Amnesty speaks out on attacks against Armenian women in Istanbul (Updated)

Amnesty International has today issued a statement calling on “the Turkish authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the series of attacks on elderly Armenian women in Istanbul.”

The statement notes that Turkey is obligated under the European Convention of Human Rights to “investigate any alleged racist and/or religious bias behind the perpetration of these crimes” and highlights Amnesty’s concern “at public statements made by the authorities discounting the possibility of a racist motivation to the attacks.”

Turkish authorities must investigate these crimes without disregarding at the outset the possibility that the crimes are based in racial, religious, or ethnic hatred.  And they must take positive steps to prevent further attacks.

Update 1: The Economist‘s Website offers the first coverage of this issue in a major English-language source, which  gives a good sense of  the context of these crimes and reinforces Amnesty’s concern that Turkish officials may be pre-judging the investigation:

The attack marks the fifth in the past two months against elderly Armenian women (one has lost an eye). All of the attacks took place in Samatya, which is home to some 8,000 Armenians and the seat of the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate. Opinion remains divided as to whether these are organised hate crimes targeting non-Muslims or just random theft. Istanbul’s governor, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, insists that it was the latter. “The incident was inspired by robbery, there were no racial motives. Be sure we will find the perpetrators. Good night,” he tweeted to some 100,000 followers.

Some of the victims were, indeed, robbed. The Turkish police are said to be concentrating their investigation on a man in his thirties as a potential suspect. Turkey’s Human Rights Association remains unswayed. “The attacks were carried out with racist motives,” it concluded in a report that was published last week.

Update #2: Official statement also now available in Turkish.

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