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Turkey Rights Monitor - Issue 2

ARBITRARY DEPRIVATION OF LIFE


July 5: A pro-Kurdish news outlet reported that Fatma Elarslan, a 13-year-old girl, who was found dead in the southeastern province of Şırnak after being missing for 20 days during a local curfew in February-March 2020, was registered by local prosecutors as being “killed in clashes with security forces,” based on anonymous witness statements denouncing her as a “member of a terrorist organization.”


13-year-old Fatma Elarslan

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY


June 29: The police blocked a protest organized by lawyers in the western city of İzmir against the government’s plans to amend the law on lawyers. The lawyers subsequently staged a sit-in, according to reports.


June 30: Lawyers from the Adana Bar Association were blocked by the police from holding a protest march. The lawyers later held a sit-in.


July 1: Four people who made a public statement commemorating the Sivas massacre were detained by the police in Ankara who cited a ban on assemblies issued by the governor’s office.


July 2: The Ankara Governor’s Office released a statement banning all meetings, marches and assemblies for 15 days, citing increasing number of cases in the Covid-19 pandemic. The ban came a day prior to the “Grand Defense Rally” organized by bars associations.


July 3: The police used pepper spray against lawyers who gathered at Ankara courthouse to protest a government-led bill to amend the law on lawyers.


FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND MEDIA


June 29: Documents revealed that Turkey requested from Sweden the extradition of government-critical journalist Levent Kenez for allegedly insulting a prosecutor and a judge in an article he published.


Levent Kenez, government-critical Turkish journalist who currently lives in exile in Sweden

June 30: A Turkish court started the trial of 20 Saudi nationals suspected to be involved in the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, including two former aides to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in absentia. The prominent Riyadh critic was killed after he entered the Saudi Consulate in İstanbul in October 2018. Riyadh has described the murder as a “rogue” operation, but both the CIA and UN Special Rapporteur Agnès Callamard have linked Crown Prince Mohammed to the killing.


July 1: Turkey’s media watchdog RTÜK imposed five-day broadcast bans against two government-critical TV channels. The two outlets risk losing their broadcast licenses entirely if they get penalized again in the future.


July 1: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked the parliament to draft a bill aimed at controlling or shutting down social media platforms and streaming services such as YouTube, Twitter and Netflix. Last year, Erdoğan’s government granted media watchdog RTÜK censorship powers over online streaming.


July 1: At least 11 people were detained in Turkey for social media postings that allegedly insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s daughter and son-in-law after they announced the birth of their fourth child on Twitter.


July 2: Doğan Akın, founder and editor-in-chief of the T24 news website, was acquitted by an İstanbul court of criminal charges related to his reporting on the tweets of the famous government whistleblower “Fuat Avni” between 2014 and 2016. Meanwhile, journalist Ayşenur Parıldak who was arrested in 2016 for being followed by Fuat Avni on Twitter, remains in jail.


July 5: Turkey’s media watchdog RTÜK banned the broadcasting of a music video by singer Sıla Gencoğlu for “encouraging smoking.” The video had close to 25 million hits on YouTube at the time the ban went into effect.


FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT


June 30: Haluk Savaş, 54, a leading human rights activist and a victim of a large-scale post-coup purge in Turkey, died of cancer after his treatment abroad was significantly belated by an arbitrary travel ban and ultimately produced no result.


HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS


July 3: An İstanbul court handed down prison sentences to four human rights defenders out of the 11 who were on trial on terrorism-related charges. Those sentenced included Taner Kılıç, former Chair of Amnesty International Turkey Executive Board.


Taner Kılıç, former Amnesty Turkey Chair, was sentenced to 6 years, 3 months in prison on terrorism-related charges

JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE


June 30: Serkan Gölge, an American NASA scientist, returned with his family to the United States after nearly four years of imprisonment and house arrest in Turkey, and more than seven months after US President Donald Trump said he had secured an agreement for his release. Gölge was imprisoned over alleged links to the Gülen movement.


KURDISH MINORITY


June 29: Belarussian news reports indicated that the Supreme Court of Belarus ruled to extradite Hicri Mamas, a Kurdish political activist, to Turkey where he is accused of “threatening the unity and territorial integrity of the state.”


June 29: An Ankara criminal court ruled to keep behind bars Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, former co-chairs of the Kurdish-oriented Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who have been imprisoned since November 2016. Turkey previously defied an ECtHR order for Demirtaş’s release.


OTHER MINORITIES


June 29: Presidential aide Fahrettin Altun defended the homophobic remarks of Kerem Kınık, the head of Turkish Red Crescent.


PRISON CONDITIONS


June 29: Esra Terzioğlu, the wife of a jailed TV director Fatih Terzioğlu, continued to campaign for the immediate release of her husband who has serious health problems.


June 29: Media reports indicated that authorities in the Ağrı Patnos Prison in eastern Turkey were holding up prisoners’ letters and deliveries, confiscating their radios, unduly restricting prisoners’ social and sportive rights, depriving prisoners of hot water and supplying unhygienic meals.


July 1: Birsen Yıldırım, the wife of inmate Deniz Yıldırım, called on the authorities for the release of her husband who was diagnosed with colon cancer and COVID-19 in the Elazığ prison where he is held.


REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS


July 1-3: Bodies of seven Afghan migrants were recovered by rescue teams in lake Van in eastern Turkey after a boat carrying around 70 Afghan migrants was reported missing on June 27.


WOMEN’S RIGHTS


July 2: Ruling AKP’s deputy chairman Numan Kurtulmuş said Turkey might withdraw from the İstanbul Convention, the international convention on against gender-based violence which has been slammed in Turkey’s conservative circles as “damaging to family values.”


July 3: In June 2020, men inflicted violence on at least 61 women, killed 21 women and raped seven women, according to monthly gender-based violence figures compiled by the Bianet news website.

OTHERS AISBL | BELGIUM