don’t have a human existence so how can we. But there are also those here who do things for the peoples here and call for work and rights for everyone. There are even those who write books telling us about war, poverty and exploitation. I learnt that living is a right in this country. This right belongs to all nationalities. It is our right to live in a place where there is no war, nobody is exploited and we realize we are human. I think we need to be in unity and to be strong for this. I am also happy to be thinking these things because it tells me I need to be human.

President Erdoğan’s call for a ‘Turkey alliance’ and the attack on CHP Leader Kılıçdaroğlu

With the proclamation of a ‘Turkey alliance’, Erdoğan wants to force the opposition to unite around his policies in such matters as the Kurdish problem.

Not long after President Erdoğan’s comment, “In issues pertaining to our country’s survival, we must put our political views and differences to one side and act in a unity of 82 million as a ‘Turkey Alliance,’” CHP Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was attacked while attending the funeral in Ankara’s Çubuk of professional private Yener Kırıkçı who had lost his life in the clash in Hakkari. It suffices to watch the footage of the attack to realize that the assault was not the work of people who had chanced together but an organized attempted lynching was involved.

The police, who show not the slightest hesitation over attacking the ‘Peace Mothers’ and dragging them along the ground while clubbing them, standing and watching the assault at a ceremony at which the General Director of Police, the Ankara Police Chief, Minister of Defence and Chief of the General Staff were present can surely not be accounted for as a security lapse.

There is also no need to engage in deep analysis to be able to say that those who staged this attack drew succour from the antagonistic, terrorizing hate speech of ruling party spokespeople, not least President Erdoğan, towards their opponents. President Erdoğan’s comments on the electoral stump that, “Votes that go to the CHP will go to terrorist organizations” and talk of an “Alliance of degradation” that he employed to portray the “Nation Alliance” as a nefarious alliance is fresh in memories. On the other hand, just think that an Interior Minister, whose duty is to preserve society’s peace and provide security, proclaims the main opposition party to be a “terrorist collaborator” and can openly speak of instructing people from the CHP not be admitted to “funerals of the fallen.” It should thus come as no surprise that there are those who feel a state of affairs in which even bloody-handed organized crime bosses can act as ruling party spokesmen and threaten society imposes a duty on them.

Well, who and what calculations may lie behind this attack?

To find the answer to this question, we first need to look at President Erdoğan’s call for a “Turkey alliance” and the comment, “Our alliance is the People’s one” ensuing in reaction from the People’s Alliance’s minor partner Bahçeli.

The AKP, having lost a good number of metropolitan cities most notably Istanbul and Ankara, has clearly emerged wounded from the 31 March local elections and the election results have made the AKP-Erdoğan rule all the more dependant on the MHP. Well, Erdoğan’s comments cannot be thought of independently of these results. With the proclamation of a “Turkey alliance,” Erdoğan wants to force the opposition to unite around his policies in such matters as the Kurdish problem (intervention against the Syrian Kurds) which he sees as an issue of survival and the economic crisis. This endeavour also for sure involves an attempt to reduce the dependence of his own rule on the MHP.

Here there is a need to ask Erdoğan, who is calling on the 82 million to unite:

Where are the workers, whose strikes you have until now boasted of banning and whose severance pay you have set your sights on, in this alliance?

Where in this alliance are the millions who vote for the HDP, whose administrators you have accused of “terrorism” at every opportunity for defending a peaceful, democratic solution to the Kurdish problem in place of war and violence, and where are the Peace Mothers who come under attack for trying to make their voices heard about their hunger striking children?

In this alliance, where are the retirement age victims, the villagers engaged in agriculture and husbandry who have now come to the verge of extinction thanks to the policies of external dependence you have imposed and the public workers whose job security you announce you will eliminate?

I could keep churning out these questions, but even this many suffices to see/show this call for a “Turkey alliance” is a call for unity around the single-man regime and this regime’s anti-labour and anti-democracy policies. So, Erdoğan’s call is not, as is imagined, a sign of softening in the policies being implemented but the endeavour to legitimize his own rule among wider sections of society.

What about Bahçeli?

It would not be wrong to say that Bahçeli and his party came out of the 31 March elections as the winning side of the “People’s Alliance,” given that the MHP as it stands today both enjoys all the blessings of power and is able to exempt itself from criticism aimed at the ruling body. Also, the MHP’s victory in many places where the AKP and MHP came head to head in the local elections points to a swing in the vote from the AKP to the MHP. This clearly places the MHP in a critical position in terms of the continuation of Erdoğan’s rule and this situation is of immense satisfaction to Bahçeli.

At this very point, there is a need to turn and look at what Bahçeli said about the attack on Kılıçdaroğlu. Bahçeli’s accusatory remark aimed at assault victim Kılıçdaroğlu, “What have you done Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to make that man go as far as swinging a punch?” takes us a step closer to finding the answer to the question, “Who and what calculations lie behind this attack?”

Bahçeli is opposing Erdoğan’s call for an open-ended “Turkey alliance” and wants the People’s Alliance, constructed on polices of heightening tensions and polarizing society, to continue in its current form. Bahçeli is known to have a considerable number of supporters for this not just from his own party, but also from within the AKP.

As a result, Erdoğan’s call for a “Turkey alliance” and Bahçeli’s insistence on the People’s Alliance augurs polemics between the partners of the new regime as to how the single-man regime will and should continue after 31 March. However, it is sufficient to look at the attack staged on Kılıçdaroğlu to see that a result favourable to the forces of labour and democracy will not emerge from such polemics/clashes whose aim is to shore up the single-man regime.

For a democratic country and a human existence, no other exit route stands before the forces of labour and democracy apart from stepping up the trend of self-confidence and struggle that emerged among wide circles of society in the 31 March elections in opposition to the single-man regime.

(Translated by Tim Drayton)

Cumhuriyet staffs talked before returning to jail: May things go well for us on the inside and you on the outside

8 Cumhuriyet staffs set to go back to jail said, “May things go well for us on the inside and you on the outside.”

Eylem NAZLIER
İstanbul

Those sentenced to less than five years in the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial and whose sentences have been upheld by the appeal court are now expected to go to jail. The newspaper’s former staffers Musa Kart, Kadri Gürsel, Güray Öz, Hakan Kara, Önder Çelik, Emre İper, Bülent Utku and Mustafa Kemal Güngör will go to jail. Today, the journalists made statements accompanied by their lawyers at the İstanbul Bar Association.

With the absence of Bülent Utku and Kadri Gürsel, from among the soon-to-be-jailed attending the conference were Musa Kart, Güray Öz, Hakan Kara, Emre İper, Önder Çelik and Mustafa Kemal Güngör and their lawyers Duygu Yarsuvat, Bahri Belen, Fikret İlkiz, Tora Pekin and Abbas Yalçın along with Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Aydın Engin and Orhan Erinç, who were sentenced to more than five years and have applied to the Court of Cassation. Turkish Journalists’ Association Chair Turgay Olcayto, Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions affiliated Press Union Chair Faruk Eren, Evrensel newspaper Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat, RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu and Turkish Labour Party MP Barış Atay also attended the conference.

MUSA KART: I EXPECT AN APOLOGY

The newspaper’s former cartoonist Musa Kart was the first to address the conference. Saying that he had been a cartoonist for forty years, Kart said, “In spite of everything, I have felt no doubt about the correctness of my choice. I now expect an apology. By now everyone knows that they jailed us to create a climate of fear in the country. My colleagues rebutted the charges against us in the historic defences they made before the first-instance court. Yes, how sad that this period will be remembered for its lack of hearings and defences. Let’s give it its due. If being tried without hearing and defence is not a comedy, what is? We at Cumhuriyet are people who believe in democracy, secularism, the rule of law and living together. Heads held high, I will go back to jail together with my colleagues who hold their professional integrity above all else. I embrace everyone who has stood at our sides from the outset.”

“THE LAW OF THE SUPREME WAS DEFENDED”

For his part, former Cumhuriyet newspaper employee Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Attorney-at-Law, said of the Cumhuriyet trial, “It was a trial that murdered the law,” and added, “I was prosecuted in this trial as a lawyer of 34 years’ standing. We are up against a ruling that murders the law. Those in power had a sentence that they made particular recourse to in the 2010 constitutional referendum: ‘We will bring about the supremacy of the law and not of the Supreme.’ But here the law of the supreme was defended. This is a political, not legal, trial. It intimidates the rest of the press and journalists and other opposition segments of society. It says let nobody write and nobody criticize. If this is done, the judiciary immediately moves into action. The indictment and court judgment would have it that we knowingly and willingly aided a terrorist organization without being a member. And also three organizations at the same time. How did we commit this crime? With the news that appeared in Cumhuriyet as a whole. Those who are trying us and are having us tried to know full well that we committed no such crime. But look at how odd and portentous it is when those on trial are we who for forty years warned of the “FETO” truth.”

“MAY THINGS GO WELL FOR US ON THE INSIDE AND YOU ON THE OUTSIDE”

Saying that press freedom had been destroyed with these punishments, Güngör continued, “Trust me, I am lost for words in the face of a judgment that murders the law. I grieve for my poor and beautiful country. The freedom of the press and expression was destroyed from start to finish in this trial. The principle of personal liability in criminal law has been destroyed. Our going to prison will not just be contrary to the law, but contrary to the Constitution and statute. The first-instance court found the Cumhuriyet newspaper staffers guilty. The Regional Court of Justice upheld our convictions. Our application for appeal was dismissed in a two-sentence judgment. The state will say ‘sorry’ to us years later. Is this what justice is about? Speedy trials are supposed of the essence and the Court of Cassation is supposedly heavily burdened with cases. What is to come of our burden, the burden of those who have been robbed of their lives? We noted all these things in our statement of appeal. But the legal system paid us no heed. May things go well for us on the inside and you on the outside. Farewell!”

“A PRAISEWORTHY PICTURE OF SOLIDARITY HAS NOT SUCCEEDED IN EMERGING AT MY PAPER”

Following the speeches, the journalists fielded questions from the press. To the question, “Cumhuriyet’s management has changed. Are you still getting support?” Musa Kart replied as follows, “It is not playing a very positive role in reflecting what is going on in the media. I do not think our trial is reflected in the terms that it warrants. I would also like to say with reference to our paper that it must be accepted that the current newspaper management also has a degree of responsibility. I think it worth saying that a praiseworthy picture of solidarity has not succeeded in emerging.”

“EXECUTION WILL HAPPEN ANY TIME”

Tora Pekin, Attorney-at-Law, gave information about the trial process. Saying, “In view of the latest developments that took place in the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial last week, we felt the need to hold such a meeting,” Pekin said, “As you know, the appeal court undertook its procedures to finalize the judgment. We have thus now come to the execution stage of the prison sentences. Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 27 will conduct its own correspondence and the commencement of execution will happen any time once the judgment has been sent to the executory public prosecutor’s office. This means that eight of our fourteen colleagues who have been sentenced, Güray Öz, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Önder Çelik, Kadri Gürsel, Bülent Utku, Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Emre İper, will go back to jail.”

Pekin noted, “Looking at the judgment, we see that the proof of guilt is merely the reports we made, the headlines we ran and a few articles by columnists. On the basis of these publications, we have been adjudged to have aided three terrorist organizations at the same time without being a member. Six of the sentences handed down out of fury with independent journalism and true reporting departed from the lower limits and sentences of from 3 years and 9 months to 8 years one month and 15 days were imposed. There is no precedent for this. We objected to this judgement in a 200-page statement. Penal Chamber No 3 of Istanbul Regional Court did not even reply to the request for a hearing. It dismissed our objections without a single sentence citing any grounds.”

Also briefly touching on Article 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Law, Pekin commented, “The European Court of Human Rights stresses that this article is vague and for this reason has no statutory character. The Venice Commission has emphasized that this article should be rescinded in full and, if not, should at least not be applied to the freedom of expression and freedoms of assembly and protest. However, unfortunately, what is written and drawn by journalists who criticize the political rulers or even by citizens who enter a few lines on social media continues to be considered a crime in this respect by our prosecutors and judiciary. We point once more to the need for Article 220 of the penal code to be reworked legally.”

