10 December 2015
“To Live in Peace” is a human right and we want PEACE!
Today marks the 67th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be adopted and advocated by the United Nations.
Honour and self-value, traits that are inherent in all human beings have formed the foundation and universality of human rights. Inspired by these rights, the Universal Declaration has been of great importance to humanity.
The Universal Declaration, approved on 10th December 1948, advocates the acceptance of equal, indivisible, and inalienable rights that is applicable to the humankind, encouraging a world based on freedom, justice, and peace. On the occasion that these rights are abused or neglected, the declaration approves the use of legitimate self-defence in order to protect one’s self from persecution and oppression.
Despite this, an international system based on protecting, enhancing, and implementing these rights and liberties, mentioned in the Universal Declaration, has been absent up until this day. On a worldwide scale, we have failed to reach an understanding that that rights, liberties, and immunities belong to all humans regardless of their race, complexion, sex, gender, language, religion, belief, ethnicity, political conscious, and philosophical conviction.
In accordance to this, communities and societies from around the world are staging a resistance of great importance, in the form of legitimate self-defence, for their values and rights, which have been suppressed and eroded by policies imposed by states and state-like actors.
Throughout the year the international realm has witnessed military coups, civil and international wars, and occupations, which have all led to severe human rights violations; the right to life, torture, crimes against humanity, genocide, and mass migration being amongst them. Nonetheless, 2015 has been a year with intense and common violations against the right to life. In this case, the Middle East, especially our neighbours Syria and Turkey have been in the foreground. ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliated radical Islamist groups have staged atrocious attacks in France, Turkey, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, which have increased the prevalence and intensity of violations of the right to life, giving it a completely new dimension.
Unfortunately, Turkey has played its role in severe violations against human rights in the year of 2015. Unlike previous years, despite the variety and intensity of human rights violations, there has been a dramatic rise in the prevalence of the violations against the right to life. Particularly, the consecutive bomb attacks that occurred in Diyarbakir, Suruç, and Ankara have increased in brutality and have pushed the boundaries of our minds and souls. The 7th June elections had resulted in the abolition of a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question, which led to the continuation of war and conflict targeting, again, the right to life. In particular, the illegal and round-the-clock curfews imposed on cities and neighbourhoods under siege have resulted in the indiscriminate murder of the elderly, young, women, and children. On the other hand, we were shaken by the stories of Syrian refugees in their attempts to cross the Aegean Sea in search for a peaceful life in Europe. As always, women, transsexual, and labour killings continued.
Another violation that has been prominent in Turkey has been against the freedom of thought, press, and speech. The most recent case has been against the Cumhuriyet Newspaper editorial Can Dündar and the Ankara representative Erdem Gül, leading to their imprisonment.
And of course, the most depressing event for us, the human rights defenders, has been the murder of our beloved colleague, friend, and comrade Tahir Elçi.
Let us look at the categorised human rights violations of 2015 listed below:
RIGHT TO LIFE
Violations against the right to life are perpetrated by the State’s security forces as well as third party individuals whom gain the confidence in doing so due to the ruptures within the state’s structure and ability to protect its civilians. In accordance with the statistics of the IHD and HRFT, between 1st of January to 5th of December 2015 violations are as follows:
- Extrajudicial killings of law-enforcement officers, due to disobeying the stop warning, or the uncalculated and random firing of shots has resulted in 173 deaths and 226 injuries. Of these, 135 deaths and 191 injuries occurred after the endorsement of the Internal Security Act on 3rd of April 2015
- Suicide bombers resulted in the death of 5 civilians in Diyarbakır, (June 5th, 2015), 33 civilians in Suruç (July 20th, 2015), and 100 civilians in Ankara (October 10th, 2015). In total 138 civilians have lost their lifes and a minimum of 929 civilians were injured.
- 4 civilians died whilst under custody.
- 19 civilians killed by unknown perpetrator.
- At least 28 civilians died in prisons due to unknown causes.
