1-540-209-1934
help@silencedturkey.org

CPJ

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.


Download as a PDF File: AST_1-25-2018_SEVERITY OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN TURKEY & SUPPORT TO TURKISH MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES_P9

Read more

CPJ announces Press Oppressors awards

CPJ, which is one of the significant promoters and defenders of press freedom and the rights of journalists, recognized world leaders that have significantly harmed the press, undermined norms supporting freedom of the media in their countries and gone beyond to silenced critical voices. Following are the ranking of leaders in five categories:

Most Thin-skinned

Winner: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

Turkish authorities have repeatedly charged journalists, news outlets, and social media users for insulting Erdoğan, insulting other Turkish leaders, and insulting “Turkishness” in general. Over the course of 2016, the Turkish judicial system handled 46,193 cases of “insulting the president” or “insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, the parliament, the government, or the institutions of the judiciary,” the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet reported in June 2017, citing figures from the Justice Ministry.

Runner-Up: President Donald Trump, United States

In response to media coverage critical of him, Trump has threatened to “open-up” U.S. libel laws, sue news outlets, and subject their broadcast licenses to review. He regularly attacks outlets and individual journalists on Twitter and in speeches, calling them “sad,” “failing,” or “garbage.” Since declaring his presidential candidacy in 2015, Trump has posted about 1,000 tweets critical of the press. CPJ research shows that when public figures and political leaders lob insults at the media, they encourage self-censorship and expose journalists to unnecessary risk.

Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press

Winner: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 73 behind bars when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census on December 1. Every journalist jailed for their work in Turkey is under investigation for, or charged with, anti-state crimes — in most cases for belonging to, aiding, or making propaganda for an alleged terrorist organization.

Runner-Up: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt

Of at least 20 journalists jailed in Egypt at the time of CPJ’s latest prison census, 18 were charged with, or convicted of, anti-state crimes such as aiding or inciting terrorism or belonging to banned groups. In 2017, Sisi’s government passed a new anti-terrorism law that furthered its crackdown on the press by, among other things, enabling authorities to put journalists acquitted of terrorism-related charges on a watch list that restricts their financial and other rights, according to news reports.

Tightest Grip on Media

Winner: President Xi Jinping, China

Beijing, under the increasingly iron grip of Xi, uses a combination of traditional censorship and internet controls to keep the news media in line. China is consistently one of the world’s worst jailers of the press; in 2017 it was the second worst globally, with at least 41 journalists in prison. Most traditional media is controlled by the government, and journalists risk losing their jobs or being banned from traveling if they push the boundaries of censorship directives at their news outlets or in personal blogs. Reporters’ sources and international journalists are also harassed and obstructed. Internet controls include the Great Firewall, human and automated censors, and pressure on technology companies to comply.

Runner-Up: President Vladimir Putin, Russia

Under Putin, independent media has been all but eradicated as journalists experience threats of violence or imprisonment and other types of harassment. His government recently ordered international news outlets including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to register as foreign agents (in response to a parallel move by the U.S.), and blocked their journalists from entering Parliament. Russian authorities have tried with varying success to emulate the Chinese model of internet censorship.

Biggest Backslider in Press Freedom

Winner: State Counselor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar

CPJ listed Myanmar in 2015 as the ninth most censored country worldwide, but after Suu Kyi’s party took power in 2016, the last five journalists in jail were pardoned and hopes for media freedom were high. However, most of the legal structure that has long restricted the press remains in place and journalists continue to be imprisoned. Security officials obstruct and harass journalists trying to cover what the U.N. has termed “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by authorities in the country’s northern Rakhine State. On December 12, two Reuters reporters covering the crisis were arrested on suspicion of violating the Official Secrets Act and held incommunicado for two weeks before being allowed to see their lawyer and families. Reuters reported that if convicted, the pair could face up to 14 years in prison.

Runner-Up: President Andrzej Duda, Poland

Under Duda, the conservative-nationalist government led by the Law and Justice party has dramatically changed the reputation of Poland, which for decades was a symbol of democracy for its peaceful journey from communism to European Union membership. The independent media was a pillar of that transition. More recently, the government has taken direct control of public media and announced plans to change regulations in a way that would force foreign owners of news outlets to give up their majority stakes, according to news reports. Government offices have canceled subscriptions to pro-opposition news outlets, while state-owned companies redirected advertising money to friendly media, according to U.S. watchdog Freedom House. In December, Poland’s media regulator levied a 1.5 million zloty ($415,000) fine on leading news broadcaster TVN24 in relation to its coverage of protests in parliament in 2016, according to news reports which cited critics as saying the government is trying to warn journalists to self-censor. The government’s parallel moves to reform the judiciary prompted the European Commission in December to take the unprecedented step of launching a process intended to suspend the country’s voting rights in the European Union.

Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom

Winner: President Donald Trump, United States

The United States, with its First Amendment protection for a free press, has long stood as a beacon for independent media around the world. While previous U.S. presidents have each criticized the press to some degree, they have also made public commitments to uphold its essential role in democracy, at home and abroad. Trump, by contrast, has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of the press with repressive leaders such as Xi, Erdoğan, and Sisi. Authorities in China, Syria, and Russia have adopted Trump’s “fake news” epithet, and Erdoğan has applauded at least one of his verbal attacks on journalists. Under Trump’s administration, the Department of Justice has failed to commit to guidelines intended to protect journalists’ sources, and the State Department has proposed to cut funding for international organizations that help buttress international norms in support of free expression. As Trump and other Western powers fail to pressure the world’s most repressive leaders into improving the climate for press freedom, the number of journalists in prison globally is at a record high.

Source: https://cpj.org/blog/2018/01/press-oppressor-awards-trump-fake-news-fakies.php

Read more

PROTECTING ERDOGAN DISSIDENTS IN THE U.S

Advocates of Silenced Turkey urges The U.S. authorities to take necessary precautions to protect Erdogan dissidents in the U.S

Since the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, staunch supporters of President Erdogan of Turkey, in Turkish politics, media and also public sphere have engaged in threatening and hate speech to silence dissidents in other countries including the U.S. Journalists, academics and businessmen who have been labeled with the Movement have been the main target of this threats.

On December 4 2017, former speechwriter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and current ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Aydın Ünal threatened Turkish journalists in exile with extrajudicial killings, in his column published in the pro-Erdoğan Yeni Şafak daily.

The AKP deputy listed the names of journalists to be targeted: Ekrem Dumanlı, Adem Yavuz Arslan, Celil Sağır, Bülent Keneş, Abdülhamit Bilici, Erhan Başyurt, Emre Uslu, Akın İpek and Can Dündar.

“You carry out an operation against Turkey with judges and prosecutors, you give logistical support to this judicial theatre with information and documents that you have stolen through espionage, and your men here [in Turkey] and in the world will live in peace?” Ünal threatened.

In another article published on Nov. 27 in Yeni Şafak, Ünal threatened sympathizers of the Gülen movement in Turkey, saying tougher days lie ahead as a result of the case against Reza Zarrab.

Some of the names listed by Aydin Unal are known to be located in the U.S. Ekrem Dumanli, Adem Yavuz Aslan, Abdulhamit Bilici, Emre Uslu have been living in the U.S and openly carry out their works with their articles and YouTube videos and live Periscope broadcastings especially focusing on Turkish politics and ongoing persecutions.

Ekrem Dumanli who was targeted by Aydin Ünal was previously an editor-in-chief of Zaman Daily and fled Turkey after the controversial coup attempt in 2016. On October 30, 2016, Ragip Soylu, the Washington correspondent of Daily Sabah, which is used for propaganda and spying activities by the Turkish Intelligence in the U.S posted secretly taken photos of Mr. Dumanli. It should be considered as an important indication that Mr. Dumanli was under the surveillance of Turkish Intelligence in the U.S. (https://twitter.com/ragipsoylu/status/792736573217439745)

Dr. Emrullah Uslu, the former columnist for Today’s Zaman is one of the leading figures that continuously has been threatened by the the Turkish Government affiliated figures. He is a full-time professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at VIU.

Following President Erdoğan’s statement on September 19, 2016 that ‘no country is safe for Gülen movement sympathizers, the pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) media has targeted Emre Uslu, along with some other journalists such as Adem Yavuz Aslan, Tuncay Opçin, Aydogan Vatandas and Dr. Atilla Yayla by publishing their secretly taken photos in different parts of the U.S. (https://www.turkishminute.com/2016/09/19/no-country-safe-gulen-sympathizers-erdogan-says/)

Adem Yavuz Aslan, a well-known Turkish investigative journalist, who was threatened in Aydin Ünal’s article has become the main focus of these threats when he followed the ongoing federal trial in New York where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accused of personally approving a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran. Adem Yavuz Aslan states that he was informed by some colleagues that he might be a target of an assassination attempt because of his coverage of the trial.

During his coverage of the trial, he was continuously harassed by the Anatolian Agency which secretly took his footage and published it Turkish media as if he is a criminal.

Cem Küçük, another staunch supporter of Erdogan and mouthpiece of Turkish Intelligence has also threatened the Turkish journalists and academics in the U.S.

‘People who are well known by the public such as, Ekrem Dumanli, Emre Uslu, Tuncay Opcin, and Seref Ali Tekalan will be grabbed by the nape of their neck and taken to Turkey. When they wake up whey will find themselves in the hands of the Turkish police and the court. Those days are not too far away.’