“JOURNALISM IS NOT A CRIME”

Pekin finally said the following: “Even if we are here to give a reminder of the Cumhuriyet trial, what is really being told is the story of press freedom in Turkey. The IPI put the number of detained journalists at 155 in February. Every day, we witness a journalist being arrested, a search being conducted at their home and their being accused of organization membership or aiding an organization. According to the most recent Reporters without Borders (RSF) report, we are anchored in 157th position in the world press freedom league table. 95% of the media is under the ruling party’s control. The Cumhuriyet trial and the return to the jail of our colleagues for a non-existent crime is just an important detail in this horrific picture. While, in fact, free news, free information and free comment are indispensable for a democratic society. We thus call on the public to stand up for journalism and journalists and on the political rulers to respect the freedom of the press and expression. Journalism is not a crime.”

(Translated by Tim Drayton)

Ekrem İmamoğlu takes office as İstanbul Metropolitan Mayor

Opposition CHP’s İstanbul candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu takes office as İstanbul Metropolitan Mayor. After 25 years, the İstanbul Metropolitan Mayoralty has passed from the AKP to the CHP.

 İstanbul Metropolitan Mayor-elect for the CHP, Ekrem İmamoğlu, gets the certificate of election from provincial election council.

Following seventeen days of objections, Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has obtained his certificate of election. After 25 years, the İstanbul Metropolitan Mayoralty has passed from the AKP to the CHP.

Following a number of recounts from Turkey’s local elections last month, the İstanbul mayoral candidate from the main opposition party on Wednesday received his certificate of election from electoral authorities.

Ekrem İmamoglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was awarded the certificate of the election at İstanbul Courthouse, where the İstanbul Election Council is located, to become mayor of Istanbul.

The certificate followed recounts in districts of the metropolis such as Maltepe, Büyükçekmece, and Fatih.

Having obtained his certificate of election from the Provincial Election Board housed in the Istanbul Judicial Complex, İmamoğlu proceeded to the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality building for the handing over ceremony.

Before ascending to Mevlüt Uysal’s office for the ceremony, Ekrem İmamoğlu addressed a large number of citizens who had gathered in front of the town hall. İmamoğlu said he would make an address on top of the campaign bus following the handing over ceremony. İmamoğlu said, “We took our certificate of the election on behalf of our sixteen million people. We never gave up on society’s faith in democracy and the fight for this. We did not surrender anyone’s right. We said, ‘We will not let the right of sixteen million be usurped.’ There are processes continuing just now. We’re aware of this. We’re certainly expecting clear pronouncements immediately from the relevant bodies in connection with these processes for the wellbeing and happiness of our residents of our city. Our mind is clear. The onus is on us from now on. We’ll continue on our path while protecting the moral values and lifestyles of the people living in this city.” İmamoğlu went up to Mevlüt Uysal’s office and officially took over as Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor.

“WE’RE BRINGING PEACE TO THIS CITY’S PEOPLE”

Following the handing over ceremony, İmamoğlu mounted the campaign bus in front of the town hall and addressed the thousands of citizens who had assembled there. İmamoğlu spoke as follows:

“We’re bringing peace and we’re bringing respect to this city’s beautiful people. I greet this city’s people, I greet this city’s Turks, I greet this city’s Kurds, I greet this city’s Lazes. I greet their faiths. I greet the Sunnis from among them and I greet the Alevis from among them. I greet the Christians and Armenians from among them. I greet everyone who lives in this beautiful city. Welcome, Istanbul. We never gave up. We never gave up on rights and the law and justice. We never gave up, and never will, on this city’s conscience and sense of morality and this city’s sense of justice.

We did not give up on peace, and we did not give up on whatever universal values there are in this world. We did not give up on the republic. We did not give up on our faith in this people. We did not give up on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

I will devote myself to the babies, children and young people of this city. My valued fellow city dwellers, we have constantly spoken of this in the streets and squares, we will smile at one another. Nobody is now alienated.

This city’s upper crust is now the citizens. There is to be no plundering of this city’s bounty. There is to be a sharing of this city’s bounty. I have usurped nobody’s right and will not let yours be usurped.

What counts is serving this city and this world. We reject service for oneself, for particular people, for parties. We are coming to serve this country’s and this city’s people. We will serve everyone. I will serve supporters of the Republican People’s Party, of the Good Party, of the AK Party, of the MHP, of the HDP and of the Felicity Party. I will not discriminate against any of my people.

My hand will be in your hand at all times. My valued fellow city dwellers, I also want a promise from you. I will make a mistake one day. To put it bluntly, I may stumble and fall. Are you prepared to hold my hand and lift me to my feet as sixteen million people? I have come to be your fellow traveller.

I have special thanks for those who stood democratic watch over the ballot boxes for seventeen days, my deputy general chairs and members of parliament who did not leave me on my own over this process. I thank my party that brought me into togetherness and acquaintance with you in this way. I thank my party’s general chair, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, with all his interest and reassurance.

I thank the Good Party that was in alliance with us with its full support and steadfastly stood at my side at all times. And I thank its most valuable General Chair Meral Akşener.

I thank all those who live in this city regardless of whether they voted.

We will unite this city with the arts, production and science. We will not busy you with empty goings-on. We have to do a lot of work. We absolutely need the labour and experience of all of you. I promise you the most democratic of mayoralties.

Going home from here tell all those you see in a smiling, cheerful, enthusiastic and hopeful way that a new start has come to Istanbul.

I want a promise from you. Tell the whole of Istanbul and everyone will bring one of their neighbours to this weekend’s gathering. Will we sing songs arm in arm with women, men, kids and youngsters? There is to be no discrimination in bringing your neighbour here. Everyone will invite everyone.

When I set out on the road, I said you will love me dearly. Have I kept my word?

After having completed our duties, we will go to Atatürk’s Mausoleum once more.” (EVRENSEL DAILY)

(Translated by Tim Drayton)

‘I Subscribe’ campaign continues with Evrensel and BirGün

The international ‘I Subscribe’ campaign’s second round supports the daily newspapers Evrensel and BirGün in Turkey.

The second round of the international I Subscribe campaign, which encourages reader subscriptions to support independent newspapers in Turkey, is now open.

I Subscribe is an initiative backed by the International Press Institute (IPI) and several other leading press freedom organisations. The second round supports the daily newspapers Evrensel and BirGün. The first round of the campaign, which took place in summer 2018, featured the secular daily Cumhuriyet and promoted global solidarity with that newspaper.

The I Subscribe campaign was launched to promote reader subscriptions as an essential source of financing for independent media and a symbol of much-needed global solidarity.

IPI Turkey Advocacy Coordinator Caroline Stockford said:

“Purchasing a subscription is a practical and constructive way for the international public to directly support independent newspapers that are struggling to survive in Turkey. In order for the people of Turkey to receive alternative views to those expressed in the country’s pro-government media, it is vital that newspapers like Evrensel and BirGün are able to survive financially. Subscribing to either of these newspapers will help them to continue publishing independent, critical journalism.”

Both newspapers provide critical coverage on a wide range of topics, including politics, the economy, education, health, environmental issues and human rights. As two of the most widely read independent newspapers in Turkey, both face immense financial pressure and targeted criminal prosecution.

At least 170 media outlets and printing houses have been forcibly closed in Turkey since the July 2016 coup attempt. An estimated 90 percent of the country’s media are under government influence. Those that have remained independent are starved of public and private advertising revenue and face further financial pressure due to the scores of court cases brought against them for their journalistic work.

Both Evrensel and BirGün have been targeted by the Turkish authorities for their critical coverage and face several ongoing court cases primarily on defamation, insult and revelation of state secrets charges. Editors and journalists at both newspapers currently face imprisonment over their reporting. In what is perhaps internationally the best-known case, both newspapers face proceedings for their reporting as part of the Paradise Papers investigation, which revealed offshore accounts in Malta held by Turkish officials and their families. Evrensel editor Çağrı Sarı’s next hearing in the case will take place on March 19.

The I Subscribe campaign received the 2018 Press Freedom Award by the İzmir Journalists Association, which highlighted the campaign as a vital form of engagement for strengthening international networks of solidarity around press freedom in Turkey.

Click for more information about subscription 🙂

Jail sentences for 27 peace academics

Prosecuted for having signed the peace declaration titled, “We will not be party to this crime,” 27 peace academics have been handed down jail sentences.

The joined case of 27 academics being prosecuted for having signed the peace declaration titled, “We will not be party to this crime” was heard at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 33. The court handed down sentences of one year and ten months to one group of the academics and two years and three months to another group.

The hearing was held at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 33 of the joined case of Prof. Dr. Hülya Kirmanoğlu, retired Assoc. Prof. Dr. Haydar Durak, Assistant Prof. Dr. Nihan Aksakallı, Assistant Prof. Dr. Doğan Çetinkaya, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ahmet Bekmen, doctorate student İrfan Keşoğlu and Assistant Prof. Dr. İlkay Yılmaz of Istanbul University; Prof. Dr. Erol Katırcıoğlu, Prof. Dr. Yüksel Taşkın, doctorate student Cihan Yapıştıran, Dr. Ayşe Nilüfer Durakbaşa and Assistant Prof. Dr. Özgür Müftüoğlu of Marmara University; Research Assistant Seçkin Sertdemir, Assoc. Prof. Dr. F.A.A., Research Assistant Gözde Aytemur Nüfusçu and Research Assistant Eda Aslı Şeran of Galatasaray University; Assoc. Prof. Dr. İsmet Akça of Yıldız Technical, Prof. Dr. Meltem Ahıska of Bosphorous University; Faculty Member Elif Akçalı and Assistant Prof. Dr. Öznur Yaşar Diner of Kadir Has University; Prof. Dr. Zeynep Tül Süalp of Bahçeşehir University; Assistant Prof. Dr. Aysuda Kölemen, Assistant Prof. Dr. T.D. and Faculty Member Esra Kaliber of Kemerburgaz University; Faculty Member İlkay Özkuralpli and Faculty Member Remzi Orkun Güner of Arel University, Assoc. Prof.  Dr. Y.Y. from Koç University and Assistant Prof. Dr. N.M. from Nişantaşı University. The hearing, at which eighteen academics and their lawyers were in attendance, was not attended by academics Seçkin Sertdemir Özdemir, İlkay Yılmaz, Tuba Demirci Yılmaz, Eda Aslı Şeran, Zeynep Tül Süalp, Esra Kaliber, Doğan Çetinkaya, Aysuda Kölemen and N.M.

COURT DISMISSES STAY APPLICATION

Academic Yüksel Taşkın’s lawyer Adil Demirci made a written submission to the court applying to submit a plea of unconstitutionality. Arguing that Article 7/2 of the Counterterrorism Law that provides for “terrorist organization propaganda” is contrary to articles of the Constitution, Demirci sought the making of application to the Constitutional Court for the annulment of the article and for a stay of the proceedings until the reply was forthcoming. Meltem Ahıska’s lawyer Alp Tekin Ocak, in turn, called for the file to be sent to the Ministry of Justice to obtain permission under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code and for a stay of proceedings until the reply was forthcoming. Ocak additionally applied for joinder with the file of four academics whose cases were pending before Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 13. To attorney Meriç Eyüboğlu, who applied for the video link to be turned on at the hearing, the presiding judge asked, “Did you make a written submission?” Eyüboğlu said that there was no such requirement. To this, the presiding judge said, “Please proceed. I will have it taken down that I approve.” Eyüboğlu also requested application to the Constitutional Court in respect of unconstitutionality and for enlargement of the examination. The hearing prosecutor sought the dismissal of the applications “in view of the current evidentiary situation in the case and the stage reached by the case.” With the court granting the application for the turning on of the video link, it dismissed the other applications. The prosecutor then gave his recommendations on the merits and sought the punishment of the 27 academics for the crimes with which they are charged.

