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AST Papers

Key Human Rights Concerns in Turkey since the So-called Coup Attempt

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Following the coup attempt on the 15th of July 2016, the Turkish government under the authoritarian leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken a wave of oppressive actions against not only the alleged coup plotters but also those that are perceived as critics of the regime. Currently, as part of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, more than 170,000 people including judges, academics, teachers, journalists, police and military officers, and other public servants were dismissed from their jobs. In correlation, more than 217,000 were detained and 80,000 were arrested. Amnesty International reports that detainees were “being held arbitrarily” with “no evidence establishing reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior” and that “only a tiny minority of them were accused of taking part in the actual events of the attempted coup”.
Amid the massive crackdown of hundreds of thousands of dissidents, human rights organizations and the U.N. Human Rights Council have noted that human rights are violated on a large scale by the Turkish government. Arbitrary killings, suspicious deaths of people in custody, forced disappearances, tortures, ill-treatments, injustice, and threats – mostly against the followers of the Gulen movement, Kurds, and the Leftists – were reported widespread during this large-scale witch-hunt.
As people continue to be arrested and many more tortured and abducted, the present brief of Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) highlights some of the key human rights concerns that took place in Turkey during this on-going period.

Unprecedented scale of dismissals: More than 130,000 civil servants, with their names attached in lists to emergency orders, were dismissed by emergency decrees. These civil servants included over 4,200 judges and prosecutors, 7,000 academics, 6,000 health-care professionals, 33,500 teachers, and 44,500 police and military officers. Not only were people dismissed arbitrarily but also banned permanently from working in the public sector – many were even banned to practice their profession.

Collapse of judiciary system: With approximately 4,200 judges and prosecutors (including two judges from the Turkey’s highest court) dismissed permanently, over one-fifth of Turkey’s judiciary has been removed. Of those dismissed, at least 2,200 were jailed with their assets frozen due to their alleged links to the Gulen movement. Consequently, the climate of fear paralyzed the judges and prosecutors who still have their positions. The fear combined with the heavy government influence in the court system led to the collapse of the judiciary system and the deterioration of human rights in the country. As a result, Turkey ranked 109 out of 126 countries in 2019 on the rule of law index of World Justice Project.

Victimization of lawyers: Lawyers are among the many groups affected by the post-coup crackdown in Turkey. They were unlawfully associated with their clients’ alleged crimes. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that many lawyers were targeted with criminal investigations with little or no evidence. According to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, over 1,500 lawyers were persecuted over the past three years including 14 lawyers who were presidents of provincial bar associations – of those persecuted lawyers, one third remained imprisoned before and during their trials, and 274 were convicted of membership of armed terrorist organizations and sentenced to long prison sentences. Furthermore, approximately 34 bar associations were shut down by presidential decree with alleged affiliations to terrorist organizations.

The media purge following the attempted coup: In the aftermath of the failed coup, the government closed down 179 media outlets – including 53 newspapers, 37 radio stations, 34 TV channels, 29 publishing houses, 20 magazines, and six news agencies – with accused links to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, or Leftists groups. Consequently, a total of 2,308 media workers and journalists have lost their jobs. The government cancelled hundreds of press accreditations and revoked passports of an unknown number of journalists and their family members to ban them from traveling abroad. In addition, the government imprisoned a record-breaking number of journalists in the wake of the coup attempt – with that, Turkey became the world’s largest prison for journalists. The Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) reported that at least 126 journalists and media workers were in prison in Turkey as of October 2019 – among them, many were put in long solitary confinement.
The absence of freedom of expression is not only a recurring problem for journalists but for citizens as well. In 2018, the Ministry of Interior reported that more than 7,000 individuals were detained for their social media posts after investigating 631,233 digital materials. In relation to the censorships and content restrictions in the country, Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey since April of 2017. Currently, out of the 180 countries, Turkey ranks 157 th on the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders and are listed among ‘not free’ countries by the Freedom House.

