Peace and Human Rights Defenders Face Open and Imminent Threats
in Turkey in the Person of Eren Keskin
The military offensive launched by Turkey on 9 October 2019 into northern and north-eastern regions of Syria, also known as the Eastern Euphrates, has rendered peace talks and the policies of repression and intimidation faced by peace defenders the top item on the agenda once again with recent human rights and humanitarian law violations perpetrated both in the country and cross-borders.
The General Directorate of Security has announced that legal action have been taken against 78 individuals due to their social media posts merely a couple of hours after the launch of the military offensive, while İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has stated on 10 October 2019 that legal procedures have been initiated into news reports and social media posts on this subject. Indeed, the editors-in-chief of daily Birgün and news website Diken were taken into custody by the police on the very first day of the campaign. The Interior Minister, too, has disclosed on 11 October 2019 that investigation procedures were launched against 500 persons while 121 persons were taken into custody due to their social media posts on the military campaign. All kinds of rallies and press conferences have either been banned or forcibly dispersed since 9 October 2019.
In a joint statement released immediately after the launch of Turkey’s military offensive İHD underlined the deadly and destructive effects of war. Indeed, the mob structure called the Syrian National Army that has been involved in the offensive under the auspices of Turkey massacred civilians, including Kurdish woman politician Hevrin Khalaf, and people in civilian convoys were killed by airstrikes. For instance, it has been reported that 11 individuals including a journalist were killed and numerous individuals were injured because of the offensive targeting a civilian convoy from Qamishli to Serêkaniyê. All these demonstrate that civilians are being killed. Numerous casualties due to mortar fire have also been reported in Turkey’s Nusaybin, Ceylanpınar, Akçakale, Suruç and Kızıltepe districts within the scope of this military offensive. Moreover, on 15 October 2019, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a press briefing note on Syria within the scope of which it said that “Turkey could be deemed responsible as a State for violations committed by their affiliated armed groups” pointing out to video footage of civilian casualties and the summary execution of some SDG members. Human rights defenders are harshly criticized and singled out because they stand against such gross human rights violations in their statements. The chair of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, on the other hand, has argued against the responsibility of states to protect civilians which serves to ignore the massacre of civilians and attempts to alleviate the fatal and destructive consequences of war.
The fact that individuals, such as CHP (People’s Republican Party) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Northern Cyprus President Mustafa Akıncı who call attention to the catastrophic consequences of war and defend the right to peace, have been singled out to the masses by the speakers of the political power itself is very dangerous. This state of affairs may very well endanger their safety of life. What is even more worrisome is that pro-government journalists have regularly been threatening, insulting and targeting all those who defend peace over the act of war by the government.
İHD, too, gets its own share in this climate of repression and threat, as it always did. Saturday Mothers have been staging their peaceful sit-ins before İHD’s İstanbul Offices as they were not allowed to do so in Galatasaray Square, İstanbul since their 700th week. The police violently dispersed people at their press statement last Saturday on 12 October 2019 in the 759th week while İHD’s offices were also attacked by the police. One of the gravest instances of attacks against İHD and human rights defenders has been the fact that İHD Co-Chairperson Eren Keskin was insulted and targeted by journalist Nedim Şener. Such singling out of Eren Keskin, who never compromised and consistently defended human rights and peace at all costs in spite of all kinds of repression she has been enduring for years, reveals the fact that human rights defenders face an open and imminent threat in Turkey.
İHD will be sharing the violations committed during all these processes in its special reports with the public. İHD’s first impressions, however, show that all those who stand against the political power’s policy of war face an open and imminent threat. Hate speech has escalated; mainstream and pro-government media has often been resorting to hate speech and broadcasting/publishing all kinds of reports in order to silence peace defenders. This is a very alarming situation and has the potential to lead to rather grave consequences. Moreover, the political power has been controlling all social media posts in Turkey, while arrests and detentions have become widespread in case of the slightest criticism. The society as a whole has been placed under tremendous pressure through the judiciary.
İHD would like to remind all, once again, that any propaganda for war is prohibited as per the provisions of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Turkey is a party to. İHD would, therefore, like to state that it is the responsibility of the government in Turkey, the United Nations, the Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to protect human rights defenders who stand against wars and defend peace. İHD, hereby, requests that international bodies duly undertake their duties and warn the political power in Turkey to this end; and invites all those involved in hate speech to avoid any future embarrassing situations reminding them that hate speech is indeed a criminal offense.
Human Rights Association
 İHD-HRFT Joint Statement on the Military Offensive into Syria: https://ihd.org.tr/en/ihd-hrft-joint-statement-on-the-military-offensive-into-syria/