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Human Rights Violations in Turkey December, 2019

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TURKEY: MONTHLY HUMAN RIGHTS DIGEST

A TEACHER’S FINAL WORDS: THEY ARE KILLING PEOPLE

On December 20, 2019, Engin Erol (41) passed away from cancer after three years of inhumane imprisonment in Artvin and Erzurum prisons. Erol, a teacher, husband, and father of three, began experiencing severe health problems within three months of imprisonment and requested proper medical care from the Turkish courts. The prosecutor on the case ignored more than 20 appeals from Erol, delaying his diagnosis for months, and denying him access to medicine as his condition rapidly progressed to its end-stage. He was kept in Erzurum, one of the coldest cities in Turkey, during winter months while “the new warden turned the heat off” for months despite the below-freezing temperature. Erol pleaded for help in his final words: “They are killing people in there. There are two people suffering from my condition. Pray for them.”¹

MOTHER & 7-YEAR OLD CHILD WITH DOWN SYNDROME SENTENCED FOR HIZMET MOVEMENT AFFILIATION

Nuran Dilber and her daughter Nalan (7) have been sent to a İstanbul prison over their alleged links to the Hizmet Movement. Nalan, a child with down syndrome, requires special medical and educational attention. Prior to her arrest, Nalan had just begun to learn how to read and write, bathroom etiquette, and social interaction. Left with no one else to take care of her, Nalan continues to be imprisoned along with her mother.
Nalan continues to be imprisoned along with her mother. Their story came to fore thanks to HDP Parliamentarian Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, who voiced his opposition to the arbitrary arrests and emphasized the gravity of the trauma that Nalan has been through. Gergerlioglu criticized the detention of the Dilber family with strong words: “Where is your conscience?” ²

A BABY IN PRISON: MUAZ’S FIRST BIRTHDAY

On December 7th, 2018, only 60 days after giving birth to her baby, Nurhan Erdal Bahadir (38) was arrested as part of Turkey’s routine imprisonment of all dissidents and put in Tarsus Women’s Prison. Bahadir’s baby, Muaz, suffers from a genetic heart condition and a vision problem that caused permanent damage to the alignment of his eyes. The young mother’s request for a pair of glasses as well as an instant pot for her child’s health was denied for months while Muaz received neither medical care nor supplemental baby food during the first year of his life. Forced to sleep in a ward with 15 other women, Bahadir was only given a bunk bed to sleep with Muaz. When Muaz fell off the bed, the mother’s plea for help was met with a recommendation from prison guards to “tie the baby’s foot to the bed.” During her postpartum period, Mrs. Bahadir and Baby Muaz faced harsh winter conditions without proper heating and rationed food portions, compounding the cruelty of the prison conditions. In December 2019, Muaz celebrated his first birthday behind bars.³

MEMBERS OF FLORYA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE SENTENCED: 26 BUSINESSMEN BEHIND BARS

On December 27, 2019, the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court tried 26 business people for their official membership to Florya Chamber of Commerce, a local organization in Istanbul. The court sentenced nine defendants to 7 years and six months, and 14 defendants to 6 years and three months of prison time for “their affiliation with the Hizmet Movement. While the court refused to provide an explanation for their reasoning, the defendants’ appeals made no difference in the court’s sentencing decision⁵.

ANOTHER VICTIM OF THE HYSTERIA: CHP MAYOR IN PRISON FOR FORMER ROLE

On December 12th, 2019, Ibrahim Burak Oguz, a member of the main opposition party in Turkey, was found guilty for his alleged association with the Hizmet Movement because of his former role on the executive board of the Izmir Young Entrepreneurs Association (IGID). Oguz’s arrest came only six months after his electoral victory on March 21st, where he beat the leading party’s candidate and became the Mayor of Urla. While no specific charges have been leveled against Oguz, he has been sent to prison in Izmir for his alleged links⁴.

