In a sense, the shocking scenes that we have witnessed in Turkey this past week are simply a logical extension of long-standing problems in Turkey. Over past years, the Turkish government has worked, in large ways and in small, to limit its citizens’ basic rights to freedom of expression. The use of excessive force against peaceful protesters was, within the past months, seen in the response to a protest of the destruction of the historic Emek Theatre and, only last month, at the May Day celebrations. Amnesty’s repeated calls for investigations into abuse by security services have been ignored.
This time, however, the protests have spread in a way that they have not before. Moreover, it is clear that it is precisely the excessive force employed by the police that has caused them to do so.
Turkish officials have complained about social media “disinformation” and that international news organizations are being misled. There is certainly some false news on social media and international news organizations occasionally get things wrong. But the problem is with Turkey’s disgraceful use of excessive force, not the images that result.
Over the past few days, Amnesty staff and activists have worked tirelessly on this issue, putting in long hours and occasionally risking their own security to bring accurate information to the public and to pressure the Turkish government to end these breaches of human rights.
Moreover, it has done so on a global scale. Not just in Turkey, but in the Netherlands and in Germany. In Sweden and in New Zealand. In Israel and in France. In Japan, the U.K., and dozens of other countries throughout the world. The time to act is now.
Turkish authorities may hope that the problem will all just go away, but the voices of hundreds of thousands of activists throughout the world will be heard. Turkey must end its excessive use of force. It must release accurate information on the injured. It must investigate abuses and hold accountable those responsible. And it must protect its citizens’ basic rights of freedom of expression and assembly.
For information on how you can join this urgent global campaign, consult Amnesty International in your home country or click here to use the electronic form developed by Amnesty International – USA. Add your voice to the chorus calling for freedom and an end to police violence!
St. Lawrence University