Amnesty: 2015 witnessed continued assaults on Freedom of Assembly in Turkey

Turkey May Day

Demonstrators try to protect themselves from water, sprayed by a police water canon truck during clashes in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 1, 2015.  (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel}

Amnesty International’s Annual Report detailed continued attacks on the right to peaceful assembly in Turkey this past year:

The practice of arbitrary detentions at assemblies was given legal basis by legislative amendments in March in the Domestic Security Package, providing police with powers to detain without judicial supervision. Peaceful demonstrators continued to be prosecuted and convicted.

For the third year in a row, authorities denied permission for traditional May Day demonstrations in Istanbul.  Tens of thousands of police were deployed to “[close] off the entire Taksim district and surrounding areas to demonstrators, traffic and tourists alike.”


Despite a peaceful – and indeed joyous – twelve-year history, Istanbul’s Pride March was also banned this year.

[Authorities] violently broke up the annual national Pride march in Istanbul in June, citing a lack of formal notification and information about counter-demonstrators. Discussions between representatives of the Pride and the authorities leading up to the event offered no indication that it would be banned. Police used excessive force including tear gas, water cannon and pepper-ball projectiles against marchers during the day and Pride partygoers in the evening. In November, the Governor of Istanbul denied permission for a criminal investigation into the conduct of the police at the Pride march to be opened.

Meanwhile, the government continues its vendetta against participant in the 2013 Gezi protests.  Although most cases have ended in acquittal, hundreds have been convicted under a variety of charges, including two doctors, who were convicted for “‘denigrating a place of worship’ after giving emergency treatment to injured demonstrators in a mosque.

Amnesty notes that further cases related to Gezi are on-going.  Clearly, the assault on peaceful assembly is continuing apace.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

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