References:

1- https://magduriyetler2.blogspot.com/2019/12/kanserden-olen-tutukluerolun-son.html
2- https://magduriyetler2.blogspot.com/2019/12/tutsak-bebek-muaznannesinden-mektup.html
3- https://turkeypurge.com/mother-7-year-old-daughter-with-downsyndrome-sent-to-prison-on-terror-charges-report
4- https://www.cnnturk.com/turkiye/chpli-belediye-baskani-fetouyeliginden-tutuklandi
5- aa.com.tr/tr/turkiye/fetonun-is-dunyasi-yapilanmasi-davasindakarar/1685891#


 

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AST REPORT 2018-2019

WORDS FROM THE ADVOCATES

When the Turkish President declared in an infamous speech that “old Turkey no longer exists. This Turkey is new Turkey”, the story of Turkish authoritarianism had once and for all taken on a new character. Since July of 2016, the Turkish government has improperly imprisoned 130,214 homemakers, teachers, NGO workers, academics, judges, prosecutors, and journalists.

We are a group of lawyers, judges, academics, journalists, and hundreds of activists who cherish democratic ideals and universal human rights. We are prisoners of conscience wanted by the Erdogan’s regime, relatives of political prisoners, and victims who have lost their jobs, property, and family members to the current administration which has been described as a Mafia State. We are the Advocates of Silenced Turkey. We, the Advocates, have made it our mission to champion the rights of Silenced Turkey until universal human rights and democratic governance are established and sustained as the utmost priorities of the Republic of Turkey.

AST GIVES A VOICE TO THE VOICELESS…

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SYSTEMATIC TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT IN TURKEY

Aftermath of the Coup Attempt of 15 July 2016

In Turkey, especially after the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, there have been mass arrests and detentions. Suleyman Soylu, Minister for Internal Affairs, has stated that 511,000 individuals have been taken into custody as of March 2019, on the grounds of their relationship with the Gulen Movement. Up until today, more than 100,000 individuals have been jailed. It has been confirmed that prisoners and detainees have been under systematic torture and ill-treatment, more severely during the state of emergency. Some of the cases are documented and reported by local and national human rights organizations, related videos and photos of some cases have received wide media coverage; and some cases have come to light by means of the statements of victims during the ongoing trials, which are consistent with their medical reports.

According to the research conducted by the AST, 93 prisoners have lost their lives due to torture, ill-treatment, and negligence. Moreover, another 11 individuals have lost their lives during the arrest procedure and interrogation under torture. AST has recorded all these cases in this report and put 10 cases under the scope by including the evidence of torture.

GOKHAN ACIKKOLLU DIED AFTER 13 DAYS OF TORTURE IN POLICE CUSTODY

Gokhan Acikkollu, a teacher, after he was taken into custody with the accusation of attempting a coup and due to his relationship with the Gulen Movement, died in İstanbul Police Headquarters on August 5, 2016, after 13 days of torture. During the routine health controls, teacher Gokhan Acikkollu managed to record what he has lived through, day by day. He made sure that the photos of the torture marks were taken. Reports of the forensic medicine experts confirmed that his death was due to torture. During doctor visits, Acikkollu had stated that he was afraid of dying, that his head was smashed against walls, kicked while down on the floor, slapped and punched hundreds of times, and that he was feeling a never-ending pain in ribs. The autopsy made after his death detected a fracture in his rib and beating marks.

This report has the torture testimonies of the teacher’s prison mates and the forensic medicine expert. Public prosecution office, before conducting any investigation,  declared that police were not negligent in his death. After the reports of the human rights organizations and upon the appeal of his family, the prosecution office had initiated an investigation. However, the statements of the witnesses were not taken; the entire video footage in the İstanbul Police Headquarters Counter-Terrorism Branch, the place of death, were not examined, and finally, the case was closed, noting that there was no need to file a lawsuit. The court found the raised objection justified and ordered an investigation to be opened; however, the prosecution office has not taken any action yet.

Other than the ones detected in the official detention centers and prisons, more severe and long-dated crimes of torture have been identified, which are committed in the illegal interrogation centers by the public officials of the government. In our report, four torture victims, who were abducted by MIT, narrate the months-long inhuman treatment in the secret and illegal detention centers.

A.G. (whose name is being withheld by the reporter for security reasons) who was abducted to the MIT Yenimahalle campus, putting sack over his head and beating him, has explained how he was strapped to a strappado while being subjected to electric shock, and beaten with whips, sticks, and batons; he further told about the rape attempts. A.G., who has stayed in a dark cell of 4.5 m2 for several weeks, indicated that, especially during the first 20 days, he was actively exposed to similar physical torture methods every single day. A.G., who was accused of being a member of the Gulen Movement, has explained that he was kept hungry and thirsty, and he was inflicted on psychological torture methods such as swearing, insulting, and threatening with his family members.

