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Refugees-and-Latest-Pushbacks-in-Greece

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Introduction

“No one puts their children in a boat unless the boat is safer than the land.” (Warshan Shire, Home)

Thousands of refugees fleeing their homeland due to violence, terror, or political prosecution use Greece as an entry gate to Europe. Since the beginning of 2014, over 1.1 million refugees have crossed the borders of Greece(3). Most of the refugees have chosen to go by sea in order to land on one of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, but recently a growing number of refugees have begun to use Evros as a passage from Turkey to Greece. In recent years, besides refugees who are using Turkey as a transitway to Greece, Turkish citizens who were forced to flee Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt have also used the same route. This witch-hunt was launched by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government against the sympathizers of the Gulen Movement following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Many of these citizens attempted to escape Turkey using illegal methods as the Turkish government canceled their passports.

So far, the asylum-seeking Turkish citizens who cross the Evros to escape from a tyrannical regime in Turkey are embraced humanely by the Greek authorities. However, there have been recent reports of several push-back cases, in which groups of Turkish asylum-seekers were beaten by masked men and forced back to Turkey.

Human Rights Abuses in Turkey After July 15, 2016

Following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and began to target any individual opposing the government, the Gulen Movement in particular. The Gulen Movement is also known as the “Hizmet Movement,” “hizmet” meaning service in Turkish. It is a faith-based group of people engaging in different voluntary activities such as education, business, and health, and has been the primary target of the government. Alleged supporters of the movement in Turkey are faced with arrest, imprisonment, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, denial of fair treatment, labeling, confiscation, and passport seizure.

According to a report released by the United States Department of State on human rights practices in Turkey in 2018 (2), between July 2016 and July 2018, Turkish Ministry of Justice reported that “investigations” were opened into 612,347 persons, the majority of whom were affiliated with the Gulen movement. Authorities prosecuted 1,519 lawyers and dismissed 7,257 academics and more than 4,000 judges and prosecutors. After the coup, the government operated prisons became filled with people who were detained and awaiting trial and began to operate over capacity. 28 individuals disappeared, some kidnapped in broad daylight in front of their families. Reports of torture, mistreatment, and abuse skyrocketed from tens in 2017 to more than 2,500 in 2018. 51 people lost their lives under suspicious circumstances in official custody.

In addition to opening investigations into persons associated with the movement, the government has made many attempts to limit its citizen’s physical freedom and freedom of speech. 155,000 individuals whose family members were allegedly connected to the Gulen movement were banned from traveling, and the government has investigated over 45,000 social media accounts and blocked more than 50,000 websites. Furthermore, during the first six months of 2018, Twitter received 8,988 court orders and requests from authorities to remove content.

Refugees and Latest Push-backs in Greece

Due to its geographical location, Greece has been the forefront of the influx of migrants and asylum seekers fleeing their home country due to wars, political instability, and economic crises. In the last couple of years, a significant number of Turkish citizens have also begun to cross the border between Turkey and Greece and sought asylum due to the Turkish government’s targeting of dissidents belonging to different ideologies, particularly the Gulen Movement.

Immigrants fleeing from Turkey to Greece either cross the Aegean Sea or the land border between Turkey and Greece that is almost entirely formed by the Evros river. The land border between Turkey and Greece is one of the easternmost frontiers of the European Union. Up until a fence went up on all but 12 kilometers of the Evros in 2012, it was the easiest and safest path for asylum seekers from the Middle East and elsewhere to reach Europe. According to the Greece country report released in March 2019 by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (3), “18,014 persons arrived in Greece through the Greek-Turkish land border of Evros in 2018, compared to 6,592 in 2017.” The same report detailed “a substantial increase of applications submitted from Turkish nationals” in 2018; 4,834 applications in 2018, compared to 1,826 in 2017 and 189 in 2016.

In addition to its own economic problems, Greece has long been dealing with an immigration crisis which has had further economic and social impacts on the country. Faced with a flood of refugees from Greece’s land border with Turkey over the past several years, according to DW News (9), Greek guards are overwhelmed with the task of protecting the borders from refugees and the refugees from violent push-backs. According to a report released by Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), “foreign nationals were returned from Greece to Turkey by boat across the Evros River; some of the persons met alleged that they had been ill-treated (including baton blows to the head) by police and border guard officers or (para-) military commandos during such operations.”(10) According to a news article in The Guardian (11), several unidentified masked men participated in abusing the refugees and forced them back to the Turkish border in freezing temperatures at night without any clothing.

