An Ugly Crackdown in Turkey

Turkish policeman detain a protestor during a protest on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul (Photo Credit: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images).

Turkish policeman detain a protestor during a protest on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul (Photo Credit: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images).

Ugly police violence and repression of freedom of speech and of assembly continue in Turkey, where attempts to stage protests in Taksim Square have been repeatedly suppressed with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets in the past few days.

The toll has been heavy. As an Amnesty statement released on July 9 notes, “[according] to the Istanbul Medical Association at least 30 people were injured yesterday including a 17 year-old… who is in a critical condition with head injuries after he was hit with a gas canister.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Ali İsmail Korkmaz succumbed to his wounds this week, the fifth confirmed death in the violence. According to newspaper reports, Korkmaz was injured during protests in Eskişehir on June 2, when he attempted to escape police tear gas and was “brutally beaten by a group wearing civilian clothes.” No arrests have been made in the case. He was nineteen years old.


A Hospital in Amnesty’s Office: Director of Amnesty International Turkey on a Sleepless Week in Istanbul

(Photo Credit: Serra Akcan/NarPhotos).

(Photo Credit: Serra Akcan/NarPhotos).

By Amnesty International Turkey Director Murat Çekiç

As I write this, there are at least 10,000 people in Taksim Square, all protesting for 10,000 reasons. But here in our office, everything is calm.

We had a makeshift hospital here for two days. We used our desks and tables as beds for injured people, there were sleeping bags on the floor, and medicine and food everywhere. On June 11, we finally had time to clean up the mess and put our desks and computers back.

I first heard about the protests when coming back to Istanbul on May 30. The real police violence started on Friday. It was my day off, and I decided to go to the office at 3 p.m. to respond to those incredible things that were happening.


Turkey's Anti-Terrorism Law Tramples on Human Rights


On December 3rd, demonstrations were held in Istanbul and 40 provinces of Turkey, protesting lengthy pre-trial detentions, mass custodies and arrests, and called for the abolishment of Turkey’s draconian anti-terrorist law. In Istanbul alone, some 2000 persons, including the Deputy Chair of the CHP, Turkey’s main opposition party, engineers, architects and doctors joined in the demonstration.

As we noted in a previous blog, thousands of Turkish citizens have been imprisoned and await trials—some for over two years–under this law. Those arrested and imprisoned have even included lawyers defending others who were incarcerated.

In its most recent Annual Human Rights Report, Amnesty International again underlined the violations of freedom of speech carried out under the anti-terrorism law.


In Istanbul, Forced Evictions of City's Most Vulnerable

Besra, a single mother with a small child, returned from visiting her mother in the hospital to find her door broken in.  Officials forced her to vacate her home immediately, throwing her belongings out onto the street.

Istanbul Evictions

A number of vulnerable families in the Tarlabaşı district have already been evicted © Jonathan Lewis

Another resident, an unemployed 60-year-old man with a lung condition, told Amnesty International that he had been forced to sign eviction notices that he was not allowed to read.

According to Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey,

“Most of those facing eviction have not been given adequate notice. They have not been consulted, provided with legal remedies, or offered adequate alternative housing or compensation. This is a violation of their human rights. There must also be an investigation into the allegations of harassment by public officials.”


Turkey: Arrest & Surrender Bashir!

Sudanese President Omar al Bashir is expected in Istanbul, Turkey, this Sunday and Monday for a summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Back in March, the International Criminal Court indicted al Bashir on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which means al Bashir is a fugitive from international justice and that no countries should willingly host al Bashir without taking steps to arrest him and surrender him to the ICC in The Hague.

President Omar al Bashir is a fugitive from international justice, charged with responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes against men, women and children, including murder, rape, torture and forced displacement. It would be a disgrace for Turkey to offer him safe haven – Christopher Keith Hall, Senior Legal Advisor, Amnesty International.

According to the BBC, Turkish President Abdullah Gul has no intention of arresting al Bashir, even though the European Union has asked him to reconsider his invitation to al Bashir. Turkey may not have signed or ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but it still has a duty under international law to arrest al Bashir and surrender him to the court in The Hague.

Since his indictment in March, al Bashir has visited seven countries: Eritrea, Egypt, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. Due to pressure from the international community and civil society groups however, he was forced to cancel 2 recent trips to Uganda and Nigeria.

Take action now to urge the US government to support the ICC’s investigations in Darfur!