Persecuting academics: Following the coup attempt, 1,043 private schools and 15 universities linked to the Gülen movement were closed by a presidential decree. Eventually resulting in the displacement of over 60,000 students across the country. Over 8,500 academics reportedly lost their jobs either due to direct dismissals or university closures since September 2016 – and many of them were imprisoned. Large-scale dismissals of academics and teachers significantly damaged the education sector thus diminished the right to education.

Crackdown on health care sector: Turkish government has shut down 14 hospitals and 36 medical centers after the coup attempt on the pretext of alleged ties to the Gülen movement. Therefore, an estimated 21,000 health care professionals were laid off – including doctors, academics, nurses, mid-wives, and other hospital staff. Of those, 5,261 are medical doctors and academics who specialize in the medical sciences. The figures of how many health care professionals have been detained, arrested or currently in prison are estimated in the thousands. Given the longstanding issue of hospital and staff shortages in the country, the dismissal of health care professionals and closure of hospitals left many patients in despair of medical care.

Prison conditions: With persecution of tens of thousands of critics, Turkey’s prisons have never been fuller – the prison population has increased from 171,267 inmates in 2015 to 260,144 in 2018. Given the capacity of 211,766, inmates are forced to remain in overcrowding cells. In order to free up space for more political prisoners, the government released nearly 34,000 convicts from prisons. The inadequate provision of heath care to prisoners also remains a serious problem. Officially reported by the Ministry of Justice Prison and Correctional Facilities, there were 271 doctors serving nearly a quarter million of the prison population – of whom, only eight were full-time. Insufficient access to fresh water, proper heating, ventilation, and lighting are other concerns for prison conditions.

Torture and ill-treatment: Despite the government’s stated zero tolerance for torture policy, human rights groups reported widespread and systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in police custody following the coup-attempt-including severe beatings, threats of sexual assault and actual sexual assault, electric shocks, water boarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions, long solitary confinement, and depriving of food and water. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated acts of torture and ill-treatment aimed “at extracting confessions or forcing detainees to denounce other Individuals” in its report on Turkey in 2017. The Human Rights Association (HRA) reported that the number of incidents where prisoners were subjected to torture and ill-treatment in
detention centers and prisons was 2,178 in 2016, 2,415 in 2017, and 1,505 in 2018. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported a total of 126 suspicious deaths and suicides since the coup attempt – most of those occurred in detention centers and prisons, seemingly a direct result of torture and ill-treatment.

Abduction and enforced disappearance: In the aftermath of the coup attempt, forced disappearances made a comeback in Turkey. Opposing politicians and respected human rights groups claimed at least 28 abductions or possible enforced disappearances of individuals. Most of the victims were identified as dismissed public servants with alleged ties to the Gulen movement or critics of the government. Allegedly, victims were abducted outside detention facilities and illegally questioned and tortured by Turkey’s intelligence agency. Moreover, Turkey’s intelligence agency reportedly snatched over more than 100 alleged Gulen affiliates from 18 countries – individuals often deported by cooperative governments without due process.

Women and children in prisons: The prison conditions for women and children are exceedingly alarming. According to the Justice Ministry, as of 2017, nearly 10,000 women and 3,000 children under 18 are in Turkey’s prisons. The inhumane prison conditions also hold weight in women prisons. They face additional issues of the male security staff frequently obstructing their privacy during hospital visits, often times leading to incomplete examination. Among the prisoners, there are pregnant women or women who just gave birth and 677 children under 6 years old imprisoned along with their mothers – including 149 infants under 1 year old. Pregnant women were forced to stay with other inmates in overcrowded cells, also denied access to proper prenatal care – posing serious risks to their well-beings.
Likewise, mothers with children were also forced to share a cell with inmates.

