In Turkey, police violence against peaceful protestors continues. It is time for the world community to make its condemnation clear, not only through words, but through action. In this, Turkey’s most important ally, the United States, should take the lead.
In June and July, the world was galvanized by scenes of police violence against peaceful protestors in Turkey. Turkish police rained more than a hundred thousand tear gas canisters on its own citizens as they exercised their basic rights of freedom of expression and assembly. Hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals across the globe raised their voices against the abuses.
To its credit, the United States government spoke forcefully on the issue. Senate and Congressional committees called hearings. President Obama raised the issue in conversations with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced his concern strongly enough that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu felt it necessary to call him personally to tell him that, “Turkey is not a second class democracy.”
Unfortunately, Turkish abuses have continued.
Attempts at peaceful assembly are routinely disrupted by the police. In recent days, we have again witnessed police abusively using large amounts of tear gas and water cannons to disperse protests. Amnesty International now asks for the world community to back up its concerns with clear action.
In a press release this week, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher, Andrew Gardner, made the case:
The Turkish police’s return to the abusive use of force in response to demonstrations underscores the need for all countries to suspend shipments of tear gas and other riot control projectile equipment and armored policing vehicles to Turkey, until steps are taken to prevent such deaths and injuries…We’re calling on governments to take a stand and press Turkey to respect the right to peaceful protest and end the abusive use of force.
Although the world’s attention has been directed elsewhere, the situation has only gotten worse in Turkey since authorities crushed the Gezi protests in July 2013. Gardner notes that “several months have passed and the Turkish authorities have yet to conduct independent and impartial investigations into the widespread and abusive use of force by police against peaceful protesters in Istanbul and other cities.”
Turkish authorities have continued their attempts to stifle dissent. Student dormitories have been stormed as police sought out students involved in the protests. The Minster of Interior attempted (with an unsurprising lack of success) to ban political slogans at soccer matches. Pressure on Turkish journalists has continued and according to the watchdog group, Reporters without Borders, at least a dozen journalists were injured in the most recent protests. Perhaps most shockingly, government agencies have attempted to crackdown on medical personnel who cared for injured protestors.
Clearly, the Turkish government believes that more force and more repression will stifle dissent. Just as clearly, it continues to use “tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannon in excessive, unwarranted and arbitrary ways to disperse protesters.” According to the Turkish Medical Association, more than 8,000 people were injured during the first wave of protests, many of them critically. Several died. In the past week, Turkish authorities have continued to misuse tear gas and other riot control gear in ways that risk the health and welfare of its citizens.
The international community must take action. Turkey’s partners, including the European Union and the United States, must, as Gardner notes, “urge the Turkish authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the excessive use of force and ensure that all police are properly trained in how to respond to peaceful protests in line with international standards.” They must call on Turkey to allow citizens their legal rights to freedom of assembly and expression.
Until the Turkish authorities can guarantee protesters’ right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, all countries should suspend shipments of tear gas, armored vehicles and other riot control projectile equipment to Turkey.
The United States, as a major supplier of these items, and as one of Turkey’s closest allies, must show leadership in this.
The U.S. government has said the right things. Now it must follow up with action.
There are things you can do to help:
- Voice your concerns directly to the Turkish government through this on-line petition.
- Voice your concerns directly to the United States government, by contacting your representatives in Congress.
- Share the news via social media. Use twitter and facebook to maximize our impact. Don’t just “like,” ask your friends to take action.
- Stay informed by following us on Facebook or on the Amnesty USA’s blog, Human Rights in Turkey.