- At least 33 persons were killed under doubtful conditions whilst completing their compulsory military service.
- 5 civilians were killed due to mines and unclaimed bombs, leaving 22 seriously wounded.
- Due to the conflicts 171 soldiers, policemen, guards, 195 militants, 157 civilians, in total 523 people have died.
- Since 23rd November, 255 women have been murdered due to male violence.
- 4 civilians have died due to hate crimes, racist attacks, and lynching.
- Up until the 1st of December, 1593 workers have lost their lives due to accidents or attacks at work.
- At least 16 refugees and migrants have died whilst transiting to Turkey. 160 have been injured via torture or gunshots.
TORTURE and OTHER FORMS of ILL TREATMENT
Torture is still amongst the most violated human rights in our country. The security forces continue to resort in torture in places of supervision, detention centres, and prisons. In addition to this, law enforcement officers have used excessive, intense, and disproportionate levels of force during rallies and demonstrations, where torture is being carried out in the public domain. Exclusively, the states brutality against a peaceful approach to the Kurdish question has resulted in ruptures and conflict within South-eastern Turkey. In cases concerning the Kurds, the protection of the rights of those under custody has not been implemented, torture and ill treatment has become a widespread tool.
- 560 civilians have appealed to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey with claims of being subjected to torture and ill treatment between the months of January and beginning of December 2015. Of these claims, 347 cases have occurred within the same year. Alongside this, the Psychosocial Solidarity Network Program had 330 applications of those affected by the Ankara massacre.
- According to the statistics of the Human Rights Association (IHD), in the first 11 months of 2015, 1433 civilians have been tortured whilst under custody both in and out of detention centres.
- In response to the constant appeals against torture and ill treatment carried out in the Military prisons and disciplinary barracks, no such investigations have been carried out. Law number 4681 states that the prisons and detention centres monitoring committee must monitor and evaluate such institutions however; this structure has failed to carry out its duties influenced by legal restrictions. The public is only made aware of such cases if the torture implicated ends one’s life.
- The phenomenon of impunity has made it easier for such cases of torture and ill treatment to become so widespread. Prosecutors are not put on trial or not trailed fairly. In most cases, prosecutors are trailed on the basis of allegations hat require less of a punishment.
The KURDISH QUESTION
Immediately following the 7 June elections, Turkey has been driven back to scenes that resemble the 90’s with the escalation of severe human rights violations against Kurds, which has been a significant barricade to peace and democracy in the region for decades. In particular, the Kurdish populated cities and districts have been illegally kept under siege for months with the imposition of round-the-clock curfews. The illegal curfews have severely affected the life of all civilians, restricting their right to electricity, water, food, and health services as well as the right to obtain information and free communication. The establishment of a special warfare environment imposed by the security forces where civilians, regardless of their age and gender, have been murdered is highly concerning. The state of emergency or state of war declared in these particular regions has led to the collapse of the economic and social life. On the other hand, the mayors of the relevant cities and districts have been detained or removed from office. Such cases have been a direct threat to the free will of the people and to democracy. Nevertheless, detentions and arrests related with the curfews have increased in hundreds. According to the statistics of the IHD and HRFT;
- Due to the conflicts a total of 523 people have died; 171 soldiers, policemen, and guards, 195 militants, and 157 civilians. 338 security forces, 145 militants, and 70 civilians have been injured, making it a total of 553.
- 17 mayors have been arrested, 15 have been suspended from work (9 of whom are arrested).
- The amount of village guards has been on the rise in 2015.
- Throughout 2015, 6744 civilians have been detained and 1285 have been arrested in regards to allegations of being associated with the KCK, HDP/BDP, or HDK.
As IHD and HRFT we advocate and insist in the peaceful and democratic resolution of the Kurdish question. We urge both sides to end the conflict and strengthen the conditions in which they can agree in the peaceful negotiations of matters.