“I DEMANDED MY RIGHT TO PEACE”

Following the lawyers’ applications, the court moved on to the academics’ statements on the merits. Academic Hülya Kirmanoğlu stated her lawyer was at another hearing and said she wanted to make her defence later. The presiding judge said, “We rejected your lawyers’ reasons for absence. Please proceed with your defence.” Kirmanoğlu submitted her defence to the court. Rejecting the charges laid, Kirmanoğlu asked to be acquitted. Academic Haydar Durak included the following in his statement, “We simply wanted peace. Wanting peace is not a crime anywhere. But our colleagues have been punished in different courts. I do not wish for you to be party to this erroneous decision.” Academic Özgür Müftüoğlu said, “I demanded the universal right of peace in compliance with the law. Frankly, I still think we will not be punished because there exists no crime. I think the granting of deferment of sentence restricts the right of defence and I do not consent to it.” Following the academics’ statements, the attorneys submitted their defences on the merits and asked for their clients to be acquitted.

TWO DIFFERENT PUNISHMENTS FROM THE SAME COURT FOR THE SAME DECLARATION

Finding thirteen academics guilty of “making terrorist organization propaganda,” the court handed down the maximum sentences sought of one year ten months and fifteen days.

Awarding contrasting sentences of two years and three months to fourteen academics the court’s grounds were as follows: “It having been ascertained that they committed the offence of making terrorist organization propaganda, for them to be sentenced to one year and six months each with it deemed appropriate from the contents of the file to apply a penalty that deviates from the bottom limit in accordance with the defendants’ acts taking into consideration the manner in which the offence was committed, the significance and value of what was involved in the offence, the place and time at which the offence was committed, the gravity of the defendants’ intention-based fault, the gravity of the danger posed, the defendants’ positions and the principles of justice and equity; and, with it ascertained that the offence was committed through the press and publication, for an extension to be made and a sentence of one year fifteen months to be imposed.” No reduction was made to the sentence on the grounds of “the defendants’ failure to engage in sincere contrition and their demeanour and actions due to their conduct following the act and during the proceedings.”

Since the sentences were of more than two years, suspension and deferment of sentence were not applied.

Translated by: Tim Drayton

Maintaining heightened political tension is the most important weapon of the Erdoğan-Bahçeli alliance

The bringing to prominence of both Cumhuriyet and the “Gezi trial” on the eve of the elections is most certainly no coincidence and it would be no mistake to view it.

Under normal conditions, even in Turkey, the political climate would soften as elections approached. Events such as protests, meetings and rallies, which normally encountered various difficulties, did not encounter them at election times and the administration would adopt a more tolerant line towards disapproval-expressing actions of this kind. Indeed, certain circles even harboured expectations of a “pardon” prior to elections!

However, in recent years the AKP-MHP alliance, it having dawned on them that they cannot take the country to the “single party single man regime” under ordinary conditions, has made heightening political tension in the country the chief policy. So, in election periods we witness a special stoking up of tension and all actions that are not to the ruling entity’s liking being met with very harsh accusations such as “insurrection,” “treason,” “cooperation with terrorism” and “espionage.”

ARE THE GEZİ AND CUMHURİYET TRIALS A COINCIDENCE?

As the election draws near, the tension in the political environment and the suppression of “opposition” circles increase. Even commonplace reactions or partial opposition to the ruling entity accelerate police violence and the taking of decisions based on ideological rather than legal grounds by prosecutors and courts.

Indeed, with the election so close, the local court’s decision was upheld by the Regional Appeal Court resulting in the rejailing of those released journalists in the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial who had been sentenced to less than five years (the Court of Cassation will rule on those sentenced to more than five years).

Also, the day before yesterday, an indictment was drafted seeking aggravated life imprisonment for Osman Kavala, who has been in detention for a period of more than a year without even knowing what he was charged with, along with fifteen people including actors and journalists like M. Ali Alabora and Can Dündar. Moreover, an incredible claim that “they aided the Gezi resistance” lies at the heart of the accusations against Kavala and the journalists, arts world people and human rights advocates included in the case. Because “the Gezi resistance was an insurrection against the government!” This is the conclusion that prosecutors, looking into the eyes of the political rulership, have reached six years after Gezi!

And, the bringing to prominence of both Cumhuriyet and the “Gezi trial” on the eve of the elections is most certainly no coincidence and it would be no mistake to view it as betokening the desire for them to be made instrumental in heightening political tension “one further notch.”

WILL THE AKP AND MHP VOTE REMAIN SOLID?

We saw in the 24 June elections and we also clearly see in the process unfolding before us just now in the local elections to be held in 37 days that Erdoğan retains no concerns about winning the votes of the segments of the population that have not previously voted for his policies. On the contrary, his basic effort since the 16 April referendum (we can also say since the 7 June election) has been to maintain his “hairbreadth” difference that is also shored up by the tainted monkey business in the referendum! If he can hang on to this difference, he thinks this will secure him enough votes to make do with, with the added use of media and state resources and with the “threats” and “impositions” he will make.

Erdoğan clearly proclaimed where he had set the bar in the local election with words amounting to, “Let’s consolidate the AKP and MHP vote and this is good enough for us” in a speech he made the day before yesterday.

However, it is also beyond doubt that when the dead ends into which they have dragged the country in domestic and foreign policy are combined with the ever deepening economic crisis into which the AKP government’s economic policies of seventeen years have dragged the country, these developments have given rise to dissatisfaction of a magnitude previously non-existent among the working people who voted AKP on 24 June.

Despite the covering up of the truth with the ruling entity’s massive media power and the resemblance the “Nation Alliance” is taking to the “People’s Alliance” and its efforts to compete over antidemocratic and graft-based municipal practices, it is a fact that “consolidating” the AKP and MHP’s 24 June vote will be pretty tough.

POLITICAL TENSION IS AN EXISTENTIAL MATTER OF FOR THEM

Here, of course, the question may come to mind of, “Well, will the political environment return to ‘normal’ after the election?” There are claims among both media and politics folk that everything will return to its “normal” course following the election. But, if this is not a claim aimed at skewing the people’s consciousness, it betrays extreme naivety. For, the most important weapon in the hands of the “People’s Alliance” serving the aim of the “single party single man regime” is to maintain heightened political tension and intimidate its opponents using all the state and media resources at its disposal.

And this means that the ruling entity will be more partisan in its use of oppression and police, judicial and domestic and foreign military operations to quell opposition responses. Moreover, such an environment of political tension has become an existential requirement for them.

Approached from this angle, the only thing that will slow them down – even if they don’t take a step back – and make things easier after the election for the forces opposed to the “single man regime” will be the “People’s Alliance” emerging from the local election dazed from the slap they have received from the people.

Consequently, in the local election, while on the one hand certainly stressing the slogan, “No vote for the People’s Alliance,” it is vital over and beyond this for there to be a gearing of the post-election period towards organizing the labour struggle to fight to reject the burden of the crisis, and election campaigning towards renewing the democracy and freedom struggle in opposition to the “single party single man regime.”

Article by: Ihsan Caralan

Candidates and alliances for local elections in Turkey on March 31

Aggravated life imprisonment is being sought for sixteen people including Osman Kavala under the investigation conducted into the Gezi Park Resistance.

The investigation involving sixteen people, including Osman Kavala who has been in prison for fifteen months and actor Mehmet Ali Alabora, into the Gezi Park events has been completed. Aggravated life imprisonment is sought for the sixteen people in the indictment on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey.” The Gezi resistance was described as an “insurrection” in the indictment. President Erdoğan is among the complainants in the case.

The investigation into the Gezi Park resistance involving sixteen people including such figures as Osman Kavala, Mehmet Ali Alabora, Can Dündar and Mücellla Yapıcı has been completed. Ten charges have been laid against the sixteen.

In the indictment in which aggravated life imprisonment is sought for everyone on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey,” jail terms of various lengths are also sought for some of the suspects on such allegations as “damaging property,” “unauthorized possession of dangerous substances,” “damaging places of worship and graveyards,” “breach of the firearms law,” “aggravated looting” and “aggravated battery.”

GEZI RESISTANCE APPEARS AS AN “INSURRECTION”

The Gezi Park resistance was described in the indictment as an “attempted insurrection.”

It is alleged in the indictment that the suspects commenced directing the Gezi resistance as of 2011. “Acts of securing finance and coordination” for the Gezi resistance have been put at issue in the indictment. The indictment states that the “suspects” were included among the top leadership of these events and are thus held accountable for the acts of “violence” that thereby occurred throughout the country.

APPREHENSION WARRANT ISSUED FOR SIX PEOPLE

An apprehension warrant has been issued for six people, including Can Dündar.

Those named in the apprehension warrant are:

  • Ayşe Pınar Alabora
  • Can Dündar
  • Memet Ali Alabora
  • Gökçe Yılmaz Handan
  • Meltem Arıkan Hanzade
  • Hikmet Germiyanoğlu

ERDOĞAN AND THE CABINET OF THE TIME ARE COMPLAINANTS

Included in the indictment are 746 complainants, including the members of the cabinet at the time and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

APART FROM TWO PEOPLE, NO PRETRIAL DETENTION

It was recalled in the indictment that Yiğit Aksakoğlu and Osman Kavala are currently in detention. The others apart from Kavala and Aksakoğlu will seemingly not be held in detention pending trial. The 657-page indictment has been sent to Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 30. If the indictment is accepted, the suspects will appear before the judges in the coming days.

THE SUSPECTS

The following sixteen are named as “suspects” in the 657-page indictment:

  • Osman Kavala
  • Ali Hakan Altınay
  • Ayşe Mücella Yapıcı
  • Ayşe Pınar Alabora
  • Can Dündar
  • Çiğdem Mater Utku
  • Gökçe Yılmaz
  • Handan Meltem Arıkan
  • Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu
  • İnanç Ekmekci
  • Memet Ali Alabora
  • Mine Özerden
  • Şerafettin Can Atalay
  • Tayfun Kahraman
  • Yiğit Aksakoğlu
  • Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi

CAN ATALAY: GEZİ CANNOT BE BESMIRCHED WITH MINDBOGGLING ALLEGATIONS

Can Atalay, Attorney-at-Law, speaking to Evrensel about this matter, said, noting that there was an exercising of constitutional rights by millions of people during the Gezi resistance, “If the matter comes to whether or not we think about whether the government should resign, demanding a change of government is the most democratic of rights in democracies. Gezi is the hope for the future of this land. It cannot be besmirched with mindboggling allegations.”

MÜCELLA YAPICI: A CONSPIRACY HATCHED TO CRIMINALIZE GEZİ

In an interview she gave Evrensel, Mücella Yapıcı opined that the quest for punishment was “a conspiracy hatched to criminalize Gezi.” Yapıcı commented, “We were tried and acquitted in this matter. The whole world knows that this is an allegation with an eye on the elections having no connection with the law to criminalize Gezi and to intimidate and threaten people. The indictment has not yet come into our hands. Under interrogation, we underwent ten and a half hours of interrogation based on unlawful and procedurally non-compliant wiretaps. Since the indictment is not yet available we cannot say anything, either. It is an operation to criminalize Gezi. It is something that has not yet successfully been comprehended. There was nobody directing and controlling Gezi. It was a popular movement and popular objection.”

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: IT IS ACTUALLY THE AUTHORITIES WHO DENIED FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND POLICE VIOLENCE THAT SHOULD BE ON TRIAL

Amnesty International’s Turkey Strategy and Research Manager Andrew Gardner, in a statement he made about news of the indictment in which the sentencing is sought of Osman Kavala and fifteen civil society figures on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey” and which was submitted to the court today, noted that it was actually the authorities who denied fundamental rights and police violence that should be on trial.

Gardner said the following:

“These outlandish allegations are an attempt to rewrite history and to silence some of Turkey’s most prominent civil society figures who now face the prospect of being tried by Turkey’s deeply flawed justice system.

Almost six years after the Gezi Park protests saw tens of thousands of people peacefully protesting against state repression, this indictment – if accepted by the court – could see the accused facing a lifetime behind bars without the possibility of parole.

The Gezi protests were overwhelmingly peaceful with people simply exercising their rights. They were met by arbitrary and abusive force by police. It should be the authorities’ denial of these rights and the police violence against peaceful protestors that should be examined by the courts, not these 16 civil society figures who have not committed any crime.

