Crackdown in Turkey Continues

November 22, 2011

In recent weeks, we have been detailing Turkey’s crackdown on Kurdish activism and the round up of thousands of individuals on terrorism charges. Those arrested, including human rights activists, journalists, and politicians, have seldom been accused of actual violence; rather, under Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code, they have been accused of “being members of an illegal organization.”

Moreover, the Turkish government need not even demonstrate their guilt to deny them their freedom.  Extensive pre-trial detentions ensure that most will be imprisoned for lengthy periods regardless of the outcome of any eventual trial.  As Amnesty has previously noted:

Unfair trials under anti-terrorism legislation continued. In such cases, excessive pre-trial detention without consideration of alternatives by the judicial authorities remained routine, and lawyers had no effective mechanism to challenge the lawfulness of the detention in practice.

The recent arrests of Büşra Ersanlı, a widely respected scholar and professor of Political Science at Marmara University, and Ragip Zarakolu, a publisher and one of the most prominent human rights defenders in Turkey, have highlighted just how broad the sweep of the Turkish government’s crackdown has been.  Neither has been accused of violence, and yet both have been denied their freedom.  Turkey seems engaged in a concerted effort to stifle dissent.

Another issue that Amnesty has been working on is that of conscientious objectors in Turkey.  Along with Azerbaijan, Turkey is the only member of the Council of Europe which does not recognize the right to conscientious objection.  After many years of pressure from Amnesty and other human rights groups and through the efforts of brave resistance within the country, the Turkish government is, finally, considering the possibility of creating a legal basis for conscientious objection to military service.  Pressure is building.  Only this week, the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of violating the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, in a case involving another conscientious objector, Yunus Erçep.

One way for us to support these efforts is to support the brave human rights activists who have struggled – and suffered – to challenge Turkey’s antiquated military service laws.  In particular, Amnesty is currently campaigning for Halil Savda, who has been subject to repeated arrest and harassment for his campaign against military service and who has recently been sentenced to 100 days of further incarceration because of his political activity.  You can learn more about Savda in this video.

What you can do:

  1. Amnesty has begun an action in support of Halil Savda.  Write to the Turkish government in support of his cause!  A model letter and further information can be found here.

  2. Also, consider writing to Ersanlı and Zarakolu, reminding them that they are not alone by sending them letters of support.

Ragip Zarakolu’s address in prison:
Ragip Zarakolu
2 No’lu Ceza İnfaz Kurumu
Kocaeli, TURKEY.

Busra Ersanli’s address in prison:
Emine Büşra Ersanlı
Bakirköy Kadin ve Cocuk Tutukevi B6
Bakirköy, TURKEY

  1. If you are interested in the issue of Human Rights in Turkey, consider joining us on our Turkey Regional Action Network on Facebook.  Click like and share updates with your friends!

Together, we can make a difference!