Animatic story of Turkish teacher Gokhan Acikkollu who was tortured to death under police custody in Turkey.
Video prepared by Huddled Masses.
Download as pdf: AST_Turkey’s Human Rights Violations Weekly_Feb 19
Turkey’s Human Rights Violations | 2/12/2018-2/19/2018
1-“Turkey detained 666 people so far for opposing Afrin operation: data”
2-“568 people detained over Gülen links in past week: gov’t”
3-“UK-educated computer science professor, jailed for 13 months, dies of liver cancer”
4-“Turkish court sentences wife of alleged coup plotter to 18 years in prison”
5-“Turkey now demands 10 years for pro-Kurdish HDP co-chairperson”
6-“Turkey hands down prison sentences to 205 alleged coup plotters in Ankara: report”
7-“Teacher, 2 children dead, 5 others missing in attempt to escape Turkey’s post-coup crackdown”
8-“Purge-victim architect detained for refusing to stand for Turkey’s national anthem: report”
9-“Opposition deputy gets 5 years, 10 months in prison: report”
10-“73-year old human rights advocate detained for opposing Turkey’s Afrin operation: son”
11-“Turkish police raid pro-Kurdish publishing house in Diyarbakır: report”
12-“24-year-old Boğaziçi University student arrested over Gülen links”
13-“7 executives from exporters’ union under custody for depositing money in Bank Asya”
14-“[VIDEO] Warrants issued for 9 more Boydak family members: 6 detained”
15-“Folk band Grup Yorum members in ‘wanted terrorists’ list”
16-“Turkey’s top appeal court says Bank Asya depositors ‘terrorist’”
17-“Education Ministry cancels licenses of 1,272 educators on terror charges: report”
18-“8,480 Turkish nationals sought asylum in Germany in 2017: report”
19-“Turkish judicial board suspends another 17 judges, prosecutors”
20-“Turkey’s judiciary must protect rule of law, says Europe diplomat”
21-“Turkey blocks access to Furkan news portal on terror charges”
22-“HDP deputy to be stripped of parliamentary status for insulting Erdoğan”
23-“CoE’s Jagland criticizes Turkish gov’t over human rights violations”
24-“Yücel: I was released with a ruling ordering me to stay in prison”
25-“OSCE, UN representatives: Life sentences for Turkish journalists an attack on freedom of expression”
26-“6 journalists including Altan brothers given aggravated life sentences”
27-“Slain general’s widow sentenced to 18 years”
28-“US politician describes her visit to Turkish refugees in Greece”
29-“EP’s Harms to visit jailed Turkish teacher in Georgia for second time”
30-“Zaman employee says facing life sentence due to a TV commercial”
31-“Altans’ lawyer tells judges ignoring top court’s ruling could lead to expulsion from post”
32-“Journalist recounts flight from post-coup crackdown in Turkey”
33-“Syrian Kurdish Groups Claim Turkish Army Hit Village In Afrin With Suspected Gas”
34-” Turkish Court Rules For Continuation Of Former HDP Co-Chair Demirtaş’s Imprisonment”
35-“Jailed Turkish Air Forces’ Colonel Reportedly Losses His Life In İstanbul’s Silivri Prison Because Of Negligence”
36-“Int’l Press And Human Rights Bodies Slam Turkish Court’s Rule Of Aggravated Life Sentences For Prominent Journalists”
37-“Turkish Family Still Missing After Capsized Boat Incident On Turkish-Greek Border”
38-“Turkey Witnesses Yet Another Family Tragedy Under Rule Of Emergency Over Alleged Links To Gülen Movement”
39-“Murat Belge, A Renowned Turkish Academic, Leaving Turkey As ‘Scholar At Risk’”
40-“15-Year Prison Sentence Sought For Turkish Journalist Who Founded Two National News Channel”
41-“Famous Turkish Businessman Hosta Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison Over His Alleged Gülen Links”
42-“UK high court refuses Turkey extradition due to overcrowded prisons”
43-“Human Rights Watch sees no end to Turkish crackdown”
Türkiye tarafından işlenenen İnsan Hakları İhlalleri | 2/12/2018-2/19/2018
1-“Türkiye’den Almanya’ya iltica başvuruları arttı”
2-“Boydak Ailesine soykırım!”
3-“Avrupa’dan gazetecilere verilen müebbete tepki: Türkiye’yi ekonomik olarak cezalandırın!”
4-“Cem Özdemir: Türkiye’de hiçbir şey doğru yürümüyor”
5-“İşadamı Hidayet Kadiroğlu’na Bankasya’ya para yatırdığı iddiasıyla yakalama kararı”
6-“Beştepe Sarayı’na komşu işkence merkezi”
7-“‘Niye çıktım, bir sene önce neden tutuklandım, bilmiyorum’”
8-“‘Niye çıktım, bir sene önce neden tutuklandım, bilmiyorum’”
9-“Foto Muhabiri Çağdaş Erdoğan: 4 polis tarafından çırılçıplak soyulup işkenceye uğradım!”