Although there were numerous reports of push-backs made by an unidentified group of people towards immigrants in the past (4), the immigrants who were mainly Turkish citizens never reported any mistreatment on the Greek side of the border until recently. In the last couple of months, there have been several reports that Turkish asylum seekers who entered Greece through the Evros river were beaten by masked men and pushed back into Turkey.

According to ipa.news (5) and Bold (13), while trying to seek asylum in Greece, the Gul family were pushed back into Turkey by masked and armed men dressed in camouflage. Halil Gul, Seher Gul, and their three children entered Greece but were denied entry on Monday. Halil and Seher Gul were taken into custody by the gendarme in the Turkish border city of Edirne. Relatives of the family were called to pick the children up. Zubeyir Koculu, a journalist in Athens, reported the latest update regarding the issue as follows: “A total number of 32 Turkish political asylum seekers were pushed back to Turkey through Evros in the last four days after they arrived in Greece. 17 of them were arrested in Turkey, 11 of them managed to cross the border again and are being kept in custody.”

As reported by keeptalkinggreece.com, ipa.news (12), and Bold (13), a group of 15 people fleeing persecution in Turkey were pushed back to Turkey after crossing the Greek border by masked men using brute force. A family of 4 were arrested by the Turkish police and the remaining 11 people, after a second attempt to enter Greece soil, were detained by Greek police at around 2 P.M. on Saturday near the border and taken into custody according to the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), a nongovernmental organization defending human rights and fighting against illegal pushbacks in the region. In his e-mail to UN representatives, Muhammed Ihsan Erdogan, a Turkish political asylum seeker who currently resides in Athens, says that on May 4th, 2019, around 5:30, three Turkish political asylum seekers, one of whom was his sister, crossed the Evros river in order to come to Greece and were very close to Orestiada. He was asking for help because his sister and two others were afraid of being pushed back into Turkey. His sister also sent a similar message to UN representatives stating that they were afraid of inhumane treatment and being pushed back into Turkey, which would put their lives in danger. However, after these two messages, these three people were pushed back into Turkey and Mr. Erdogan’s sister, Ayse Reyhane Erdogan, was put behind bars in a Turkish prison for two years.

According to a Twitter message from Tihomir Sabchev, in an article that appeared in the Greek magazine Lifo, “people testified in front of lawyers in Thessaloniki” that they were beaten by the police, their possessions were thrown away in the river, they were pushed back. Then they identified one of the policemen in front of UN representatives.”(14)

According to a news article at Euronews.com (15), scores of Turkish asylum seekers were pushed back, sometimes violently. It is said in the news that witnesses claimed that various groups, some uniformed, used physical force against those who resisted. Since April 23, 2019, up to the date the news was published, May 13, 2019, 82 people from Turkey, including children, who crossed the Turkish border for seeking political asylum were sent back to Turkey. Around half of those who returned were arrested by Turkish officials on charges that they were involved in the 2016 military coup.

The pushbacks raised concerns among human rights activists and those who are sensitive to such matters. Ten Greek refugee NGOs urged for the immediate investigation of reports of collective expulsions in the Evros region (8). In addition, Rebecca Harms, a member of the EU Parliament, stated that this situation violates international law. According to Euronews.com (15), The European Commission urged Greece to follow up on the allegations of pushbacks.

Many Turkish asylum-seekers in Greece say they feel safe in Greece (7) and have been treated well. However, the latest reports of push-back incidents raise serious concerns among advocates of human rights.

Evaluation in terms of International Human Rights Law

Push-back news creates an alarming situation in terms of international human rights law and refugee law. These Turkish families from the Hizmet Movement feel that they have no other option but to flee from Erdogan’s dictatorship in any way they could find. It must be highlighted that people are risking their lives to reach Greece with hopes of a new, safe, and free life. These people satisfy the conditions to be considered as refugees in Article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Convention which defines it as “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country” (16). If they are to stay in Turkey, it is highly likely that they will face one or more of the Turkish government’s persecution methods such as arbitrary and long pretrial detentions, inhuman prison conditions, abductions, unfair trials and convictions, passport cancellations.

