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Human Rights Digest: January 2020 Articles

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TURKEY: MONTHLY HUMAN RIGHTS DIGEST January 2020

  1. A Mother’s Plea for Help: The Tumor is Spreading, My Daughter is Sick

On February 27, 2018, Sevgi Sezer, a critically-ill primary school teacher, was imprisoned for 7 years and 6 months due to her affiliation with the Hizmet Movement. After nearly two years, Sezer continues to suffer from a malicious tumor on her back while forcedly sharing an overcrowded prison cell with 16 other women prisoners. Sezer was denied medical attention for a long time despite making many requests while the tumor on her back, a constantly growing vascular malformation, went undiagnosed for 9 months. Sezer’s deprivation of medical assistance led to the painful growth of the tumor, causing her immense suffering and severely limiting her mobility. The appeals court continues to stall action on Sezer’s case as she suffers despite concrete medical evidence that warrants close medical attention and release from imprisonment. Teacher Sezer’s mother made an emotional appeal to authorities: “I could not hug my daughter in my last visit because the tumor spread all over her back. I am calling government officials to take action; my daughter is sick, in pain. She needs treatment.”

  1. 70 Turkish Air Force Academy Cadets Receive Life Sentence for “Courtroom Behavior”

On January 3, 2020, the 24th Istanbul High Criminal Court sentenced 70 Turkish Air Force Academy Students, aged 18-23, to aggravated life imprisonment. The Turkish Court charged all 70 of the cadets with violating the constitution, merging their cases under the overarching July 15 Coup Attempt trials. While the cadets’ involvement in the coup attempt has not been evidenced, the court found the cadets guilty of intent to aid and abet the coup attempt. Moreover, the presiding judge changed his original sentencing to a lifetime sentence and defended his decision by blaming the alleged contrarian behavior of the defendants during court proceedings. While the cadets can appeal the court order, the hysteria revolving around the July 15 failed coup attempt has effectively eliminated all avenues of justice and exoneration.

  1. Philanthropist Melek Ipek, “Angel Mom”, Sentenced for Hizmet Affiliation

On January 9, 2020, the 24th Ankara High Criminal Court sentenced Melek Ipek and her son Cafer Ipek to 12 and 79 years of imprisonment, respectively. The overarching case brought against billionaire Akin Ipek and the Ipek Family Estate found all family members guilty for providing financial support to the charity activities of the Hizmet Movement. Since five family members had escaped Turkey due to the undue political and judicial process, the Ankara court put their cases on hold while charging Melek Ipek with “opposition to tax law”, a bogus charge that, as it now appears, has been included to target the Ipek family’s vast financial estate. The court ordered for the seizure of all financial assets, dividends, and shares of all Ipek family members who hold stock in the Ipek Holding Company.

  1. Another Victim of the Hysteria: Left-Leaning Sports Reporter Fired from Job

On January 8, 2020, Fatma Karaagac, a left-leaning former sports reporter for Haberturk TV, gave an interview regarding her termination. In her remarks, Karaagac complained that she was fired for international political reasons while the company firing her blamed her alleged affiliation with the Hizmet Movement. Karaagac was neither sued or summoned to court. The prosecutorial hysteria directed against the Hizmet Movement continues to ransack the lives of thousands of people. The unquestioned vilification of the Hizmet Movement by the Turkish government allows for opportunists and people with personal vendettas to accuse anyone and any time of Hizmet affiliation to cause serious damage to their lives. Fatma Karaagac is a recent and prime example.

  1. Former Teacher from Adana Sentenced 7.5 Years for Teacher’s Union Membership

On January 8, 2020, the Adana 12th Heavy Criminal Court found Mehmet Onuk guilty and sentenced him for 7 years and 6 months. According to the court order, Mr. Onuk’s alleged crimes consist of using ByLock, a mobile chat application, holding religious study circles in his home, and being a member of a government-sanctioned worker’s union. Mehmet Onuk, like countless others, was charged for these crimes as part of the ongoing persecution campaign against the Hizmet Movement.


 

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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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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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Mother’s Day 2019 Free Prisoners of Conscience / Turkey

This year on Mother’s Day, over 6,000 women have been imprisoned in Turkey within the persecution of the government. More than 700 babies -in order to be able to stay with their mothers – are living in the harsh conditions of a prison ward and a lot of children have been separated from their mothers and are being raised by relatives. #TurkeyPurge #MothersDay #FreePrisonersOfConscience

Mother’s Day 2019 Free Prisoners of Conscience / Turkey

U.S Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi & Renee Vaugeois (Exc.Director of John Humphrey Center for Peace and Human Rights)

Ela Gandhi

The Venerable David Selzer (Executive Archdeacon, Diocese of Ottawa) / Ann Selzer ( Practitioner Nurse)

Professor Vonya Womack

Lawyer James Harrington, Professor Lopita Nath

Donna Entz (Community Worker Among Newcomers),Film Producer & Journalist Thomas Sideris

 

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Longing Episode-2

“LONGING-2”

One feeling is connecting the two stories LONGING. Stories of the persecuted fled from Erdogan Regime.
Yasin was not aware that the journey he was attending with his spouse and kids for freedom would separate them. A high school girl faces the difficulties of life at an early age. The young girl has to flee from her country as her father is jailed. One feeling is connecting these two stories: Longing.

 

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World Press Freedom Day 2019

Turkey, the biggest jailer of journalists, shut down at least 155 media outlets and made mass imprisonments of press members due to their work after the coup attempt in July 2016. As of January 2019, 155 journalists and media executives are in jail according to the International Press Institute (IPI). #WorldPressFreedomDay #FreePrisonersOfConscience

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY 2019 MESSAGE TO THE WORLD TO CALL ON FREEING JOURNALISTS

U.S Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi

Professor Anwar Alam / Lawyer James Harrington

Turkish Actor Orhan Aydin / AST Director Hafsa Girdap

Film Producer & Journalist Thomas Sideris / Professor Vonya Womack

Exiled Journalist Deniz Zengin

 

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Longing Episode-1

“LONGING” THE STORY OF A MOTHER AWAY FROM HIS INNOCENT SPOUSE “A PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE” IN TURKEY. EPISODE-1

There is an ongoing suppression of dissidents following the so-called coup attempt of July 15, 2016. The State of Emergency and the decree laws pave the way for discrimination and segregation on the basis of ethnicity, political or other opinions. More than 50,000 people jailed as prisoners of conscience. The number of the people under investigation is 612,347 after July 15 according to the Ministry of Justice in Turkey equals the population of KENTUCKY is clear evidence of grave human rights violations in Turkey.

This real story of a mother separated from his innocent husband is just one of among many. It is the first episode and will continue with other stories may shed light to grave human rights violations in Erdogan’s Turkey.

 

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Human Rights Watch Documents Police Torture and Abductions in Turkey

Based on court records, statements made by the lawyers and family members of the victims, the 43-page report contains claims that individuals were exposed to heavy beating, harassment, treatments and in some cases were victims of verbal abuse. Individuals have been abducted in bright daylight and kept in secret in hideaways.

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