These charges must be dropped and Osman Kavala, who has been in jail on pretrial detention for almost 16 months, and Yiğit Aksakoğlu, who has been in prison for four months, must be immediately released.”

Translated by Tim Drayton

Affirmatory ruling in Cumhuriyet trial: Eight people back to jail

The Appeal Court has upheld the sentences handed down in the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial. The ruling sees eight people who were sentenced to less than five years returning to prison.

The Appeal Court has upheld the sentences that Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 27 imposed on Cumhuriyet newspaper’s former managers and columnists. The ruling sees eight people who were sentenced to less than five years going back to jail. Those who received sentences of longer than five years have the right to apply for review to the Court of Cassation.

It was noted in the decision that the Appeal Prosecutor was also entitled to apply to the Court of Cassation over the three defendants whose acquittal had been ordered. It was stated in the ruling that the sentences of the defendants who had been handed down prison terms of less than five years had attained finality with this affirmatory ruling.

In the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial, the Appeal Court found the conviction ruling handed down by Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 27 to be legally compliant and upheld it.

From information supplied to Evrensel by one of the Cumhuriyet trial lawyers, Abbas Yalçın, those awarded sentences of more than five years have the right to review before the Court of Cassation. Hence, those sentenced to more than five years will not go to jail because their convictions have not yet attained finality.

The names of those whose appeal cases will continue before the Court of Cassation are:

  • Ahmet Şık
  • Akın Atalay
  • Murat Sabuncu
  • Aydın Engin
  • Orhan Erinç
  • Hikmet Çetinkaya

The names of those who will return to jail are:

  • Kadri Gürsel
  • Bülent Utku
  • Güray Öz
  • Önder Çelik
  • Mustafa Kemal Güngör
  • Musa Kart
  • Hakan Kara
  • Emre İper

Cartoonist Musa Kart said in a social media post: “A comment has come from the ruling party that is expected to create a solution to the ongoing crises: Throw the cartoonist back inside! Yes, the road to prison beckons for me once more. Take care of yourselves.”

For his part, columnist Güray Öz wrote, “The appeal court has upheld the convictions of Cumhuriyet newspaper’s columnists and managers. You know I am among them. Never mind, I have made the final corrections to my novel. We will be unable to see one another for a while. Farewell.”

APPEAL COURT RULES THAT AHMET ŞIK CANNOT INVOKE LEGISLATIVE IMMUNITY

From the account given by DHA, the court stated in its ruling, noting that Ahmet Şık, who was elected to parliament in the 24 June elections, was not an MP on the dates on which the crime was committed and the judgment was passed, that Şık could not invoke the legislative immunity provided for in Article 83/2 of the Constitution.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: COURTS BEING USED TO CRUSH PRESS FREEDOM

Posting a comment following the Appeal Court’s affirmation of the judgments, Amnesty International Turkey Branch Strategy and Research Manager Andrew Gardner said, “Today’s ruling to send the former Cumhuriyet staff back to prison exposes yet again the way in which politically motivated trials and unsound court decisions are simply rubber stamped by an equally biased appeals process.”

Stating that the prosecution of scores of journalists and other media workers was on ongoing affront to press freedom and justice, Gardner commented, “By using the courts to increase their stranglehold on the media, the authorities have once again displayed the ugly side of Turkey’s broken judicial system. This should ring alarm bells for anyone who cares about freedom of expression.”

THEIR SENTENCES

Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 27 pronounced its judgment at the hearing dated 25 April 2018 in the trial in which former columnists and managers of Cumhuriyet newspaper were being prosecuted. The paper’s former Executive Board Chair Akın Atalay was handed down a sentence of seven years, thirteen months and fifteen days on the count of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization while not being a member.” Atalay was released in conjunction with the judgment. The paper’s Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, reporter Ahmet Şık and columnist Aydın Engin were each awarded sentences of seven and a half years, while Cumhuriyet Foundation Management Board Chair Orhan Erinç and columnist Hikmet Çetinkaya both received jail terms of six years and three months on the same count.

On the count of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization while not being a member,” Bülent Utku, Attorney-at-Law, readers’ representative Güray Tekin Öz, Cumhuriyet Foundation manager Önder Çelik, cartoonist Musa Kart and Mustafa Kemal Güngör were each sentenced to three years and nine months and columnist Kadri Gürsel was awarded jail time of two and a half years.

Yusuf Emre İper was sentenced to three years one month and fifteen days on the count of “making terrorist organization propaganda,” while Ahmet Kemal Gündoğdu, accused of using the Twitter account named jeansbiri, received a ten-year jail term on the count of “membership of a terrorist organization.” The acquittal was ordered of Turan Güney, Bülent Yener and Günseli Özaltay.

Candidates and alliances for local elections in Turkey on March 31

The period set by the SEC for announcing local election candidates has ended. Final adjustments have been made to the alliances.

Birkan BULUT
Ankara

The Supreme Electoral Council (SEC)’s deadline for nominating local election candidates has ended. The picture to emerge following last-minute adjustments is that the AKP-MHP has broadened the alliance as its electoral support wilts. With the CHP and Good Party forging an alliance in many places with an eye on the nationalist vote, the HDP, conversely, has not fielded candidates in many metropolitan cities such as İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir Mersin and Adana so as to weaken the AKP-MHP block.

IN WHICH PROVINCES ARE AKP OR MHP CANDIDATES BEING SUPPORTED?

The People’s Alliance, having continued with its ups and downs following the 24 June elections, embarked on its endeavours for the 31 March local elections in thirty metropolitan cities and Erdoğan’s home town of Rize and Bahçeli’s home town of Osmaniye. The AKP and MHP block, targeting the CHP and Good Party alliance with talk of the latter having “made an alliance with the HDP,” has done its utmost to hush and patch up the cracks between them. With President Erdoğan frequently urging his party to avoid rhetoric harmful to the alliance, those expressing disapproval have been ousted from office, as in Samsun.

The alliance talks that restarted at the beginning of February saw a further widening in view of the risks and wilting vote witnessed in certain provinces. The two parties are cooperating in 21 provinces in addition to the 30 metropolitan cities. This thus brings to 51 the number of provinces in which the election is being contested under alliance.

The AKP has not fielded candidates in Osmaniye, Kars, Kırklareli and Iğdır where the MHP has candidates. The MHP has likewise withdrawn its mayoral candidates in Rize, Bilecik, Bolu, Burdur, Yalova, Çanakkale, Bitlis, Sinop, Edirne, Artvin, Giresun, Ardahan, Siirt, Muş, Ağrı, Şırnak and Hakkari and resolved to support the AKP in these seventeen provinces. A single list for municipal assembly seats will also be fielded in provinces falling under the alliance.

WILL THE CHP FIND WHAT IT IS LOOKING FOR ON THE RIGHT?

In the aftermath of the 24 June elections, the CHP has made an alliance with the Good Party alone. The CHP’s long-time tactic of winning elections through cosying up to right-wing voters has courted disapproval from many quarters. Mehmet Fatih Bucak, who hurled threats at other parties when he applied to stand for the MHP at the last elections, has become CHP candidate for Şanlıurfa Siverek in spite of objections within the party.

IN WHICH PROVINCES ARE THE GOOD PARTY – CHP IN ALLIANCE?

Critical cities like Ankara, Izmir and Mersin once more turn out to be the provinces where debate over candidates is at its hottest. In the end, cooperation under alliance was decided on in 22 metropolitan cities. The CHP has fielded candidates in more than 900 places including 18 metropolitan cities like İstanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Adana and 38 provinces. The Good Party has put forward a total of 543 candidates in 14 metropolitan cities like Konya, Kayseri, Kocaeli and Gaziantep and 28 provinces.

HDP NOT FIELDING CANDIDATES IN THE WEST TO HAMPER THE RULING BLOCK

As to the HDP, it has played a dual tactic in these elections. Making anti-trustee alliances with Kurdish parties in provinces in the region, the HDP has announced that it is not fielding candidates in Istanbul, Adana and Izmir to hamper the AKP and MHP block. Fielding no candidates in cities like Ankara, Aydın, Adana, Hatay, Urfa, Mersin, Antalya, Bursa and Mersin, the HDP has conversely put forward candidates in certain of Istanbul and Ankara’s sub-provinces. Announcing its support for DSP candidate Celal Doğan in Gaziantep and, by contrast, Felicity Party candidate Ahmet Faruk Ünsal in Adıyaman, the HDP has nominated Van member of parliament Bedia Özgökçe Ertan in Van Metropolitan Municipality, Group Deputy Chair Ayhan Bilgen for Kars Municipality, Istanbul member of parliament Ali Kenanoğlu for Balıkesir Metropolitan Municipality and Istanbul member of parliament Züleyha Gülüm for Kocaeli.

HUGE TUSSLE IN ISTANBUL, ANKARA AND MERSİN

Numbering among the most critical provinces in the local elections are such provinces as Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Mersin and Adana. The People’s Alliance is using figures who have served on the cabinet in the three big cities. It has fielded Parliamentary Speaker Binali Yıldırım in Istanbul, former Minister of Environment and Urbanization Mehmet Özhaseki in Ankara and former Minister of

Economy Nihat Zeybekçi in Izmir. As to the CHP’s candidates, these are Ekrem İmamoğlu in Istanbul, Tunç Soyer in Izmir and, in Ankara, Mansur Yavaş who fought against Melih Gökçek in the last local elections. In Mersin Metropolitan Municipality, in turn, where almost all parties are neck and neck, the CHP has nominated Vahap Seçer and the MHP Hamit Tuna as candidates.

THE GOOD PARTY’S BURHANETTİN KOCAMAZ CRISIS IN MERSIN

The Good Party was going to field its current chair Burhanettin Kocamaz but the late arrival of Kocamaz’s documents has caused a crisis. The SEC will decide on whether Kocamaz is to be a candidate.

EMEP AND ÖDP’S ELECTORAL DECISIONS

The SEC blocked the Labour Party (EMEP) and Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) from contesting the election asserting that they did not meet the qualifications to do so. With the Labour Party deciding to back the HDP against the trustees, it has put up independent candidates in Balıkesir, Tekirdağ, Kayseri, Kocaeli and Denizli along with Ankara’s Sincan sub-province and Izmir’s Buca sub-province.

EMEP is also contesting the elections in Dersim in a unity of forces.

ÖDP Presidential Board member Alper Taş, in turn, has become the CHP candidate for Beyoğlu Mayor in Istanbul.

ŞAHİN DECISION FROM FELICITY PARTY

In the election marked by alliances, the Felicity Party (SP) will contest the election in all regions with its own logo and candidates. The SP will field candidates in 1389 constituencies and has dwarfed all other parties in this regard.

The Felicity Party has nominated former Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, who had been spoken of as CHP-Good Party Ordu candidate, as candidate for Ordu Metropolitan Mayor.

FINAL LISTS WILL BE PROCLAIMED ON 3 MARCH

As per the Supreme Electoral Council (SEC)’s electoral timetable, the deadline for submission of lists of candidates ended at 17.00 on 19 February. The provisional list of candidates including independent candidates will be announced by provincial and sub-provincial electoral boards on 22 February and the objection period will commence. As to the final lists of candidates, these will be proclaimed on 3 March.

The future that those living in palaces in Turkey are imposing on people living in poverty

Because they live in palaces, they see unemployment, poverty and deteriorating living conditions for common people as just a rule of the game that they are playing.

The unemployment statistics in Turkey from November show not just the shocking growth in unemployment but also signal that unemployment will reach intolerable levels in 2019.
Unemployment consistently rose by 0.2% every month since August and reached 11.6% in October. But between October and November this jumped to 0.7% reaching 12.3% unemployment.
During the same period unemployment (excluding the agricultural sector) increases by 2.1 percentage points, reaching 14.3%. Unemployment amongst 15-24 year olds increased by 4.3%, reaching 23.6%.
Even according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK) unemployed figures have reached 4 million, and real figures are closer to 7 million people.
It’s not just unemployment that is of concern, in December the construction industry contracted by 9.8%, the biggest slow down since 2009.