“A CASE OF INTESTINAL TEAR DUE  PLACING A BATON INSIDE THE RECTUM”

A.G. has stated that several individuals in the torture center had intestinal tear due placing baton inside the victim’s rectum, forcing to sit on an artificial penis; he has further stated that they had attempted to rape him several times. A.G. told that in his cell, he was constantly hearing the screams of the other torture victims and the laughter of the torturers; according to A.G., a typical torture session continued an average of 4-5 hours. He had further stated that in every cell, security, cameras were installed, and they were deprived of sleep by being exposed continuously to directives.

He claimed that an official from the Office of the Presidency came to the interrogation center and was briefed by the torturers. A.G. further stated that he was asked to be an informant inside the Gulen Movement, to sign the previously prepared statements, and to work for MIT.

Ayten Ozturk is a 44-year old woman who was abducted by MIT. During the court hearing of the lawsuit in which she was accused of being a member of the DHKP-C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front Turkish: Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Partisi-Cephesi), she has stated that she was tortured for six months long. She told that she was taken into custody by the Lebanese Police in the airport and turned over to the MIT, then brought to Turkey in a private plane, blindfolded, her mouth taped, handcuffed behind her back. Ozturk stated that she was continuously tortured from March 13, 2018, until August 28, 2018. She stated that she was brought to the interrogation center, which was only around 15 steps away from where the plane landed, that she was taken off all clothes, was dragged on the floor, and put in a padded cell.

ELECTRIC SHOCK, BEATING, ATTEMPTED RAPE

Ozturk stated that during the interrogation, she was exposed to following torture methods: Forced to stand naked in front of the torturers, sexually violated with batons, waterboarding, force-feeding, burning her fingers, keeping her in a coffin-like box, strappado torture, and many more. According to her statements in the court trial, she was especially exposed to different methods of torture during her menstrual periods. She was kept in a cell for 25 days, being handcuffed behind her back, blindfolded, and a sack being put over her head. She was exposed to force-feeding and was forced to drink large quantities of water while she was brought to the restroom. After 25 days, she got worse and was brought to the infirmary; since her eyes were kept closed during that period, her eyelids could hardly be opened using a liquid. She could only see the eyes of the individuals who were treating her because they were wearing snow masks. After treatment, the torture went on. She states that her entire body was full of wounds, that they had covered her body with a type of gel, that she was constantly exposed to profanity and harassment.

She stated that she was hung from her arms to the wall and force-fed, her hands and fingers were subjected to electric shock, and a hard-plastic tube passed through her mouth in order to force-feed liquid nutritional supplement. Some of the statements of Ozturk in the court trial are as follows: “It was impossible to move around inside the coffin-like box. And while in the cell, now and then, they were opening the door, beating me up, threatening, and cursing. My mouth and nose were drenched in blood; my entire face was swollen and bloodied, having black eyes. My little fingers and big toes were subjected to electric shock. They were attaching a metal ring on my fingers and using a remote controller to give an electric shock. I had lost consciousness a few times and could not get up.

 When they had a break from giving an electric shock, they were keeping me on strappado and abusing my body with their fingers, sticks, and batons. They were trying to insert the baton into my genitalia and performing every other perverseness. They were threatening to rape me with a thick baton. My feet were swollen from standing for a long time, and they were yet hitting my feet with sticks and batons. They put a sharp object under the nails of my three fingers and burned my little finger. The wound in my finger and the infection under my nails did not recover for months. Sometimes they were hanging me upside down and hitting my feet. When I was collapsing and feeling nauseated, they were lowering me down and using different methods of torture. They were letting me sit inside a tire and attempting to rape me with a baton. They were increasing the intensity of the torture, especially during my menstrual periods, and they were depriving me from sleep”.

“TORTURE CONTINUED AFTER-TREATMENT”

Ozturk stated that she has figured out that all of the 7-8 individuals in the adjacent cells were men just because she heard their screams and crying during torture. She stated that her body collapsed several times, she was treated by a special team, and then the torture has continued. According to her statement, the torturers told her: “We’ll treat you and then continue with torture sessions. This will go on just like that. There is no end. This is hell. You have no way out. We know everything about human anatomy. We are professionals. You won’t die, but you will beg to die. If ever you get out, you will be mentally ill”.