We support the Dolmabahçe Agreement, declared on the 28th of February 2015, and encourage the implementation of the arrangements in accordance with the agreement and both parties to prepare negotiation conditions.
We urge the government to lift the isolation imposed on Abdullah Öcalan and to prepare the administrative, legal, and political grounds for peaceful negotiations.
In order to create a peaceful and war-free world, we must ensure that the humankind is given their human rights. Turkey must abandon its political plans for the Middle East, and with regards to the Rojava Cantons, respect the peoples will for freedom, sovereignty, and democracy by recognising the cantons and keeping good relations with them.
Turkey’s anti-Kurdish, Shia, Alawite, and Alevi stance in the Middle East must change. Turkey must play an effective role in ensuring peace and leading the struggle against ISIS, who is responsible for barbaric genocides carried out in Diyarbakir, Suruc, and Ankara in Turkey, Kobane in Rojava, Paris in France, Beirut in Lebanon, and against the Russian plane in Egypt.
FREEDOM of THOUGHT, EXPRESSION and RELIGION
In terms of freedom of speech and thought, the year of 2015 has witnessed many and serious violations, first and foremost the AKP government has resorted in significantly worrying levels of pressure and control over the media. Throughout the year we have witnessed the criminalisation of several journalists, authors, and human rights defenders who have either been detained or arrested, journals and books being confiscated and banned, newspaper offices being forced to close, and opposition newspaper offices and journalists being intentionally attacked.
The Alevi community’s demand for equal citizenship has been left unanswered. In addition to this, the government has failed to regard the Cem Houses as places of worship and remove the compulsory religious studies lessons forcefully imposed on students, openly ignoring the demands of the European Court of Human Rights.
Alevis, Christians, and Jews have been subjected to threats and hate speeches from radical Sunni Muslims.
The failure to recognise the conscientious objection for joining the army remains to be an important human rights violation.
According to the HRFT statistics and documents:
- 30 journalists, press-publication workers, or newspaper office owners are currently arrested.
- We have continued to witness the confiscation of publications. The latest example has resulted in two managers of the Nokta Journal being arrested.
- 105,958 websites have been blocked access to. These statistics were much lower in the years 2013 and 2014, 35,001 and 40,773 respectively, which is increasingly concerning.
The FREEDOM of ASSOCIATION
The two general elections that occurred in 2015, both June 7th and November 1st, have witnessed immense attacks against political parties, with HDP being the ultimate target. The HDP have been denied the right to campaign in a free, safe, and peaceful environment as members and representatives have repeatedly been physically attacked, party buildings were harmed, and many lynch attempts were perpetrated.
Not only the failure to protect the rights of voters and electorates wasn’t ensured, Turkey has continued to maintain the world’s highest threshold level at an astonishing 10%.
- In total 432 Party buildings have been attacked throughout 2015; 417 belonged to the HDP, 11 to AKP, and 4 to CHP.
- During 6-8th September there has been systematic, simultaneous, and widespread attacks against over 100 HDP party buildings.
- Throughout the year several unionists have been detained.
The FREEDOM of ASSEMBLY
We have again witnessed extensive violations against the right to demonstrate throughout the year. Law enforcement officers have resorted to disproportionate and excessive force and violence, including pressure water, plastic bullets, chemical weapons, and occasionally real bullets, against peaceful protestors.
Throughout the history of the Republic, those in position of political power have been able to easily use police violence as a means of managing individuals, societies, and communities. The AKP government has reached a peak in the use of police force against those who criticise and oppose its increasingly authoritarian policies. Without exception each and every member of differing societies, communities, and individuals have been subject to police brutality under the demands of the AKP government- from the Kurds to the proletarian, Alevis to women to LGBTI defenders.
According to the HRFT statistics and documents:
- 210 civilians have been injured as a result of law enforcement officers interventions to assemblies and demonstrations.
- 3377 civilians have been arrested during law enforcement officers’ interventions in demonstrations, with 201 being arrested.
- In total, 256 events have been banned.