THEY CLAIM THERE IS NO UNEMPLOYMENT OR HUNGER PROBLEM!

Last week unemployment stopped being just a number and showed its real size on the field. In Zonguldak, the vacancies for 1000 coal mine workers attracted 60,000 applicants! It is suggested that 15-20 thousand of these applicants are university graduates. Even smart bourgeois economists accept that unemployment will increase to above 15% in 2019.
Despite this reality, the treasury and finance minister, Berak Albayrak boasted “in January the budget was 5 billion more. Our budget discipline measures have yielded results. Our budget deficit is falling. This year it could fall to under 20 billion dollars. We have reached all our targets in our economic plan.”

Meanwhile President Tayyip Erdogan told young people asking him for jobs that “there is work. But there is work for qualified workers. Unqualified workers have a problem” ignoring that unemployment is higher amongst qualified university graduates compared to those without qualifications.

Erdogan has also opened a new debate in relation to hunger. “There is no hunger just a problem of over catering at the dinner table” says Erdogan who seems to have forgotten that 20 million people live below the poverty line in Turkey and those reliant on social welfare have reached 30.5 million.
All of the pro-government media and AKP cronies just repeat Erdogan and his (son-in-law) Minister Albayrak’s statements.
Of course the President and Treasury Minister aren’t just saying these things because they are unaware of what is going on in the country. Because they are as smart as everyone else and know the consequences of the politics they are pursuing. The problems being faced today are not accidental or unintentional. Albayrak’s response in the face of the stark reality of unemployment and poverty is not to deny it, on the contrary when he says “we have reached all our targets in out economic programme” he reveals that this was their target. Because there was no other way they could have achieved the targets they declared in their “economic programme”.

Because they live in palaces*, they see unemployment, poverty and deteriorating living conditions for common people as just a rule of the game that they are playing. This must be why for them the unemployment of millions of people appear to be “good for everyone” because it is a result of their “necessary and legitimate” economic programme.
So what is happening is not a result of failure or wrong political initiatives by the government, on the contrary it is “the undeclared but foreseen” result of reaching their goals in their economic programme
These are the living conditions that those living in palaces impose on the people!
And nothing will change until those living in poverty rise up and struggle against this life that is imposed on them.
The history of the working class struggle proves this.

* President Erdogan has a 1100 room presidential palace built for himself, adorned with expensive and luxury furniture. Even the daily expenses are paid for by the state.

Article by: Ihsan Caralan

Journalist Çağrı Sarı’s trial adjourned and Cem Şimşek acquitted

Former Evrensel responsible editors Çağrı Sarı and Cem Şimşek appeared before the judge. Çağrı Sarı’s hearing was adjourned while Cem Şimşek was acquitted.

The adjudicatory hearing took place in former Evrensel responsible editor Çağrı Sarı’s trial over the Paradise Papers being heard at Bakırköy Penal Court of First Instance No 2, brought under a complaint by Minister Albayrak and his brother. Çağrı Sarı’s hearing was adjourned until 11.50 on 19 March with a decision for the last of the submitted documents to be examined.

Following Çağrı Sarı, the first hearing was held in the trial in which former Evrensel responsible editor İsmail Cem Şimşek was being prosecuted for reports that exposed rights violations taking place at Tarsus Prison. Şimşek was acquitted at the first hearing.

Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) General Chair Gökhan Durmuş, who called for attendance at the trials in which our staff are being prosecuted, stressed that what needed to be done when faced with reports of rights violations was to research and investigate this. Underlining that intimidatory trials were being brought against journalists instead of doing this, Durmuş said they would be at the journalists’ sides. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu emphasized that they were in solidarity with our newspaper’s staff.

THE “YOU DEFAMED TARSUS PRISON” TRIAL

Charges were laid against former Evrensel responsible editor İsmail Cem Şimşek over our articles and reports that exposed rights violations taking place at Tarsus Prison on the allegation of “defaming” the prison.

Under the indictment, Şimşek’s imprisonment for between one and four years was sought at the behest of Tarsus Penal Institution Number 2 on the charge that “defamation of Tarsus Prison” was made in the form of the reports titled “Claims of torture at Tarsus” published in our paper on 3 August 2018 and “On tenterhooks at Tarsus Prison” published on 9 August 2018 along with the article bearing lawyer Tugay Bek’s signature and titled “Brought from Afrin, forgotten in prison” published on 6 August 2018.

DECISION DAY IN THE “PARADISE PAPERS” TRIAL’

Following the publication in our paper of reports into the Paradise Papers, which delved into fund transfers made by politicians and bosses to evade tax and revealed that the two sons of Prime Minister at the time, Binali Yıldırım, owned an “offshore” company, and in which the names of then Minister of Energy and Natural Resources and current Minister of Treasury and Finance Berat Albayrak and his brother Serhat Albayrak were mentioned, a prosecution was brought against our responsible editor at the time, Çağrı Sarı, under a complaint by Berat and Serhat Albayrak.

Sarı’s imprisonment for between one and six years was sought in the proceedings brought against him on the charge of “libel and defamation.”

DURMUŞ: THEY DON’T WANT CORRUPTION AND RIGHTS VIOLATIONS TO BE REPORTED

Speaking to Evrensel, Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) General Chair Gökhan Durmuş had the following to say about the trials:

“Two of Evrensel daily’s former editors will appear before the judge at an interval of ten minutes to defend reports. The two trials in question are essentially trials that resemble one another. Those in power and the prosecutors who by now are quite obviously working to their instructions do not want corruption and human rights stories to be covered in Turkey. If the name of a country’s leader is mixed up in a corruption allegation they try to intimidate journalists through filing defamation trials rather than proving to the public that this is untrue, as should be done. If human rights breaches are reported on with reference to a prison, while the prosecutor’s duty is to investigate these claims and prosecute the prison governor, they prosecute the person who made that report.”

Saying, “The rulers don’t want journalism to be conducted in Turkey,” Durmuş noted, “That’s why 137 journalists are in jail and hundreds of them are busying themselves with such trials. But, if they think they will cow and frighten journalists like this, they are mistaken. For as long as what is publicly known diverges from the truth, there will always be journalists who cover this. We, at the same time, will be at the side of our union’s members Çağrı Sarı and Cem Şimşek.”

ÖNDEROĞLU: WE ARE IN SOLIDARITY

For his part, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu had the following to say:

“There is nothing specific to Turkey about it: regimes worldwide that enclose themselves target journalists who try to open the public’s eyes to truths and allegations. It is actually a great risk that journalists take in societies with weak public opinion that are not transparent. In Turkey, we see mainly women journalists chasing cases like corruption and impropriety. We are in solidarity with them so as to applaud this courage, too.”

Translated by Tim Drayton

Direct sale points of Erdoğan government in 7 questions

Why have vegetable and fruit prices gone up in Turkey? Will direct sale points cure citizens’ woes? Are market traders to blame? We made a collation of the points of concern.

Sinem UĞUR
İstanbul

The direct sale points proposed by the AKP-Erdoğan government with the purported aim of reducing fruit and vegetable prices have been up and running since Monday 11 February. The rise in vegetable prices, which have reached record levels, will purportedly be stemmed through sales made at fifty points in İstanbul and fifteen in Ankara.

Will the direct sale points that have both attracted interest and prompted debate cure citizens’ woes? Why have prices risen? Who is to blame? What do the government, opposition and citizens say? We have replied to these questions by imparting the views of experts and politicians.

1- WHY HAVE FRUIT AND VEGETABLE PRICES RISEN?

Farmers’ Union Tüm Koy Sen Training and Organization Expert Sedat Başkavak gave an itemized reply to our question.

•    The country’s agriculture is configured to align with monopolies’ interests. (Whenever agriculture is debated import policies constantly come to the fore instead of policies that will increase production. Agricultural production and produce prices are kept under pressure with the imports that are made. This also affects agricultural production because these practices tear producers and villagers away from agriculture. Agricultural production has been annihilated as a result of the WTO and EU’s impositions.)

•    Support for production is minimal. Input prices are high. (Diesel leaving the refineries fills the villager’s tractor with a price hike of more than 100% due to the distributor’s, transporter’s and vendor’s profit. Pesticides are imported, fertilizer is imported and the monopolies set the price. As such, the producer and villager, unable to match production costs, grow produce each year as if playing the pools to see which produce will make good money. Agricultural production has become unbalanced in this way.)

•    It is the companies, commission agents and chain supermarkets that set the prices of vegetables and fruit, not the producing villager. (Unorganized, the villager cannot set the price of the product he produces. Intermediaries, traders and supermarket chains impose whatever price they want, saying this is the market price. With them getting their profit, the villagers are sometimes left unable to recoup their costs let alone the labour they have put in.)

•    Climatic conditions that have made themselves felt more this year. (Production has been negatively affected by climatic conditions. Weeks of flooding and storms have left their toll on production in areas where vegetables are produced. Agricultural areas are still under water in some places. Villagers are not being compensated for losses they have suffered from natural disaster. Intermediaries are exploiting this situation to increase prices.)

2- DOES THE BLAME LIE WITH MARKET TRADERS, SMALL BUSINESS PEOPLE OR PRODUCERS?

Chair of the İstanbul Branch of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects’ Agricultural Engineers Chamber, Ahmet Atalık, indicated that market traders, producers and sellers were not to blame and pointed to cost and expense items. There follows a summary of Atalık’s comments to Evrensel:

“We cannot say market traders, sellers and small business people are to blame. These people pay tax, pay rent, employ staff, pay staff wages and insurance contributions and pay electricity, water and natural gas bills. There are a whole host of cost items. If we want cheap food these items need first of all to be made more tolerable.

They say, ‘We just take the cost of diesel at direct sale points and sell at the farmers’ prices.’ They don’t pay rent and there are no tax or electricity costs at the places they make sales. Can you now, under these conditions, say, ‘Look, I am providing this service and they are food terrorists?’

Even the produce sold at direct sale points where not a penny in profit is said to be made is very expensive. This is because fertilizer has been hiked by more than 100%. Pesticides have been hiked by up to 80%. The producer uses diesel, pesticides and fertilizer coming from abroad. The slightest increase in foreign exchange is reflected in costs. Our total agricultural area has declined by 3.2 million hectares. The farmer doesn’t grow because he can’t get compensation for his labour.”

The words of market traders and producers who spoke to DHA bear Atalık out.

Finike Wholesale Market Association Chair İsmail Karataş said, ‘The cost of the produce the producer grows is very high. If our state wants to get people eating cheap vegetables it must first reduce the costs of the produce he grows. The produce isn’t beamed from here to the major centres. There is a transportation cost for this. Diesel is six lira a litre. The small business people there invoice for this and pay tax. This is also a cost for small business people. What our state could do would be to eliminate tax entirely, municipalities could dispense with duties and withholding tax could be done away with and prices would fall.”

Producers Süreyya Dalgıç and Emine Baş commented, “What we expect from our state is cheap diesel and fertilizer prices becoming cheaper and taxes being abolished.” For his part, farmer İsa said, “Our state must know how high costs are. So, they first need to revise costs.”

3- WILL DIRECT SALE POINTS CURE CITIZENS’ WOES?

Evrensel newspaper’s Economics Editor Bülent Falakaoğlu stated that direct sale points will not meet needs.

“The TANSAŞ model in 1980’s Izmir gives us an insight into this issue. The model brought farmers and supermarkets into a coordinated mode of working and cut down on intermediaries. With quality produce made available to the people more cheaply, the farmer was provided with a share of the income enabling him to continue producing. The TANSAŞ model only achieved effectiveness after it had spread throughout the entire Aegean region.

It is now virtually impossible to affect food prices with a limited number of direct sale points and limited produce!

Do fifty direct sale points suffice to meet needs in Istanbul, with its population of fifteen million, or fifteen in Ankara with a population of six million?

