Turkey’s abyssmal HR record draws global attention

As 2013 draws to a close and the world takes stock, it is clear that Turkey’s appalling human rights record is gaining global attention.

Credit: Reuters

Credit: Reuters

Below are three of the stories in the international media that caught my eye this past week:

1. Google’s Transparency Report for 2013 indicates a global rise in government requests for removal of political content.  The Republic of Turkey topped the listAs the Guardian reported,

Google reported a large increase in requests from Turkey where it received 1,673 requests [ for 12,162 items] from the authorities to remove content, nearly a ten-fold increase over the second half of last year. About two-thirds of the total requests – 1,126 – called for the removal of content related to alleged violations of internet law 5651, which censors online speech.

2. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has again listed Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists.

CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon indicated, “It is disturbing to see the number of jailed journalists rise in countries like Vietnam and Egypt. But it is frankly shocking that Turkey would be the world’s worst jailer of journalists for the second year in a row.” The Coordinator for CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program Nina Ognianova suggested, “As a NATO member and a regional leader, Turkey should not belong in the list of top press jailers. But from the failure to reform its legislation in a meaningful way to the crackdown on its journalists in the aftermath of the Gezi park protests, Turkey has grown increasingly repressive,” despite the modest decline in jailed journalists from the year before.

3. The Gezi Protests, of course, were the most important signal to the wider world regarding long-standing human rights abuses in Turkey.  The Guardian, for example, included the case of Hakan Yaman, who was brutally beaten and left for dead by Turkish police, as one of its “Stories of 2013.”  [See here for Amnesty’s campaign for Hakan Yaman]

The police officers started to beat and repeatedly hit him on his head and face and he fell to the floor. “They continued hitting me very hard, with their batons, with their fists and I am not sure what else. Then one of them gouged my eye out with something sharp. It just burst and started bleeding.”

He speaks slowly, with a soft voice. According to his forensic medical report, the police broke several bones in his skull, chin and jaw. Six months on, he still speaks with difficulty. “I could hear one of them say: ‘Let’s finish this one off.'” He says they dragged him about 40 metres towards a fire that was still smouldering on the street, the remains of a protesters’ barricade. “They threw me into the fire and left me for dead.”

Clearly, in 2014, we have a lot of work to do.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

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