Restrictions on right to travel: Another unlawful activity being pursued during this period is revoking the passports of government critics with perceived affiliations to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, Leftists groups and their family members. On this ground, the Turkish government put restrictions on approximately 155,000 passports, reported by the SCF. Since their passports are restricted, many people, with the fear of persecution, use smuggler routes to flee from the country.
Unfortunately, many died in the Evros River and the Aeagean Sea. Turkey revoking its citizens’ passports also causes travel struggles for those across the world.

Seized the critics’ assets: The Turkish government abuses laws to seize assets of its critics. As of March 2018, the government had seized the assets of approximately 1,124 businesses and 127 individuals. According to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund of Turkey, the net worth of the seized assets is an estimated 49.4 billion liras ($9.4 billion) since the 2016 coup attempt. Moreover, in most cases, the government freezes the assets of those on trial, financially crippling them and their families.


 

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Millions of Books Destroyed: Erdogan’s Regime Attacks the Culture of its Dissident Groups

Millions of Books Destroyed: Erdogan’s Regime Attacks the Culture of its Dissident Groups

Books play an important role in shaping public opinion and transmitting the culture of a society for the upcoming generations. For that, many authoritarian regimes throughout history have opposed books written in the pursuit of the opposition of those they perceived as enemies. With the goal of asserting complete control over public information and literature, the Erdogan regime has started such a war against the books and other publications of its dissident groups following the suspicious coup attempt on July 2016. In this direction, thousands of books have been outlawed and their publishers have been shut down. Therefore, copies of those books in all libraries and bookstores across the country have been confiscated. After it has been declared that possessing any copies of such books or publications may be considered the evidence for certain crimes, many people have been detained and arrested.
The current report of the Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) provides an overview of what has happened during Turkey’s ongoing post-coup assault on the books and the cultural institutions, with a focus on the affected groups including the Gulen movement, Kurds, leftists, and seculars.

Some of the highlights from the report are given below.

● Book disposals in public libraries: Constituting approximately 7 percent of the total books in the public libraries across the country, 135,000 books are reported to be removed from the public libraries due to their affiliations with the Gulen movement. Of those books:
– 30,000 books that are authored by Mr. Gulen have reportedly been ordered to be burned.
– The remaining nearly 100,000 books have been sent off for recycling.
● Getting rid of books with a fear of arrest: After certain books and publications have been blacklisted, many have reportedly burned or tore their books for the fear of being discovered by their neighbors or law enforcement officials.

Some reported incidents are:

– D.A., a librarian at a university during the time of the coup asserted how he had to categorize his books in his personal library that constituted nearly 2,000 books to dispose the ”dangerous ones” among them.
– In the central province of Yozgat, military police — gendarmerie — found 560 Gulen authored books near a water fountain in a village. A crime-scene was conducted hoping to find the people whom the books belong to.
– Police officers found 150 Gulen’s books, some of which were totally or partially burned in a village in Northern Cyprus.
– In another story, authorities discovered hundreds of Gulen books thrown into the waters of Ataturk Dam in Eastern Anatolia.
● Charges over possessing certain books: In some cases, people who possessed certain blacklisted books have been suspected and persecuted. Some of the reported incidents are as follows:
– Canan Badem: An associate professor at Tunceli University, who was detained in August 2016 on charges of association with the terrorist organization after the police have found a Gulen-authored book at his university office. As a well-known critic of Gulen and a professed atheist, Dr. Badem will be facing a long prison sentence if found guilty.
– A housewife, R.Y. has reportedly been detained over allegations of burning Gulen’s books at a place close to her home. She faces charges of membership in a terrorist organization and making terrorist propaganda.
– Four school officials have been reportedly detained by the gendarmerie forces after they found them burning some documents in the garden of a school in Mugla province.
– A college’s attempt to get rid of Gulen-authored books from the college’s library right after the coup attempt has sparked an investigation in the western province of Afyon.
● Banned publishers, media outlets and other incidents: Aside from the Gulen associated books, Erdogan regime’s war on cultural instruments has taken various forms during the ongoing post-coup crackdown.

