İHD is 37 Years Old!
17 July 2023
The Human Rights Association (İHD) was founded on 17 July 1986 with the signatures of 98 human rights defenders. The founding objective of the association was formulated as “to promote activity concerned with human rights and freedoms” and this statement was also included in the İHD charter. Among the founders were intellectuals, authors, human rights defenders and relatives of prisoners.
Since its foundation, the Human Rights Association has taken it upon itself to fight against official ideology and official politics. It has fearlessly expressed and continues to express its opinions, which differ from those of many other groups, on issues such as the Kurdish issue, the Armenian Genocide and the military presence in Cyprus, which constitute the red lines of the established official ideology in Turkey.
The Human Rights Association is also the first non-governmental organization established after the military coup of 12 September. In this respect, it has an important place in terms of democratization and civilianization.
In the years when the Human Rights Association was founded, the policies of the military coup that violated all human rights were on the agenda. Torture, death penalty, disappearances, torture of prisoners… İHD adopted the struggle against all these grave violations as its aim.
Since the establishment of İHD, we have seen that there are very important human rights problems in the land we live in. The Republic of Turkey is obliged to introduce legal regulations and change its practices in all areas where these rights violations occur, both prescribed by its own domestic law and by the international conventions and covenants it has signed, but unfortunately it does not fulfill any of these because rule of law cannot reign here. It does not implement either its domestic law or the international conventions it has signed.
Since the foundation of İHD, freedom of expression has been one of the most important problems. Because first and foremost we have to speak and tell each other our problems. However, the established official ideology in Turkey does not allow us to speak or write outside the limits it sets. For this reason, many people are either in prison, in danger of being imprisoned or continue their lives under judicial control provisions because of the articles they write, their political views, the tweets they post.
Although the politics of stalemate in the Kurdish issue has existed since the foundation of the republic, it is also very intense in this highly authoritarian period. The Kurdish issue has reached a point of complete deadlock.
The Human Rights Association has constantly emphasized that the Kurdish issue is at the forefront of human rights violations and has made proposals for the resolution of this issue. Turkey needs a new peace process and social peace that recognizes and resolves the Kurdish issue. In addition, there is a need for a new political will to accept the human rights demands of all marginalized groups in the society, especially the demands of Alevis for equal citizenship rights. Turkey needs a new and democratic Constitution together with a genuine conflict resolution. As long as a new and democratic Constitution is not made, amendments to be introduced to the 1982 Constitution, which was drafted by the generals who indeed staged the 1980 military coup, cannot bring about a solution.
We would like to remind the European Union and the government once again that we oppose the Ankara criteria, which replaced the EU’s Copenhagen political criteria of democracy, rule of law, human rights and minority rights with authoritarianism, and that we support the EU process as a democratization process.
The Human Rights Association is an organization that has suffered great suffering as a result of the policies of non-solution in the Kurdish issue. We have lost many of our founders, executives and members for this cause. Recently, it was the anniversary of the death of human rights defender Vedat Aydın. Unfortunately, many of our people like Vedat Aydın lost their lives in murders by unknown assailants. Until today, the perpetrators have not been identified or punished.
The dominance of the politics of non-solution in the Kurdish issue has led to the imprisonment of many politicians. Many HDP MPs are in prison today only because of their political views. Many Kurdish journalists are also in prison for writing and publishing different views on the Kurdish issue. Unfortunately, their freedom of expression is being violated.
We have had parliamentary and presidential elections recently. It was an election that started and continued in an unequal manner. After the elections, we witnessed many violations of rights. As the Human Rights Association, we made observations and prepared reports on this issue. One of the most striking results of the elections was that Can Atalay, who was elected as Hatay MP from the Workers’ Party of Turkey, was not released from prison even though he had won the right to be an MP. Unfortunately, the judiciary has reached a problematic point. We live in a legal climate where even judges do not feel free. The fact that the legal system is dependent on a single center creates a very serious problem in terms of both Turkey’s written domestic law and the international conventions and covenants it has signed. The field of law seems to be the area where extremely serious violations of rights take place.
To give concrete examples of grave injustices in the field of law, we can mention Osman Kavala and all the prisoners of the Gezi Park trial, who were inconceivably sentenced to grave prison terms in the Gezi Park trial, and Merdan Yanardağ, the Editor-in-Chief of Tele 1 Television, who was recently arrested for a speech he made on his own broadcast.
As the Human Rights Association, prisons constitute a very important part of our field of interest. Judicial or political prisoners who continue their lives in prisons have very serious problems. One of the most important problems is the situation of sick prisoners. Most of the sick prisoners in prisons have life-threatening diseases. However, unfortunately, in line with the rulings of the Court of Cassation, in these cases where only Forensic Medicine Institute reports are accepted as evidence, many sick prisoners are not released from prisons due to the biased reports of Forensic Medicine Institute, which are contrary to medical ethics. The isolation policy imposed in prisons unfortunately affects the lives of prisoners badly. Especially the camera system installed in prisons has reached extremely disturbing dimensions for women prisoners. Most of the sick prisoners refuse even to go to hospitals because of the violence and threats they are subjected to during transportation to and from hospitals.
Violence against women has not eased down. This is because the state’s policy towards women has become very clear with the withdrawal of a single signature from the İstanbul Convention of the Council of Europe. The state continues to see women as people who stay at home and look after children. Moreover, the repeated statements of the President of the Republic confirm this view.
