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AST Papers

The Challenges of Erdogan’s Turkey

1- Erdogan Has Established Himself as an Opponent of Human Rights and An Authoritarian Hunger for Power.

• Campaigned as reformer, once in office he has resorted to totalitarian tactics.
• Erdogan arrests political opponents, jails journalists, writers, judges, academics – 130,000 citizens.
https://news.vice.com/story/erdogan-is-still-arresting-his-opponents-in-massive-purge-that-has-surpassed-113000-people
• NYT: “Turkey has become like an open-air prison”.
http://nyti.ms/2nGAzrO
• Erdogan justifies his totalitarian actions by blaming Hizmet and moderate Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. International human rights organizations denounce this action as subterfuge.
https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/turkey
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2016/06/257880.htm
• Fethullah Gulen is a pacifist who calls for the education of women, interfaith dialogue and opposes the Muslim extremist “cancer.” World leaders are depending upon moderate Muslim reformers like Gulen for stability in the Middle East.
http://www.politico.eu/article/muslims-unique-responsibility-in-fighting-terror-london-attack-fethullah-gulen/
• Erdogan detained Amnesty International Turkish Chairman and director at the same time with more than 10 human rights defenders.
https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/06/271631.htm
• During 2017 U.S. visit, Erdogan’s personal bodyguards beat protestors, causing Congressional condemnation by a vote of 397-0. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/06/07/turkey-rejects-resolution-condemning-bodyguards-attacks-on-protesters.html
• According to CPJ, Turkey has the highest scored jailed journalist in the world.
https://cpj.org/europe/turkey/
• 2017 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders: Turkey 155/180 in the world rankings and behind even Russia and Ethiopia.
https://rsf.org/en/ranking
• RULE OF LAW: ABA Report American Bar Association (ABA) condemns mass detentions and arrests of Turkish legal community by passing the Resolution 10B against Turkey.
https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/abanews/2016%20Annual%20Resolutions/10b.pdf
• INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF JURISTS: Turkey: the Judicial System in Peril by International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
https://www.icj.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Turkey-Judiciary-in-Peril-Publications-Re-ports-Fact-Findings-Mission-Reports-2016-ENG.pdf

2- The Botched Failed Coup Attempt.

• UK Parliament: No evidence Gulen behind coup.
http://buff.ly/2njjlO9
• German spy agency chief: Gulen not behind Turkish coup attempt.
http://reut.rs/2mVUWxM
• U.S. House Intel Chair Nunes: “Hard to believe Gulen is behind Turkish coup”.
http://theglobepost.com/2017/03/19/us-house-intel-chair-says-hard-to-believe-gulen-behind-turkey-coup/
• Stockholm Center for freedom released 191 pages “July 15 Erdogan’s coup” Report about the botched failed coup attempt.
https://stockholmcf.org/report/
• AFSV Video documentary “ Was July 15 Turkey’s Reichstag Fire”.
https://youtu.be/6QvF6TMxs1U
• WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN TURKEY ON JULY 15, 2016?
http://afsv.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/White-Paper-on-July-15-failed-coup-attempt.pdf
• Why did Erdoğan ask Parliamentary Probe Commission to terminate its mission on coup attempt? By Journalist Yavuz Baydar.
https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/13543936

3- Torture as a Grave Human Right Violation.

• Human Rights Watch release a detailed report about torture and abductions after July 15.
https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/10/12/custody/police-torture-and-abductions-turkey
• Amnesty International Torture Report for Turkey.
https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/turkey/report-turkey/
• JWF Torture report to UN.
http://jwf.org/reports/
• The anti-torture struggle in Turkey was important. But torture is like a contagious disease. Once it starts it will spread. It is painful to see the reversal taking place now.
https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/10/24/blank-check/turkeys-post-coup-suspension-safeguards-against-torture
• Stockholm Center for Freedom “Mass Torture and ill Treatment” Report.
https://stockholmcf.org/report/
• National Interest: Turkey has a Hitler problem.
http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/turkeys-erdogen-has-hitler-problem-14809
• Mass torture in Turkey under the spell of religious zealotry.
http://stockholmcf.org/mass-torture-in-turkey-under-the-spell-of-nationalism-and-religious-zealotry/
http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/26/europe/erdogan-security-germany-g20/index.html

4- Erdoğan’s Allies.

• Qatar — Biggest supporter of Hamas terrorists. While other Muslim nations broke relations with Qatar, Erdogan moved 5k troops to Qatar.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/25/erdogan-rejects-saudi-demand-to-pull-turkish-troops-out-of-qatar
• Iran – Erdogan linked to suspect helping Iran avoid terms of sanctions agreement.
https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/a-mysterious-case-involving-turkey-iran-and-rudy-giuliani
• NATO Purge and Alliance with Euroasianists.
http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/07/13/turkeys-post-coup-purge-and-erdogans-private-army-sadat-perincek-gulen/
• Human Rights Watch release a detailed report about torture and abductions after July 15.
https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/10/12/custody/police-torture-and-abductions-turkey
• Russia.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/annaborshchevskaya/2017/01/27/is-erdogan-a-russian-ally-or-putins-puppet/#1d831a4d1596
• Radical Islamists, ISIS and Hamas.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-l-phillips/research-paper-turkey-isi_b_8808024.html
http://www.newsweek.com/2014/09/19/exclusive-how-istanbul-became-recruiting-ground-islamic-state-269247.html
http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/06/world/meast/mideast-hamas-support/index.html

5- The long Arm of Erdoğan.

• Global Spying: German Justice Minister called out Erdogan’s global spying network
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/28/world/europe/germany-turkey-erdogan-spying.html • Illegal Kidnappings and Abductions by Erdoğan through bilateral interests of the countries like in Malaysia and Pakistan.
• Embassies and Consulates:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/turkey-spies-on-suspected-guelen-supporters-around-the-world-a-1141367.html
https://stockholmcf.org/der-spiegel-turkish-embassies-pursuing-erdogan-critics-in-35-countries/
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/turkey-spying-germany-europe-austria-35-countries-erdogan-coup-fethullah-gulen-diyanet-a7662096.html
• Mosques:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/14/magazine/reading-erdogans-ambitions-in-turkeys-new-mosques.html
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/04/turkey-erdogan-uses-mosques-to-win-referendum.html
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-l-phillips/turkeys-islamist-agenda-i_b_8891634.html
• Erdogan uses nine U.S. non-profits and has engaged 20 DC lobbying firms, and millions of dollars to spin his message.

6- International Abductions and Kidnappings.

• International Federation for Human Rights Letter on abductions in Pakistan.
https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/pakistan/letter-to-the-government-concerning-the-forcible-repatriation-of-289
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/a-turkish-family-has-disappeared-in-pakistan-and-suspicion-turns-to-intelligence-agencies/2017/10/11/aa8c0d80-a480-11e7-b573-8ec86cdfe1ed_story.html?utm_term=.53530d62e2f9
• Abductions in Malaysia:
http://www.theglobepost.com/2017/05/02/two-turks-kidnapped-in-malaysia-families-fear-of-extradition/
https://stockholmcf.org/eu-calls-on-turkey-to-investigate-abduction-cases-targeting-gulen-movement/
https://www.wsj.com/articles/ex-cia-director-mike-flynn-and-turkish-officials-discussed-removal-of-erdogan-foe-from-u-s-1490380426

7- The Danger to America and its interest.

• Germany has withdrawn its troops from Turkish base and relocated them to Jordan.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/germany-withdraw-soldiers-turkey-refused-visit-angela-merkel-nato-a7736686.html
• Erdogan’s radicalization of Turkey is transforming U.S.’ strongest Muslim NATO ally into a cooperative partner to those nations that pose the greatest threats to U.S. security.
http://www.weeklystandard.com/its-time-for-nato-to-call-turkeys-bluff/article/2008198
http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/29/the-dictatorship-in-natos-clubhouse-erdogan-kurds-turkey/
• The future of Turkey is at risk.
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/turkey/2017-07-07/how-erdoganism-killing-turkish-democracy?cid=nlc-fa_fatoday-20170707
• Article by Steven Cook at Foreign Affairs about ‘ The American Alliance with Turkey was built on myth’.
http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/12/the-american-alliance-with-turkey-was-built-on-a-myth/amp/
• Kurdish Issue:
http://alonben-meir.com/writing/kurds-erdogans-tyrannical-governance/
• Afghanistan Issue and nuclear deal
• Anti Americanism in Turkey.
• Radicalism in Turkey, helping ISIS, and Imam Hatip Schools.