International human rights law protects these families. Greece is a party to many human rights treaties and conventions as part of the European Union and the United Nations, thus has an obligation to protect these people when they reached Greece soils. More specifically, both under the EU and UN legislation, Greece cannot return, deport or expel these refugee families knowing that they will suffer from the Turkish government’s persecutions.

Likewise, Alfred De Zayas, Former UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order and Professor of International Law at Geneva School of Diplomacy, asserts that

“In the spirit of article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations adopted in 1951 the Convention Relative to the Status of Refugees. The Convention and its 1967 Protocol lay down the framework for the protection of persons who have a well-founded fear of persecution and hence have an international law right to apply for asylum.  Article 33 of the Refugee Convention elaborates upon the rule of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from deporting, expelling or extraditing asylum seekers to any state where they would be exposed to persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The rule of non-refoulement has also been enacted in other core international human rights treaties such as Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and article 7 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which have been ratified by Greece. The Committee against Torture’s General Comment No. 1 further elucidates the rule and establishes pertinent criteria for its practical application.

Looking at the current situation in Greece, it must be emphasized that Greece is obliged to comply with its commitments under international human rights law and refugee law. Members of the Hizmet Movement fleeing from the Turkish government’s harsh persecutions fulfill the definition of a refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention and have every right to demand protection from deportation to Turkey, where they face persecution. Recent push-backs of asylum seekers from the Hizmet Movement who have been denied the opportunity to have their asylum applications considered in Greece and who have been forcefully returned to Turkey by masked men is extraordinarily worrisome and contravenes international human rights law and refugee law. Hitherto Greece had welcomed the refugees from Turkey.  Greece must stop all push backs, comply with its obligations under international law, and also investigate all reports of push backs and determine responsibilities.  The Greek Government should avail itself of advisory services and technical assistance, which both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the High Commissioner for Human Rights can provide.”

Moreover, Professor Anwar Alam, Senior Fellow at Middle Institute with Policy Perspectives Foundation in New Delhi, also states that.

“In this context, it must be brought to attention that fleeing Hizmet or non-Hizmet people from Turkey to Greece via Evros River or the Aegean Sea enjoy a legal right of protection after crossing into Greece border. EU Asylum Procedures Directive (Directive 2013/32/EU) states that the first country of asylum is a country where the person has already received international protection – a refugee-like protection, or another kind of “sufficient protection” which must at least include non-refoulement guarantees (Article 35 of the Directive).

Therefore, Greek authorities are urged to comply with this legal injunction and investigate the issue of masked men who are pushing back the refugees to Turkey.”

Conclusion

Migrant pushback is a growing concern, especially in the Greek-Turkish land border. Push-backs, as the word conveys the message, is stopping migrants in the borders and pushing them back by force to the country where they came from. The legal term is collective expulsion (17). According to Article 4 of Protocol 4 (Art 4-4) to the European Convention on Human Rights, push- back is defined in legal terms as “The well-established definition of collective expulsion is any measure of the competent authorities compelling aliens as a group to leave the country, except where such a measure is taken after and on the basis of a reasonable and objective examination of the particular cases of each individual alien of the group.”(18)

Migration is not easy for those who migrate as well as those countries who receive them. People will continue to leave their countries in search of a more secure and dignified future if they face life-threatening conditions, political imprisonment, and torture. Considering the political landscape in the Middle East and Turkey, we do not see credible evidence that the influx of migrants to Greece will stop in the near future. Therefore, Greek authorities should review their border security procedures and give serious consideration to maintaining the safety of asylum seekers to remain in compliance with international laws and regulations. The Greek authorities should investigate the pushback and violence allegations whether those allegations are against border security guards or non-governmental violent groups.