As human rights defenders, when we say that violence against women is political, we mean the following: to the extent that the language of the state hardens, to the extent that the language of the state legitimizes violence, there is a great increase in violence against women. In the recent period, the language of violence and hatred used by the state against all dissidents returns to women and children as violence. This is why there is a great increase in femicide cases and violence against women.
The struggle for women’s rights is extremely active; despite all the pressures in our country, the women’s movement does not give up, it is determined to continue its existence and the struggle for the Council of Europe İstanbul Convention continues with all its might.
Despite the many international conventions and covenants it has signed, such as the prohibition of discrimination prescribed in Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the state of the Republic of Turkey today resorts to discrimination and hate language against LGBTI+ persons. LGBTI+ struggle is under great danger and threat. All rights demands of LGBTI+’s are prevented and suppressed, and even public opinion is provoked against LGBTI+’s. As human rights defenders, we consider this a very dangerous course. We know very well that only the powers determine “what is normal” and “what is considered normal.” But no one can impose a false normal against existence. This is exactly what the state’s attitude towards the LGBTI+ is. An existence is ignored. Thus, as the Human Rights Association, we constantly express that we stand by the LGBTI+ and against all violations of rights against the LGBTI+ movement.
Due to the established state policy in our country, major violations of rights in the field of freedom of expression continue in the field of freedom of association as well. Many organizations have been deprived of their right to peaceful assembly. The state’s attack against the Saturday Mothers, the most legitimate act of civil disobedience in this land, is taking place in front of everyone’s eyes. Since 27 May 1995, Saturday Mothers continue to search for their loved ones who have been missing. Galatasaray Square in central İstanbul is of great significance in this sense. In 2018, after the attack by state forces during the 700th-week vigil, an important judgment was delivered by the Constitutional Court in response to an application. In this judgment, the Constitutional Court ruled that Article 34 of the Constitution was violated and that the banning of the Saturday Mothers’ protest in Galatasaray Square violated freedom of association. In line with this judgment of the Constitutional Court, the Saturday Mothers started to go to Galatasaray Square again for 14 weeks. Because they now had a legal text in their hands that carried a final judgment. A judgment delivered by the Constitutional Court, the highest legal body in Turkey, proved their righteousness. However, for 14 weeks this judgment of the Constitutional Court has been dismissed and ignored by the ban of a single district governor. Despite the decision of the Constitutional Court, the Saturday Mothers and Saturday People are detained with violence, reverse handcuffed, kept waiting for hours in airless vehicles, and released after their statements are taken. As human rights defenders, we do not accept that this peaceful protest, the legitimacy of which is recognized not only in our country but all over the world, is subjected to such oppression despite the decision of the Constitutional Court. Our struggle on this issue will continue until the end.
Unfortunately, the Republic of Turkey continues to spend a large part of its budget that could very well be spent on education, health or other more important areas on war, due to the policy of war and the policy of non-solution of the Kurdish issue. The Turkish economy is in an extremely difficult situation. There is a great economic depression due to the policies implemented, such as war and the unresolved problems of capitalism. Income and tax injustice has unfortunately condemned a large part of the people to live at the hunger limit. This economic crisis deepens unemployment on the one hand and aggravates working conditions on the other. Moreover, refugees and women continue to be exploited as cheap labor. Child labor is still a serious problem.
In addition, many people were dismissed from their jobs without question with decree laws, a method that was not even used in the 90s. Unfortunately, a large number of these people could not return to their jobs. Not only individuals but also their families have suffered great damage. Bread has been stolen from people’s tables.
The ecological destruction caused by the global climate crisis and the destruction of nature in Turkey due to unplanned urbanization, the opening of the natural environment to mining sites, the construction of hydroelectric power plants and dams, and forest fires that appear to have been manmade unfortunately continue.
Turkey imposed a geographical reservation to the 1951 UN Geneva Convention and can legally grant refugee status only to those coming from Council of Europe countries. Asylum seekers, thus, face many violations of their rights due to the asylum system based on temporary statuses and policies far from offering permanent solutions for immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. In addition to being denied the right to work, the right to education, the right to access to health, cultural and social rights, and freedom of movement, they are discriminated against in every field. They are exposed to racist and hate speech and acts due to the irresponsible discourse of politicians. They are treated as criminals in camps and removal centers, and forced to live without freedom. However, refugee status is not a choice but a consequence. Readmission agreements should be canceled and legal arrangements should be introduced within the framework of international refugee law in order for refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers to have opportunities worthy of human dignity.
On 6 February 2023, we all experienced great pain and a great disaster that deeply affected the whole country. A devastating earthquake affected 11 provinces. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives. As the Human Rights Association, we lost many of our members and executives in this earthquake. 14 of our members and executives lost their lives, including Melike Alp from Diyarbakır, Hüseyin İnan from Antep, Ali Kaya, Salman Savranlı, Mehmet Ok, Mustafa Torun from Maraş, Sinan Serkan Arslan, Medine Taştan and her son Ali Adar Taştan from Adıyaman, Hatice Can and Mithat Can from Hatay, Rafi Sümbültepe, Şeyhmus Günay, Mehmet Karlıdağ and İzzettin Özgüç from İskenderun. We will never forget them.
Of course, we all know that earthquake is a natural disaster, but it is in the hands of human beings to reduce the impact of this natural disaster. In this earthquake, we have once again seen how irregular construction, urbanization, and concretization are hostile to human life. We are aware that the pain caused by the earthquake is irreparable. We lost our loved ones, friends, and comrades in this earthquake.
That is why this year, we wanted to dedicate the 37th anniversary of the foundation of İHD to them.
We are happy that İHD exists!
Human Rights Association