8- Erdoğan’s Dark Political Hostage Strategy.

•‘Hostages’ in Erdogan’s new Turkey.
http://www.politico.eu/article/turkey-erdogan-hostages/
• American Andrew Brunson has been improperly held (since Oct 2016) and accused of belonging to a “terrorist organization.” His crime? He’s been an evangelical pastor in Turkey for 23 years.
http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/17/politics/trump-erdogan-white-house-meeting-andrew-brunson/index.html

9- Religious and ethnic minorities.

10- International Responses.

• UN urged Turkey to release all jailed journalists, writers, judges, academics
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3949456/UN-official-calls-Turkey-release-journalists-jail.html
• UN Human Rights Commissioner complained over Turkey’s prevention of investigating human rights violations
http://bit.ly/UNHRC_urged_to_act_on_Turkey
• NATO chief warned Turkey to show “full respect” for rule of law
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/nato-chief-says-turkey-must-show-full-respect-for-rule-of-law-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=112483&NewsCatID=359
• Germany: Will not deport Turkish soldiers who’ve defected
https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170511-germany-grants-asylum-to-escaped-turkish-soldiers/
• UK acknowledges Gulen movement asylum seekers
https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/04/09/uk-acknowledges-gulen-movement-asylum-seekers/
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3721483/Sweden-wont-return-people-linked-failed-Turkey-coup.html
• American Bar Association’ s (ABA) resolution about their concerns on the rule of law in Turkey.
https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/abanews/2016%20Annual%20Resolutions/10b.pdf
• US commission on international religious freedom. 2016 religious freedom report.
http://www.uscirf.gov/countries/turkey

11- Zarrab Case.

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/former-turkish-minister-economy-former-general-manager-turkish-government-owned-bank
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/the-man-at-the-crux-the-of-us-turkey-dispute-is-about-to-go-on-trial/2017/10/12/92c4c7a2-af96-11e7-be94-fabb0f1e9ffb_story.html?utm_term=.ff822d5748ec
• Why a New York Court Case has rattled Turkey’s President.
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/10/14/world/europe/turkey-new-york-case.html?referer=https://www.google.com/

12- What Can Be Done?

Turkey’s unique and historic role as a moderate Muslim nation and its longtime cooperation as a key NATO ally present challenges for policymakers who seek to hold Erdogan accountable for his atrocities. However, policymakers can:

• Deny U.S. Visas to Erdogan’s officials and Pro-ERDOGAN Businessman and especially who have engaged in torture and corruption.
• Compel Erdogan to release political prisoners and journalists.
• Grant political refugee status to those he persecutes in Turkey.
• Speak out against Erdogan’s attempts to close schools in foreign nations and stop illegally extraditing and kidnapping Turkish citizens who live abroad.
• Demand Turkey to release foreigners as hostages (priest Andrew, NASA scientist, US embassy’s workers, etc).
• Pressure UNHCR to give refugee status to Turkish citizens purged and prosecuted by Erdogan’s government using State of Emergency and decree laws as a base.
• Prevent TURKISH intelligence to make operations to abduct and get TURKISH citizens deported to Turkey.
• Release mothers/women (17,000) and kids (668) in prison with parole/conditional release.
• Provide Turkish newborns of Turkish citizens abroad with a travel document.


Download as a PDF File: AST_3-7-18-Challenges-of-Erdogan’s-Turkey-P13

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Turkey Must Ensure Freedom of Religion under Its Jurisdiction

Introduction

Especially in the recent years, the Turkish government has been known with its arbitrary interferences with human rights and fundamental freedoms. After the corruption investigations that were launched at the end of 2013, the government started targeting the Hizmet Movement (a.k.a. Gulen Movement) claiming that the group was behind the investigations. The corruption case was about members of the ruling party and their family members including sons of cabinet ministers. Even more, the case was allegedly reaching out to then prime-minister Erdogan and his son. The situation got even worsened after the so-called attempted coup happened in July 15, 2016. Erdogan, now the president, has been accusing the Movement of masterminding the coup attempt, whereas the Movement has been strongly denying their involvement. The state of emergency was declared to weather the storm; however, it was then transformed to a tool to justify the government’s strict measures. Main group attacked has been the Hizmet Movement, nonetheless, many people from other dissident groups have also been suffering from the government’s applications. Excessive number of people belonging to dissident groups have either been arrested, imprisoned, faced torture during imprisonment or dismissed from their jobs. There have also been other examples of human rights violations such as asset seizure, passport cancellations and psychological pressure. Not only real persons but also legal entities founded by dissidents were also targeted and shut down by decree laws adopted without parliamentary and judicial oversight during the state of emergency.

Different religious communities also took their shares from the government’s arbitrary implementations. This paper will talk about the different types of discriminatory practices religious groups have been facing in Turkey recently. It will be evaluated whether freedom of religion and belief is respected at the level required the internationally accepted standards. Therefore, for the purpose of this paper different statements from government officials as well as the government’s actions targeting religious groups will be mentioned below.

Freedom of Religion in Turkey

Turkey has been a secular country since 1928 when the provision indicating the state’s religion as Islam was removed as an amendment to the 1924 Constitution. Since then secularism has been one of the core principles enshrined in the Turkish Constitution. The Constitution of 1982, which is in force now, refers to secularism as well and regulates the freedom of religion and conscience. According to Article 24 (1) & (2) of the 1982 Constitution “Everyone has the freedom of conscience, religious belief and conviction. Acts of worship, religious rites and ceremonies shall be conducted freely, as long as they do not violate the provisions of Article 14.” The Constitution also prohibits any form of discrimination including on the ground of religion.

Freedom of religion is also protected under international human rights law documents binding on Turkey which are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereinafter “ICCPR”) and the European Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter “ECHR”). Both ICCPR Article 18 and ECHR Article 9 stipulate freedom of religion and belief as well as include manifestation of his/her religion and belief to the scope. Moreover, the ICCPR specifies Article 18 as non-derogable in Article 4, meaning that even during the state of emergency going on in the country, the government must respect freedom of religion and belief and cannot derogate from its responsibilities. Therefore, Turkey is obligated to ensure that freedom of religion is respected at all levels under its jurisdiction. However, Turkey’s record in terms of religious freedom has not been much praiseworthy. Since its foundation, Turkey has been somehow restricting freedom of religion and belief. Only three groups are recognized officially as minorities which are Greeks, Armenians and Jews. This means all Muslim communities and other non-Muslim groups are not protected specially. This situation itself actually creates inequality between the groups, even though the Constitution promotes for equality.

Anatolia, thus Turkey, has been hosting very different cultures and it is known to be a diverse land for a long time. First and foremost, Alevis are the main group facing discrimination in Turkey. Their places of worships, Cemevis (Cem houses), have been forcefully shut down by the government and are not accepted officially as places of worship. There were even attempts to transform them into mosques. The recognition of minority’s rights and status, such as the right to establish their own institutions, worship places and freely express and practice their faith openly in public, is a problem that has not been addressed since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. Even though Alevis are the second-largest group of Muslims after Sunni Muslims, they have been having these crucial problems regarding recognition for a long time.

Alevis are also targeted by public officials and society. For instance, Mehmet Gormez, former President of the Directorate of Religious Affairs which is an official state institution, has explicitly said they have had two red lines which are not to classify Alevism as different than regular understanding of Islam and not to accept Cemevis as an alternative worship place to mosques. Alevis have been attacked by the society as well. Short time ago, houses of Alevi citizens in Malatya were marked with crosses in red color by unknown people for intimidation.

Problems of Alevis were also brought before the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter “ECtHR”) many times. In a recent case, Izzettin Dogan and Others v. Turkey, the Court decided that Turkey has not been protecting the applicant’s right to manifest their religion properly by not providing them religious services in the form of public service, not granting Cemevis the status of “places of worship,” not recruiting their religious leaders as civil servants and lastly by not providing them funding as part of the Directorate of Religious Affairs’s budget. In the light of these, the ECtHR decided on the violation of Article 9 and Article 14.

