In Turkey, the crackdown on independent journalism continues. Mehmet Baransu remains in jail, apparently a victim of the government’s crackdown on the Gulen Movement. Other journalists in Turkey have been charged under Turkey’s dangerously vague anti-terror statutes. Meanwhile, a pattern of media outlets sacking voices deemed critical of the government continues, with the newspaper, Milliyet, firing seven journalists this past month. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
I spend my evenings reading Twitter these days. Scroll, refresh. Scroll, refresh. I’m looking for news, yes, but I’m really looking to see if the people that I know who are protesting are still safe.
Last night, I clicked on a video of protestors gathered in front of the Ferguson police department chanting, “Why you wearing riot gear? We don’t see no riot here!” In the echo of that chant runs an anxiety based on experience: that the tension in each new moment could explode in a canister of teargas or pepper spray, in the blast of a sound cannon, in the firing of rubber bullets.
A wave of arrests Sunday morning shook Turkey and made headline news throughout the world. The arrests, which are part of a broad campaign against the Gülen Movement, were hardly a surprise. A twitter user had leaked information about it some days in advance, it was preceded by some typically fire-breathing speeches by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Istanbul Prosecutor’s office issued a press release before the arrests were made. In total 27 people were arrested, including a number of journalists and media figures.
Along with other human rights organizations, Amnesty has called on Turkish authorities to release those arrested yesterday unless authorities can produce “credible evidence that they have committed a recognizably criminal offense.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
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.
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.
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.