References

  1. Kotsiou, O. S., Kotsios, P., Srivastava, D. S., Kotsios, V., Gourgoulianis, K. I., & Exadaktylos, A. K. (2018). Impact of the Refugee Crisis on the Greek Healthcare System: A Long Road to Ithaca. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(8), 1790. doi:10.3390/ijerph15081790
  2. United States Department of State (2018). Turkey 2018 Human Rights Report. https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/289435.pdf
  3. Konstantinou, A.& Georgopoulou, A.(2019). Asylum Information Database, Country Report: Greece. European Council on Refugees and Exiles.
  4. Reidy, E.(2018). An open secret: Refugee pushbacks across the Turkey- Greece border. https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/special-report/ 2018/10/08/refugee-pushbacks-across-turkey-greece-border-Evros.
  5. IpaNews (2019). Another group of Turkish asylum seekers who arrived in Greece pushed-back to Turkey. https://ipa.news/2019/04/29/another- group-of-turkish-asylum-seekers-who-arrived- in-greece-pushed- back-to-turkey/.
  6. Keep Talking Greece (2019). https://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2019/ 04/30/turkish-asylum-seekers-evros/?utm_source=feedburner& utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed  253A+KeepTalkingGreece+ 2528Keep+Talking+Greece 2529
  7. NPR (2017). https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/12/27/ 571842458/turks-fleeing-to-greece-find-mostly-warm-welcome- despite-history
  8. EFSYN (2019). https://www.efsyn.gr/node/193572
  9. DWNews (2018). Inside Europe: Greece accused of migrant pushbacks https://www.dw.com/en/inside-europe-greece-accused-of-migrant- pushbacks/av-46044142
  10. CEO-CPT (2018). https://www.coe.int/en/web/cpt/-/greece- council-of-europe-anti-torture-committee-calls-for-the-situation-of-psychiatric-patients-to-be-improved-while- criticising-once-again-the-poor-t
  11. Guardian (2018). https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/18/ greek-police-accused-beating-migrants-trying-to-enter-from- turkey
  12. Ipa News (2019). https://ipa.news/2019/04/28/we-were-beaten-and- pushed-back-by-masked-men-at-turkish-greek-border-turkish- journalist-and-asylum-seeker/
  13. Bold (2019). https://medyabold.com/2019/04/29/iki-ayri-turkiyeli- multeci-grubu-yunanistandan-geri-itildi/
  14. Lifo (2019). https://m.lifo.gr/articles/greece_articles/ 236781/apokleistiki-sygklonistiki-martyria-apo-to-teleytaio- push-back-ston-evro?fbclid=IwAR2PuufQWcjmHNp2tCyzsvfeN-X4rxJYjezsseBQsRZbq9ITHuknTANG28g
  15. EuroNews (2019). https://www.euronews.com/2019/05/11/masked-men- beat-us-with-batons-greece-accused-of-violent-asylum-seeker-pushbacks
  16. UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 July 1951, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, p. 137, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3be01b964.html [accessed 1 June 2019].
  17. Macgregor, M. (2018). InfoMigrants. https://www.infomigrants.net/en/ post/11579/greek-authorities-accused-of-illegal-pushbacks-and- violence-against-migrants
  18. Council of Europe (2019). Guide on Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights. https://www.echr.coe.int/ Documents/Library_Collection_P4postP11_ETS046E_ENG.pdf

 

 

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PRESS RELEASE Re: Call on Turkish Government to end the violations of right to travel and cancellations of passports

 

PDF LINK of STATEMENT

Turkish Justice Minister on January 18, 2019, declared that more than 500,000 people have been investigated and arrested on terror and coup linked charges. Turkey deliberately violates domestic legislation and international agreements. Specially, the freedom to travel has been protected by many international documents including Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), Article 10 of the Convention on Rights of Child, Article 8 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, 4th Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey provides that; “Everyone has the right to freedom of residence and travel…Freedom of travel may be restricted by law for the purpose of investigation and prosecution of an offense, and prevention of offenses. A citizen’s freedom to leave the country may be restricted only by the decision of a judge based on a criminal investigation or prosecution. Citizens shall not be deported, or deprived of their right of entry into the homeland.”

The passport application of Dr. Haluk Asuman SAVAS, who wants to be treated abroad for his cancer which relapsed twice, has been denied with the accusation of being dismissed from his job and his passport was canceled with a statutory decree although he has been acquitted for the allegation of being member of a terrorist organization and although the court, where he was being prosecuted, canceled his travel ban. Upon the public criticism, on 5/15/2019, the Adana Governorship stated “The mentioned person’s legal situation, health condition, application and documents, the authority, which has been used for several people in crucial and rare cases, has been reported to be evaluated by the Internal Affairs Ministry with the document number 17480 and date of 5/14/2019 and will be processed upon the response of the ministry. On 5/16/2019, in the additional press statement it was declared “Upon the evaluations on the mentioned person, a passport will be assigned by using the 22nd article of the 5682 numbered passport law which is used in crucial conditions” and made it clear that he would be able to benefit from this legal right and the passport cancellation process should be denied.