Prisons have been amongst the highest institutions in which human rights violations have taken place.
- Following 28th February 2015, there are 164,461 prisoners within Turkey (February was the last month that Ministry of Justice declared these figures). The number of prisoners in 2014 was 154,179 and was significantly lower, 59,429, when the AKP first came to power.
- 2,165 children are prisoners.
- Within the first 11 months of 2015, 28 prisoners have died as a result of suicides, torture, accidents, illness, neglect, feud between other prisoners, and other reasons as such.
- Prisoners are deprived of their right to health services. Throughout 2015, 756 prisoners, 300 of them seriously ill, are waiting to receive access to medical services. The European Court of Human Rights declared by the decision on Gülay Çetin vs. Turkey, on the 5th of March 2015, that Turkey had failed to protect prisoner’s health and continuously imprisoned those with serious health conditions, which is considered a breach of the Torture Ban on behalf of Turkey. Furthermore, it’s not legally and conscientiously acceptable that prisoners with life-threatening health conditions are being subjected to human rights violations under article 6411 confirmed on January 24th, 2013, which states the terms of postponing the execution of convicted prisoners solely ‘on the conditions that they will not pose a threat to the general public’, despite having medical reports outlining the critical health conditions and dependency on carers.
- Solitary confinement and isolation imposed since 2000 aims to destruct the physical- social-emotional wellbeing of prisoners. Prisoners are constantly being denied the right to socialise with their peers within the current system. The Ministry of Justice’s circular, dated January 22nd, 2007 (45/1), encouraging the socialising of 10 prisoners for 10 hours a week is not being implemented. The F Type İmralı Prison is the most frequently abused and violated prison in terms of isolation and solitary confinement that must be closed immediately.
- Despite the Ministry of Justice’s promises, there have been no improvements of transparency in terms of giving an access and platform to civil institutions to review and take part in decisions held within prisons in the name of improving the conditions. The National Human Rights Institution of Turkey has been given the role to provide an effective mechanism to prevent these violations, as opposed to the OPCAT, which has been far from meeting the requirements.
- Children prisoners are finding it extremely difficult to adapt to prison conditions, including occasions of torture, rape, molestation, neglect, and as a result have resorted in self-harm. Many have appealed to IHD in regards to this. The sole purpose of prisons is to have a preventive and educational impact, which Turkey fails to understand and apply. Therefore, in accordance with inhumane practice juvenile prisons must be closed.
ECONOMY and WORK LIFE
The harsh and brutal working conditions have sustained their roles in posing great threats to worker’s rights throughout the year of 2015. With the introduction of the flexible working model and the “individual contracts” model, we are made to live under the modern form of slavery.
- Workers have been stripped of their right to a safe environment and life as mechanisms to maintain safety and protection in the work environment has failed to develop. Turkey is amongst the leading countries in deaths as a result of ‘accidents’ at work. In the first 11 months of 2015, 1593 workers have died due to accidents or murders in the work place.
- The workers of the subcontractor remain to be the most critical problem faced in the work environment. They have been subject to ill treatment, and have been sacked, as a result of joining trade unions and campaigning for their rights.
- Despite the international and national agreements professing the right to healthy, sustainable, and clean environment, even according to our own constitution, there have been no attempts in securing, protecting, and advancing the environmental conditions.
- Turkey is ranked 23rd among the world countries contributing to an increase in carbon gas emissions.
- In the name of economic growth and maintaining surplus Turkey has leached the environment with cyanide in order to extract gold, destroyed valleys to build WWFs, built numerous wind turbines in places destined for agriculture, ignored the genocide of culture, history, and nature via the construction of dams, has divided the water resources to international monopolies, and has never failed to show its love for nuclear power plants. In conclusion, Turkey lacks interest in maintaining a safe, healthy, and prosperous environment and continues to violate the right to a safe life.
