Last week’s mining disaster in Turkey represented more than simply an industrial accident, but raised very real human rights concerns. The government’s response in the last week, however, have only heightened these concerns.
The mining disaster in Soma, a small town in Western Turkey, is, by any standards, a shocking tragedy. Amnesty International, in a statement issued today, makes clear, however, that this tragedy could have been averted.
Although the total number killed is unlikely to be determined for some time, at least two hundred are confirmed dead already.
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By Viachaslau ‘Slava’ Bortnik, Amnesty USA’s Country Specialist for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine
On May 9, the opening day of the Ice Hockey World Championship, the U.S. will play with Belarus in Minsk.
It is very rarely that Belarus holds an event of such large scale, and one would think that it would be in the interest of a country with such a notorious human rights record to provide a safe and comfortable environment for foreign guests and native hockey fans.
A History of Protest
For decades, May Day celebrations in Turkey have been an important litmus test of the government’s tolerance for freedom of expression and assembly. At the center of this history have been demonstrations in Taksim Square, arguably the “hub” of modern Istanbul and, where, in 1977, dozens of protesters were killed in what has been termed the “Taksim Square Massacre.”
Turkey’s YouTube blackout may not be as chilling as the leaked tape that prompted the ban of the video-sharing website. In the March 2014 recording, top officials in Turkey seemingly discuss staging an attack against a sacred Turkish tomb in Syria for the purpose of justifying military engagement by Ankara.
Cultural monuments have been targeted by power-holders for millennia. Assyria’s Sargon II proudly documented his plunder of the Musasir temple in Uraratu 2,700 years ago. The Nazis, as illustrated in the recent Hollywood movie The Monuments Men¸ stole precious pieces of art for either a future ‘Führermuseum’ or a complete destruction, depending on the outcome of WWII.
Despite a number of disputes over vote counts and numerous allegations of impropriety, the municipal elections in Turkey held this past Sunday clearly gave the Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP a resounding victory.
Just as clearly, however, government actions in the lead up to elections, along with statements since, have given Turkish human rights advocates ample cause for concern.
This post originally appeared in Foreign Policy under the title “A Culture of Fear, Made in Russia.”
By Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General
Two decades of stuttering human rights reform in Ukraine was almost scuppered overnight when, on January 16 this year, the Parliament in Kiev railroaded through a raft of new legislation to restrict the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.
A virtual carbon-copy of laws adopted in neighboring Russia in recent years, they were tailor-made to give the Ukrainian authorities increased powers to prosecute those involved in the anti-government protests in Kiev’s central Maydan Square, as well as silence dissent more widely.
Ali Ismail Korkmaz was among those killed during the Gezi protests in Turkey last June. He would have celebrated his twentieth birthday today. Today, let’s work to ensure that his family sees justice done.
Korkmaz was savagely beaten on June 2, 2013 during the Gezi Protests. In a statement to authorities before he died, Korkmaz he described the attack:
A National Tragedy
Once again, Turkish streets are filled with voices of protest. And once again, those voices are choked with tear gas and buffeted by water cannon. The scenes on television and social media seem terribly similar to those which shocked the world during the Gezi protests this past June.
In fact, the immediate catalyst for these protests is directly tied to the terrible costs of police repression during the Gezi protests.
Video evidence appears to show a group of men violently interrupting Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina’s breakfast in a restaurant near the Nizhny Novgorod train station. Nadya and Masha, who were joined by other members of the new prisoners’ rights NGO “Zone of the Rights,” say they were in the city to inspect a local prison colony.
Their assailants charged into the restaurant, carrying a sign saying “Dirty whores out of our town,” and allegedly attacked the activists with pepper spray, green antiseptic and other projectiles.
Following the incident, Nadya Tolokonnikova tweeted images of medical records showing she received treatment for eye injuries. Masha Alyokhina reportedly needed stitches and suffered from a concussion.