It has no producer component, no supermarket component and no reach. Hence, it has no chance of succeeding, either. It will aid the certain number of citizens who join the queue, but that won’t last long, either. Without solving the problems of expensive motorways and bridges, expensive diesel, high taxes, high rents and farmers’ production costs, prices won’t fall.

The farmer has a production problem. The price given for produce doesn’t meet costs. With the farmer not growing produce because it doesn’t pay, where are the fruit and vegetables to come from to the direct sale point?”

4- ARE DIRECT SALE POINTS A SOLUTION STRATAGY OR ELECTION STRATAGEM?

CHP Niğde Member of Parliament Ömer Fethi Gürer responded as follows to this question: “Direct sale points are being implemented for the perception to be created until the election that prices have fallen and it was the producer and intermediary that were to blame.”

Speaking to Evrensel, Gürer reeled off his criticisms of the AKP’s agricultural policy as follows: “Seeds, fertilizer and insecticide are imported and expensive. Diesel and electricity hikes affect production. Transport costs attributable to road and bridge transit implementations increase the price of produce.”

Stating that direct sale points were a for-show arrangement to say that prices had fallen, Gürer said, “Until farming inputs are cheapened and scientific, planned and foreseeable support is given to the producer, no lasting solution can be created. The fault lies with the AKP General Chair’s incorrect agricultural policies and externally-dependent practices.”

5- WHAT HAVE THE GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION SAID ABOUT DIRECT SALE POINTS?

President Tayyip Erdoğan harbingered the setting up of direct sale points on 5 February. Erdoğan said in the speech he made to the AKP Parliamentary Group Meeting, “Be it peppers, be it aubergines, be it tomatoes, for everything we have decided to put a check on these prices if need be and we will take our steps. We will take these steps through our municipalities. You know, at one time regulated sales were set up. We can and will take these steps through our municipalities because we have to give our citizens cheap and healthy produce.”

In response to these words of Erdoğan, Minister of Treasury and Finance Berat Albayrak said that direct sale centres would be set up.

Erdoğan said at his party’s Kastamonu rally on 12 February, “From now on the tents have been set up and with these we have set up sales places that are virtually like direct sale points. Prices have halved in an instant and will fall further because we will sell other products there. I mean, take cleaning products and whatever else there is in supermarkets. We will start selling a certain portion of these here, too. Why? Because they whipped up terrorism, terrorism. So, we have given, are giving and will give those who whip up terrorism in food the necessary lesson.”

CHP Spokesperson Faik Öztrak, commenting after the CHP Central Executive Committee on 11 February, stated, “Direct sale points alone are not enough. The components of this project are insufficient. You cannot tackle the burning problem in the kitchen without tackling the burning issues in agriculture and in the field.”

HDP Co-Chair Sezai Temelli said at the HDP Group meeting on 12 February, “Today, Erdoğan is obsessed with aubergines. He asks the people how many lira a bullet costs. A huge perception operation is underway in conjunction with the crony media with direct sales at fifty points in massive Istanbul. As if the producers themselves had not folded up, market traders and small business people are being declared enemies.”

Speaking at the Good Party group meeting on 12 February, General Chair Meral Akşener commented, “The state’s most strategic factory is being transferred to the private sector. They are going to get the state to sell potatoes and tomatoes. The way things are going, don’t be surprised if they ration tomatoes and peppers. Supposedly the opposition speaks of tomatoes and peppers. What are we to say? This is what we eat. How about you speak of the dragon fruit ‘smoothie’ you eat at the Palace.”

6- WHAT HAS THE CITIZEN SAID ABOUT DIRECT SALE POINTS?

Evrensel reporters spoke to citizens waiting in the queue at the direct sale point in Şirinevler. There are both those at these points who are satisfied and those who think they won’t deliver a cure.

According to the report, one citizen said, “Let those who brought this to this state be ashamed. Is this a solution, I mean? Are people to stand in line for fruit and vegetables? After diesel, fertilizer and seed prices were not reduced, nothing will happen. Cosmetic measures will do nothing without supporting the producers.”

Another citizen thinks these points will teach supermarkets and markets a lesson: “I think it was welcome. Let it teach the supermarkets a bit of a lesson. This was opportunism. They’re taking advantage of the foreign currency rise.”

7- WHAT ARE SIRECT SALE POINTS AND WHEN DID THEY FIRST COME ABOUT?

Direct sales first began to be implemented for the purpose of selling products to the people at more affordable prices in the 1970’s when Bülent Ecevit headed the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The initiative was centred around municipalities. This initiative started with an idea by İzmir Gültepe Mayor Aydın Erten and his deputy İlhan Güre. İzmir Mayor İhsan Alyanak launched a similar initiative in Alsancak.

Tansa, opened by the municipality in Izmir in 1973, and the direct sale shops set up in certain sub-provinces of Istanbul in 1976 spread rapidly.

The main aim through these shops was to obtain products directly from the producer or from cooperatives and circumvent price increases by eliminating the intermediary.

Izmir Tansa subsequently attained the name of TANSAŞ and turned into a supermarket chain. TANSAŞ was bought by Migros in 2011.

Direct sale shops were closed at the end of the 1990’s.

Translated by Tim Drayton

Panel Discussion: Media Under Authoritarian Rule

Description

Join us to hear from Can Dundar, Deniz Yucel and Aidan White, who will share their experiences of the Turkish government’s purge of the media and censorship of journalists seeking the truth.


Location                                             Date and Time

NLCH                                                     Sun, 17 March 2019
22 Moorefield Road                            16:00 – 18:00 GMT
Bruce Grove
London
N17 6PY

For more information about this event: Eventbrite

*Please note: There will be no admission without a valid ticket and ID.

Full text of our Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat’s court statement

We are publishing the statement submitted to the court by our Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat, who is on trial charged with “defaming the President.”

Our Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat, who is being tried on the charge of defaming the President for one of his articles and whose imprisonment for between one year and four years is sought, appeared before the judges.

The full text of the statement Polat submitted to the court at his hearing that was adjourned to 14 May reads as follows:

“The introduction to my article giving rise to the prosecution titled ‘What do those addressed say about these allegations concerning the Erdoğan family?’ published on 28 May 2017 on Evrensel newspaper’s website was as follows: ‘A report was published on theblacksea.eu  site the day before yesterday containing some important claims concerning the Erdoğan family. I am publishing the report bearing the signature of Craig Shaw, considering its importance to readers in Turkey, too.’

I subsequently reproduced without comment Shaw’s report titled ‘President Erdoğan’s family in secret offshore ship deal.’

There was a question in my article’s headline that clearly did not comprise defamation and the reply came first from the public prosecution and then from the court in the form of the acceptance of the indictment.

As the report I reproduced in my article was relatively long I will provide a summarized version within the context of my statement.

The report dated 26 May 2017 starts with the standfirst, ‘Malta Files exposes multi-million USD oil tanker deal between family of Turkey leader, his close friend, and an Azeri billionaire’ and continues, ‘Through offshore companies in the Isle of Man and Malta, the Erdoğans secretly own an oil tanker worth nearly 25 million USD called the Agdash. The deal was constructed with Erdoğan’s close friend and Turkish businessman, Sitki Ayan, and an Azeri-Turkish billionaire called Mübariz Mansimov, owner of Istanbul-headquartered shipping conglomerate, Palmali Group. Documents show that since 2008, the cost of the Agdash deal for the two businessmen totals nearly 30 million USD, with seven million from Ayan, and nearly 23 million from Mansimov.’

The report states, ‘The Erdoğans obtained the Agdash from Mübariz Mansimov in October 2008, using a company in the Isle of Man called Bumerz Limited – named after its principal owners – the president’s son, Burak Erdoğan, his brother, Mustafa Erdoğan, and brother-in-law Ziya Ilgen.’

The report notes that Mansimov ordered the Agdash petrol tanker from a Russian state-affiliated Russian shipyard called United Shipping and to pay for part of the construction costs, he applied for a loan of 18.4 million dollars from the Latvia-based bank, Parex.

It also states that Erdoğan’s brother-in-law, Ziya Ilgen, registered Bumerz Limited in the Isle of Man and Agdash was delivered to Mansimov in the autumn of 2007. It mentions that in October 2008, through the Bumerz Limited company, the Erdoğan family obtained all the shares in the Agdash’s Maltese parent company, Pal Shipping Trader One, and thus became the real owners of the tanker, valued at 25 million dollars when it was first built.

It states that records from the Isle of Man company registry show that the day after the transfer to the Erdoğans, on 24 October 2008, Parex Bank finally issued the 18.4 million dollar loan that Mansimov had applied for a year earlier for the Agdash to the Bumerz company, but the Erdoğans never repaid a cent of the loan to the bank because Mansimov chartered the ship from the Erdoğan family and repaid the credit on their behalf.

The report also comes with the documents in English at its foot. I am annexing in numbered form thirteen documents in English totalling 121 pages. You will also find annexed to my defence Turkish explanations as to the meaning of each numbered document.

I now here turn to the indictment. The indictment prosecutor, having reproduced the report in full, says, ‘It is unimportant whether writing constituting libel and defamation is taken from another report. It is as if those who unfoundedly publish verbatim the allegations within have engaged in the same libel or defamation. Otherwise, everyone will write such an article to the detriment of people they do not like, or get an acquaintance of theirs to do so, and then can have it published somewhere externally.’

Article 160/2 of the Code of Penal Procedure number 5271 reads as follows: ‘The Republic prosecutor must, with a view to the material truth being investigated and to enable a fair trial to be conducted, gather and store using the judicial law enforcement officers under his command all evidence favourable and detrimental to the suspect and protect the suspect’s rights.’

Given that by now nostalgia has become attached to the notion of ‘favourable’ evidence in trials relating to freedom of the press and expression, its absence in the indictment in this trial brought against me did not strike me as particularly odd. But the indictment prosecutor does not submit any detrimental evidence, either. Having reproduced the report that I included in my column, he speaks of ‘unfounded’ allegations. We are unable to comprehend what concrete evidence he is relying on in this assertion or which sentence in the report the prosecutor is rebutting in commenting as such. The prosecutor, who has not presented a single piece of detrimental evidence, resorts instead to laying before us a potential scenario aimed at arousing suspicion and says, ‘Everyone will write such an article to the detriment of people they do not like, or get an acquaintance of theirs to do so, and then can have it published somewhere externally.’

A prosecutor cannot hatch such an odd scenario against a journalist whose conviction he is calling for and, only if this is true, he must propound it along with evidence.

Craig Shaw is a well-known journalist who has lent his signature to similar investigative reports. The report serving as the justification for my trial remains posted online and was simultaneously published verbatim in 7-8 European newspapers.

I am contextualizing. The text I included in my column is a report and does not comprise defamation. The headline that I placed above this report consists of a question that does not comprise defamation.

A great deal to do with journalism has changed over the hundreds of years of press history. But the following truth is instructive to us, both yesterday, and today and also tomorrow:

Journalism starts with the asking of questions. When you give up asking questions you will also have given up doing journalism. I will continue to ask questions.”

Translated by Tim Drayton

Article by: Evrensel Daily

Political scientist Deniz Yıldırım: CHP is content with its opposition placing in the new regime

Dr Deniz Yıldırım: “The CHP gives the appearance of a party that has succumbed far more to a quarrel over the internal sharing of power absent the ability for a broad, encompassing political line to be charted.”

The main opposition CHP party, subject of great speculation for months especially as to who its provincial and sub-provincial mayoral candidates are to be and whether it will broker an alliance and, if so, how the cities will be shared out, came back onto the country’s agenda with the events at last week’s Party Assembly (PA) meeting at which the candidates for critical provinces and sub-provinces were nominated.

First the resignation of Istanbul Provincial Chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu and then the withdrawal of her resignation a few hours later, the mass resignation of certain sub-provincial organizations, the objections mutating into activism of those mayors who were not renominated as candidates, and the mutual accusations flying back and forth on social media… The spectacle that the CHP management described as being “in-party democracy” came as grist to the mill of the ruling block’s propaganda of “a party that is incapable of managing itself”. The thinking and criticism took firmer root that the main opposition party is incapable of manufacturing policies and by and large positions itself within the political confines of the new regime.