Prof Savas was given his passport within an exceptional authority used for a limited and exclusive number of people. However, it is known that there are hundreds of thousands of people whose passports are canceled with the statutory decree of a state of emergency and people whose right to travel is denied. According to the notification with the date 8/5/2019 of the Internal Affairs Ministry “The paraphrases on the passports of 155,350 people, which are determined to be paraphrased for the investigations on the owners’ spouses even though there is no juridical or executive process by the General Administration of Registration and Citizenship and the Police Department, has been cancelled on 7/25/2019.” Besides, in the notification with the date 3/1/2019, it is stated that “Upon the investigation and search made by our ministry, the restricted passports of 155,350 people which were blocked previously have been activated and in addition to this, the passports of 57,191 other people have been activated as well. Thus, so far, in total, passports of 212,541 people have been activated by canceling the executive limitations on them by our ministry.”

In consideration of the evaluations above, AST is calling the Turkish Government to end the aforesaid violations caused by the executive limitations which are clearly illegal.

In order for the state not to have more responsibilities by the international agreements and not to face sanctions;

 

  • Implementation of executive limitation, which is against the international agreements and the constitution, should be ended.

 

  • Within the responsibilities brought by the international agreements, necessary regulations should be implemented and tracked effectively immediately for the civil servants.     

 Hafza Y. GIRDAP

Spokesperson

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Binlerce sağlık çalışanının işlerinden tasfiyesi ve Doktor Umut’un hikayesi…

Türkiyedeki cadı avının başlamasından sonra Sağlık Bakanlığı, devlet çalışanlarının işlerinden toplu olarak tasfiyesi kapsamında, birçok hekimide içeren 7.500’den fazla sağlık çalışanının görevlerinden alındığını açıkladı.
Tasfiye, işten çıkarılan hekimlerin ve sağlık çalışanlarının, hükümet tarafından şeytanlaştırılmasından ve isimlerinin medyada yer almasından sonra yeni iş bulmada zorlandıkları için yıkıcı sonuçlar doğurdu.
Uluslararası Af Örgütü, Türk kamu sektörü çalışanlarının kitlesel işten çıkarılmalarına, yaşamları ve geçim kaynakları üzerinde yıkıcı bir etkisi olduğundan dolayı “profesyonel bir imha” adını verdi.

Bununla birlikte, Stockholm Center of Freedom (SCF) tarafından yapılan araştırmalar neticesinde, doktorların, tıp profesörlerinin, hemşirelerin, sağlık teknisyenlerinin ve hastane personellerinin de dahil olduğu 21.000’den fazla sağlık çalışanının şimdiye kadar devlet hastaneleri, Tıp fakülteleri ve sağlık kuruluşlarından işten çıkarıldığını göstermektedir .

Doktor Umut’un hikâyesi, Erdoğan rejiminin siyasi temizliğinin yıkıcı sonuçlarına ışık tutmaktadır.

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Purge of Thousands of Health Care Professionals and Doctor Umut

The Ministry of Health has announced that more than 7,500 health care professionals including many physicians have been dismissed within the scope of a mass purge of government employees from their jobs. The purge has resulted in devastating consequences for dismissed physicians as they face hardship in finding a new position after being demonized by the government and their names plastered all over the media. Amnesty International called the mass dismissal of Turkish public sector workers a “professional annihilation” that has a catastrophic impact on their lives and livelihoods.

However, research carried out by the Stockholm
Center for Freedom (SCF) shows that over 21,000 health care professionals
including doctors, medical professors, nurses, technicians and hospital staff have
thus far been dismissed from public and private hospitals as well as medical schools and associations.

Doctor Umut’s story shed light on the devastating consequences of those political purges by Erdogan’s regime.

