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Turkey

    May 14, 2014

    The Turkish government must urgently investigate last night’s catastrophic coal mine explosion and reports of dangerous working practices in the mining sector to stop further tragedies, said Amnesty International.

    “This was a tragedy that should have been avoided. The long history of deaths in mines in Turkey raises chilling questions over workers’ safety. The fact that the government rejected recent calls by parliamentarians to investigate serious work-related accidents is nothing short of shocking. They are playing with people’s lives,” said Andrew Gardner, researcher on Turkey at Amnesty International. 

    Some 245 men are reported to have died with 80 injured after an explosion at a coal mine in Soma, west Turkey, on Tuesday 13 May. The death toll is expected to rise significantly as 800 workers were on site as the explosion occurred.

    The mine is owned by Soma Kömür İşletmeleri A.Ş, a subsidiary of Soma Holding, the largest underground coal producer in Turkey.

    Previous mine disasters in Turkey include an explosion, in 1992, at a coal mine in the black sea province of Zonguldak in which 263 miners died.

    May 01, 2014

    The use of tear gas and water cannon against peaceful protesters today by police in Istanbul is a reprehensible move to crack down on free expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said.

    Riot police sealed off the whole of central Istanbul near Taksim Square to ensure that no protesters made it to a peaceful demonstration planned there to mark May Day.

    “A peaceful march this morning was cut off by a human wall of riot police blocking the main access road from Şişli into Taksim Square, the epicentre of last year’s Gezi Park protests,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey expert, who witnessed the events first-hand.

    “In a repeat of the abusive tactics that have sadly become the Turkish authorities’ stock response to peaceful protests, tear gas and water cannon were fired to disperse the crowd assembled there.

    March 27, 2014

    The Turkish authorities’ move today to block access to YouTube on the eve of Sunday’s elections, and not long after they restricted access to Twitter, smacks of a wider pre-meditated crackdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    According to media reports, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited national security concerns when it sought an administrative order to block the video-sharing platform – allegedly to prevent further circulation of a taped recording of discussions between senior Turkish officials on Syria.

    “The Turkish government appears to be itching for pretexts to close down websites because of their capacity to mobilize dissenting opinion and broadcast embarrassing material,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's researcher on Turkey.

    “Coming just days before Turkey goes to the polls and in the wake of Prime Minister Erdoðan’s strident criticism of YouTube, this is clearly nothing more than a crude attempt at government censorship that will only generate deeper distrust and frustration.

    March 25, 2014
    March 23 rally after government banned Twitter just days before crucial local elections OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

    Amnesty's Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner blogs on freedom of expression and the widely criticized and ultimately futile attempt to silence Twitter (follow @andrewegardner on Twitter)

    The Twitter shutdown started at about 11pm on Thursday night. My telephone started to ring: had I heard that Twitter was blocked? There was confusion about who could access Twitter, who couldn’t, and why. And would the government really take this step – such a brazen attack on freedom of expression – just a week before the local elections?

    Yes, that’s just what they have done. Five days on, Twitter is still blocked in Turkey and there is no sign of when the ban might be lifted.

    It wasn’t a complete surprise. Four hours before it was shut down, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had threatened to “wipe out” Twitter at an election rally. And as he has said since, he personally gave the order. It’s a textbook example of how policy is made – and human rights infringed – in Turkey.

    March 21, 2014

    The first ever tweet was sent eight years ago today. No-one will be celebrating this landmark on the social media site in Turkey, however: the government has just shut it down. Amnesty International calls on the Turkish authorities to immediately reverse the decision to block the social media site.

    “The decision to block Twitter is an unprecedented attack on internet freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey. The draconian measure, brought under Turkey’s restrictive internet law, shows the lengths the government is prepared to go to prevent anti-government criticism,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.

    The blocking order came into force on Thursday, shortly before midnight, following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s pledge earlier in the day at an election rally to “wipe out” Twitter. Social media users in Turkey condemned the move and more than a million tweets were reportedly sent in the hours following the blocking order as users found ways to get around it.