A further development to attract the scrutiny of columnists and analysts was the response, conveyed in worried tones, of the CHP, which is continuing in the 31 March local elections with the policy of opening to the right that has been underway since Deniz Baykal, “It has nothing to do with us” to the HDP’s decision not to field candidates in the three large cities.

Today’s PA meeting will reveal where the discussion ends up and whether the nomination of the remaining candidates will lead to further tension and resignations.

I spoke to Cumhuriyet newspaper columnist and political scientist Associate Professor Dr. Deniz Yıldırım about “CHP’s crisis” that has been firmly on the political agenda for the whole week.

Let us start with your take on the events in the aftermath of the PA meeting at which the CHP’s critical provincial and sub-provincial mayoral candidates were nominated. What is the basic problem that is bringing the in-party struggle for power within the CHP back to the surface?

It is actually inevitable that this would happen. We see a multitude of prospective candidates applying in places where there is a high chance of winning and a dearth of candidates in places where the chance of victory against the AKP-MHP is low. Municipalities are the places where the CHP ranks get their strongest taste of power while in opposition. That is, the CHP, without being in power at the national level, holds some very critical sub-provinces in its hands especially in the metropolitan cities in terms of exploiting its political resources, its human, social and cultural resources. As such, a massive quarrel over the share-out is going on in these places. The CHP gives the appearance of a party that has succumbed far more to a quarrel over the internal sharing of power absent the ability for a broad, encompassing political line to be charted. What is provoking the greatest debate is that the places producing an abundance of prospective candidates being at the same time places where victory is guaranteed is indicative of a quarrel that goes beyond expanding the party.

Such a crisis could have been made less turbulent by dealing with the nomination of candidates at an earlier stage rather than close to the election. However, party management appears to have drawn this out to an extent to watch and observe the ruling block’s candidates and to an extent because it feared its own candidates being mauled. The upshot is that it is not discussion of the ruling party’s incorrect policies but the CHP’s internal crisis that is filling the agenda shortly before the election.

Is there any way CHP management could not have seen this? If the outbreak of a quarrel over power sharing was inevitable, why couldn’t it have been prevented?

For one thing, there is no overall political “cause” uniting the party. In the absence of an overall cause or a political passion and goal, we see, for instance, a reluctance for high-rankers in the party to go and stand in places that might be lost. This means there is a dearth in the ranks of those who say, “Let me make a sacrifice to boost my party and at the same time for my party to bring the power holders down a peg or two.” Everyone is trying to manoeuvre in a winnable space. I mean, this is not just a problem to do with CHP management. The second point is that it cannot be prevented because there are groups within the party. It is the old story of “that lot’s guy, this lot’s guy.” “Whose candidate is to be mayor in critical sub-provinces in the metropolises? If we give such-and-such a group so many municipalities the quarrel with them won’t get too big and we’ll maintain our power at the congress after the election thanks to the delegates these municipalities have.” So, we can think of the calculations being somewhat tied in with this. And, hence, a whole host of arguments are going on; the resignations turn out to be mayors who say, “We don’t recognize headquarters’ decision.”

CHP management accounts for what is going on saying, “We have internal party democracy – that’s why it’s happening.”

The candidate nomination process itself is not democratic in Turkey. There are internal polls in a limited number of places. However, in essence certain figures are brought before the Central Executive Committee and then go to the PA. So, the democratic phase is the PA phase at which the candidate management has picked can be blocked. This much is true. On the other hand, is it the party’s alliance with other parties, expanding the party’s electoral base or party-internal balances that are decisive in this candidate nomination process? This, basically, is the question. There are such quirks – let me give an example from Izmir. A politician who announced that he would be a prospective candidate for Çiğli and has served as chair of the party organization in this sub-province is the candidate for Narlıdere on the list submitted to the PA. Two unrelated sub-provinces. Whose doing is this? What priority is it based on? It is subsequently changed under objection. Or, while the Narlıdere mayor is a candidate for the metropolitan municipality we see he has been made candidate for Konak sub-province. Whose doing was it? Who was happy? So, does the Konak organization and do the Konak people have no right to a say at all? Internal party democracy is a phenomenon rooted in connections with the base.

LIKE THE AKP, THE CHP ALSO READS POLITICS ON THE CULTURAL IDENTITY AXIS

You have pointed to the lack of an overall political cause in the CHP.  Do you agree the trend towards opening to the right that manifests itself through such practices as the alliance with the Good Party and fielding Mansur Yavaş, who boasts of his ultranationalism, as candidate, justified in terms of reaching out to all segments of society, nourishes the state of “causelessness?”

If political parties wish to come to power they must in any case address all segments of society. I have no issue with this part. What is problematic is the very way the opposition reads politics. I mean, if it describes political and social ailments, economic inequalities and injustices and proposes a programme, a remedy or a model to exit these, and if it also tries to address various segments with the aid of this programme, there may be no problem. But there is no such social-political project. Since it lacks one, there is a CHP that accounts for the electoral behaviour of voters who vote for parties apart from it out of purely cultural reasons and ideological identities. I am not saying that these are not influential over the electorate, but the source of the problem is not just this. Were it so, a Good Party supporter with ultranationalist roots, a conservative Felicity Party supporter or a socialist HDP supporter would not in fact vote for a CHP candidate. But they may do so as things stand post-16 April. For example, which electoral circles did the eight percent vote İnce got over and above the CHP in the presidential elections emanate from? This means the issue is not just cultural identities. Politics in Turkey acquired a new axis that relates to the authoritarian system imposed on Turkey post-16 April rather than identities. And we are currently seeing the results of this in the alliances. Just as the governing party squeezes those who don’t vote for it into a cultural mould and says, “They don’t vote for us for lifestyle reasons,” the opposition also tries to make sense of those who don’t vote for it from within the same cultural mould. And it consequently says, “Ankara is a city in which nationalist sentiment rides high, so let’s bring in an ultranationalist candidate there!” or, “Istanbul is a city in which Black-Sea conservative voters are numerous, so Ekrem İmamoğlu is an ideal candidate!” This is a person-centred approach that downplays voters’ economic electoral behaviour. In this respect, both the AKP and the CHP read and formulate politics in Turkey on the axis of cultural identities and moulds.

A further important point is that the political system in Turkey has undergone change with it given official sanction on 24 June. We are going through a period in which henceforth 50%+1 is targeted for victory and parties make alliances to this end and local elections, too, are presented with a referendum-like feel. But the parties, and the CHP appear not to have comprehended this.

FAILING TO POLITICIZE IS A CONSCIOUS CHOICE

The weakness of the reaction to Parliamentary Speaker Binali Yıldırım’s nomination as candidate for Istanbul, Istanbul candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu visiting Erdoğan and saying “We will draw on your experiences” … Is this a failure to comprehend that the system has changed or a product of the attempt to secure accustomization/normalization for the new regime?

For one thing, you don’t manage to politicize certain issues or you don’t consciously make them into political issues. There is a problem with the inability to politicize in the CHP. Nobody can deny this. That is, it is only the case in most exceptional situations that it transports any social issue into the political arena and sets the basic agenda itself by translating it into politics. The excuse created here is that, “The media is in the power structure’s hands so it is not at all easy to reach out to the people.” But this isn’t what setting the agenda is about. In fact, it is in precisely such environments that the agenda is set. If you bring what society is actually talking about onto the agenda, society will in fact open its ears to hear it. Recall the 16 April referendum campaign held under state of emergency conditions or the positive climate that took hold prior to the 24 June election.

Failing to politicize, however, is a conscious choice. If we bear in mind that the new system is basically a two-party system, the CHP sees that it can assemble the other parties around it because it is the biggest party in the opposition block. It is trying to steer clear of “risk” because of this. Not speaking out against the unstamped ballots operation on 16 April, similarly glossing over the constant transfer of powers to the palace, the inability to develop an opposition position apart from group meetings and, moreover, not raising the issue of Parliamentary Speaker Binali Yıldırım’s resignation that is a blatant violation of the constitution saying, “An election is not political activity” is to normalise the situation and say jokingly, “Don’t change the agenda – it will lose the election anyhow.” All these things in fact contribute to the appearance of a CHP management that is content to assume leadership of the opposition side in a de-facto two-party arrangement.

THE CHP PERSISTENTLY FAILS TO CONNECT THE PEOPLE’S ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AGENDA WITH THE AUTHORITARIAN REGIME

What is your take on Binali Yıldırım’s announcement that he will step down as parliamentary speaker on 18 February?

This means that this wasn’t a change of agenda at all; indeed, it was apparently an agenda that was causing disquiet to the ruling entity. The CHP has an interesting take as follows: “If we bring the issue of the constitution or the issue of the regime onto the agenda they will take precedence over fundamental issues!” If so, the economy, unemployment and high prices which number among Turkey’s fundamental issues are according to the CHP management independent of the new system. When, in fact, conditions have never been more suitable for a strategy that speaks of the economic downturn in conjunction with the corrosion of trust felt in the new system and combines politics with the economy. But CHP management persistently refrains from speaking about the people’s economic and social agenda in connection with the new authoritarian regime. The appearance is thus given of it having embraced the role of opposition in the new de-facto two-party regime, rather than of opposition to the new regime.

At this very point, let me pass on certain data that Kadir Has University’s Social and Political Trends Research has just published: Such questions were posed as whether citizens were satisfied with the promises surrounding the new system brought into being on 24 June such as the claim, “Coalitions will end and the economy will take off” and whether the AKP is successful. With the proportion of those saying “successful” standing at 51.7% in 2017, this has fallen to 36% this year. With those saying, “Erdoğan is certainly successful” amounting to 42.2% in 2017, this proportion fell to 14.2% in 2018. This is a serious regression. And the percentage from among AKP voters saying, “Erdoğan is very successful” has fallen from 71.9 to 44. The total level of support for Erdoğan has fallen from 49.7% to 33.6% over the past year. A mere 41% reply in the affirmative to the question “Is the new system successful?” That is, support for the new system had declined by ten points following the first six months of its implementation.

VOTERS ARE DRAWING A LINK BETWEEN UNEMPLOYMENT AND THE ANTIDEMOCRATIC REGIME

What inferences should the opposition draw from this drop?

This data shows that the majority of the electorate is dissatisfied with the new system. And, because the new system is equated with the single person, serious low marks have begun to appear in Erdoğan’s “success” report card. A fall to this extent is happening for the first time. And this entails the risk for those in power of Erdoğan being held to account for the single-man entity, Erdoğan-centrism and negativities of all kinds. This is what the data speaks to. This means that a link is being drawn between social injustice and unemployment and the authoritarian, antidemocratic regime. This means that it is possible just now to an extent that has not been possible to construct a political line that forms a connection between the fight for democratization in Turkey and the transition to a more people-oriented, more socially just economic model. If this cannot be done, then serious discussion needs to be engaged in: is it not being done or can’t it be done?

The results also lay bare why the AKP and MHP are declaring the local election to be an existential matter and have turned this into an electoral slogan.

For sure. The AKP-MHP block has no chance from now on of promising Turkey improvement in either economic affairs or in rights and freedoms. The prescription for this has run out. As to security, it continues to be this coalition’s most basic promise to Turkey. We see that the AKP-MHP has given up addressing those external to them or following a broadening strategy. They have come up against the boundary. On top of this, they are following a strategy of preserving what exists. That is, they are acting as the guardians of the “status quo.” The existential question is the sole basic issue they can advocate to prevent the base under their supervision from breaking away. They thus say by way of message, “If that lot get in, not only will they be unable to fix the economy, but there will be an existential issue!” This strategy of inspiring fear combined with nationalism has an effect to a certain degree. On the other hand, the opposition has not yet managed to set out another opposite political axis because there is an attitude that says, when politics is spoken of, “Let’s talk about the economy and not let it take precedence.” This is depoliticization. All research points to the state of being fed up with both those in office and the opposition being one of the basic determinants of upcoming events. We will most probably discuss this matter, matters such as the political void and the crisis of representation, far more after 31 March.

IS THE CHP INSIDE OR OUTSIDE THE NEW REGIME?