Since 2013, especially after the coup attempt in July 2016, the Hizmet Movement, a movement that is mainly inspired by a religious cleric Fethullah Gulen, became a target of the Turkish government for religious persecution and marginalization. Ironically, Fethullah Gulen advocates Sunni-Hanafi-Maturidi Islamic tradition, which symbolizes the belief system of the majority in Turkey. In fact, Fethullah Gulen is a retired cleric who worked for the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Turkey for his whole life. However, in the aftermath of the coup attempt, the Turkish government acknowledges no ethical boundaries at all and declares the Hizmet Movement as ‘Firak-i Dalle” (perverted faith) through the propaganda of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. This term has been frequently used against the Movement and has caused social pressure leading to more discrimination in social life. The Ministry of Religious Affairs consistently publishes sermons constituting verbal harassments towards the Movement every Friday to be read in every mosque during Friday prayers which is, according to Islam not to the state law, obligatory for all Muslim men to attend. Therefore, those statements are heard by majority of the public attending Friday prayers. Mehmet Gormez once said following the “Extraordinary Religious Council” that attributes imputed to the Movement and Mr. Gulen cannot be reconciled with Islam. These indeed prove that the Directorate of Religious Affairs, together with the government, targets the Movement specifically because of their relationship with Mr. Gulen. In today’s Turkey, admiring Mr. Gulen, reading his books and listening to his sermons are considered as actions of crime and people who revere him are labeled as terrorists. Therefore, individuals are not free to choose which understanding of Islam or which Islamic scholar to follow.

Together with these, other beliefs such as Atheism, Shia Islam and different branches of Christianity suffer from discrimination on religious grounds and cannot be considered as free in terms of freedom of religion and conscience under human rights law.

Evaluation

Considering all different types of persecutions religious communities have been suffering, one cannot say that Turkey is complying with its responsibilities under the 1982 Constitution, the ICCPR as well as the ECHR. If the country is secular, then it must be equidistant from all types of beliefs. As the Advocates of Silenced Turkey, we would like to remind the Turkish government that it is obligated to ensure freedom of religion under its jurisdiction and also that it must align its domestic law and practices with internationally accepted human rights standards.


Download as a PDF File: AST_2-20-18_Freedom of Religion_P12

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Critical Speech by Kati Piri Delivered in European Parliament Plenary, Joint Debate on Turkey

Since the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, the government of Turkey has taken strict measures to silence dissidents from various ideologies both within and outside of its borders. The state of emergency, which was recently extended for the fifth time, and decree laws pave the way for discrimination and segregation on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and political or other opinions. Unfortunately, all the dissident groups have received their shares from the government’s purge.

One of these opposition groups, the Gulen Movement (a.k.a “Hizmet Movement”, meaning service in Turkish), has been the main target since 2013. The Gulen Movement is a faith-based non-political movement focusing on cultural and educational activities. It is composed of a cluster of religious, educational and social organizations inspired by a Turkish scholar, Fethullah Gulen.

Other opposition groups have also been targeted. Especially, Kurdish and Alevi people have been oppressed significantly. For instance, Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the left-wing pro-Kurdish political party – Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is still in prison. Moreover, Osman Kavala, one of the most significant civil society activists working to mend the relationship between Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian people and a businessman sponsoring Amnesty International, is also yet under arrest for alleged ties to the Hizmet Movement.

Since the July 15 failed coup attempt, President Erdogan and the government have been accusing Fethullah Gulen and his sympathizers to have connections with the failed coup. Gulen has repeatedly denied any involvement with the attempted coup. Foreign intelligence units such as Germany’s BND Foreign Intelligence Agency’s chief, EU intelligence-sharing unit (Intern), UK Parliament and US House Intel Chair have all noted that there is no concrete evidence indicating Mr. Gulen’s involvement. Nonetheless, Gulen spoke to global media outlets right after the coup attempt and condemned any effort against democracy. He called for an open international investigation to find out who was behind the coup attempt.

Yet, the Turkish government chose to declare state of emergency, which still continues as of February 2018, to purge thousands of people. Alleged supporters of the Movement in Turkey have been dealing with arrest, imprisonment, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, confiscation and passport seizure. After the failed coup, more than 130,000 people have been arbitrarily detained, and almost 65,000 people have been arrested. Most of them belong to the elite part of the society and are well-educated individuals with different backgrounds such as doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, engineers and so on. What is striking is that most were imprisoned with no compelling evidence of any criminal activity. As two of the most vulnerable groups, women and children were affected a lot too. 17,000 women and 1914 children, where 688 are babies under age of six, are still in prison under inhuman conditions. There have also been several cases where women with their few days old babies were put in prison just after giving birth. Moreover, more than 4,400 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed indicating around one-third of all judiciary. The government has also shut down 3,003 schools, dormitories, and universities as well as confiscated more than 800 companies worth more than $10 billion, all were founded and owned by dissidents – mostly by the supporters of the Movement.

Kati Piri, member of the European Parliament, has been one of the most concerned individuals regarding the grave situation in Turkey. She has been working on Turkey’s EU membership process as Turkey rapporteur of the European Parliament. She recently gave a crucial speech talking about the ongoing events in Turkey.

Below you can find Kati Piri’s speech delivered on February 7, 2018:

“Dear Osman, dear Ahmet, dear Selahattin,

At the moment that Turkey is going through a difficult period, it needs brave people like you to stand up for human rights and the respect for rule of law. But for having done exactly that, you are now in a prison cell behind bars. While you cannot follow this debate, I hope your lawyers and family will inform you that we have not forgotten you! And we will continue to plea for your release as your arrests are politicized and arbitrary.

Osman Kavala, Ahmet Şik and Selehattin Demirtas are not the only innocent persons in jail in Turkey. While the perpetrators of the heinous coup attempt must be prosecuted and brought to justice, so many people became victims of the massive crackdown on all democratic opposition voices. The numbers are mind-boggling – more than 150.000 people fired and over 50.000 imprisoned. But remember that all these people have a face, have a family, have friends who are hoping that a normalization is still possible.

The state of emergency has led to a situation that the government can rule by decree – without parliamentary or judicial scrutiny. Every aspect in Turkish society has become securitized – meaning, that all who voice criticism against the government’s’ policies, are being labelled as terrorist or terrorism supporters. With that, legitimate and peaceful opposition is being silenced – in real life and on social media. Last two weeks, almost 500 people were detained for peacefully opposing Turkey’s military operation in Afrin.

There is also a structural problem with the lack of independence of the judiciary. And how big that problem is, we could witness last month. First there was a ruling by the Constitutional Court in Turkey to release jailed journalists Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay, as their rights had been violated. And although the highest court’s orders were crystal clear, a local penal court decided to keep them in detention.

Last week, we could witness another travesty of justice. The wife and daughters of Turkey’s Amnesty International Chair were waiting in front of the gates of the prison in Izmir to welcome their loved one into their arms after an 8-month imprisonment. A judge had ruled earlier that day for his release on bail. But within a couple of hours, the same judge changed his mind and ordered his re-arrest. And for all those people who have lost their jobs by decree, there is so far little hope for remedy. From one day to another, they have been labeled as terrorists and therewith socially excluded.

High Representative Mogherini, the EU is preparing a mini-Summit with Turkish President Erdogan at the end of March. We could read in the papers that no preconditions have been put on the table. But I hope you can tell us what you expect as results from such a meeting. We, in the Parliament, expect the EU to be loud and clear on human rights in Turkey. Not only because these are the values that our Union is based upon, and Turkey as a candidate should adhere to them. But also because we risk losing credibility and support by a majority of Turkish society if we don’t stand up for their rights in these dark times.”

As the Advocates of Silenced Turkey, we agree Kati Piri’s points, and we call the Turkish government to put an end to these arbitrary and unacceptable applications. We would like to remind the government its responsibilities under the international human rights law and ask to comply with the human rights standards accepted worldwide.

Watch the speech: http://silencedturkey.org/kati-piris-speech-in-ep-plenary-joint-debate-on-turkey


Download as a PDF File: AST_2-7-2018_Kati-Piris-speech-in-EP-Plenary-Turkey-P11

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Oppression of Supporters of the Hizmet Movement in Turkey and Abroad

There is an ongoing suppression of dissidents following the attempted coup of July 15, 2016. The state of emergency and the decree laws pave the way for discrimination and segregation on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and political or other opinions. Women and children are discriminated and segregated on the basis of their identity or the identity of their family members and parents. Ordinary citizens including, women, men, children, elderly, and disabled people face discrimination based on physical or mental disability, birth registration, place of residence, social segregation, gender or health, and sometimes a combination of these reasons.