Some of such drastic actions are as follows:

– With the government’s decree law as part of the post-coup crackdown, three news agencies, 16 TV channels, 23 radio stations, 14 magazines, 29 publishing houses have reportedly been shut down over alleged ties to the Gulen movement.
-Authorities have pulled off the shelves 72 books of Aram Press, one book of Tekin Press, and one unpublished book draft of Kirmizi Kedi Press.
– Istanbul Fourth Civil Court of Peace has issued a ruling to ban the distribution of the satirical weekly LeMan’s “Special Coup Issue”. This has been accompanied by trolls disseminating LeMan’s address with threats of ransacking it.
– A famous novelist, Zulfu Livaneli has also suffered from a similar ban when the ads of his latest novel has not been allowed to be displayed in public spaces by the authorities.
– Famous writers and philosophers including Albert Camus, Baruch Spinoza, Louis Althusser, Servet Tanili, and Nazim Hikmet have become suspects in the indictments prepared against the former head of now-defunct Free Journalists Association, Nevin Erdemir and in the indictment on Gezi protests in Ankara.
– Numerous physical assaults have occurred against publishers and bookstores across the country. In Diyarbakir province, for example, a warehouse of Avesta Press has been set in an arson attempt. Many branches of NT – a Gulen movement affiliated bookstore – have been destroyed and burned.
– Reports of the United Nations and other respected human rights organizations suggest that the conditions of Turkey’s prisons have been associated with already alarming records of human rights violations. One such issue is inmates’ limited access to books. While prisons do not allow book donations from outside, the prisoners have been allowed to possess 15 books at most. Furthermore, certain books that are either affiliated with the Gulen movement or in the Kurdish language have also been blocked. The number of affected inmates is reportedly more than 200,000 – including generals, diplomats, judges, academics, journalists, doctors and other people from all walks of life.
In addition to the cases that have been stated, there are officially more than half a million cases that are subjected to such terroristic crimes as reported by the minister of interior. With the pursuit to persecute individuals who attain these books, it is presumed that most of these individuals have already removed such publications from their possessions. Subjectively, if every individual was to get rid of several books, the total number of books disposed would be in the millions. This suggests that the multitude of the assault of Erdogan’s regime on the culture of its dissident groups are far more reaching than what is reported.


Download as a PDF File: https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Erdogans-war-on-books.pdf

 

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Turkey’s Massive Crackdown on Health Care Professionals Deepened the Country’s Already Alarming Records of Human Rights Violations

Turkey’s Massive Crackdown on Health Care Professionals Deepened the Country’s Already Alarming Records of Human Rights Violations

Following the coup attempt on the 15th of July 2016, dissident groups in Turkey are facing arguably their biggest crackdown in the country’s history. The Turkish government under the authoritarian leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken a wave of oppressive actions against those that are perceived as critics of the regime.
The health industry is among the variety of industries that have been affected in association with those actions. Hospitals, medical schools and health clinics have been shut down. Thousands of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, scientific publishers and health authorities have been dismissed from their jobs. Many of those have been detained and/or arrested and are now serving prison sentences for baseless charges of belonging to what they call a “terrorist” group. Human rights organizations have also recently reported that arrested individuals have
been subjected to severe torture and mistreatments.
The present report of the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) provides an overview of key human rights concerns during the ongoing post-coup crackdown on Turkey’s health industry, with a focus on the affected groups including health care professionals, patients, medical students, and shuttered institutions and organizations. Some of the highlights from the report are:

● Dismissals of health care professionals: With the combined figures of those who were dismissed from the civil service and those who lost their jobs after the government shut down their institutions, the total number of health care professionals including doctors, academics, nurses, midwives, and hospital staff who were laid off has reached more than 21,000. Of those, a total of 5,261 are medical doctors and academics who specialize in the medical sciences:

-1,697 academics who worked in state-run medical schools and universities were summarily and abruptly dismissed with the government’s decree laws.
-1,684 physicians who worked for the Ministry of Health were purged.
-More than 1,200 doctors in the private sector suddenly became unemployed when the government shut down hospitals, medical centers and health clinics.
-675 academics who teach medical sciences lost their jobs after the closure of the Gülen movement-linked universities.

