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Turkey

    June 18, 2020

    This virus won’t kill me; what will kill me is your system. 

    Lorry driver Malik Yılmaz

    Corona virus is devastating lives worldwide, whether because of the illness itself or the social and economic impact of lockdowns and other government measures. Everywhere, the poorest are being hit hardest. In Turkey, the authorities are making the situation worse by using the pandemic as an excuse to further stifle the right to freedom of expression. They are hounding social media users, journalists, doctors and others, and invoking legal provisions that criminalize dissent, in efforts to silence their critics.

    Crackdown on social media

    Around 54 million people use social media in Turkey, nearly two-thirds of the population. The country ranks seventh on the list of active Twitter users (13.6 million people) and tops the list for legal requests by the state to remove content.

    May 11, 2020

    Top row (left to right): Nalan Erkem, İlknur Üstün, Veli Acu, Peter Steudtner

    Middle row (left to right): Idil Eser, Ali Gharavi, Nejat Taştan, Şeyhmus Özbekli,

    Bottom row (left to right): Günal Kurşun, Özlem Dalkıran, Taner Kılıç

    Nalan Erkem is a lawyer. She was a member of the board of directors of the İzmir Bar Association from 2002-2004 when she supported “The Role of Lawyers in the Prevention of Torture” project. As a member of the Citizens’ Assembly she has been undertaking key consultancy roles and served as member of its Board of Directors. She has also been a member of Amnesty International Turkey since its early days in 2001. She undertook many significant human rights projects and has written and published several reports based on her work.

    May 06, 2020

    On 3 July 2020 - three years after they were first detained - 11 human rights activists will hear a court’s verdict on charges which could result in jail terms of up to 15 years. One fundamental truth is beyond any doubt: they have done nothing wrong.

    What have they done?

    They have done nothing wrong. They stood up for human rights in Turkey. 

    The 11 - that includes the former chair, ex-director and several members of Amnesty Turkey as well as women’s and equality advocates – face absurd ‘terrorism’ charges without any credible evidence being presented over the course of ten hearings.

    Since their detention in 2017, more than two million people around the world – from Ai Wei Wei to Whoopi Goldberg - have spoken out for justice for the 11 rights defenders. Now as this unfair trial is coming to a close, we are asking you to join us in adding your voice and send a message of solidarity to the 11 activists ahead of the verdict.

    After all, when people who defend our rights are silenced, we are all at risk.

    When were they arrested and what are they accused of?

    June 01, 2019

    Think a keyboard can stop torture?

    Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action on May 24 to protect 44 adults and 3 children. The group had been scooped during police raids after a violent clash between security forces and the armed PKK. In custody at the police’s anti-terrorism branch in Urfa province, the detainees sustained head injuries and cuts and bruises from repeated kicks and punches. Hours after our appeals began arriving in Turkey, the torture stopped. Police began treating the detainees with more respect and the detainees felt more secure.

    Children were among 22 individuals who have now been released. Others have been transferred to prison where further ill-treatment is unlikely. Amnesty International has sent a letter to the Minister of Justice to call for a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment experienced by the detainees.

    Learn more about the Urgent Action Network here.

     

    June 18, 2018

    Taner Kiliç, Amnesty International Turkey's Honourary Chair, has spent more than a year in prison. Taner’s trial, and that of 10 other human rights defenders, resumes in Istanbul on June 21st. 

    In June 2017, Taner Kiliç was charged and jailed as part of a crackdown on human rights defenders. Taner has done nothing wrong and never should have been arrested. 

    Taner is our friend and colleague. We will not give up until he is free. 

    Join our call to #FreeTaner and demand his immediate and unconditional release. Here's how: 

    1. TAKE ACTION NOW

    Sign and share our action demanding that Taner be released immediately and unconditionally.

    >>SIGN NOW

    2. SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR TANER

    Make a sign with a message calling for Turkey to #FreeTaner. Include a message about where you are from. 

    June 04, 2018

    By Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s Director of Campaigns for Europe

    To be forgotten. People who have been wrongfully imprisoned say the fear of being forgotten is one of their biggest worries in prison. 