She stated that after six months, she was delivered to the police, and she was then officially arrested by police as if she was just caught ordinarily.

Ozturk is still in prison, and she is saying that she has serious health problems due to the torture she was exposed to, and she maintains her life only with the help of her cellmates. She states that her cellmates found 898 wounds and scars of torture all over her body.

İ.S., who is accused of being a member of the Gulen Movement and whose case is discussed in detail in this report, stated that he was exposed to torture in the same place for 7.5 months. Another individual, Zabit Kisi, states that he was tortured in the same place for 108 days. İ.S was exposed to similar torture methods described above and lost 30 kilograms; when he was released, even his wife couldn’t recognize him. İ.S states that the torturers told him that they were receiving money from the government in order to kill and torture. While İ.S was talking about the torture sessions, his voice was trembling, and he was occasionally crying; he had not fully recovered from the trauma. Zabit Kisi talked in detail about the inhuman treatment of rotating teams. He stated that his penis was bleeding for days due to beating, his fingers were smashed, his ribs were fractured and cracked, he was harassed, exposed to electric shock, and that they had injected a drug into his body. They had told him that they would kill him by injecting drugs and then tell the authorities that he died due to heart attack.

DECLARING AS TERRORISTS WITHOUT ANY TRIAL

According to hearings recorded on the TBMM books, reports of the human rights associations and statements of the families, 28 individuals were abducted and exposed to similar torture. It is unknown whether 6 of these individuals are still alive and, if so, where they are. Almost all of the individuals who were abducted were asked to work as informants and to sign the prepared statements when they were delivered to the police.

Recently some government officials who were working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara and arrested on allegations of their links to the Gulen Movement were exposed to systematic torture in the official interrogation centers. Ankara Bar Association found evidence of torture and included them in its report, which is compiled as a result of the investigations based on the statements of the victims. While those government officials were arrested and before even they gave their statements, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu declared these officials as “FETO” terrorists, completely ignoring the presumption of innocence. Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, one of the HDP members of the Parliament, stated that 100 individuals were exposed to different torture methods, including rape with a baton. After the report of the Ankara Bar Association about the torture, it has been asked for the officials who are responsible for the torture to be put on trial and to be suspended from their jobs, however until today; no action has been taken about it.

NO INVESTIGATION ABOUT TORTURING KURDISH PEOPLE

After July 15, it has been observed that the intensity of torture and ill-treatment has increased in the areas densely populated by Kurds. Three teenagers aged 14, 16, and 17 who were detained by police on suspicion that they were to protest on behalf of PKK, have obtained a health report from Van Training and Research Hospital and provided evidence that they were tortured in the police station. The teenagers explained to the president of the Van Bar Association Zulkuf Ucar how they were severely beaten and their heads put inside the toilet. Zulkuf Ucar then filed a criminal complaint against the police officers; however, no action has been taken.

Again in the city of Van, after an assault against police, three villagers were detained in a rural area, and they were severely tortured. The photo images of beatings were released to the public via social media accounts by the police officers themselves. The Office of the Governor in Van, which is the highest-ranked administrative office in the city, has released a note to the public stating that “3 terrorists were captured alive” before the statements of those individuals were taken and while the investigation about them was still going on. Moreover, the Office of the Governor also stated that those three individuals had confessed their crimes. Later it has been understood that those villagers, ages 35, 50, and 53 were walking in that rural area just with the purpose of picking wild mushrooms; hence they were released. Despite the pictures showing their bodies drenched in blood, no legal action has been taken against officials who tortured them.

The Government of the Republic of Turkey is responsible for the arrested or convicted individuals’ mind and body health and life safety. There are so many seriously ill, disabled, old, and pregnant individuals in prisons, arrested or convicted. The prisoners whose punishment should be postponed due to their conditions, according to the law, are being kept in jail despite their health reports. In many prisons, deaths, injuries, and disabilities occurred due to torture, ill-treatment, and negligence. This report records that 93 individuals have lost their lives due to torture, ill-treatment, and negligence.

