Turkish Crackdown Intensifies: Take Action Today!

Demonstrators try to escape from riot police on June 11, 2013 on Taksim square in Istanbul. Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear protesters as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would show 'no more tolerance' for the unrelenting mass demonstrations against his Islamic-rooted government (Photo Credit: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images).

Demonstrators try to escape from riot police on June 11, 2013 on Taksim square in Istanbul. Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear protesters as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would show ‘no more tolerance’ for the unrelenting mass demonstrations against his Islamic-rooted government (Photo Credit: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images).

As international condemnation of Turkish police repression against peaceful protesters continues, the Turkish government doubled down today with an early morning raid on Taksim Square.

Istanbul’s Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu assured the public that the intervention was only to remove some banners. Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey reports ”[when] we met with the Governor this afternoon, he continued to insist that the police were using appropriate force in pursuit of legitimate goals. Neither of these claims is consistent with the reality on the ground.”

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What You Can Do NOW to Stop the Abuse of Protestors in Turkey

A protester covers her face during clashes with Turkish police near the prime minister's office in Istanbul (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images).

A protester covers her face during clashes with Turkish police near the prime minister’s office in Istanbul (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images).

In Turkey, a major human rights crisis looms.  Here is what an update on what you can do about it.

The Crisis

As protests continue to rock Turkish cities, Amnesty International has warned that injuries due to “police abuse will continue to escalate unless the authorities bring police tactics in line with basic human rights standards.” Police excesses have been “disgraceful,” Amnesty says. The number of those injured by excessive police force is as yet unknown, but is believed to be in the thousands. Many of the injuries have been serious. There are as yet unconfirmed reports of deaths.

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Women’s Health Under Threat in Turkey

Turkish feminists protest in Istanbul

Turkish feminists protest outside Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's office in Istanbul on May 27, 2012. BULENT KILIC/AFP/GettyImages

By Howard Eissenstat, Turkey Country Specialist

I guess Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdoğan, wanted to change the subject.

In May, Turkey’s ruling AK Party was busily trying to explain away its culpability in the massacre of civilians in the Roboski/Uludere airstrike by implying that, since the victims were smugglers, they may have simply gotten what they deserved. Even the largely cowed Turkish press sensed that the government had staked out a position so outlandish that it was only embarrassing itself.

Then with characteristic bravado, Erdoğan connected the massacre of Kurdish villagers to women’s reproductive health.  “Every abortion is an Uludere,” he said to one delegation of supporters.  Suddenly women’s reproductive health has become the major issue of the day, not the massacre of civilians by Turkish armed forces. As Andrew Finkel notes in his sharp analysis, “With that single stroke he maneuvered a Turkish woman’s right to choose into a place it had never been: at the center of the political agenda. This is a mistake that may have tragic consequences.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A Step Toward Accountability in Syria

Friends of Syria Conference

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the "Friends of the Syrian People" conference in Istanbul, April 1, 2012. Yasin Bulbul/AFP/Getty Images

This weekend, the roughly 80 nations that make up the “Friends of the Syrian People” conference met in Istanbul, Turkey, to decide next steps in dealing with the ongoing conflict and human rights crisis in Syria. Bloomberg and other media reports indicate that the group of nations has formally adopted a US government proposal to “form an accountability group to track human rights violations and atrocities.”

According to Bloomberg, the US government will provide $1.25 million to fund the effort:

The group would train and mentor Syrian investigators and lawyers, establish a secure database to store the information, and establish a prosecutor’s unit to collect and analyze evidence that could be used against regime officials in Syrian or international courts, the State Department official said. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Books, Bombs and Banners: Freedom of Expression in Turkey

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

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 Troubles: Freedom of Expression Endangered in Turkey

Journalists and activists participate in a rally calling for the freedom of press in central Ankara. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkey, as almost any observer (or indeed, Turkish citizen), will tell you, is a country of remarkable contradictions.  For someone like myself, who has known and loved the country for so many years, these contradictions can be painful.  On the one hand, Turkey enjoys a vibrant and wildly creative culture, a strong economy, outstanding universities, and electoral politics that – despite many flaws – have been able to adapt to real political change.  Yet, despite these remarkable achievements, Turkey’s record on freedom of expression has, in many ways, suffered real decline.

Problems range from the banning of websites to lawsuits aimed at stifling free speech and debate.  Indeed, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan seems to file lawsuits almost weekly, normally at critical journalists, in what seems to be a concerted effort to use civil courts to limit political criticism and serious journalistic scrutiny.  More broadly, anti-terrorism laws have been used to attack peaceful dissent.

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