Below are some types of discrimination that people face in Turkey:
• More than 150,000 public officials are dismissed from their positions without any evidence, due process and any explanation but their names appear on long lists.
• More than 60,000 people have been arrested because of alleged links with the Hizmet Movement without any concrete criminal evidence. Much more were taken into custody and released under probation.
• The government violated people’s fundamental right to travel by either canceling or not issuing their passports.
• The government’s inflammatory rhetoric and hate speech target the followers of the Hizmet Movement and other dissidents. Both public and the government have been labeling people as terrorists even though there is no such indication, only because they support or are not against the Hizmet Movement.
• Assets of the Hizmet Movement’s supporters have been frozen leading people to suffer also financially besides other problems.
• People labeled as terrorists cannot find a job neither in public nor in private field.
• Dissidents and their families are deliberately deprived of social services and financial resources needed for physical survival.
• The state of emergency and the new decree laws impose life-threatening forcible discrimination and segregation in Turkey.
• Majority of the Turkish citizens face fear and betrayal in a police state.
• The dissidents and human rights defenders are under arbitrary detention and arrest without due process.
• There are grave violations of international human rights law and atrocity crimes including torture, inhuman and degrading treatment.
• There is a lack of legal remedies in the Turkish judiciary, people cannot look for a remedy from the courts and other mechanisms such as the State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission.
• Torture and other similar incidents have been witnessed a lot especially during police custody.
• People arrested over Hizmet links are kept under inhuman conditions in overcrowded prisons.
• Both arrestees and their visitors are under psychological pressure by the guards.
• Family members of people who are at large are threatened by police officers to be taken into custody and arrested if they do not give information about their relatives’ whereabouts.

Below are some types of human rights violations Turkish people with links to the Hizmet Movement face abroad:
• Turkish citizens abroad are vulnerable for arbitrary detentions, abductions and expulsions, therefore, need protection.
• There are 229 Turkish citizens abroad who are called to return Turkey; if not, they will be deprived of nationality.
• Hundreds and thousands of Turkish citizens abroad are denied of consular services including newborns who became stateless outside of Turkey. Consulates do not issue passports to these people as well.
• Turkish citizens seeking asylum would face torture and ill-treatment if deported to Turkey.
• Because of passport cancellations by the Turkish government, family members of the supporters in Turkey cannot leave Turkey leading to family separation.
• Foreign governments do not grant visa in most cases to the families of asylum seekers that include the supporters of the Hizmet Movement abroad, which again leads to family separation.
• In some cases, family members of the supporters of the Movement could be able to leave Turkey but reach out the countries that are not safe such as Kyrgyzstan and Morocco. It is highly risky that they might be deported or will face same type of persecution in these countries because of Erdogan’s pressure. Again because of visa and passport problems, they cannot go to safer countries.
• In most cases assets and bank accounts of the supporters and their family members are frozen by the government, thus people cannot transfer their funds abroad and struggle for a living.
• Most people seeking asylum abroad are still waiting for a decision especially in the United States because of the long process of asylum application. They live in uncertainty by not knowing when will they be granted asylum and attain their rights.


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Severity of Human Rights Violations in Turkey & Support to Turkish Migrants and Refugees

Since the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, the government of Turkey has been taking strict measures to silence dissidents in other countries from various ideologies recently. One of these opposition groups, the Gulen Movement (a.k.a “Hizmet Movement”, meaning service in Turkish), has been the main target since 2013. The Gulen Movement is a faith-based non-political, cultural and educational movement. The Movement is composed of a cluster of religious, educational and social organizations inspired by Fethullah Gulen.

After the July 15 failed coup attempt, the Turkish government accused Fethullah Gulen and his sympathizers for having a connection with the failed coup. Gulen has repeatedly dismissed any involvement in the coup attempt. Foreign intelligence units such as Germany’s BND Foreign Intelligence Agency’s chief, EU intelligence-sharing unit (Intern), UK Parliament and U.S. House Intel Chair have all noted that there is no evidence that shows Gulen’s involvement. Nonetheless, Gulen spoke to global media outlets right after the coup attempt and called for an open international investigation to find out who was behind the attempt.

Yet, the Turkish government chose to declare state of emergency, which still continues, to purge thousands of people. Alleged supporters of the Movement in Turkey have been dealing with arrest, imprisonment, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, confiscation and passport seizure. After the failed coup, more than 130,000 people have been arbitrarily detained and more than 60,000 people have been arrested. Most of them are from the elite part of the society and are all well-educated individuals with different backgrounds such as doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, engineers and so on. The striking point is that most were imprisoned with no compelling evidence of any criminal activity. Nonetheless, there are 17,000 women in jail and 1914 children, where 688 are babies under age of six. There have also been several cases where women who just gave birth have been put in prison with their few days old babies. Moreover, more than 4,400 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed. The government has also seized 3,003 schools, dormitories, and universities. The government has also confiscated more than 800 companies worth more than $10 billion.

All independent media in Turkey have been shut down and confiscated by the government. Turkey is the leading country to imprison most journalists. Turkey has arrested 319 journalists since the coup. A lot of people are arrested for talking against government’s policies. Many students get imprisoned for their critical tweets. 70 thousand students are currently in jail in Turkey.

People are also arrested for having downloaded an encrypted messaging phone application called ByLock. The government believes coup plotters used this application. The Turkish Intelligence Organization (MIT) has handed over a list of people who have allegedly downloaded the application. People who are alleged of downloading the application have been imprisoned. Prof. Izzet Özgenç, who is one of the founders of the Turkish Penal Code, emphasized that the Bylock arrests made without revealing any evidence are unlawful. Recently, Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that close to 11 thousand people have been mistakenly investigated for use of ByLock. Turkey has also put the Amnesty International’s Turkey head, Taner Kiliç in jail for having downloaded block. While Kiliç claims that he has never downloaded the application, he is facing imprisonment for up to 15 years.

International human rights organizations have condemned and reported the human rights violations occurring in Turkey. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) announced Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the winner of ‘Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press’ and ‘Most Thin-skinned’ awards. A new report released by the independent, non-profit and non-partisan watchdog organization Freedom House concluded that democratic principles such as election integrity and freedom of the press, political and civil rights have severely downgraded in Turkey that is no longer ‘a free country’. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in its recent “World Report 2018” that innocent people are imprisoned with no substantial evidence, inalienable rights have been taken away, and that there are more than 2,200 cases of torture and ill-treatment. Hugh Williamson, Europe, and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch said that “everywhere you look, checks and balances that protect human rights and rule of law in Turkey are being eroded”.

Due to increasingly severe human rights violations in Turkey, families have chosen to leave their country to seek safe haven. Many families have sought to enter Europe to seek asylum due to geographical proximity. However, there are also thousands of people who have also successfully reached and sought asylum in the United States. Unfortunately not everyone successfully reaches Europe. On November 21, 2017, Greek media reported that Greek authorities have found bodies of five members of the Maden family, including three children, a short time ago on the Greek Island of Lesvos. The father, Huseyin Maden, and mother, Nur Maden, were allegedly linked to the Gulen Movement and was forced to flee due to arrest warrant issued out on their names. The drowning has sparked outrage over an ongoing political purge.

Regrettably, Turkish government’s actions against the Gulen Movement are not limited to Turkish borders but are also extraterritorial. There are many examples of abductions and physical violence incidents in several countries as well as threats by pro-government people referring to the supporters abroad. Recently some Turkish teachers and principles who worked at schools funded by the Gulen Movement in Malaysia, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan have been abducted, and in some cases illegally deported back to Turkey.

Families who have successfully reached the United States by escaping the oppression of the Turkish government are now facing new challenges. Most of the families have left everything behind in Turkey; jobs, houses, education, relatives and the Turkish government have blocked their bank accounts. Some families were able to only bring a single luggage.

These families are now in need of shelter, financial support, and acceptance of their asylum applications. You could help by personally providing donations to these individuals, or donate through human rights organizations like Embrace Relief or Advocates of Silenced Turkey, who focuses on these Turkish nationals. You could also help with helping them attain legal help and cover legal fees for their asylum applications, with their education fees. Some other ways you can help is by sending support letters regarding the persecution of these Gulen sympathizers to relevant bodies such as the State Department, embassies and the European Court of Human Rights. You can also create awareness using social media and encourage other human rights and humanitarian aid organizations to create campaigns on behalf of these individuals. Given their circumstance, we hope that you can help these people through your support. Every bit of help will aggregate to make a big difference.


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How The Supporters Of The Hizmet Movement Suffer From Persecutions By The Turkish Government?

Introduction

The Turkish government’s oppressive regime and strict measures against dissidents, especially the Hizmet Movement, have created a new group of people seeking asylum around the world. This paper includes many statements from various organizations and experts on the current situation in Turkey in terms of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Hence, this study aims to shed light on how the authorities are expected to react towards asylum cases from Turkish applicants citing the risk of persecution based on their links with the Hizmet Movement.