● Jailed health care professionals: The government has never publicized the figures of how many health care professionals have been detained, arrested or currently in prison. However, SCF’s monitoring Turkey’s media outlets suggesting the estimated figure is in the thousands.
The report provides numerous cases that portray the magnitude of how ruthless Turkish authorities have become in targeting real or perceived critics. Three selected cases from the report are:
-Mustafa Emmiler: A 47-year-old professor, who was detained on August 15 of 2016 on charges of alleged links to the Gülen movement. Dr. Emmiler is a prominent figure in cardiovascular surgery and the receiver of the “Doctor of the Year” award from the Ministry of Health in 2013.
-Haluk Savaş: a prominent 51-year-old psychiatry professor at Gaziantep University, who was arrested on September 28 of 2016 on charges of “terrorism.” He was a nominee for a parliamentary seat from the main opposition, Republican People’s Party (CHP).
-Murat Acar: the Harvard-educated Turkish professor who was extradited to Turkey on an arrest warrant issued by the Turkish government through Interpol even though he was under UN protection in Bahrain. Dr. Acar was subjected to torture and ill-treatment for 18 days after his extradition to Turkey.

● Suspicious deaths of health care professionals: Suspicious deaths in Turkey have increased during the aftermath of the coup attempt, of which most occur in Turkish jails and detention centers where torture and mistreatment are executed. In most cases, authorities declared them to be suicides without any effective, independent or through investigation. SCF has documented such cases where victims were health care professionals. Two selected cases from the report are:
-Sevgi Balcı: A 37-year old nurse who was a mother of three fired by government decree in October of 2016, committed suicide by hanging herself in Isparta province. It was reportedly due to not being reinstated to her job.
-Ali Özer: a 48-year-old doctor who was jailed on charges of his suspected links to the Gülen movement, died allegedly due to heart attack in Çorum Prison on March 23 of 2017.

● Turkish health care professionals in exile: The rising authoritarianism in Turkey has enforced health care professionals to escape the country, sometimes even through illegal migrant routes. However, they still face endangerment in their new homes as they take on new challenges such as having a difficult time finding jobs and securing recognition of their medical licenses. Advocators of Erdogan harass individuals in which they receive threats from Turkish government proxies. Exiled doctors have reported that they are fearful of their families in Turkey who might face persecution because of their beliefs.

● Shuttered hospital, medical centers, pharmacies, charities:
-In 2016, the Turkish government has shut down 14 hospitals and 36 medical centers on the pretext of alleged ties to the Gülen movement. They were issued by simple decree-laws without any administrative or judicial probes.
-On a similar pretext, 400 pharmacies across Turkey renounced access to the electronic prescription system of the Social Security Institution (SGK), an act meant to force these pharmacies to go bankrupt overnight. In addition to that, nearly 1500 pharmacies are under investigation as the media outlets in Turkey recently reported.
-A UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) partnered charity organization, Kimse Yok Mu has similarly been shut down in 2016. The charity organization had been active for many years and delivered emergency relief in disaster zones, provided health care services and helped rebuilding infrastructure in various communities across 113 countries.