‘We will see the end of those who say, ‘I am safe in the US,’ ‘They cannot do anything to me.’ Wherever you flee, the Turkish state will bring you back. Many of your residences have been located. Your homes and workplaces are known. Even the countries where you demanded asylum will not protect you but will extradite you. It is soon. Wait…’ added Küçük. (https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/10/20/pro-govt-journalist-turkey-to-abduct-gulen-followers-in-us-europe/)

Serif Ali Tekalan, who is threatened by Cem Küçük is a medical professor who took charge of North American University, based in Houston, Texas, early in 2017. He has been target of baseless allegations and smear campaigns by the pro-government media in Turkey since then.

Tuncay Opcin, an investigative journalist who now resides in Houston is another well-known Turkish journalist who continuously has received death threats from figures like Cem Kucuk. Opcin says that the threats and the surveillance against him started after the coup attempt. He states that the first surveillance against occurred on Sept. 11 in 2016 at a shopping mall. The lengthy surveillance job against him made him think it was “a professional intelligence and surveillance job.”

Opcin chalks his targeting to his intense criticism of Erdogan’s government and his work as an investigative journalist. Opcin also says that he is disappointed about CPJ and Amnesty International since they did not pay attention to these threats and violations as expected. (http://dailycaller.com/2017/04/03/who-is-spying-on-turkish-journalists-in-the-us/)

Abdulhamit Bilici, the last editor-in-chief of Daliy Zaman before Government takeover in 2016 is another well-known journalist threatened in Aydin Unal’s article who now resides in the U.S.

While the exiled journalists and academics mentioned above were openly threatened by the Turkish Government linked figures, some other leading figures affiliated with Gulen movement in the U.S were harassed and covertly threatened by the Turkish Anatolian Agency and some other pro-government Turkish media organizations.

Pro-government Turkish Star Daily published the house photographs and addresses of Cemil Teber, Faruk Taban, Yuksel Alp Dogan, Hasan Ali Yurtsever, Burak Yeneroglu, Talha Sarac and Hakan Sukur who reside in different parts of the U.S. (http://www.star.com.tr/pazar/himmet-malikaneleri-haber-1279150/)

Besides, the threats from the Turkish media and Government affiliated figures towards the journalists and some leading participants of Hizmet Movement in the U.S, some business owners, grocery stores and even bookstores have been attacked by pro-Government groups in the U.S.

Nizam Market, a Turkish grocery store based in NJ has been attacked and verbally threatened by a Turkish government supporter on July, 2016.

Ant Bookstore, based in NJ has also been targeted and attacked several times in 2016 and 2017. Dr. Huseyin Senturk states that they detected several spying and surveillance activities in the store which were conducted by some Turkish nationals. He also says that the store was attacked and costumers were verbally threatened by a Turkish government supporter adding that the windowpanes of the store were also broken by some unknown figures.

On November 7 2017, Vakkas Doğantekin, a pro-government columnist and the president of the California-based Turkish community organization, TURCA, has attacked a Turkish speaking ice-cream seller affiliated with Hizmet Movement by calling him “terrorist” and “Jewish dog,”.

Dogantekin’s bio on TURCA’s website says he is a California resident for over 10 years and a freelance journalist contributing to Al Jazeera. He wrote at least three Op-Eds in 2017 for the pro-Erdogan daily newspaper, Daily Sabah.

Conclusion:

Considering all these particular incidents, some journalists, academics and NGO directors, businessmen affiliated with Hizmet Movement in the U.S has been continuously targeted by Turkish Government linked figures. The U.S federal and local security authorities should be aware of the fact that Turkish Government doesn’t function and operate as a regular democratic state respecting the international laws and principles. Therefore, it is safe to analyze that Turkish Government can try some undercover operations by using mob groups or militia forces trained by the Turkish Intelligence overseas here in the U.S as well. Advocates of Silenced Turkey strongly urges U.S security forces to take all necessary precautions to protect the lives of the people who might be in danger.

For more detailed information about these risks, please look at the report prepared by the Advocates of Silenced Turkey on the current and possible threats supporters of the Gulen Movement face abroad titled “I Cannot Say We Are Absolutely Safe Even Abroad.” Read more here: http://silencedturkey.org/protection-of-hizmet-participants

Download the report on threats supporters of Gulen Movement face abroad as pdf: AST_Report_Threats_Gulen-Movement

We urge everyone to take action. Please express your views or send attached letter to your two senators and representative to protect dissidents of Erdogan in the U.S.

Find your representative: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
Find your senators: https://www.senate.gov/senators/

Download the sample statement as pdf: AST_Letter_Threats_Gulen-Movement

Read more