1. Situation in Turkey in terms of Human Rights, Fundamental Freedoms, Rule of Law and Democracy

1.1. Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2018, 19 January 2018

Turkey’s status declined from Partly Free to Not Free, its political rights rating declined from 4 to 5, and its civil liberties rating declines from 5 to 6 due to a deeply flawed constitutional referendum that centralized power in the presidency, the mass replacement of elected mayors with government appointees, arbitrary prosecutions of rights activists and other perceived enemies of the state, and continued purges of state employees, all of which have left citizens hesitant to express their views on sensitive topics.

Constitutional revisions that concentrated power in the presidency were adopted in an April referendum. The campaign featured a grossly uneven playing field, and last-minute changes to the criteria for validating ballots—made in contravention of the law—undermined the legitimacy of the vote count.

The fear of arbitrary arrest stifled public discussion and weakened civil society.

1.2. Human Rights Watch, World Report 2018, 18 January 2018

Many decrees adopted contained measures that undermine human rights safeguards and conflict with Turkey’s international human rights obligations.

In January, the government ruled on the establishment of an ad hoc commission to review decisions made under the state of emergency. The commission lacks independence since its seven members are appointed by the same authorities responsible for approving dismissals and closures. … In the meantime, those affected have no right to work in public service, their bank accounts are frozen, and passports confiscated.

Turkey is the world leader in jailing journalists and media workers as they face criminal investigations and trials, with around 150 behind bars at time of writing. Most newspapers and television channels lack independence and promote the government’s political line.

There were widespread reports of police beating detainees, subjecting them to prolonged stress positions and threats of rape, threats to lawyers, and interference with medical examinations.

1.3. United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression on his mission to Turkey, 7 June 2017

The state of emergency decrees adopted in the aftermath of the coup attempt are far-reaching and give authorities wide discretionary powers to derogate from human rights obligations, without providing adequate channels for judicial review and appeal.

The Government is obligated to ensure that any restriction on freedom of expression during the state of emergency is strictly proportionate to the exigency of the situation. The tests of necessity and proportionality are not suspended during a period of derogation linked with a state of emergency.

1.4. Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2016/17, 21 February 2017

Freedom of expression deteriorated sharply during the year. After the declaration of a state of emergency, 118 journalists were remanded in pre-trial detention and 184 media outlets were arbitrarily and permanently closed down under executive decrees, leaving opposition media severely restricted. People expressing dissent, especially in relation to the Kurdish issue, were subjected to threats of violence and criminal prosecution. Internet censorship increased. At least 375 NGOs, including women’s rights groups, lawyers’ associations and humanitarian organizations, were shut by executive decree in November.

After July, the authorities used state of emergency laws to issue blanket bans preventing demonstrations in cities across Turkey. [P]olice used excessive force against people attempting to exercise the right to freedom of peaceful assembly regardless of the bans.

The state of emergency removed protections for detainees and allowed previously banned practices, which helped facilitate torture and other ill-treatment: the maximum pre-charge detention period was increased from four to 30 days; and facilities to block detainees’ access to lawyers in pre-charge detention for five days, and to record conversations between client and lawyer in pre-trial detention and pass them to prosecutors were introduced. Detainees’ access to lawyers and the right to consult with their choice of lawyers – rather than state-provided lawyers – was further restricted. Medical examinations were carried out in the presence of police officers and the reports arbitrarily denied to detainees’ lawyers.

Widespread torture and other ill-treatment of suspects accused of taking part in the coup attempt was reported in its immediate aftermath. In July, severe beatings, sexual assault, threats of rape and cases of rape were reported, as thousands were detained in official and unofficial police detention. Military officers appeared to be targeted for the worst physical abuse but holding detainees in stress positions and keeping them handcuffed behind their backs, and denying them adequate food and water or toilet breaks were reported to have taken place on a far wider scale. Lawyers and detainees’ relatives were often not informed that individuals had been detained until they were brought for charge.

1.5. Amnesty International, Annual Report 2015/16, 24 February 2016

Politically motivated appointments and transfers of judges and prosecutors continued throughout the year, wreaking havoc on a judiciary already lacking independence and impartiality. Criminal Courts of Peace – with jurisdiction over the conduct of criminal investigations, such as pre-charge detention and pre-trial detention decisions, seizure of property and appeals against these decisions – came under increasing government control.

1.6. Hugh Williams, Europe and Central Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, 18 January 2018

Everywhere you look, checks and balances that protect human rights and rule of law in Turkey are being eroded. The move to a presidential system, the ongoing state of emergency, and charges against opposition lawmakers have all weakened parliament, the courts are under ever tighter government control, and the crackdown on media and civil society deepens.

1.7. Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights (former), 7 October 2016

The decrees have introduced sweeping measures affecting, among others, civil society, municipalities, private schools, universities and medical establishments, legal professionals, media, business and finance, as well as the family members of suspects…. [T]he series of emergency decrees adopted in Turkey since July created very far-reaching, almost unlimited discretionary powers for administrative authorities and the executive in any areas, by derogation from general principles of rule of law and human rights safeguards ordinarily applicable in a democratic society.

Turkish authorities should immediately start repealing the emergency decrees, starting with the provisions which allow the highest degrees of arbitrariness in their application and stray the widest from ordinary guarantees.

1.8. British Legal Experts Lord Woolf, Sir Jeffrey Jowell, Sir Edward Garnier, July 2015

Since December 2013, the government has taken unprecedented steps to exert executive control over Turkey’s judiciary, to interfere with and derail the corruption investigation, to stifle criticism in the media and on the internet. The government has brought the main institution responsible for the judiciary, the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, under its control by purging its members of anyone suspected of opposing the AKP government.

1.9. Riza Turmen, Judge at the European Court of Human Rights (former)

Turkey has a serious regime problem; it is not a democracy – you can probably call it ‘elected authoritarianism.’ It is a majoritarian and hegemonic system.

2. Persecutions that the Supporters of the Hizmet Movement Face

2.1. Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2018, 19 January 2018

Using emergency powers and vaguely worded terrorism laws, the authorities had suspended or dismissed more than 110,000 people from public-sector positions and arrested more than 60,000 others by year’s end. Extensive use of pretrial detention meant that many suspects were held behind bars for long periods without due process. There was increasing evidence of extrajudicial “disappearances” and routine torture of political detainees.

2.2. Human Rights Watch, World Report 2018, 18 January 2018

Hundreds of media outlets, associations, foundations, private hospitals, and educational establishments that the government shut down by decree remained closed in 2017, their assets confiscated without compensation.

2.3. Amnesty International, No End in Sight: Purged Public Sector Workers Denied a Future in Turkey, 22 May 2017

[D]ecrees include similarly vague and non-individualized references to their connection to (unspecified) terrorist organizations or threat to national security. Nor has any individualized evidence been presented in the few examples of written decisions carried out under the authority of the decrees.

The government decrees also require their passports to be cancelled, preventing them from leaving the country. Others, along with their families, have lost housing and health care benefits provided through their jobs. Many have lost not only their jobs but the ability to carry on their professions, even in the private sector. After being tainted as “terrorists” through their dismissal, many have not been able to find work at all, inhibiting their right to work and their right to an adequate standard of living in the long term.

No individualized justification or evidence for the dismissal of public sector employees has been provided in the decrees or in subsequent administrative decisions made under the authority of the decrees. Neither have dismissed public sector employees been able to obtain information about the grounds for their dismissal either before or following their dismissal, beyond the vague generalized criteria of links to a terrorist organization or threat to national security. … Among the reasons advanced by dismissed public sector employees and their supporters, are people’s actual or perceived opposition to the ruling AK Party government, union activism, and local score-settling.

It remains uncertain for example whether dismissed individuals will be able to claim their full pension rights resulting from their years of service in the public sector. What is clear and stated explicitly in the decrees, is that in addition to being dismissed from their employment, they are expelled from all forms of public service. Given the broad interpretation of public service in Turkey, in many cases this means that dismissed people are effectively banned from continuing their professions.

All of the people Amnesty International spoke to were either living off their savings, being assisted by friends or family, doing jobs such as cleaning in the irregular economy, or surviving on the minimal amount paid to dismissed workers who are members of trade unions. None of the people interviewed believed that they could survive in the long term under these circumstances.

The fact that lists of dismissed people have been published in the decrees and on the internet, and form part of a person’s record, visible to state institutions and the public at large has led to additional pressures on them and their families.