    The chilling fear that eventually, nobody will care about what happens to them. A creeping anxiety that they will languish in captivity, while the world outside slowly forgets their very existence.

    Such thoughts have also slipped through the mind of Amnesty Turkey’s Honorary Chair, Taner Kılıç. This 6th of June, the human rights lawyer has been deprived of his freedom for a whole year, although he’s done nothing wrong.

    But throughout this ordeal, he has gained strength from the support of people all over the world: “Even if an imprisoned person may fall in the illusion that he would be forgotten even by his closest ones -like “forgotten prisoners”- my situation has been the opposite in fact.

    In addition to my family and friends, I’ve become known in and watched by the world thanks to Amnesty International.”

    February 14, 2018

    Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty Turkey, was arrested along with nine other participants when police stormed a routine workshop in Istanbul on 5 July 2017. Charged with “aiding a terrorist organization”, two were bailed while the other eight, including Idil, were held in pre-trial detention. Their arrest followed that of Amnesty’s Turkey chairman, Taner Kılıç, who had been imprisoned separately in June. After a global outpouring of action, Idil and her seven co-detainees were granted conditional release on 25 October, while Taner remained in jail.

    JULY–SEPTEMBER Thousands of signatures, letters and messages mounted around the world calling for the release of Idil and her colleagues.

    10 JULY Amnesty Belgium Director Philippe Hensmans posed in a cage in front of the Turkish embassy in Brussels, Belgium, to protest against the continued detention of his Turkish colleague.

    February 01, 2018

    After spending almost 8 months in jail on unjust charges, an Istanbul court ordered that Amnesty Turkey Chair Taner Kiliç be released on bail on January 31st. In unprecedented flip flop later that day the court overturned its decision and Taner was re-arrested and returned to detention as his friends, family and colleagues waited for him to be released. This is a cruel and disgraceful move by the Turkish government. Their continued crackdown on human rights defenders in Turkey is an affront to justice.

    We need you to take action to help free Taner. Here is how you can get involved:

    1. TAKE ACTION NOW

    Sign and share our action demanding that Taner be released immediately and unconditionally

    >>SIGN NOW

    2. Organize in your community

    Organise a protest outside the Turkish Consulate in your community or another public space; and share on social media using the hashtag #FreeTaner

    October 13, 2017
    Idil Eser

    Since July 2017 our friend and colleague İdil Eser has been held in the highest security area of the highest security prison in Turkey.

    İdil, the Director of Amnesty International Turkey, was detained along with nine others during a workshop in Istanbul. It came only a month after Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kılıç was detained. Currently eight imprisoned and two bailed defenders are facing an investigation on suspicion of aiding a terrorirst organisation, a ridiculous and baseless accusation. They have done nothing wrong.

    İdil has written a letter from her prison cell after a massive global response demanding their release. It’s a message of thanks, hope and courage.

    12 September 2017, Silivri Prison No. 9

    I would like to thank the entire Amnesty International movement. I send my heartfelt thanks to the International Secretariat, the [Amnesty Turkey] board, campaigners, people who have supported us with their signatures, and especially my colleagues who continue their work with self-sacrifice.

    October 13, 2017

    Veli Acu was detained along with nine others in July during a workshop in Istanbul in Turkey, where he was training human rights defenders from different organisations, including Amnesty Turkey’s Director İdil Eser. They are facing an investigation on suspicion of aiding a terrorist organisation, a ridiculous and baseless accusation. They have done nothing wrong.

    Veli has written a letter from prison about his life and experiences which led him to a career defending human rights:

    “According to my identity documents, I was born on 1 January 1998 in Siirt/Şirvan. Only the province and district names are correct - all the rest including the day, month and year were written on the initiative of the register officer.

    I am one of the eleven children of my illiterate parents, both nomadic Kurdish people who spent the hot summer days on the highlands. When I was four or five, security forces came to our village and wanted us to evacuate it, citing some reasons whose meanings I fully understood only at university. In reality, the main reason was that famous word: “security.” Later I came to know that whenever someone utters this word nothing good would follow.