SYSTEMATIC TORTURE GOES ON

During the state of emergency, the maximum period of detention without charge was increased to 30 days; during that period especially the military personnel was exposed to severe torture; their photo images were released to the public by the state official media outlets, such as TRT and Anadolu Agency, and some other pro-AKP government media outlets without any hesitation. Many deaths and injuries have been reported during the detention period. Although the state of emergency has ended, systematic torture of the detainees still goes on in the detention centers. UN and European Union commissions keep criticizing and warning Turkey and recommending to improve democracy and human rights at once. Local and national human rights organizations continue to document and report the cases of torture and the stories of the victims. The new cases of torture victims that AST has recently discovered and reported show that systematic torture and ill-treatment continue without slowing down.

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18 Former employees of Turkish National Intellingency (MIT) are tortured in Ankara TEM

It turned out that all the people who were detained and tortured in Ankara were MIT employees. H.Ç.’s lawyer told the police yesterday.

According to the news of BOLD MEDIA Cevheri Güven, 27 people who were detained in Ankara on the morning of December 18 and announced as former employees of the Prime Ministry by the Public Prosecutor’s Office were expelled from the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and were subjected to intense pressure during the detention process.

According to information provided by lawyers of detainees in Ankara Anti-Terror Branch, the first day of detention was threatened, insulted and psychological torture.

According to the information given by the ex-MIT employee H.Ç.’s lawyer spouse, the detainees were interviewed at 22.30 on the first day and were threatened with rape by showing bottles lined up next to each other.

“WAS SCARED AND IN PANIC”

According to the statements of the wife of the detainee; My husband had not undergone any investigation, prosecution after being expelled. When I saw him, he was scared and in panic. They have taken him into a different type of interrogation room which has a camera and two sides glass-covered rooms. They took him for “interview” for 30 minutes which was completely threatening and insult to him along with the interview. “Even if we release you, we will you get you back without any warrant.” They had added.

THESE BOTTLES ARE FOR YOU

They have shown some bottles which are put together and told him that” these bottles are for you which you may understand what will happen to you with them if you do not be smart and tell us all the story.”

ANKARA BAR ASSOCIATION STARTED INVESTIGATION 18 PEOPLE IS UNDER ARREST.

27 people who were detained in Ankara on the morning of December 18 and announced as former employees of the Prime Ministry by the Public Prosecutor's Office were expelled from the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and were subjected to intense pressure during the detention process.
34th High Criminal Court was established in Ankara to prosecute MİT employees. Establishing a special court for investigation of an institution is caused by serious critics by the lawyers.
6 people who were kidnapped in February 2019 and who were handed over to the police after 6 months of torture began to be tried in this court.

http://aktifhaber.com/m/gundem/mitin-18-eski-calisani-ankara-temde-iskence-goruyor-2-h140877.html

*The news in the link was translated and briefed.

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SEND A LETTER : TORTURE ALLEGATIONS

 

 

Urge Turkish authorities to investigate and stop the torture of 18 ex-Intelligence
employees in Ankara at the counter-terrorism department on December 18th and
bring perpetrators to justice.

Dear (Mr. Senator) (Law Enforcement Officials),

According to information provided by Bold Medya from ex-MIT employee H.Ç’s wife (a lawyer), the detainees were interviewed at 10:30 PM on December 18th, 2019 and threatened with rape using bottles in the counter-terrorism department in Ankara, Turkey.

“My husband was threatened with [my safety], although he did not give details about this part. I think this hurt him deeply. He was threatened with his family and his mother. Then they showed him bottles lined up side by side and threatened him saying ‘Look, we oiled this bottle for you. Today we’re only saying hello, you can guess what we will do tomorrow’” said H.Ç, a lawyer and the wife of one of the detainees.

During the last two years following the so-called coup attempt on July 15, 2016, almost all democratic processes and fundamental human rights have been suspended in Turkey.

The Erdogan administration has greatly restricted access to basic human rights and has abandoned the values of equality and respect for human dignity in the sense that the western civilization stipulates, and in this regard, it has completely broken its ties with the modern world. Other reports prepared by many internationally recognized human rights institutions clearly state the same. For example, the Human Rights Watch published a report about kidnapping and torture in Turkey (Police Custody Torture and Abductions in Turkey) on October 2017 while the United Nations published a report on March 20, 2018, about the widespread human rights violations including torture during Turkey’s state of emergency.