2.4. United States Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016, 3 March 2017

Other human rights problems included prison overcrowding compounded by the influx of tens of thousands of new prisoners after the coup attempt. The government fired more than 3,000 members of the judiciary, creating an atmosphere of fear that further limited judicial independence and complicated or delayed court proceedings.

The vast majority were accused of ties to the Gulen movement, as opposed to direct participation in the coup attempt itself. Under the state of emergency, detainees could be held without charge for up to 30 days. There were numerous accounts of persons waiting beyond 30 days to be formally charged.

The suspension, detention, firing, and freezing of personal assets of more than 3,000 members of the judiciary after the July 15 coup attempt (representing about 22 percent of the total) accused of affiliation with the Gulen movement had a chilling effect on judicial independence.

After the July 15 coup attempt, the government seized hundreds of businesses and an estimated 15 billion lira ($4 billion) in assets from alleged members of the Gulen movement.

After the coup attempt, the government targeted family members to exert pressure on some wanted suspects. Under the state of emergency, the government cancelled the passports of family members of civil servants suspended from work as well as of those who had fled authorities. In some cases, the government cancelled or refused to issue passports for the minor children of accused Gulenists who were outside the country, forcing family separation.

3. Approaches of Other Foreign Government Towards Asylum Cases from Turkish Applicants Citing the Risk of Persecution based on Their Links with the Hizmet Movement

3.1. Norway, Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, 12 October 2017

[A] generally worsening human rights situation in that country have led to a new group of applicants seeking protection in Norway. These are persons who cite the risk of persecution based on links, or alleged links, to the Fethullah Gülen network/ movement. … These applicants can risk arrest, imprisonment, torture and conviction and will be entitled to protection … and that in some cases also family members of active Gülen affiliates may be entitled to protection. … The majority who have sought protection in Norway to date have been professors at, or have some other professional connections to, the Gülen schools and colleges at home and abroad.

[A]pplicants with credible indications of involvement within the Gülen movement, or applicants who can show that the domestic authorities in their country of origin have alleged such involvement, and where the actual or alleged involvement may trigger persecution by the authorities, shall be entitled to protection under the Immigration Act. … Referral to internal displacement will not be applicable, since the Turkish authorities control the whole country.

3.2. Canada, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 29 September 2016

[I]nstead of targeting Gulen’s followers who “engaged in genuine criminal activity or abuse of power …” the AKP prosecutors targeted “journalists, businesspeople and academics who appear to be guilty of little more than sympathy for Gulen’s publicly expressed calls for moderation, non-violence and interfaith dialogue.

3.3. United Kingdom, Home Office Country Policy and Information Note, Turkey: Gulenism, April 2017

As the person’s fear is of persecution or serious harm from the state, they will not be able to avail themselves of the protection of the authorities. … As the person’s fear is of persecution or serious harm at the hands of the state, they will not be able to internally relocate to escape that risk. … Where a claim is refused, it is unlikely to be certifiable as ‘clearly unfounded.’

Overall Evaluation

In the light of all this information and comments, we ask governments, law enforcement officers and security officers to be aware of the risks that the supporters of the Movement may face when they return to their home countries. The Hizmet Movement is known to be promoting non-violence, inter-faith dialogue and education. Members of the Movement have not engaged any violent/criminal activity so far representing a moderate understanding of Islam. Therefore, existence of the Movement is important for the whole world to diminish radicalism where radicals have been creating disasters around the world. We request authorities to consider all these while taking action and speed up the asylum processes as much as possible since these people need immediate help.


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Human Rights Watch’s Report Shows the Severity of Human Rights Violations in Turkey

On January 18, 2018, the Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) published a report reviewing the human rights practices around the world in 2017. The report titled “World Report 2018: Events of 2017” examined more than 90 countries including Turkey. In parts relevant to Turkey, the HRW scrutinized a wide range of topics such as the state of emergency measures, freedom of expression, association and assembly, torture and ill-treatment in custody as well as refugees’ situation.

The report firstly referred to the April 2017 referendum which introduced a new presidential system lacking satisfactory system of checks and balances. It highlighted the fact that the referendum was carried out under the state of emergency in an environment of heavy media censorship. The HRW’s points about the new presidential system indeed indicate that the separation of powers is at risk in Turkey whereas it is one of the most significant components of democracy.

The state of emergency measures also attract attention. The president can adopt decree laws without parliamentary oversight or the possibility of judicial review according to Turkish legislation. As reported by the HRW, these decree laws include many controversial measures incompatible with Turkey’s responsibilities under the international human rights law. More than 110,000 people were dismissed or suspended from their public positions with no explanation but only their names on lists published via decree laws. The government shut down plenty of institutions including media outlets, businesses, schools and universities, hospitals and non-governmental organizations such as associations and foundations. What is worse, there is still no effective authority for all these real and legal persons to apply for a review. People had little hope when the “State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission” was introduced to investigate measures taken under the state of emergency. Nevertheless, as stated by the HRW, independence of the Commission is doubtful since all of its members are appointed with the government’s approval. Further appeal is possible on the paper, but it is likely to take too much time because of the high influx of applications and applicants have nothing else but wait about their right to work in public service to be taken away, bank accounts to be frozen and passports to be canceled.

Many people including teachers, public servants such as police officers and military personnel, journalists and politicians were either arrested or detained under the state of emergency as well. The striking point is that most were imprisoned with no compelling evidence of any criminal activity, but only because of their alleged links with the Hizmet Movement inspired by an Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen who has been blamed by the government to mastermind the coup attempt. It is crucial to note here that the Movement has been strongly denying any involvement and Mr. Gulen has called for an international investigation on the issue.

Freedom of expression, association and assembly were also violated considerably by the Turkish government. To clarify, the government has blocked many websites and banned a huge amount of content, and all types of peaceful public protests were banned by the government as well as were violently dispersed. Unsurprisingly, Turkey is the leading country in the number of jailed journalists whose trials and case files are again insufficient. The documents used as an evidence against arrested journalists are mostly writing and reporting which do not promote any type of violence. As there is always a prominent risk of imprisonment and censorship, other journalists and media agencies cannot publish anything critical but only pro-government ideas. In March, 21 journalists who were arrested because of their connections with the Hizmet Movement, were released by the court. Their families went to the prison facilities to bring them back to their homes but could not. After huge criticisms by pro-government media, an appeal was lodged against eight of them and a new investigation was started against the rest. Therefore, eventually, none of them were released. In addition, judges and a prosecutor who was at this trial were suspended by the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors. Many of the journalists from the newspaper Zaman, claimed to be supporting the Movement, have been on trial due to writings without a reference to any type of violence and they face life imprisonment.

Not only individuals related to the Hizmet Movement but also leftist and Kurdish people were targeted by the government. According to the HRW’s report, 19 journalists from the newspaper Cumhuriyet were jailed as well. In one of the cases concerning Cumhuriyet, Enis Berberoglu was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment who is a parliamentarian from the main opposition party, Republican People’s Party (CHP). The court of appeal has overturned his conviction, yet he is not released as well as not expected to be released as the government still wants him behind bars. Similarly, plenty of journalists were arrested from the newspaper Ozgur Gundem which was shut down by the government.

Lawyers and human rights defenders received their own shares from the Turkish government’s oppression. Around 500 lawyers have been arrested and 1000 are yet on trial, mostly because of supporting the Hizmet Movement. Chair of Amnesty International, Taner Kilic, has been in prolonged detention with “politically motivated and unsubstantiated charges” as said by the HRW.

The HRW also explored the detention conditions during police custody and concluded that many instances of torture and ill-treatment were witnessed. There have been many cases reported where police officers beat detainees, left them in physically stressed positions and threatened them to rape. Enforced disappearances, scaring defense lawyers and interfering with medical examinations also took place in the country.

Regarding the ongoing conflict in the southeast region, the government could not yet make a progress. Party co-leaders and parliamentarians of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were sent to prison. Additionally, 89 mayors were dismissed by the government as specified by the report. The government has clearly violated freedom of expression and rights to political association, participation, and representation.

The report highlighted the refugee crisis as well which indeed concerns the whole world. The conditions in which refugees live (mostly Syrian but also from other countries) are not compatible with international standards.

All these were expressed in various occasions by international actors. The United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the United States State Department and many other foreign governments have called the Turkish government to end this human rights disaster going on in the country as was stated by the Human Rights Watch’s report.


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The Freedom House concludes Turkey is no more a free country. What is next?

The Freedom House concludes Turkey is no more a free country. What is next?