    March 12, 2014

    Amnesty International is monitoring events at the funeral old 15-year-old Berkin Elvan in Istanbul as thousands gather in cities across Turkey to protest ongoing police impunity.

    Berkin Elvan, died in hospital yesterday following a protracted coma. He was hit on the head on 16 June 2013 at the scene of a Gezi park demonstration close to his home in Istanbul. His father told Amnesty International that he had left the house to buy bread.

    Amnesty International’s expert on Turkey Andrew Gardner is monitoring events at the funeral.

    “The death of Berkin Elvan must be a wake-up call for the Turkish authorities who have condoned abusive force by the police for too long,” said Andrew Gardner.

    “Berkin is the fourth person to die as a direct result of abusive use of force by police officers during last year’s Gezi Park protests. The lack of effective investigations into the use of such force which also left thousands injured has touched a nerve and resulted in a wave of anti-government demonstrations which are sweeping Turkey again.”

    October 02, 2013

    Turkish authorities committed human rights violations on a massive scale in the government’s attempts to crush the Gezi Park protests this summer said Amnesty International.

    In a report published today the organization details the worst excesses of police violence, during the protests, the failure to bring these abuses to justice and the subsequent prosecution and harassment of those that took part.

    “The attempt to smash the Gezi Park protest movement involved a string of human rights violations on a huge scale. They include the wholesale denial of the right to peaceful assembly and violations of the rights to life, liberty and the freedom from torture and ill-treatment,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s expert on Turkey.

    A “democratization package” announced by the Prime Minister on Monday fails to address these violations or to take any serious steps to ensure that they will not occur in the future.

    September 12, 2013

    All countries should suspend shipments of tear gas, armoured vehicles and other riot control projectile equipment to Turkey until the Turkish authorities can guarantee protesters’ right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    The call comes as police have again abusively used large amounts of tear gas and water cannon to disperse protests – some of them violent – in Istanbul and other cities around the country in the past three days. This new round of demonstrations was sparked when a young protester was killed in unclear circumstances as police responded to a demonstration in the southern province of Hatay early on Tuesday.

    “The Turkish police’s return to the abusive use of force in response to demonstrations underscores the need for all countries to suspend shipments of tear gas and other riot control projectile equipment and armoured policing vehicles to Turkey, until steps are taken to prevent such deaths and injuries,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher.

    July 25, 2013

    Separate boating incidents putting the lives of dozens of migrants at risk in the Aegean Sea today are a tragic reminder of the dangers faced by people seeking to reach Europe’s borders, Amnesty International said.

    A search and rescue operation continues off the Turkish coastal city Bodrum, where a boat believed to have 13 migrants on board went missing early this morning.

    Also today the Greek coastguard rescued 21 migrants who fell from a rubber boat carrying 46 people near the island of Chios. One of the migrants was unconscious when pulled out of the sea and was later pronounced dead.

    “The sad truth is that we’re likely to see more tragic incidents like these as migrants and asylum-seekers flee economic hardship and conflict with the hopes of finding safety and a better life in Europe,” said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program.

    July 09, 2013

    The Turkish authorities must immediately release peaceful demonstrators who were detained in Taksim yesterday. They must also investigate allegations of the excessive use of force after riot police used tear gas and water canons to clear the square and neighbouring Gezi park, Amnesty International said.

    “The authorities in Turkey have the duty to ensure people can peacefully gather and express their views,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    “It is imperative that an impartial investigation into the alleged abuses by riot police is carried out as soon as possible, and that those responsible of any crime face justice.”

    According to the Istanbul Medical Association at least 30 people were injured yesterday including a 17 year-old man who is in a critical condition with head injuries after he was hit with a gas canister.

    On Monday 8 July, the Gezi Park in Taksim was briefly opened to the public following a three week ban on public access.

    June 21, 2013

    Following weeks of violently suppressed public protests, the Turkish government’s declaration that public assemblies in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square will not be tolerated will put Pride marches at risk over the next two Sundays, Amnesty International warned today.