    October 13, 2017

    Günal Kurşun was detained along with nine others from Turkey’s foremost human rights organisations in July, as they took part in a workshop together. Among them was Amnesty Turkey’s Director İdil Eser. They are facing an investigation on suspicion of aiding a terrorist organisation, a ridiculous and baseless accusation. They have done nothing wrong.

    Günal has been separated from his young son Ali Berk since then. In September he was allowed to speak to him by phone for 5 minutes, and told him that he misses him a lot and that he has forgotten his smell. A few days later he was finally able to see his son in an open visit. He gave Ali Berk some chocolate that he had bought and they played. Günal has written 10 children’s stories for Ali Berk during his long and unfair imprisonment.

    Günal has also written a letter from prison giving an insight into his life and why he feels it is so important to live by human rights principles:

    “I was born on 5 September 1975 in Ankara. My father is a military judge who retired as a colonel in 2004, and my mother is a soprano singer/pianist. I have one brother, Mete.

    October 12, 2017
    Human Rights Defenders from Turkey who are in prison

    Today marks 100 days since Turkish security forces stormed a routine training workshop and bundled away 10 prominent human rights activists. Most of the group - dubbed the Istanbul 10 - have been locked-up in Turkey’s highest security prison.

    This week the prosecutor filed an indictment calling for the group, which includes a German and Swedish trainer and the director of Amnesty International Turkey, to be sentenced for up to 15 years on terrorism charges.

    The absurdity of the charges against them and the reasons they are being held in prison will leave you incredulous.

    So much for a “secret meeting”

    Turkish prosecutors have attempted to depict the meeting as a shadowy gathering of conspirators seeking to create “chaos in society”, BUT…

    1. This was not a secret meeting ... Many people from lots of organisations had been openly invited.

    October 03, 2017

    Peter Steudtner was detained along with nine others in July during a workshop in Istanbul, where he and Ali Gharavi were training human rights defenders on wellbeing and digital security. Among the attendees was Amnesty Turkey’s Director İdil Eser. Currently eight of them remain in prison and two are on bail, all facing an investigation under anti-terrorism laws. They have done nothing wrong.

    Peter has written a message from his cell about coping with life in prison:



    "To all who accompany me in thought and deed!

    A wholehearted thankyou to all who support us, especially to my family and friends (and all who support them), to the German government, Ministries, Embassy, Consulate; to my legal team, and to my holistic security team, HIVOS + KURVE Wustrow, to all political campaigns that demand our release!

    As I do not have any contact anymore with Ali and the other human rights defenders, I am writing this letter on my behalf only.

    October 03, 2017

    In July 2017, our friend and colleague İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, was detained along with nine other human rights defenders in Istanbul. Currently eight of them are in prison and two are on bail, all are facing an investigation under anti-terrorism laws. Yet they have done nothing wrong.

    It came only a month after Amnesty Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kılıç was detained, also unfairly. He remains in prison.

    On 14 October 2017, Amnesty will hold a global day of action demanding their release to coincide with Idil’s birthday.

    So why is this happening to them?

    What happened on 5 July 2017?

    It should have been an ordinary day for İdil Eser, director of Amnesty Turkey. She was attending a workshop on wellbeing and digital security with colleagues from other human rights organisations in Istanbul – the kind of gathering that takes place around the world every week. It included open discussions about the stresses they encounter and practical ways of dealing with these.

    But during the workshop police raided the building and detained them all, including the two workshop trainers.

    July 31, 2017
      Tanya O'Carroll is a technology and human rights adviser at Amnesty International. Follow Tanya on Twitter @TanyaOCarroll    When the colleagues of Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner heard that they had been detained in Turkey, along with representatives of six renowned Turkish NGOs, they assumed there had been a misunderstanding. Ali, a Swedish IT strategy consultant, and Peter, a German nonviolence and wellbeing trainer, had been in Istanbul delivering a routine workshop, as they had done many times before in countries as far afield as Mexico and Pakistan. This was the first time their work had landed them in a police station.   But the detention of the two trainers was no accident. After 12 days in police custody, both men were remanded in prison along with four others including İdil Eser, the director of Amnesty Turkey. They are facing absurd and baseless allegations of terror links, and lengthy pre-trial detentions.   

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