A new report released by the independent, non-profit and non-partisan watchdog organization Freedom House concluded that democratic principles such as election integrity and freedom of the press, political and civil rights have severely downgraded in Turkey that is no longer ‘a free country.’ The study added that Turkey’s status declined from Partly Free to Not Free due to a deeply flawed constitutional referendum that centralized power in the presidency, the mass replacement of elected mayors with government appointees, arbitrary prosecutions of rights activists and other perceived enemies of the state, and continued purges of state employees, all of which have left citizens hesitant to express their views on sensitive topics.

The Freedom House has been publishing annual reports since 1973 for assessing the condition of political rights and civil liberties around the world.

It has been a great source for scholars and academics since then. Their methodology is very strong and reliable. Their ranking provides a snapshot of the world and political circumstances in each state. It has always been interpreted seriously by international organizations and financial institutions as well.

The report noted that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan broadened and intensified the crackdown on his perceived opponents that began after a failed 2016 coup attempt. In addition to its dire consequences for detained Turkish citizens, shuttered media outlets, and seized businesses, the chaotic purge has become intertwined with an offensive against the Kurdish minority, which in turn has fueled Turkey’s diplomatic and military interventions in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

According to Freedom House, which analyzed data from 195 countries over the 2017 calendar year, Turkey’s passage over the threshold from Partly Free to Not Free is the culmination of a long and accelerating slide in Freedom in the World.

‘The country’s score has been in free fall since 2014 due to an escalating series of assaults on the press, social media users, protesters, political parties, the judiciary, and the electoral system, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fights to impose personalized control over the state and society in a deteriorating domestic and regional security environment. Erdoğan has pushed out his rivals and former allies within the ruling party, reshaped media ownership to fit his needs, and rammed through an unpopular constitutional referendum to create a “super-presidential” system without meaningful checks and balances.’

The study also noted that President Erdogan’s response to the July 2016 coup attempt has become a sprawling witch hunt, resulting in the arrest of some 60,000 people, the closure of over 160 media outlets, and the imprisonment of over 150 journalists. The leaders of the third-largest party in the parliament are in prison, and nearly 100 mayors across the country have been replaced through emergency measures or political pressure from the president. The government has even pressed its crackdown beyond. Turkey’s borders, triggering a flood of Interpol “red notice” requests to detain critics abroad, among other effects.

How will the report affect the Asylum seekers?

Since the controversial coup attempt, thousands of military officials, government officials, academics, and civilians have been detained, arrested or fired from their positions. The purge has led to a large number of these individuals to flee Turkey and seek asylum elsewhere.

It is safe to analyze that The Freedom House report will have major consequences on several issues especially asylum applications of thousands of people since the report extensively provided all the necessary data about the failure of democracy in Turkey. The report which confirmed Turkey’s passage over the threshold from ‘Partly Free to Not Free’ is considered both essential and useful for the court processes of the Asylum applications.

How should NATO respond?

A core principle of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is that member states adhere to democratic values. Here is how NATO defines its core principle and the purpose of its very existence:

‘NATO’s purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. POLITICAL – NATO promotes democratic values and enables members to consult and cooperate on defense and security-related issues to solve problems, build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.’

As a democratic security organization, NATO should clarify its stance and policies towards Turkey, which is openly defined as a non-democracy and not-free? Can NATO promote democratic values while one of its biggest members is already defined a dictatorship by non-partisan international organizations?

The recent study by the Freedom House which reports the decline in Turkey’s human rights record may cause some U.S. lawmakers and decision makers to question the country’s NATO membership.

ECtHR appears as a new venue

The shocking lower court rulings of the last several days rejecting the authority of Turkey’s Constitutional Court to hear individual applications has also been considered as the end of the rule of law in Turkey. This new episode in Turkish judiciary will lead the Turkish citizens who seek legal recourse to violations of their rights at European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which still remains a proper venue that they should pursue. The recent study by The Freedom House can definitely be used as a source by the Turkish citizens to strengthen their cases at the ECtHR despite the fact that the ruling processes of the Court may take so long.


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European Court Of Human Rights Should Reconsider Judicial Independence in Turkey

POSITION PAPER
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS SHOULD RECONSIDER JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE IN TURKEY BEFORE REFERRING CASES TO DOMESTIC AUTHORITIES

Background
In recent years and in particular in the aftermath of attempted coup of  July 15, 2016, the Turkish government has been targeting dissidents belonging to different ideologies. Among the many dissident groups, in particular the Gulen Movement has been the primary target. The members or sympathizers of the movement have been subject to extreme and unlawful measures,  including dismissals, detention, arrest, imprisonment, enforced and involuntary disappearance, seizure of their assets and passport cancellation. International organizations, including the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union have repeatedly expressed their grave concern regarding the human rights violations perpetrated on individuals by the government. Repeated calls to Turkey to comply with its obligations under its own legislation and the international human rights law have however had little, if any effect to the improvement of the human rights situation in the country.
The far-reaching, increasingly repressive and almost unlimited discretionary powers exercised by the Turkish authorities during the state of emergency – now in its 15th month – endanger the general principles of rule of law and human rights safeguards, the ones the state of emergency is designed to protect.
The human rights protection system of the Council of Europe thus represented,  a glimmer of hope for the people of Turkey as it has been traditionally one of the most successful systems in the world protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, which decisions are also binding for Turkey.
Regrettably, the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter “ECtHR”), which monitors the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the Council of Europe member states has been rejecting the applications related to recent events taking place in Turkey on the ground that the applicants have not exhausted domestic remedies. The Court specifically refers to the need to exhaust “available” domestic remedies, i.e. including the complaint procedure presumably offered through the establishment of the State of Emergency Inquiry Commission (hereinafter “the Commission”), as provided for in Emergency Decree 685.

Brief analysis
The brief analysis in this section argues that the establishment of the Commission cannot be an effective remedy for more than 100,000 dismissed individuals.
In absence of any clear procedure to challenge decisions on their abrupt dismissal, public officials dismissed from office and organizations dissolved by emergency decrees launched either individual or concurrent appeals with administrative bodies (administrative remedy), administrative courts, the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights . The outcome of the appeals has been devastating for hundreds of thousands of families and entire communities across Turkey.
Few administrative appeals have been relatively successful in restoring several individuals in their former positions. Administrative appeals however are not guided by any rules or principles and in no respect can these appeals be regarded as an effective remedy.
In the aftermath of July 15, 2016, both the Constitutional Court and the ECtHR were flooded with individual applications originating from Turkey. 8,308 applications were lodged with the ECtHR against Turkey in 2016, compared to only 2,212 in the previous year [2015].[1] If necessary measures were not taken, having into account that most dismissals have not yet been brought before the ECtHR in the post July 15 context, it was obvious that the sheer volume of applications yet to reach the ECtHR, seriously risked bringing down the entire ECtHR system.
The Venice Commission noted in the above context that both administrative courts and individual application to the Constitutional Court were not available to public officials who were dismissed by Emergency Decrees.[2] Having made this determination, the Venice Commission recommended that the government establish an ad hoc commission to review the State of Emergency measures.[3] The Secretary General of the Council of Europe made a similar recommendation, which was supported by an ad hoc sub-committee established by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.[4]
With the intention to preempt sharp criticism from the Council of Europe resulting from its relentless crackdown on dissent, the government issued Emergency Decree 685,[5] which establishes the Commission.[6]
To illustrate the immediate effect of its issuance, on the same day the Emergency Decree was published (January 23, 2017), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rejected[7] the request to hold an urgent debate on Turkey.[8]
By mid-November 2017 the Commission has received more than 100,000 cases from different occupational groups such as military personnel, police officers, teachers and academics. Since its establishment the Commission has taken no single decision on any of the hundreds of thousands of applications it has received ever since. As a matter of fact, the government is yet to appoint a president to head the Commission.[9]
Even if the Commission begins its work immediately, there will still be doubts regarding its impartiality, just as the judicial system in general. These concerns have been, inter alia, raised by various governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations as well as legal and human rights experts. Former judge of the ECtHR Riza Turmen, for instance, has argued  that possible non-transparency of the Commission’s work and appointment of its members create reasonable questions regarding its independence.[10]
The Commission is predetermined to fail in achieving its alleged objectives and serve the interests of justice:
First, the seven members of the Commission are chosen from the same institutions that have decided for the dismissals.[11] The principles of independence and impartiality are thus disregarded from its inception.
Second, even based on the most optimistic estimates and presuming that it performs its work in good faith – given the workload, it will take many years for the seven-member Commission to review hundreds of thousands of applications – that is only one of the subsequent domestic remedies to be exhausted.
Third, for cases reversed by the administrative courts, the appeals or the Constitutional Court, the cycle of exhaustion of domestic remedies will take many more years and those cases will probably never be able to reach the ECtHR, or even their day in court.
Fourth, pursuant to Article 9 of KHK 685, “the Commission shall perform its examinations on the basis of the documents in the files,” which are out of reach of those dismissed. In absence of any knowledge on the entities or groups which were presumably designated by the National Security Council as being “terrorist organizations”, this fact alone wipes-out the opportunity of those dismissed to have any defense, let alone effective defense.
Fifth, the Commission is presumed to work and take its decisions on the basis of information and documents provided by the government, which can decide on a case-by-case basis which documents to disclose. Even if the government would be willing to disclose all relevant documents to the Commission – the later has no authority in reviewing classified documents. Since the dismissals have been argued on basis of terrorist affiliation which undermines, inter alia, national security – most of the documents that the government claims to have played a role in the dismissals, as state secrets, will be out of the reach of the Committee.
The Venice Commission, supporting the idea of an ad hoc body for the review of the emergency measures envisaged that “the essential purpose of that body would be to give individualized treatment to all cases. That body would have to respect the basic principles of due process, examine specific evidence and issue reasoned decisions. This body should be independent, impartial and be given sufficient powers to restore the status quo ante, and/or, where appropriate, to provide adequate compensation. The law should enable for subsequent judicial review of decisions of this ad hoc body. Limits and forms of any compensation may be set by Parliament in a special post-emergency legislation, with due regard to the Constitution of Turkey and its international human-rights obligations.”[12]
In conclusion, the State of Emergency Inquiry Commission will certainly not be able to meet the criteria foreseen by the Venice Commission and the standards adopted in the case-law of the ECtHR. The establishment of the Commission will only serve the immediate interests of the ECtHR and the government of Turkey, not the interests of justice and those hundreds of thousands of individuals. In addition:
The establishment of the Commission is expected to create much more serious consequences. Hundreds of thousands of individuals who have suffered injustice will turn to the ECtHR in several years later as the Commission will not provide any justice. By that time the government would have “acquired” between approximately two to ten years, maybe more. During the same time, hundreds of thousands of people will have suffered tremendously without any available remedy.
During this long period, the applicants not only will be condemned to a “slow death” – they will also continue to bear the label of ‘terrorist’. They shall not be eligible to work in public service and their social security records will show that they were dismissed by an emergency decree.
Based on the complicated procedures related to the Commission, it is expected that individuals who are denied the opportunity to challenge the criminal charges against them for an entire year, will wait before an administrative commission for years and then apply for an administrative judicial review, which, as explained above, has no power to remedy the situation. In short, this is undoubtedly a reversal of the presumption of innocence.