● Patients: Patients were left in distraught as multiple medical centers and hospitals were shut down. As before, given the shortage of hospitals and staff members, many patients are unable to receive medical help. This forced some patients to seek medical treatments in other provinces. On the other hand, the Turkish government deliberately violates adequate access to health care and medical treatments to those prisoned patients. The situation aggregated for those in solitary confinement as opposed to the European Prison Rules. The report provides numerous cases for patients in detention facilities and prisons. Four of those cases from the report are:
-Gökhan Açıkkollu: A 42-year-old history teacher with type 1 Diabetes was detained on July 24 of 2016 and held in police custody for 13 days before he fell ill. He was questioned allegedly under torture and abuse until he developed health problems again and was taken back to the hospital only to be pronounced dead.
-Yavuz Bölek: A 49-year-old police officer, father of three was arrested on August 25 of 2016 despite being in a critical stage of colon cancer. Bölek continues to be kept in prison given his severe health circumstances backed by the medical reports.
-Tuğba Yıldız: A mother of three was detained on January 15, 2017, in Tekirdağ province. During 24-day long police detention, she had been tortured and mistreated before she eventually developed symptoms of a psychological disorder to the extent of losing her sanity, as revealed by the doctor reports. And yet the court ruled for the arrest of Yıldız and sent her to prison, where she has been incarcerated ever since.
-Nurhayat Yıldız: This 14-week-old-pregnant woman had been imprisoned with her alleged ties to the Gülen movement. After reviewing her medical reports, her plead to be released had been denied. She was kept in a crowded cell with 24 inmates where she suffered a miscarriage on October 6 of 2016. After receiving two days of hospital treatments, she was thrown back in jail. Yıldız’s situation portrays one of the many cases where inhuman treatments executed toward pregnant women who are forced to be in jail both during their pregnancy and immediately after giving birth.

● Medical students: Following the failed coup attempt, medical students have also been negatively impacted. Many students who are enrolled in the medical schools that have been shut down, were forced to partake in other universities across Turkey. There are cases where medical students have been subjected to persecution or even imprisonment of alleged ties to the Gülen movement. Details following such situations are provided within the report.

RESOURCE:
Stockholm Center of Freedom


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Massive Erosion of Women’s Rights in Turkey

Massive Erosion of Women’s Rights in Turkey

The Turkish government’s oppressive regime relentlessly continues despite all the efforts by the international community. Since 2013, the government has been targeting anti-government groups, mainly the Hizmet Movement, and the situation got worse after the so-called coup attempt in July 15, 2016. The government has no mercy in that even members of vulnerable groups such as women and children are jailed over baseless claims. This document briefly describes the current women’s rights issues in Turkey aiming to provide an overview of the current crisis.

Especially after the attempted coup, the government has been taking dissidents collectively into custody, and then sending them to jail with no solid proof. In some cases, women are arrested and tortured in place of their male family members such as their fathers or husbands. Because of their special needs, women constitute one of the groups that suffer the most from this oppression. Prison overcrowding is another serious problem. Inmates often sleep on the floor or by taking turns. Therefore, it is difficult to claim that prison conditions are suitable for women. Turkey has only a few prisons specifically designed for women, meaning that most female detainees stay in prisons built for men. According to the latest CEDAW report, there are many allegations of sexual harassment and violence amounting to torture and ill treatment in prisons and these claims are not investigated properly. Women in prisons face various types of harassment, for instance, in many prisons, unnecessary and excessively intrusive strip searches are conducted by male personnel, and security cameras placed in rooms–including those in bathrooms–are monitored by male guardians. Detainees have only limited access to personal care and hygiene products, which are often at risk of confiscation during ward searches. Female detainees are trying to make themselves heard by sending out letters, however, these letters do not appear in Turkish press as a result of censorship.

Incarceration during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth is another issue that needs immediate attention. There are many instances where security officials wait at the door of hospital rooms once they are notified of the patients’ registration to the hospital. Patients’ medical conditions are not monitored and they are deprived of essential medication and dietary supplements. Mothers are not allowed to nurse their babies during custody and once they are arrested, their infant babies are also sent to jail. Currently, there are more than 700 children under the age of 6 (including infants) living in prisons.

Violence against women is still an issue despite Turkey’s supposed commitment to end it. As the CEDAW report indicates, relevant laws do not criminalize domestic violence and propose no procedures to prosecute offenders. Because of insufficient protection, many women have either been murdered or sexually harassed and perpetrators are not afraid of prosecution. Honor killings continue to be committed as well, even within well-educated families. More than 100 women have been victims of honor killings since 2010.

