Standing up for Turkish freedoms
Psst, got seven minutes?
If so you might want to join freedom of expression advocates on Sunday at 12 noon in a silent seven-minute protest outside the Turkish Consulate-General at 10 Lower Spadina Ave.
Why seven minutes?
Members of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, IFEX, PEN Canada, Amnesty International, Canadian Association of Journalists, Journalists for Human Rights and Canadian Media Guild representatives will be there, answering the call of their colleagues in the Initiative for Freedom of Expression-Turkey.
Since the protests began, says a joint letter to the Turkish
ambassador from the media groups, “4,900 protesters have been taken into
custody, 4,000 have been injured and seven people – six protesters and a police
officer – have been killed. The severe response to these demonstrations and
curtailing of the right to freedom of assembly and free expression is not
There is much to protest, in spite of Turkey’s recent economic progress and sophisticated public face.
Reporters Without Borders calls Turkey the world’s biggest prison for journalists. Last December they 72 held in detention, 42 of them in direct relation to their work.
“The government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has waged one of the world’s biggest crackdowns on press freedom in recent history,” said New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
“Authorities have imprisoned journalists on a mass scale on terrorism or anti-state charges, launched thousands of other criminal prosecutions on charges such as denigrating Turkishness or influencing court proceedings, and used pressure tactics to sow self-censorship.”
The Turkish authorities insist that those in prison are not “real journalists,” claiming they are subversives, Kurdish separatists, linked with terrorism or guilty of various “serious crimes.”
Now, not only journalists, but ordinary people who want to express their views peacefully are treated as enemies of the state. Here are those who died in the recent protests, which began as environmental demonstrations.
- Ethem Sarısuluk (27, worker): Shot in Ankara by a police officer on June 1. A park in Ankara was renamed in his honour.
- Mehmet Ayvalitas (20, worker): Member of the Socialist Solidarity Platform, he was crushed by a police vehicle driving through the crowd during a demonstration in Istanbul on June 2.
- Abdullah Cömert (22, unemployed): A member of CHP (the main opposition party),Abdullah died from a stroke after a blow to his head during a clash in
Hatay province on June 3.
- Mustafa Sari (27, police officer): Fell from a bridge while chasing protestors in Adana province on June 5.
- Irfan Tuna (47, worker): Affected by teargas during demonstrations in Ankara,
una died of a heart attack on June 8.
- Selim Onder (88, musician): During his visit to the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul May 31, he was subjected to a police teargas attack. Suffering from shortness of
breath, he died a few days later.
- Ali İsmail Korkmaz (19, student): Attacked and wounded (causing a cerebral
hemorrhage) on June 2 while trying to escape from teargas at demonstrations in Eskişehir. He died in hospital July 10.
Olivia Ward has covered conflicts, politics and human rights from the former Soviet Union to Europe, South Asia and the Middle East. She is a former board member of CJFE.