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Turkey

    March 27, 2015

    A range of security reforms in a bill passed by Turkey’s Parliament today will give the country’s police forces broad and dangerous new powers to detain people and use firearms to quell dissent, Amnesty International said.

    The organization said the bill facilitates the already widespread practice of arbitrary detentions during protests and paves the way for further human rights violations including politically motivated criminal investigations and violations of the right to life.

    “Today’s vote to pass this draconian new law confirms our fears – Turkey’s Parliament has taken some of the worst abuses from the country’s appalling track record on policing and effectively endorsed them in law,” said Andrew Gardner, Researcher on Turkey at Amnesty International.

    The articles passed – which amend 14 different laws or decrees – have been hotly debated. The timing is seen as especially contentious given parliamentary elections in June.

    January 15, 2015

    A criminal investigation launched today against one of Turkey’s largest daily newspapers for “insulting religious values” in its coverage of controversial cartoons published in France amounts to state censorship and will have a chilling effect on journalism and freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    The investigation follows a police raid on Cumhuriyet daily’s printing press in Istanbul on Wednesday after a prosecutor discovered the newspaper was publishing a selection of cartoons from the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

    Turkey's Prime Minister called the reproduction of the cartoons a “grave provocation” stating that “the freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to insult”.

    “Raiding a printing press or launching criminal investigations into journalists because of what a newspaper has published are a drastic limitation on freedom of expression and amount to state censorship,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher.

    November 20, 2014

    Released 08:30 GMT 20 November 2014

    The international community’s failure to deal with the growing number of Syrian refugees fleeing into Turkey has led to a crisis of unprecedented proportions with refugees facing push-backs and live fire at the border and hundreds of thousands living in destitution, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

    Struggling to Survive: Refugees from Syria in Turkey, documents serious human rights risks faced by the 1.6 million people who have sought refuge in
    the country over the last three and a half years. It also highlights the deplorable reluctance of the international community to take meaningful financial responsibility for the refugee crisis.

    October 08, 2014

    The Turkish government must act to stop the spiraling violence which continues to rock the predominantly Kurdish south-east of Turkey where 19 people were killed and many injured during protests prompted by the advances of the armed group that calls itself the Islamic State towards Syria’s border with Turkey.

    “It is essential that the Turkish authorities act now to calm tensions with firm but rights-respecting policing and a commitment to investigate promptly the up to 19 deaths and scores of injuries of protesters,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.

    “Any use of force by the security forces must be strictly in line with international human rights standards, in particular the principles of necessity and proportionality.”

    Protests were sparked by the IS (Islamic State armed group) attack on the city of Kobani/Ayn Al-Arab in Syria, which is held by the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG). Kobani has been held by the YPG since July 2012. It has been under siege and assault by the IS since July 2013, and has come under renewed and more sustained attack since September 2014.

    September 22, 2014

    The Turkish authorities must ensure that the country’s borders are kept open to those fleeing conflict and human rights abuses in Syria and Iraq, said Amnesty International.

    Turkey began to close some of its border crossings with Syria after 130,000 Kurdish refugees poured into the country in recent days fleeing the advance of the armed group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS).

    “The latest influx of refugees has undoubtedly placed even further strain on Turkey’s already stretched resources, but this cannot be used as an excuse for denying safe sanctuary to anyone who is fleeing the horrors of war,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights at Amnesty International.

    “With more and more desperate refugees arriving at the border in search of safety, it is crucial that the international community acts now to strengthen its support to Turkey and other countries neighbouring Syria to avert further suffering.”

    Turkey, which before this weekend was already hosting more than one million refugees from Syria, has largely been left to deal with the crisis on its own.

    September 01, 2014

    The Turkish government’s prosecution of Twitter critics is a deeply hypocritical stance for the host of the Internet Governance Forum, Amnesty International said today. The organization called on future hosts to set a better example while highlighting violations of Internet freedom by the US, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Viet Nam.

    The event, which takes place in Istanbul between 2 and 5 September, brings together governments and civil society to share best practice on Internet regulation, security and human rights.

    Twenty-nine Twitter users are being tried in Izmir, Turkey, and face up to three years in jail for posting tweets during last year’s protests that the authorities claim “incite the public to break the law”. None of the tweets contained any incitement to violence.

    “It’s astounding to see Turkish authorities plough on with the prosecution of Twitter critics, even as they host a discussion on Internet governance where human rights are a key theme,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

    July 11, 2014
    By Milena Buyum, Amnesty’s Turkey Campaigner

    On 2 June last year, Özge Ünlütezcan, a 24-year-old drama student, grabbed her phone to send out a series of tweets. Shortly after, she was stunned to be called into a police station where she was questioned and detained for 18 hours. She says when I call her that she was simply using her right to pass on information about the protests that had begun in Gezi Park some days earlier, and which were rapidly sweeping the country.

    She was not alone in her response. During that summer of protests, Turkey’s 10 million-plus Twitter users lit up the internet with millions of tweets detailing what was happening. So why are Özge and 28 other young people now facing up to three years in prison?

    June 20, 2014
    By Anna Shea, Legal Adviser on Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International.

    What struck me most when I met Zeinah (not her real name), a 29-year-old Syrian refugee in Turkey, were her warm personality and marvelous smile. But her past and present experiences give her precious little to smile about.

    Zeinah arrived in Turkey four months ago, having fled her native Syria.

    Like other Syrians I met in Istanbul, Zeinah had experienced horrors in her country of origin, and was desperate to start a new life. A teacher by profession, she was jailed by the Bashar al-Assad regime for allegedly providing assistance to opposition groups. She said she was raped and beaten multiple times over the several months she spent in prison and was eventually released due to lack of evidence.

    The abuse she suffered in jail has left her with injuries to her spine – and serious psychological trauma – which remain untreated.

    June 12, 2014

    Turkey must abandon a politically motivated show trial of a group of peaceful activists charged with organizing “unlawful” protests that swept the country a year ago, said Amnesty International.

    Members of the Taksim Solidarity group, whose trial in Istanbul begins today, face up to 15 and a half years in jail.

    “This is a vindictive, politically motivated show trial without a shred of evidence of actual crimes. It should be stopped at the first hearing,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.

    “The prosecution has concocted a case simply to send a strong message to the rest of Turkey that the authorities will ruthlessly pursue anyone who dissents and organizes protests against government policies.”

    Taksim Solidarity is a coalition of more than 100 organizations including architects, engineers, doctors, trade unionists and others. It was established in 2012, to contest plans for the Taksim Square and Gezi Park urban development project in Istanbul.

    June 10, 2014

    * The repression of peaceful protest and the use of abusive force by police continues unabated one year after the Gezi Park protests;
    * Across Turkey, more than 5,500 people have been prosecuted in connection with the Gezi Park protests;
    * Only five prosecutions have been brought against nine police officers, despite hundreds of complaints of police abuses;
    * Medical associations, doctors and other civil servants have faced sanction for their alleged support for the protests;
    * Social media users are on trial for sharing information about the protests;
    * New laws restrict access to social media and criminalize the provision of emergency medical care during protests.

    One year on from the Gezi Park protests, the government’s approach to demonstrations is as abusive as ever while impunity for police violence is rampant, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

    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.

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