GENDER and SEXUAL ORIENTATION DISCRIMINATION
- Turkey is home to intense discrimination and persecution against women. The Judicial system remains to contain sexist elements, consequently giving a platform to the judicial and law enforcement officers to discriminate women. The constant reminder of a man’s authoritarian nature makes life difficult for women.
- Despite there being innovations and improvements of women’s role within the household, women are still subject to discrimination once they stand up for freedom and their identities; they are punished with abuse and death. In the first 11 months of 2015, 282 women died as a result of male violence, 367 were injured, and 132 were subject to sexual abuse and rape.
- We live in an environment that limits one’s sexual orientation into two categories, female and male, creating the platform for mass discrimination against LGBTI individuals. Those who consider themselves as being LGBTI are subject to violent, degrading, and exclusive treatment, which targets their right to life. The security forces have not failed to join this tyranny by torturing, degrading, and abusing LGBTI individuals, which again targets their right to life.
- Throughout the first 11 months of 2015, at least 4 transsexuals have died as a result of hate attacks.
REFUGEES and ASYLUM-SEEKERS
- States do not only hold the burden of protecting the rights of their own national citizens. Our territory is in the position of being regarded as a ‘transit country’ by great numbers of refugees and migrants. These citizens are those who have been subject to their individual rights being violated by their home state. Throughout their journey of fleeing from their countries they are at the risk of being abused and tormented by smugglers, which can also lead to their death. Refugees who have been captured on their journeys, and await the decision to be deported back to the warzone, face extremely harsh conditions within expulsion centres. The poor physical conditions of the centres make it impossible for the humanitarian and mandatory needs of the refugees to be assured. Additionally, these centres still lack a legal status.
- Turkey has been insufficient in providing the legal, humanitarian, and mandatory human rights of refugees and asylum-seekers.
- Over 2 million refugees have found refuge in Turkey as a result of the Syrian civil war. According to the official figures of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are precisely 2,072,290 Syrian refugees within Turkey. Of these refugees, 259,439 live in refugee camps provided by AFAD, those remaining are forced to live in cities and provide for themselves. However, the Deputy Prime Minister, Numan Kurtulmuş, has stated that the number of Syrian Refugees in Turkey is as high as 2,225,147. Considering the technical difficulties in registering refugees in Turkey, it is estimated that these figures have reached 2,500,000; roughly 1 million of these are school children.
- Only one in ten refugees or asylum seekers are in refugee camps. The remaining refugees/asylum seekers are forced to provide for and protect themselves, where only 15% have access to humanitarian aid agencies. Refugees/ asylum seekers are left to face the difficulties of life and live in inhumane conditions, work under the minimum wage, send their children to beg, and work as slaves in order to provide food and shelter for their families.
- Refugees whom intend on travelling to European countries face human rights violations, including the right to life, and brutal forms of oppression from Turkey as a result of the increasing pressure being made by the European Union. Refugees have faced lynch attempts by Turkish nationalists, making it extremely difficult for the social and economic integration of them into society. 12 Syrian children have passed away as a result of fires breaking out in refugee camps, which is amongst the most heart-breaking human rights violations we have faced in 2015.
Despite the 68th anniversary of the acceptance of the world’s most contemporary human rights document, our evaluation and findings have revealed the failure of the institutionalisation, application, and importance of human rights- especially in Turkey. In previous years, it was our custom to promote the minimum requirements that must be met in order to proceed towards resolving these issues. This year, something as such is not the case. Today there is only one demand that must urgently be met in Turkey: the immediate restoration of peace. In cases where peace is not achieved, violations against the right to life and other human rights cannot be prevented.
We would like to express our joy concerning the liberation of Sengal, in Iraqi Kurdistan, from ISIS. On the anniversary of the human Rights day, we respectfully commemorate all the human rights campaigners and peace advocates that are not with us today. We hope that the assassination of the ambassador of peace and love, Tahir Elci, will be the last of all deaths.
We celebrate the Human Rights Day of the humankind, in hope that peace will be restored in our lives immediately.