    The organization believes that not allowing peaceful gatherings in one of Istanbul’s most iconic squares is a serious assault on the right to freedom of assembly, and the Turkish authorities must backpedal from this threatened restriction.

    “Turkey’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community have struggled for years to gain acceptance of and respect for their Pride events, which have gone ahead successfully without police intervention in recent years. To have this derailed now would be a serious step backwards for freedom of assembly in Turkey,” said Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director John Dalhuisen.

    Turkish LGBTI activists had organized the Pride events for the next two Sundays – 23 and 30 June.

    June 16, 2013

    Police in Turkey are refusing to acknowledge that they have people in custody following mass detentions carried out during the night in Istanbul, Amnesty International said today.   

    More than a hundred are believed to have been detained during Saturday night’s demonstrations in the areas of Taksim, the main focus of the protests, and the nearby districts of Harbiye and Mecidiyekoy.  The actual number is not known but is likely to be significantly higher.

    The Istanbul Bar Association told Amnesty International that they knew of  around 70 named individuals whowere seen being detained by police but whose whereabouts still cannot be verified.  

    "Following a night of shocking police violence, the authorities are now denying due process to those they have detained. The police must released them immediately or disclose their location and allow access to family members and lawyers," said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's researcher on Turkey, who is currently in Istanbul.   

    June 13, 2013
    Protesters in Istanbul wave Turkish flags

    Text and photographs by Anna Shea, Amnesty International Canada Legal Program Coordinator

    I was expecting to have a great vacation in Turkey. I wasn’t expecting to watch history unfold. Fortunately, however, I happened to be in Istanbul between May 26 and June 5. I had rented a room near Taksim Square, and I was in the square or the adjacent Gezi Park for almost 24 hours a day (it’s impossible to stay home when the world seems to be ending…).

    For me, the beginning of the protests was the most difficult time, because we all felt forgotten. When I returned to the apartment in the middle of the night on Friday May 31, I anticipated frantic emails and phone messages from my family and friends. But no one had been in touch. This was not surprising, since unless you were directly connected with Turkish protesters on Facebook or Twitter, it was impossible to know what was happening. But the feeling of isolation was nonetheless dreadful. It was such a relief when bloggers and the international media started taking notice. Amnesty – the national office in Turkey and the international secretariat – was one of the first organizations to draw attention to the situation. Simply knowing that people were paying attention – especially people overseas, completely unconnected from the action – was incredibly empowering, much more than I could have imagined.

    June 12, 2013

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today said that “We have not responded to punches with punches. From now on security forces will respond differently.”
     
    He also warned the country’s security forces would end demonstrations that have shaken the country for two weeks within the next 24 hours.  

    Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher at Amnesty International who is currently in Istanbul, responded: “Prime Minister’s Erdogan’s outrageous statement is nothing short of a provocation, only likely to lead to more violence and more injured protesters, particularly as fresh demonstrations are planned this evening in Taksim Square and elsewhere.”

    “It is high time for the international community, and in particular EU countries, to intervene by urging the Turkish government to enter into a meaningful dialogue with the protesters in order to de-escalate the situation and bring and end to the appalling levels of violence we have witnessed in the last two weeks.”

     

    June 11, 2013

    Protests in Turkey are likely to continue to escalate unless authorities engage in meaningful discussions with activists, Amnesty International said after riot police this morning once again used tear gas and water cannon against peaceful protesters in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and Gezi Park.

    The further police action against demonstrators contradicted statements by the Governor of Istanbul this morning that they would not intervene in the park.

    Activists have been protesting against the construction of a shopping centre in Gezi Park adjacent to the square, which is one of downtown Istanbul’s last green spaces.

    In a statement to media, Istanbul’s Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu said the intervention in Taksim Square was being carried out to remove banners from the Atatürk statue and the Atatürk Culture Centre on the square and that the police would not intervene in Gezi Park.

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