Rule of law in the country
Rule of law within the country has started to be weakened by the government’s policies. According to the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index,[13] Turkey was ranked among the worst 15 out of 113 countries, dropping 8 positions compared to the last year and trailing countries such as Iran, Russia, Guatemala and Myanmar.[14] The Index is calculated taking into consideration different crucial components such as “Constraints on Government Power, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice and Criminal Justice,” and Turkey’s scores are not promising in any of these. Moreover, consecutive reports prepared by the Venice Commission have been pointing out the problems regarding the rule of law. The Venice Commission has published detailed reports and opinions on the situation in Turkey most of which have common points. Especially after the attempted coup in 2016, measures taken in the country failed to meet the requirements of the rule of law such as necessity and proportionality. Additionally, the basic principle of separation of powers is under threat for a long time, risking the independence of judiciary.[15]
The three crucial components of what constitutes a fair trial, namely the defense, the prosecution and the courts, have all collapsed in Turkey in recent years, turning the judicial system into merely an extension of the political authority that thwarts an effective defense and appoints (or better employs) partisan and loyalist prosecutors and judges.
Dismissals of judges in particular have had an adverse and devastating effect on the Turkish judiciary, its independence and the effectiveness of the principle of separation of powers. In the current circumstances, when thousands of judges are detained and imprisoned (close to one-third of judges and prosecutors), it is inconceivable that the remaining judges could reverse any measure declared under the emergency decree laws out of fear of becoming subject to such measures themselves.
The U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report in 2016 has explicitly asserted that the government’s applications have a “chilling effect on judicial independence” especially as regards the politically sensitive cases.[16] Likewise, the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have expressed their concerns that imprisonment and dismissal of officials jeopardize judicial independence, and moreover that new laws tying the judiciary to the executive poses a clear threat to the rule of law.[17] Both organizations are rightfully worried about the newly created appointment system of judges and prosecutors as well as recently established courts with power over politically sensitive investigations.[18]
Similarly, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has indicated that the “selection and appointment process as a whole is highly susceptible to executive manipulation, and likely to be weighted against candidates who are not seen as supportive of the government.” The ICJ has also drawn attention to the criminal charges against judges and prosecutors and specified that many  officials from the judiciary were dismissed because their judgments were conflicting government’s interests. According to the ICJ this amount of interference with the judiciary is clearly against internationally accepted standards.[19] The International Commission of Jurists and other international organizations have determined that the independence of the judiciary has now been eroded to its core in Turkey.[20]
In December 2016, the Board of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) concluded that the Turkish High Council for Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) no longer meets the requirements of the ENCJ, so as to ensure the independence of the Turkish Judiciary. The ENCJ General Assembly accordingly resolved to suspend, with no Council member voting against, the observer status of the Turkish High Council for Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).[21]
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe decided on April 25, 2017 to reopen the monitoring procedure in respect of Turkey until “serious concerns” about respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law “are addressed in a satisfactory manner.”
The above concerns were also voiced by the former chief justice of the Turkish Constitutional Court, Hasim Kilic, who stated that  “Everybody knows the political views of judges and prosecutors, even in the remotest villages of the country. We cannot move forward with such a judiciary,” and he continued “The judiciary is not an instrument of revenge, it is not anyone’s tool to achieve their aims.”[22] Ergun Ozbudun, Professor of Political Science and Constitutional Law, also raised similar concerns when he commented on the proposed constitutional amendment (which was adopted through referendum afterwards) and said “What we have here is the weakening of legislation while the president, with full executive powers, forms a parliament under his influence.” Furthermore, Metin Feyzioglu, head of the Turkish Bar Association, stated that “This is a system that will finish judicial integrity and sovereignty,” reminding that half of the judges are to be appointed by the president.[23]
Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights as well remarked that independence and impartiality of judiciary have started to be eroded and must be redeveloped as soon as possible. He added that “it is in particular the role of the criminal judges of peace that is the most concerning, because these formations have transformed into an instrument of judicial harassment to stifle opposition and legitimate criticism.”[24]
The list of similar reports and statements raising above-mentioned concerns grows everyday thanks to the government’s new actions. In the light of all the above, one can conclude that the judicial system in Turkey has been weakened by the government’s actions, therefore; it is highly likely that judges cannot give verdict against the ruling party’s interests not to face different types of punishments including imprisonment.
There have been cases in the past where the European Court examined the cases substantially even though the domestic remedies were not exhausted, when it was believed that they were not available or not going to be effective. For instance, in Akdivar v. Turkey (1996) case the Court stated that the Court “must take realistic account not only of the existence of formal remedies in the legal system of the Contracting Party concerned but also of the general legal and political context in which they operate as well as the personal circumstances of the applicants.”[25] Hence, merely having the domestic rules providing remedies to the victims is not seen as satisfactory by the ECtHR. We believe the current situation in Turkey as well falls into this category and warrants immediate action by the Court. Hence, the ECtHR should not reject cases on the ground that the applicants could have gone to the domestic authorities from which, with great deal of certainty they will not receive any effective remedy.


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Persecution of Women and Children in Turkey

PERSECUTION OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN TURKEY

After July 15 failed coup attempt, Turkish government accused Fethullah Gulen and his followers for having connection with the failed coup. After death of 245 people failed coup, Turkish authorities started investigating people with any kind of link with the Gulen Movement. Since July 15 of 2016, more than 60,000 people have been arrested. They are all well educated individuals with different backgrounds such as soldiers, lawyers, judges, teachers, engineers and so on. Almost 150,000 people have been dismissed from their governmental jobs. But the most miserable stories are, of course, women and children’s.

Today 17,000 women, 668 babies and children are jailed in Turkey. While some of the children are brought to the prison with their mother, lots of children stays with their relatives or public dorms due to their parents are jailed. Nonetheless, some women imprisoned have serious disease and illnesses, which are exacerbated with the hard for prison conditions.


Download PDF File: Persecution of women and children

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