The High Commissioner for UN Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, mentioned that about 160,000 people were detained in Turkey; 152,000 state officials, including teachers, judges and lawyers, among whom the vast majority were arbitrarily expelled or investigated; nearly 200 journalists were arrested, 201 media outlets and hundreds of websites were closed during the state of emergency period. There were many cases of torture, rape, and kidnapping, which were only partially reflected in the reports. As a result of the criminal announcements regarding these issues, the limited investigations in Turkey provided no positive results.

Similarly, the UN rapporteur expressed that 100 pregnant women or women with newborns were taken into custody, severely separated from their children on the grounds that they were “affiliates” with their husbands or older children suspected
of being linked to labeled organizations. As best said by the UN rapporteur, “This is not merely excessive, but entirely cruel!”

FACTS ABOUT TORTURE & DEATHS IN TURKEY

Gokhan Acikkollu, a 42-year old history teacher suffering from diabetes was dismissed from his job then detained & tortured for 13 days under police custody. The result was his death.

The torture allegations documented by the Ankara Bar Association against 6 ex-diplomats of the Turkish Foreign Ministry were detained at Police Headquarters in Ankara on May 26th are another prominent example of torture in Turkey.

According to the UN, there were 263 incidents of torture in the space of a single year and 2,278 victims faced maltreatment and torture. By the count of the State Department, there were 328 allegations of torture and at least 51 suspicious deaths in custody and prisons in the last 3 years.

We urge the Turkish authorities to investigate and end state-sanctioned torture in addition to bring the perpetrators to justice.
We urge all international bodies and human rights organizations to take the necessary steps to STOP TORTURE in TURKEY and bring all the perpetrators to justice.

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Source:
http://aktifhaber.com/m/iskence/mitin-18-eski-calisani-ankara-temde-iskence-goruyor-
h140867.html

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Abdülhamit Gül
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Email: info@adalet.gov.tr

 

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December 10th, International Human Rights Day Booklet

DECEMBER 10th, INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY Booklet

10 aralık insan hakları gününde yüzlerce insan hakları gönüllülerinin destekleriyle 17 Farklı yerde yapılan aktivitelerin bir özetini sunan bu kitapçıkta bir çok demokratik protesto aktivitesi yer almaktadır. İnsan hakları ihlallerinin bir an evvel dinmesi için gayret gösteren gönüllülerimize teşekkür ederiz.

 

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TAKE ACTION ; YOUTH FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN TURKEY WORKSHOP

The aim of the workshop is to train youth who wants to be part of advocating for human rights in Turkey by club activities, exhibitions, art, petition campaigns, etc.

For the age of 17 and above high school and university students. (Limited to 100 students)

Wednesday, January 1st, 3 PM – 5 PM (E.T)

 

Online ZOOM Meeting link will be provided soon.

 

 

 

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A NEW TRUE STORY ABOUT THE SUCCESS OF A DOCTOR IN U.S WHO WAS PURGED IN TURKEY BY THE REGIME “BİR CERRAHIN BAŞARI HİKAYESİ: ‘CEBİMDE KALAN 60 DOLAR” IN TURKISH BY B.BEY

Bu hikayede genç, çalışkan ve yetenekli bir Operator Doktor’un 15 Temmuz, 2016 sözde darbe girişimiyle birlikte herşeyini kaybedişi ve sonrasında Amerikanın seçkin bir üniversite hastanesinde mesleğine dönüşü anlatılmaktadır.

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The Baby in the Suitcase

We are all travelers towards an unknown… We have fallen in love with an ideal that gives a
promise of the eternal. An ideal that will reveal the unknown and enlighten the
uncertain… An ideal that is sacred like the bread, valued like a promise, indispensable
like freedom…

Be it inside a suitcase… uncomfortable as it may be… we have no choice but to cross
over borders with the hushed silence of a baby, oblivious to all that is happening around
us, just so that we may be able to say, " Yes, the world is my home.”…

Ms. Rana, she was given the role to walk a rainy stage, on a snowy path against the
bitter wind. With the strength she gathered from being a mother, from being a woman
and being a wife, she was able to do justice to and make the most of her scene. And
now, once again, she is on the verge of yet another tough journey as she sets out to
enlighten the "uncertain" lying ahead…

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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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