Existential rhetoric is rhetoric that also corrals the opposition, wouldn’t you say? Indeed, there is a main opposition that in its majority supports the ruling structure in the matter of the “eternity of the nation.”

“Security issues: the ruling structure, the AKP and MHP, do these issues much better than us. If we go there we’ll lose so we’ll talk about the economy!” This is the opposition’s take. Or, at most they say, “You created it!” It’s connected, you see, with what I just mentioned, the logic, “Let’s not discuss the political system; let’s change the agenda and talk about the economy!” I mean, the opposition turns the economy into an excuse to retreat and be silent over every issue that society attaches importance to. It is nevertheless possible to speak of the economy and improving security together and to create another agenda, a relationship between the people’s bread and security. There is a need to dwell on this. Does the opposition talk only about the economy because society’s agenda consists only of the economy, or to steer clear of upsetting the ruling structure’s basic political arguments? The reply we give to this will also be the reply to the question of whether CHP management is inside or outside the new regime. Here, I am searching for the resistant, unbending CHP base which, despite braving the oppression, has been deprived of the right to a voice. The opposition to the new regime among this base is most palpable, you see.

ISTANBUL AND ANKARA ARE A MATTER OF MORAL SUPERIORITY FOR THE POWER STRUCTURE

Along with the existential argument, what is your take on more pronounced talk that the loss in particular of the metropolitan cities will open the system to debate?

There is fear in the AKP of the psychological collapse the loss of certain critical cities, not least Istanbul and Ankara, will cause. This is because this ruling structure has always portrayed itself by means of a historic tale of success and a succession involving first winning these two cities and then coming to power in the country as a whole. The loss of these cities is thus likely to create the feeling psychologically of, “We’ve lost – are we moving out of power?” and panic in its organizations and ranks. These two cities are a matter of moral superiority. To prevent this, I think they will do their utmost particularly in Istanbul and Ankara because Balıkesir or Adana may not create this effect, but Istanbul and Ankara are very symbolic cities.

WE HAVE A WILLPOWER PROBLEM THAT IS NOT CONFINED TO OPPOSITION

It is said that the internal party debates that are reappearing in the CHP will further intensify the feeling of despondency and hopelessness in the base. CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu previously replied to a question to this effect along the lines of, “I understand voters’ despondency but they have got to vote.” Will this attitude win over despondent voters?

This is based once more on the edict on the opposition wing that “they will vote, like it or not.” “If you want to continue under this ruling structure keep up your despondency and anger on 31 March, but if, conversely, you want to give a lesson to the power holders you will go to the polls like it or not!” I think they still look at things from this angle. The problem this entails is this means there is an approach to opposition that is uncomfortable with the way society is moving and feels that millions need it. We keep referring to an opposition problem, but essentially we have a willpower problem that is not confined to opposition.

Can you elaborate?

There exists an opposition block which has been unable to stamp its mark on affairs following the ruling structure’s loss of its majority on 7 June, take the initiative and create an alternative power structure, prevent the constitution from being amended through unstamped ballots on 16 April, appear before the electorate on the evening of 24 June or even operate the system relating to this, leaving people unable to do so in their posts, and bring the unconstitutional action of the parliamentary speaker into dispute in this environment. This lack of willpower creates the feeling among the electorate, “We lose even if we win.” Until the opposition block dispels this feeling in the base it will struggle to mobilize the electorate.

You cannot win for as long as you fail to execute a move that dispels the hopelessness, despondency and lack of trust of the 50% because you haven’t established a strong buttress for yourself on this side. First instil strength and instil some hope here and then go about addressing the other side with this unity and wave of hope. The opposition is trying to get votes from the other side without instilling strength here.

CONCERT ATTENDANCE WAS TACTICAL

Let’s delve into the ongoing debate about Erdoğan going to the Fazıl Say concert. The ruling and opposition fronts have inferred Erdoğan’s attendance at the Fazıl Say concert to be a move taken in the direction of softening and normalization. If in the name of compromise and normalization the power holders need to take a step back from their polarizing language and policies, do you see a stepping back in this sense?

For one thing, there is of course no normalization strategy and this is in fact impossible. As I said a little earlier, this power structure has no chance of normalizing Turkey because it has made exceptionally authoritarian changes and mistakes and the power structure has a conspiratorial mindset that views each step back as being a compromise, defeat or even loss of power. Hence, no promise of compromise will emerge from this; it is tactical.

The AKP government’s two basic pledges of justice and development have today undergone considerable attrition. We are passing through a period in which onions are imported and peppers and aubergines are taken off supermarket shelves so that high prices go unnoticed. In such a period, strategies that centre around simply cultural polarization or simply polarization over other issues will be inadequate. The economy is now the main agenda that is uniting the people. I also think they have seen this from their own research. Going to Fazıl Say’s concert or debate about the constitution followed by Binali Yıldırım’s announcement that he will stand down as parliamentary speaker show that the power structure has moved into defensive territory more than we think. But an opposition is missing that takes advantage of this being boxed in and, if you will, scores a goal. I mean, everyone appears to be happy with their own turf. This to an extent is the problem.

THERE IS A NEED FOR A MAIN STRATEGY THAT WILL SET THE AGENDA FOR THE ELECTION IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY

How should the local elections be dealt with in the fight to surmount the economic, political and social crisis we are embroiled in? What opportunities do the harsh current conditions offer for diffusing polarization in society?

Diffusing this calls above all for the neutralization as far as possible of the political position developed on the basis of identities and cultural values and the proclaiming of a programme that will get the main problems across to society, especially the problems that present themselves in the local setting, independent of party identity. Let’s think of Istanbul. If we ask what the biggest problem in Istanbul today is, traffic, transport, infrastructure problems, unemployment and high prices will surely head the list. There are basic problems affecting all citizens living in a city regardless of their party identity. I think the basic strategy that will further boost the dynamic encompassing at least 40-45% is to steer the elections into a debate as much as possible over local, daily problems and how these problems are to be solved. I mean, on the one hand, there is a need for a main strategy that will set the agenda for the election in the whole country, such as a vote of confidence in the new system. Secondly, the opposition must present its own alternative model in concrete terms with a local reference. More ground must be taken by touching on ordinary, daily problems. National and local strategies concurrently.

But there are no signs of this in this short timespace. Hence, one of the subjects that we discuss the most in post-31 March Turkey may be the phenomenon of defeat in politics.

Article by: Evrensel Daily

Translation: Serpil İLGÜN

 

EMEP Chairwoman Selma Gürkan’s punishment sought for her Afrin comments

The prosecutor has called for EMEP Chairwoman Selma Gürkan’s punishment on “terrorist organization propaganda” charges for her Afrin comments.

Making his recommendations at the proceedings in which Labour Party (EMEP) Chairwoman Selma Gürkan is being tried on “terrorist organization propaganda” charges, the prosecutor sought Gürkan’s imprisonment for up to seven and a half years.

A trial on “terrorist organization propaganda” charges was brought against EMEP Chairwoman Selma Gürkan for the speech she made in front of the judicial complex at the first hearing of the trial in which the detained EMEP members Neslihan Karyemez and Bilal Karaman are undergoing prosecution for distributing “No to war” leaflets in Istanbul. The second hearing of the trial in which Gürkan is in the dock was held at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 26. Her lawyers Devrim Avcı, Yıldız İmrek, Kamil Tekin Sürek, Leyla Han Tüzel, Gülşah Kaya and Mustafa Söğütlü were in attendance at the hearing which Gürkan did not attend. The hearing commenced with the reading of the old records due to a change of bench. Then the hearing prosecutor Hakan Özer submitted his recommendations on the merits.

HEARING ADJOURNED UNTIL 24 APRIL

In his recommendations, the prosecutor, claiming that Gürkan had tried to create a negative perception concerning the Afrin operations, called for her to be sentenced on the charges laid against her. The prosecutor made the following pronouncements in his recommendations: “Taking into consideration as a whole along with the contents of the case that the accused appealed to the state alone and failed to appeal to the terrorist organization in any way in the events in which she tried to create a negative perception of the justified operations, the punishment of the accused is sought on the count of making terrorist organization propaganda in a manner that made the activities involving force, violence or threat of the terrorist organization appear legitimate.”

Gürkan’s lawyers requested time to make statement on the merits. Granting the request for time, the court adjourned the hearing until 24 April.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED?

Turkish government started a military intervention in Afrin in January 2018; fanning the flames of war in Syria. This was an operation named ‘Olive Branch’.

The Labour Party (EMEP) has always been critical of this intervention in a neighbouring country, as other democratic forces in Turkey. EMEP stated and ran a campaign of propaganda that this intervention will contribute to turning the region into a quagmire of war; that all military forces, primarily the imperialist forces, must withdraw from the region; that peoples of the region must determine their own futures.

However, the government defined this intervention as war and attempted to silence all those that are opposed to it. 16 members and administrators of EMEP had been arrested for sharing news bulletins and statements on social media; they have been freed after their first hearing.

EMEP chairwoman, Selma Gürkan, speaking prior to a hearing against their local representatives Neslihan Karyemez ve Bilal Karman, again criticised the Afrin operation and prosecution of members. This speech has been deemed to be “terrorist propaganda” and Gürkan is also being prosecuted. (EVRENSEL DAILY)

SPOT – Annual Conference 2019

Description

Our 3rd Annual SPOT Conference provides an opportunity to hear from those who have seen and experienced the reality of life under Erdogan’s authoritarian regime and invites you to find out more about what we are already doing to build international solidarity and call to account both the Turkish state and the complicity of European governments.

On the day we will be joined by the following speakers;

  • Julie Ward, MEP, The Labour Party
  • Ben Hicks, The Guardian Foundation
  • Cagri Sari, Evrensel Newspaper
  • Mustafa Kuleli, TGS
  • Sarah Clarke, Article 19
  • Aidan White, Ethical Journalism Network
  • Mustafa Yalciner, Labour Party of Turkey
  • Kate Osamor, Labour Party MP
  • Ali Seker, CHP MP
  • Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition
  • Bermal Aydin, Academic
  • Steve Sweeney, Morning Star
  • Aydin Cubukcu, Yeni E Editor
  • HDP Rep / MP (TBC)
  • Simon Dubbins, Unite the Union
  • Chris Baugh, PCS
  • Caroline Stockford, IPI
  • Naif Bezwan, UCL (TBC)
  • Joanna de Groot, University of York

Turkey’s ruling powers are pushing the country towards a dictatorship and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attacks on democracy are impacting all sections of society. With this increasingly authoritarian regime, the state of emergency has become normalised and entrenched in law, an executive presidency created, independent media outlets shut down, academics and public-sector workers purged and criminalised, attacks on Kurdish regions intensified, opposition politicians arrested, violence against women on the rise, discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT increasing, the environment being destroyed and so the list goes on.

Meanwhile, world leaders watch unflinching, continuing to sell weapons and tip-toeing around Turkey’s human rights record. But the battle for democracy and workers’ rights in Turkey goes on and provides a ray of hope. And we know that democracy maybe denied but it is not yet lost.

For more information about this event and/or to get involved contact us.

Eventbrite

Ficticious voters emerge before the local elections in Turkey

Claims of bogus voters have been brought into parliament before the local elections in Turkey on March 31, 2019.

HDP Iğdır Member of Parliament Habip Eksik has brought the irregularities and bogus voter records detected on the voters roll announced for the local elections in Turkey on March 31, 2019 onto the parliamentary agenda. Eksik indicated that 399 law enforcement officers have been registered in one residence flat and 2,500 voters had been transferred into a neighbourhood in Iğdır and submitted a parliamentary question requesting a reply from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.

Noting in his parliamentary question that, “It has been established from the investigations we have made that the voters transferred to Iğdır province are to a large extent law enforcement officers,” Habip Eksik went on to state, “Registered as residing at flat number 6 of the Military Residences attached to the Regimental Command at Yüzbaşı Serdar Yücel Street number 6 in Atatürk quarter situated in the centre of Iğdır, which has the capacity for 35-40 people, are 399