Amnesty: Stop shipments of teargas to Turkey

South Korea: Don't Give Us Gas!

South Korea: Don’t Give Us Gas!

Amnesty International – Turkey has begun a twitter campaign today aimed at halting Korean shipments of teargas to Turkey.  The campaign was sparked by new information of the imminent shipment of teargas scheduled this month.

Amnesty has issued an urgent plea to the South Koreans, asking them to suspend the sale.

After all, Turkish police routinely – and illegally – use tear gas canisters as projectiles, often resulting in serious injury and sometimes, as in the case of Berkin Elvan, fatally.  During the Gezi protests of 2013, hundreds and perhaps thousands were injured in this way. In its landmark report on the Gezi crackdown, Amnesty notes:

Police officers were repeatedly seen firing tear gas canisters horizontally at suspected demonstrators as a weapon. A significant proportion of persons injured at the scene of demonstrations received injuries through being struck by gas canisters, many of them fired at close range. The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey reported to Amnesty International that of the applications for rehabilitation made to their foundation, 60% were due to injuries caused by gas canisters…

That was not the limit of abuses with tear gas:

Amnesty International witnessed tear gas being used repeatedly against peaceful protestors at demonstrations in a manner that was manifestly inappropriate, abusive and in violation of their rights. Widespread reports and photographic and video evidence also point to the frequent use of tear gas against protestors fleeing police and apparently randomly against potential demonstrators and bystanders alike at the scene or close to and at persons in confined spaces including residential buildings and commercial premises where protestors had sought refuge and health facilities where injured persons were receiving treatment.   

I tried to make sense of the sheer scale of the prospective tear gas purchases in a blog in December, 2014:

So back to the numbers.  As a historian, I understand the difficulty of conceptualizing large numbers and I am used to playing with numbers to help students understand statistics. So, looking at the scale of Turkey’s purchase, I wanted to help myself better understand it.  What does 1.9 million tear gas canisters and gas grenades mean?

For starters, it represents more than ten times the standard amount ordered by Turkey before 2013According to Amnesty, annual procurement used to be 150,000 canisters per year, but increased significantly after Gezi.

It also represents just under 15 times the amount of tear gas used by Turkey during the first twenty days of the Gezi protests (130,000 canisters, according to Turkish authorities).  To think about this another way (and feel free to check my math here, I’m merely a historian after all), 1.9 million tear gas canisters and gas grenades would allow Turkey to employ gas in the excessive manner it did during the height of the Gezi crackdown for a whopping, 292 days, or nearly 10 months.  The mind boggles.

Used by permission. © Tolga Sezgin / Nar Photos

Amnesty believes that a new shipment from Turkey is immanent and members are urged to participate in a call to stop these shipments.

What you can do

In a previous campaign, Amnesty – Turkey was able to gather more than 53,000 signatures calling on Korea to stop shipments.  Now, it is focusing its call directly on the Korean Embassy in Ankara and Korea’s DAPA or Defense Acquisition Program Administration.

  1.  Send a fax to the DAPA highlighting your concerns +82 2 773 75 87
  2. Send a letter or fax to the Korean Embassy in Ankara.
  3. Join in Amnesty’s Twitter campaign by tweeting one of these messages:

    Stop tear gas transfers to Turkey now! @dapapr

    Do not fuel the repression of peaceful protests in Turkey, stop transfers now! @dapapr

    We are concerned about the planned shipment of riot control equipment to Turkey where abusive force is used against protestors @dapapr

    Howard Eissenstat
    St. Lawrence University

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