10-“Cemaat üyesi olmakla suçlandı; hamileyken cezaevine girdi ve ikizlerini kaybetti”
11-“Polis’in tutuklattığı Selma Polat’a 7 yıl 7 ay 7 gün hapis cezası”
12-“Erdoğan rejiminin cezaevinde kanser ettiği genç akademisyen hayatını kaybetti”
13-“Semih Terzi’nin eşi ‘Sippenhaft’ uygulamasıyla hapis cezasına çarptırıldı”
14-“Afrin operasyonundan dolayı mahkuma dayak attılar”
15-“Erdoğan Türkiye’sinde siyah transportların sırrı ne?”
16-“3. havalimanı inşaatında çoğu iş cinayeti sümen altı ediliyor”
17-“Roboskililer 320 haftadır adalet bekliyor”
18-“Aram Yayınevi’nin ofisine polis baskınında kapılar balyozla kırıldı”
19-“Bandırma Cezaevi’nde işkence: Dövülen tutsaklar kan kusuyor”
20-“Hapishanelerde büyüyen çocuklar ABD medyasında geniş yer buldu”
21-“Tutuklular, gardiyanlardan gördüğü şiddetten dolayı yürüyemiyor”
22-“AYM bireysel başvuru istatistiklerini açıkladı: Yargı var adalet yok”
23-“‘Türkiye’de kalmaktansa, Atina’da aç kalmayı tercih ettik’”
24-“Washington Post’tan Yazıcı’ya destek”
25-“Engelli oğlunu öldürüp intihar eden kadın toprağa verildi”
26-“‘Meriç’te can verenler Tayyip Erdoğan’ın kurbanları’”
27-“Darbe davasında gazetecilere ağırlaştırılmış müebbet”
28-“Meclis’te bir ilk: Erdoğan’a hakaret suçlamasıyla vekilliği düşürülecek”
29-“63 harp okulu öğrencisi için müebbet istemi”
30-“TOMA’nın ezerek öldürdüğü vatandaş kusurlu bulundu”
31-“Engelli oğlunu öldürüp intihar eden kadın toprağa verildi”
32-“Erdoğan’dan partisinin ‘KHK eleştirileri’ne: Hayat risktir”
33-“Beş yaşındaki çocuk üzerine 500 kiloluk reklam panosu düşünce öldü, sorumlu yok!”
34-“AP’de Türkiye’ye insan hakları ve Afrin eleştirisi”
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.
Sedat Gökçen and Ahmet Gödük, two former personnel of the International Antalya University, which was closed by a government decree under the rule of emergency over its alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement, have reportedly been subject to heavy torture and maltreatments for weeks under the police custody in Turkey’s Antalya province.
According to information shared by a @Turkeydeiskence, a Twitter account focuses on the torture and maltreatment cases in Turkey under the rule of emergency, because of the severe torture in Antalya Police Department Ahmet Gödük has become unable to walk. The @Turkeydeiskence has reported that Gökçen and Gödük have been subjected to physical torture, maltreatments and psychological pressure to oblige them to make “confessions.”
It was reported that Gökçen and Gödük were detained on January 16, 2018 at Antalya Terra City Shopping Mall by a group of civil police officers. Police officers applied physical violence to Gökçen and Gödük even during the process of their detentions. Because of the violence applied to him, herniated disc problem of Gökçen has reemerged and he has experienced a severe loss in his hearing capability and he lost his balance. He has bruises and swelling in different parts of his body.
Ahmed Gödük, who has also herniated disc problem, has started to experience serious problem as he walks because of the heavy violence he has been a target.
It was also reported that the police have prevented Gökçen and Gödük from getting doctor reports in order to prevent the exposure of torture and maltreatments they applied. Therefore, the custody periods of Gökçen and Gödük were arbitrarily extended to 15 days so that the traces of torture that they had imposed on them to vanish.
Also during this long detention period, Gökçen and Gödük were subjected to maltreatments including threats, insults, starvation, deprivation of bathing, interfering with their worship. At the end of the detention period with torture and maltreatments, Gökçen and Gödük were arrested by a local court and sent to Döşemealtı Prison in Antalya.