Education is another serious problem of Turkish women. The rate of literacy is quite low compared to men (illiteracy is more than five times more prevalent in women than in men), because most families, especially in the east and south-east, do not allow their girls to go to school, but instead force them to marry under the age of 18. For university-educated women, on the other hand, the main problem is the alarming levels of gender inequality at work. Turkey ranks 131st among 144 countries in terms of gender equality.

We briefly touched upon a few of the problems faced by women in Turkey. Many human rights reports have extensively explored the aforementioned problems and others. As the Advocates of Silenced Turkey, we urge every individual and authority to be aware of the worrisome situation of women in Turkey and take necessary steps urgently.


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Erdogan’s Long Arms Abroad and Recommendations to Governments

Is Turkey Turning into a Mafia State?

Evidence from Sudan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Georgia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Kosovo, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Mongolia Day by day, Erdogan and his oppressive government are extending their long arms to different countries around the world via the government institutions, intelligence agencies, and affiliated NGOs to expand their witch hunt against the Gulen Movement (aka Hizmet, which means Service in English)-affiliated people. Among their unlawful activities away from Turkey are intensified spying, intelligence gathering and profiling of critics that at times has led to harassment, intimidation and hate crimes. Although a majority of the countries do not pay attention to the unlawful requests of this oppressive leadership, there are some developing countries feel obligated to cooperate with Turkish agencies as they violate significant human rights, fundamental freedoms, and customary international laws.

To name a few, some officers within Sudan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Georgia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Kosovo, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine did not hesitate to operate the abductions and deportations of Gulen Movement-affiliated teachers, businessmen, journalists, academicians, and doctors, as well as their family members in some cases. These countries not only violated the UNHCR protection but also international human rights laws and customary international laws. The details of these unlawful abductions and deportations were revealed in a brief report recently released by the Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST). According to the Human Rights Watch, US Report of Religious Freedom, Amnesty International and several international human rights agencies, alleged supporters of the Gulen Movement in Turkey have been subjected to property seizures, arrests, detainments, imprisonments, as well as tortures such as use of stress positions, denial of food and water, detention in unsanitary conditions, in addition to beatings and rapes.

Gulen Movement is a global volunteer movement that focuses on science education, volunteerism, community involvement, social work and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Graham Fuller, an expert of the region and vice chair of CIA Intelligence Council, wrote an expert opinion just after the coup attempt entitled “The Gulen Movement Is Not a Cult – It’s One of the Most Encouraging Faces of Islam Today”.

The President of Turkey, Erdogan, falsely accused the movement of masterminding the coup d’état attempt on July 15th, 2016 and declared the movement as an armed terrorist organization, so-called Fetullahist Terrorist Organization – FETO. Following the staged coup attempt, a significant purge was initiated by the Turkish government and more than 170.000 people were persecuted without any concrete evidence.

However, Erdogan was not satisfied with purging the supporters of Gulen movement in Turkey and expanded its witch hunt against critics to numerous countries in the world with unlawful ways such as bribery, threats, and economic oppressions. Turkish embassies and government agencies including the intelligence services and nongovernmental organizations affiliated with the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government have been involved in the profiling and harassment of the movement’s members in varying degree, scope and intensity.

This persecution abroad is personally approved by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who stated that no country in the world will be safe for members of the Gulen Movement, claimed they do not have the right to life and vowed to pursue them wherever they are. His propagandists have even suggested assassinating and abducting critics abroad and have put a bounty on their heads.

The report of AST not only covers the unlawful abductions and deportations but also remind foreign security officers the risks Gulen Movement-affiliated people may face, offer recommendations and point out important points that countries should pay attention to resist possible attempts of the Turkish Government. They request that governments take necessary legal, administrative and practical measures are to ensure the protection of individuals who might be at risk and subject to possible abduction, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial killings. They make a call on to take counter-measures including legal and other steps to prevent such blatant interference by the Turkish government in their country’s internal affairs and to protect their residents and asylum-seekers from the long arm of Erdogan.