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Academic Purge and Brain Drain of Turkey by SRW

Academic Purge and Brain Drain of Turkey. It started long before Turkey’s July 15, 2016 botched coup attempt. Slowly but steadily, young professionals, entrepreneurs, engineers, academics and new graduates started leaving their home country in search of a better future.
5,882 academics and 1,372 administrative personnel have been dismissed at universities as part of the Turkish government’s post-coup crackdown.

Over 2,300 have been fired for alleged links to the July 15 coup attempt, while 15 private universities linked to the Gulen movement have been closed down.

This video was prepared by Scholars Right Watch (SRW)

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Children and their Mothers are Prisoners of Conscience in Turkey

One of the most alarming actions of the Turkish authorities is the incarceration of women who are pregnant or have just given birth. Some are incarcerated with their children and others violently separated from them. At this moment, seven hundred forty-three (743) children under the age of six are in jails across Turkey with their mothers, detained or arrested as part of the government crackdown on its dissidents. One hundred forty-nine (149) of these children are infants under a year old. “This is simply outrageous, utterly cruel, and surely cannot have anything whatsoever to do with making the country safer” as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein” also emphasized.

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Kurdish Politician Says Erdogan Behind Latest Crackdown

Co-Chair of pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) pointed to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as someone who pulled the strings behind a massive crackdown that targeted more than a 100 politicians and journalists in the latest wave last week.

In simultaneous raids, the Turkish police raided offices and houses of tens of politicians linked with HDP and a group of journalists in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir and other cities. The clampdown has aroused international and national criticism.

Sezai Temelli accused Erdogan of giving the order for the latest move that inflicted a new blow to the party already bleeding in the face of incessant waves of the crackdown. Former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were imprisoned in late 2016 and are still in jail over terrorism charges. Thousands of party members have been jailed over similar charges.

This week saw another phase. The Turkish government has already taken over the administrations of more than 100 Kurdish-run municipalities. The president has repeatedly shown no signs of backing down and signaled a further escalation of crackdown amid armed clashes between Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish security forces.

A fragile truce between the PKK and the Turkish military collapsed in 2015 and renewed urban fighting gave Erdogan additional tools and excuse to crack down on the Kurdish political party which he portrays as the political wing of the armed militants.

The HDP rejects such blanket definitions and refuses association with PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish state since the early 1980s to carve out an autonomous zone for self-governance in southeastern Turkey.

A round of peace negotiations in 2015 came to an abrupt end when Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority in Parliament in June 7 elections. When Demirtas cruised HDP to Parliament after an upsetting electoral victory that denied AKP the chance to form another single-party government. HDP’s unexpected triumph appeared to be a turning point after the president altered his policy course regarding the Kurdish conflict and adopted a security-first approach to resolving the decades-old issue.

The military solution, although tried during countless different governments over the past four decades, has ultimately proved to be elusive and untenable. The latest bout of violence reduced cities to rubble in many parts of southeastern Turkey, leading to the displacement of nearly half a million people. Both Human Rights Watch and the United Nations well documented the scale of devastation that swept the entire region, revealing the scope of its social and economic cost in fullest form.

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Denied Early Medical Treatment, Turkish Man Dies After Released From Prison

Mehmet Ozbir, 41, died of cancer shortly after he was released in prison, adding to an already growing toll of deaths took place when authorities refused to released terminally ill prisoners in the aftermath of the 2016 coup.

The health condition of Ozbir, a businessman of modest scale from Alasehir district in the western province of Manisa, steadily worsened in recent months. He was imprisoned as part of a sweeping crackdown on people affiliated with Gulen Movement in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

The businessman was imprisoned in pretrial detention for 17 months before his release. The denial of proper medical treatment and the refusal by authorities to release him on time only exacerbated his situation.

One of his arms was amputated because the medical treatment was provided so late. When his health state worsened, the prison officials agreed to his release to avoid any responsibility in the case of his death.

Despite efforts by doctors in recent weeks, Ozbir succumbed to worsening cancer in the hospital.

His death reveals an acute problem in Turkish prisons. There are tens of people who died because of denial of access to medical treatment in prison. Ozbir’s case is only the latest example in this regard.

Ozbir was imprisoned over an anonymous tip and for his membership in ASIAD, a non-profit business organization affiliated with Gulen Movement in Alasehir.