1) Uluslararası Antalya Üniversitesi eski personeli SEDAT GÖKÇEN ve AHMET GÖDÜK’ün gözaltında tutuldukları KOM Şube Müdürlüğü’nde işkencelerin giderek arttığı, işkencelerden dolayı AHMET GÖDÜK’ün yürüyemez hale geldiği ortaya çıktı!@EmniyetGM@AntalyaValilik@AntalyaEmniyet pic.twitter.com/tvhYIePDOo
— Türkiye'de İŞKENCE (@Turkeydeiskence) January 31, 2018
Turkey has fallen to 101st place out of 113 countries in the World Justice Project’s 2017-18 Rule of Law Index, a comprehensive measure of adherence to the rule of law.
The World Justice Project (WJP) is an independent, US-based organization that aims to advance the rule of law around the world. Its Rule of Law Index is the most comprehensive dataset of its kind and the only to rely principally on primary data, measuring 113 countries’ adherence to the rule of law from the perspective of ordinary people and their experiences.
There has been widespread concern that fundamental rights and freedoms and the rule of law in Turkey have significantly eroded since a state of emergency was declared after a failed coup attempt in July 2016, as reflected in Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World 2018,” which downgraded Turkey’s status to “not free.”
Turkey slipped two places on the WJP list this year to 101st, below Myanmar, Nicaragua, Madagascar and Nigeria. Turkey was nine places above Egypt and just 12 higher than bottom-placed Venezuela.
The WJP’s report placed Turkey’s rule of law as the worst in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and the second worst of upper-middle-income countries, above only Venezuela.
The WJP decides on their ranking by each country’s performance across eight aggregated factors: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.
Turkey was ranked in the bottom tercile in six of these eight areas. The two areas in which it achieved an average grade were absence of corruption and criminal justice.
Turkey’s constraints on government powers were marked particularly poorly by the WJP, coming in 111th place, ahead of only Zimbabwe and Venezuela.
Turkey’s record on fundamental rights, too, was near the bottom of the list, in 107th position, one place above China and one below Bangladesh. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression achieved particularly dismal results in this category.
Amnesty International Orange County:
On January 11, 2018, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled in a criminal case that Mehmet Altan and fellow journalist Sahin Alpay’s rights were being violated by pre-trial detention and ruled that they should be released, nut the 27th High Criminal Court in Istanbul declined to implement the Constitutional Court decision.
Following the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, and the imposition of a state of emergency, over 180 news outlets have been shut down under laws passed by presidential decree. There are now at least 148 writers, journalists, and media workers in prison, making Turkey the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.
Prof. Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay are only two of the hundreds of victims of this horrific violation of democratic values and principles within Turkey.
Mehmet Altan, the Faculty of Economics at Istanbul University since 1986, was also a journalist working in the daily Sabah (1987-2006) and worked as an editor-in-chief in the daily Star until 2012. He has been dismissed from his newspaper because of the government’s pressures on free media.
Sahin Alpay, faculty in Bahcesehir University since 2001, was arrested in 2016. He worked as a writer and editor for Cumhuriyet, Sabah, and Milliyet Newspapers. He directed the “Intellectual Perspective” a weekly program at Turkish CNN and he was a columnist at the now closed-down Zaman Newspaper. He also hosted a program, which aired on the now closed-down Mehtap TV channel.
In September 2016, Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay were detained as part of a wave of arrests of thinkers and writers following the failed July 2016 coup attempt. Arrested for allegedly giving “subliminal messages” to announce the coup on a television roundtable discussion show, Mr. Altan was charged with attempting to overthrow the “constitutional order”, “interfering with the work of the national assembly”, and “interfering with the work of the government” through violence or force.
Amnesty Orange County call the authorities in Turkey to respect and implement the ruling of the Turkish Constitutional Court for Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay to be released immediately alongside all the other journalists and writers, including Mehmet Altan’s brother Ahmet Altan who is also among the incarcerated writers and journalists.
We urge everyone to take action. Please sign the petition linked below: https://www.change.org/p/turkey-mehmet-altan-and-sahin-alpay-should-be-immediately-released?recruiter=841476427&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition
This petition will be delivered to:
Turkey Consulate of Turkey in Los Angeles
Embassy of Turkey, Washington, D.C.
TURKEY MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
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.
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.’
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.
The big arrest waves of students started with the Gezi protests in 2013, following with the 17-25 corruption scandals in 2013 and has now reached its peak with the July 15th failed coup attempt. Police and gendarmerie are strictly controlling young people. Students who use the right of objection and protest are immediately taken to and later arrested by the magistrates’ courts.
According to the Ministry of Justice’s response to the motion made by CHP MP Gamze Akkuş İlgezdi, 69 thousand 301 students remain arrested since September 2017. Most of these arrests are arbitrary and does not have any substantial support. For instance, some students at the Adnan Menderes University were arrested for performing traditional Kurdish dances. Students arrested with decree-laws are taken away their right to study, read books and take exams.