Susan Sarandon On Appalling Police Violence in Turkey

June 24, 2013

(Photo Credit: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
(Photo Credit: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)

By Susan Sarandon, Actress and Activist

Freedom of expression is a right we have to value and protect, which is why I’m joining Amnesty to demand justice for the thousands of peaceful protesters who have been injured due to police violence in Turkey.

The use of excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters is not uncommon in Turkey, but since the clashes in Taksim Square began on May 28th, it has reached unprecedented levels within the country. What began as a small protest against the demolition of one of the last green spaces in Turkey has turned into a national crisis and commanded international attention.

The situation in Turkey is spiraling out of control. Turkish authorities have failed to step in to curb abuses by the police and help their own citizens. Thousands have been injured and that number will continue to rise unless the authorities bring police tactics in line with basic human rights standards.

Last weekend, police were seen firing tear gas directly at makeshift hospitals and detaining medical personnel who were treating injured protesters. A water cannon was directed at the entrance of the German Hospital, not far from Taksim Square. Amnesty International has received credible reports of protesters being abused by police while in custody. Scores of those arrested during the crackdown were reportedly held incommunicado. Amnesty International is working to determine their current status.

There are also indications of a broader crackdown against civil liberties. People are reportedly being detained simply for posting information about the protests on social media, and scores of lawyers were arrested recently as they prepared to make a statement about the protests.

Simply calling for an investigation into police violence and encouraging restraint isn’t enough. The Turkish Prime Minister must immediately step in and stop police violence. Ill-treatment on arrest and in detention must end; access to medical care must be insured. Independent and impartial investigations into the policing of the demonstrations must be carried out and the findings should be made public.

Join me and Amnesty International in petitioning the Turkish government to take these actions. You can also follow the following Amnesty staff on Twitter for live updates of the situation on the ground: @muratcekic@pilkiz and @andrewegardner. For more ways on how you can help, click here.

Peaceful dissent should never be stifled with violence. Turkish citizens have a right to express their concerns without fearing for their safety. They need the support of those of us around the world who enjoy a freedom that for them is under attack. Let these protesters know that millions around the world are watching, that the violence against them has not gone unnoticed and that we are prepared to stand up for the right to freedom of expression.