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Turkey Rights Monitor - Issue 11

SPANO’S CONTROVERSIAL VISIT


September 3: European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) President Robert Ragnar Spano paid a four-day visit to Turkey which sparked indignation among opposition, and rights groups which were excluded from the visit’s schedule. Spano also received an honorary doctorate from the İstanbul University which had purged nearly 200 academics during Turkey’s two-year-long state of emergency in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt. Prominent Turkish writer Mehmet Altan addressed an open letter to Spano, highlighting the purge of Turkish academics.


ECtHR President Robert Ragnar Spano being received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara


ARBITRARY DEPRIVATION OF LIFE


September 2: Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of nationalist MHP and an ally of ruling AKP released a statement calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty, which Turkey had abolished in 2004 as part of its EU accession bid. Speaker of the parliament Mustafa Şentop endorsed Bahçeli’s proposal.


FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY


August 31: The governor’s office in Antalya issued a ban on all outdoor gatherings for seven days.


September 1: The police in Urfa briefly detained six people holding a demonstration on the occasion of the UN Day of Peace. The authorities also banned and blocked Day of Peace activities organized in Diyarbakır, Ankara and Van.


September 1: The governor’s office in İzmir issued a ban on all outdoor gatherings for one day.


September 6: The İstanbul police violently blocked a march organized in İstanbul, detaining 39 people.


FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND MEDIA


September 1: A monthly press freedom report released by opposition MP Barış Yarkadaş said that two journalists were arrested in the month of August while two were detained and two stood trial.


September 1: An Erzincan court ruled to ban access to news stories about a street vendor who set himself on fire on August 3 after authorities confiscated his vehicle and died on August 27.


September 2: Media watchdog RTÜK shut down the government-critical TELE1 broadcaster for five days over the remarks of a guest criticizing the country’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet).


September 2: Journalist Rawin Sterk, who has been imprisoned since March, was released after his first hearing about his reporting of the migrant crisis at the border with Greece.


Journalist Rawin Sterk

September 3: A court ruled to ban access to news stories about an alleged child abuse by a religious preacher.


September 3: Grup Yorum music band member Ali Aracı, who was arrested in June 2019 as part of a prosecution against the leftist music group, was released.


September 3: Media watchdog RTÜK demanded Netflix to remove the movie “Cuties” (Mignonnes) which it said contains images of child abuse.


HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS


September 4: The Council of Europe (CoE) Committee of Ministers urged Turkey to comply with a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) order to release businessman and civil society leader Osman Kavala, who has been imprisoned since October 2017.


Businessman and human rights defender Osman Kavala who recently marked his 1000th day behind bars in Turkey


JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE


September 1: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan verbally targeted the lawyers who commemorated Ebru Timtik, jailed lawyer who lost her life after a long hunger strike behind bars to demand a fair trial, suggesting that lawyers who “engage in terrorism” should be disbarred. Interior minister Süleyman Soylu and justice minister Abdülhamit Gül also condemned the İstanbul Bar Association for commemorating Timtik.


KURDISH MINORITY


August 31: Burhanettin Şahin, former elected mayor of the Karayazı district in Erzurum who was removed by the interior ministry and replaced with a government-appointed trustee was detained. Şahin was arrested later on September 3. He was one of the scores of pro-Kurdish HDP mayors ousted from office by the interior ministry since last year’s local elections.


September 4: Sixteen Kurdish seasonal farm workers were assaulted by a farm owner and a group of villagers in the northwestern province of Sakarya in what appears to be a racist attack.


MILITARY OPERATIONS ABROAD


September 5: A new report by Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Parliament said that Turkey’s military incursions into the country since 1992 have uprooted residents of over 500 Kurdish villages.


MISTREATMENT OF CITIZENS ABROAD


September 1: Austria’s interior minister announced that the country is set to press charges against a person who has confessed to spying on behalf of Turkey’s intelligence services. The person allegedly spied on people with a Turkish migration background and reported them to the Turkish authorities.


PRISON CONDITIONS


September 2: Jailed journalist Gazel Bulut revealed in a letter to an MP that she has not been allowed to see her four-year-old daughter for the past six months due to Covid-19 measures related to contact visits in prison.


REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS


September 2: Greek armed forces allegedly pushed 10 Turkish asylum seekers who had crossed the Evros river on a dinghy back to Turkey. The asylum seekers were immediately detained by Turkish gendarmerie afterwards.


TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT


September 1: Media reports indicated that 18 people who were detained while trying to hold a press briefing on the occasion of the UN Day of Peace were subjected to torture and ill-treatment at the Sancaktepe police department.


September 4: One of the 23 female university students detained for alleged Gülen links revealed that they were subjected to abusive and repetitive strip searches in custody. The students were also denied the right to contact their families or their lawyers during the detention.


September 4: Media reports indicated that three people; Hamdullah Esen, Tayip Temel and Mehmet Sait Yardımcı; who were detained in house raids in Urfa for alleged membership in terrorist groups, were subjected to torture and ill-treatment while in custody at the Urfa police department. The victims reportedly had blood stains and bruises on their bodies during their meeting with their lawyer.


WOMEN’S RIGHTS


September 3: A monthly gender-based violence report said that at least 122 women were subjected to male violence in August and that 31 women were killed.

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