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Turkey’s New Normal: Torture and Ill-Treatment

Turkey, after the failed coup attempt has been a tumultuous ground for human rights. Many subtopics of human rights violations were brought into the spotlight especially after the declaration of the state of emergency. Perhaps some of the most important derivatives of such violations are torture and maltreatment. Although a state of emergency can help condense and concentrate efforts to bring perpetrators into justice it does not grant the government a blank check to suspend human rights. Even though a delicate matter like suspect and prisoner rights can never be dispensable, Turkey is currently infamous for infringing plenty of them from a global standpoint.

Since the coup attempt in 2016 a hefty sum of 160,00 people were detained 152,000 of which were state officials varying from teachers to lawyers. According to the government’s statement a majority of these detainees were associated with the Gulen movement. Since 2016 an overwhelming 7,907 cases of human rights violations occurred among these were 2,278 victims of torture and within that number 423 of them occurred under police detention. Methods of torture included but were not limited to thumps, electrical chairs, and sexual assault threats (particularly women). In addition, 48 extralegal killings were reported which were deemed tolerable under “troubling” provisions vaguely stated in emergency decree 667.

Besides the aforementioned brutishness, safeguards available to any prisoner were denied by the detainers. Among those violated safeguards were reasonable detention and legal review arrangements, access to medical reports, right to choose a lawyer, and last but not least monitoring the places of detention. Considering the absence of these safeguards combined with the turmoil within cells detainees came to be more vulnerable to mental and physical abuse.

Numerous examples of each different method of torture can be exemplified, whether that is a teacher beaten to death and his autopsy altered (teacher Acikkolu), or a woman tortured remorselessly in front of her husband (Asli S.). The defiling of basic detainee rights is not only tarnishing Turkey’s reputation in the world stage yet it is also obliviously and gradually driving the Turkish government to a dead end.


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Academics at Risk in Turkey

The coup attempt on July 15, 2016 stands as the most ruinous mark to the legal and political grounds of the Turkish Republic and continues to do so. Due to the coup attempt many people have been stripped from their ebullience, charged with allegations in abetting the coup and serving as members of a terrorist group, been unlawfully released from their jobs or incarcerated under the articles specified by the state of emergency period. Hence after the declaration of the state of emergency laws, a “legal” basis for unlawful prosecution and illegitimate actions was formed.

Academics in Turkey after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt stands as certainly one of the most severely affected branches of civil structure if not the most. On July 23, 2016 2 days after the emergency decree-laws were established the state ordered the closure of 15 universities displacing over 60,000 students and rendering 2,808 academicians jobless according to the State of Turkish Higher Education’s report. The data published by the same report displayed an immense 8,535 academicians released from duty by December 2017 virtually quadrupling the July 2016 figure. As stated by another report compiled by BBC Turkey at least 23,427 academicians lost their jobs either due to direct dismissals or reasons pertaining to university closures.

In reality January 2016, 6 months Prior to the coup attempt, marks the inception of the witch-hunt against academicians following the “Academics for Peace” petition. The respective petition, signed by 1,128 education personnel, left the signatories with very severe and exasperating upshots ranging from criminal prosecutions, dismissals and detentions to travel restrictions. The most up-to-date consolidated numbers exhibit more than 9,200 higher education personnel subject to direct targeting alongside over 60,000 scholars, administrators, and students affected materially or incurring tangible losses ascribed to government and institutional actions.

Perhaps the pinnacle of the maltreatment of academicians did not take place during the process of prosecutions but after imprisonment. Dr. Ahmet Turan Ozcelik no doubt is an exemplar of this persecution. Dr Ozcelik was confined in Balikesir Bandirma prison for 14 months after a 21 day psychological torture inflicted prior to his transfer. During his imprisonment he developed colon cancer, notwithstanding his health issued he was denied preventive treatment. After rigorous efforts he was released, yet soon after following his release he passed away from colon cancer.


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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.


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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.


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


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