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Disappearance of Saudi Journalist in Istanbul Consulate Stuns Whole World

The disappearance or alleged murder of a critical Saudi journalist in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul has created shockwaves across the world and sent a chilling echo for other Saudi dissidents across the region.

According to the Turkish authorities, Jamal Khashoggi has been killed by Saudi agents and his body was dismembered. Riyadh has categorically denied those allegations and pledged to work with the Turkish officials for a robust and thorough investigation to enlighten the incident.

The international community, already dismayed and alarmed by acts of the increasing violence against members of the media world, is, quite understandably, rattled by the startling case of Khashoggi. And it came after INTERPOL’s Chinese president’s arrest in China, adding a new layer of anxiety over the international fallout of domestic political score-settling.

If the Turkish claims about murder are true, it represents completely a new phase in the crackdown on critical journalists. The venue of the incident, a consulate, serves as a stark reminder for dissidents living abroad about the stakes of any form of engagement or contact with an official body of their home country. No critic would feel safe to enter a consulate or a diplomatic compound of a given country, without having second thoughts after the Khashoggi incident.

The Turkish government appeared appalled and therefore reacted in indignation against the Saudi act breaching diplomatic norms in blatant disregard of the friendly relationship that mostly defined the nature of bilateral ties between the two powers of the Middle East.

Still, the case remains to be a matter of puzzling mystery, with both Turkish and Saudi sides lacking credibility to bolster their narratives. While pro-government media and some anonymous Turkish security sources were quick to squarely pin the blame on the Kingdom, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has struck a measured and cautious tone, refraining from finger-pointing at Riyadh.

Khashoggi was last seen on Saturday. His fiancee Hatice Cengiz told media that he went to the Consulate but never showed up again. The Turkish media released video footage of a group of people believed to be Saudi agents were specifically assigned by Riyadh to kill and remove the journalist’s body. But the Turkish authorities did never offer evidence to back up their claims, while the Saudi side also stumbled in its account of the story by failing to prove Khashoggi’s departure from the Consulate via camera footage.

The issue has expectedly unsettled Turkey’s political landscape and created an uproar. But,
considering Turkey’s own dismal record in mind, Ankara’s concerns for morality and norms ring hollow and seem self-contradictory. Steven Cook, writing for Foreign Policy, addressed such moral contradictions in a recent op-ed.

Not long ago, Turkey’s intelligence operatives, in cooperation with local security agency, conducted a bold operation in Moldova to snatch a group of teachers linked with a civil society movement critical of President Erdogan’s rule.

Here a question emerges. Where did the Saudi regime get such confidence to push the boundaries of handling with critics with that extreme path? The question appears more pertinent after bearing Turkey’s similar operations in mind. It is no exaggeration, after all, to meditate that it was Ankara’s brutal clampdown on opponents at home and abroad with all means available that would have encouraged Riyadh to execute the murder or steered the disappearance act in its consulate in Turkey, but not somewhere else.

In this respect, Turkey’s own practices might plausibly have emboldened Saudi Arabia. Turkey used its own embassy in Kosovo to spirit Gulen-affiliated teachers away from the country. Similar methods also took place in Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia and Gabon where Turkey’s diplomatic compounds served as launchpads for conducting operations. Both Ankara’s use of its diplomatic facilities as a cover to disguise its intelligence operations and the disappearance of a journalist in Saudi Consulate in Istanbul mark a new step in countries’ zealous haunt for critics living abroad.

For dissidents, as Cook and all other commentators opined, the message is disheartening and worrisome. Nowhere is safe for free-minded and critical people. The whole world, especially the Western countries with strong democratic traditions, must lend additional voice to condemn, denounce and criticize the disappearance of the Saudi journalist at a diplomatic compound.

Unless the whole world unites in their strong condemnation, the Istanbul incident would set a terrible precedent for future behaviors of autocratic governments in dealing with dissident citizens abroad.

In conclusion, an act of crackdown, overseas operations to target dissidents abroad and the use of diplomatic compounds for such operations would no doubt set an example or a source of inspiration for other authoritarian regimes to follow through. In Istanbul, all contours of such a possibility were abundantly present and pointed. To stop this learning process through copy-past practices from one another’s authoritarian playbook, a collective international response and cooperation is a must, and a long overdue effort that is urgently needed to be employed.

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