About William Jones

William Jones, Chair of Amnesty International USA's Turkey Coordination Group, has twice been a Fulbright Professor in Turkey and served for four years with the American Embassy in Ankara as Cultural Attache. He is currently completing his third year as a member of AIUSA's Board of Governors. Dr. Jones has been with the Turkey Coordination Group since 1999.
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Books, Bombs and Banners: Freedom of Expression in Turkey

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When the Turkish Publishers Union granted Bedri Kadanir and Ahmet Sik their “freedom of  expression and thought” award may 26, Kadriye Adanir asked,

“My brother did not kill a person, he merely published a book. Why is there so much fear about a book? He is being tried on anti–terrorism charges.”

Her brother, the Kurdish publisher Bedri Adanir, has been in prison a year and a half in Diyarbakir while awaiting trial. Ahmet Sik, on the other hand, never got the chance to publish his book; digital copies of it were seized by the police last March 24, and Sik has been in prison awaiting trial ever since.

In defending the rather unusual step of confiscating a book and arresting its author before the book was even published, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe:

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Books, Bombs and Banners: Freedom of Expression in Turkey

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When the Turkish Publishers Union granted Bedri Kadanir and Ahmet Sik their “freedom of  expression and thought” award may 26, Kadriye Adanir asked,

“My brother did not kill a person, he merely published a book. Why is there so much fear about a book? He is being tried on anti–terrorism charges.”

Her brother, the Kurdish publisher Bedri Adanir, has been in prison a year and a half in Diyarbakir while awaiting trial. Ahmet Sik, on the other hand, never got the chance to publish his book; digital copies of it were seized by the police last March 24, and Sik has been in prison awaiting trial ever since.

In defending the rather unusual step of confiscating a book and arresting its author before the book was even published, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe:

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Turkish Women Desperately Need Access to Women's Shelters

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Turkish women shout slogans to denounce honour crimes and violence against women in the country. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Congratulations to Turkey for becoming the first country to sign a tough new European Convention to combat violence against women.  Now, it is time for the Turkish government to get serious about protecting its own female citizens from honor killings and spousal abuse.

The murder of women continues to increase dramatically in Turkey–since last October, there have been more than 264 cases reported in the Turkish press–but the number of secure women’s shelters where women under threat can take refuge remains woefully inadequate.

The Turkish government recommended in 2005 that municipalities with more than 50,000 people have women’s shelters.  Given its population of 75 million, this means there should be 1,400 women’s shelters in Turkey.  There are 65, and not all are up to European standards.

When Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, signed the European Convention to Prevent and Combat Violence Against Women on May 11, he said “Turkey is ready to do all [necessary] work to stop violence against women.”  Let’s hope that pledge includes funding an adequate number of shelters where women can seek refuge from violence and death threats.

 

The High Cost Of Following Your Conscience In Turkey

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Halil Savda a conscientious objector in Turkey. (Photo Vedat Yıldız )

Halil Savda is going to prison again.  This time for 100 days following his conviction for ‘alienating the public from military service.’

Halil is a conscientious objector and a human rights defender who has faced continued harassment by the Turkish government.  His current sentence shines a light on the lack of freedom of expression in Turkey.

Since 2004, Halil Savda has been arrested on multiple occasions and jailed three times for refusing to perform military service as a conscientious objector, serving a total of seventeen months in military prisons.  Despite the fact that  conscientious objection is generally recognized as a right according to international human rights standards, Turkey is one of very few countries that makes no military exemption for conscientious objectors.

In 2008, in an effort to save face, the military declared Halil Savda “unfit for military service.”  Halil, however, continued to speak out in support of other conscientious objectors, resulting in his current conviction for ‘alienating the people from the institution of military service’—a criminal offence under Article 318 of the Turkish Penal Code.

Article 318 violates Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), both of which provide for the right to freedom of expression.  Turkey, as a signatory to these articles, is responsible under international law to abide by these requirements.

Until Turkey’s Article 318 is repealed, and Turkey recognizes the right to conscientious objection, Halil Savda and other anti-war Turkish citizens will continue to be imprisoned for their beliefs.  To quote Halil:

“It is a shame that in Turkey, conscientious objectors and those who support them are prosecuted for refusing to kill. There cannot be a more humane stance in the world than refusing to participate in wars. Yet Article 318 is a massive barrier to even expressing this opinion, making the call for peace and solidarity with other conscientious objectors a crime.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Freedom of the Press? Not in Turkey

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Increasingly, Turkey is not a place where it is safe to work as a journalist.  In the past weeks, police have arrested a string of journalists, accusing them of being part of a plot, code-named “Ergenekon,” to overthrow the Turkish government.  Those arrested—seven at the beginning of March, as well as the earlier arrest of the head of a TV station and two of his employees—all had a record of being critical of Turkey’s ruling party and its leader, Prime Minister Erdoğan.  There are currently 68 journalists detained in Turkey, one reason that Reporters Without Borders has ranked Turkey 138th among 175 countries for press freedom, just above Ethiopia and Russia.

Aside from those arrested and detained in the Ergenekon investigation, most of those in prison or on trial are Kurdish journalists, usually charged with violating Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code: “committing a crime on behalf of an organization without being a member of that organization.”  Sentencing under this law can be draconian: the former Editor-in-Chief of the Kurdish paper Vedat Kurşun was sentenced to 166 years in jail; the former editorial manager of another Kurdish newspaper was sentenced to 138 years behind bars.   In addition, Prime Minister Erdoğan and the current government have employed lawsuits and fines against journalists and media outlets in a pattern that seems designed to stifle dissent.

Amnesty International has long campaigned against laws in the Turkish Penal Code that curtail freedom of speech, particularly the infamous Article 301, which criminalized “Insulting Turkishness” (after much protest, later changed to “Insulting the Turkish Nation”).  Much more needs to change in Turkish law, however, before Turkish journalists can express political opinions that are unpopular without risking imprisonment.