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Turkish (Turkiye)

Who is responsible now?

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As I sadly sat down to write a press release yesterday for my organization the Human Rights Agenda Association to protest the detention of Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş, I learned about the bomb attack in Ankara. I immediately left my house to see the place and the situation was terrible.
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Dismantling democracy in Turkey: a civil rights perspective (II)

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The effective enjoyment of fundamental freedoms granted by domestic constitutions is the only reliable indicator of any country's democratization status: All human liberties set forth by national charters connote a strict range of the state's positive obligations toward its citizens, a series of duties to respect in order to comply with the democratic paradigm.

These essential requirements transform the role of the state into an active one: Beyond being bound to refrain from any interference therein, it also ought to engage in facilitating their complete fruition. Every stable democracy has to ensure the respect of basic human rights and provide the necessary tools of their fulfillment. Proceeding with the analysis of the civil rights situation in Turkey, stressing once again that few are the classic human rights that must be taken into account to rank a democracy, a further scrutiny of the provision set by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), freedom of expression (FoE), is indeed indispensable.

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Dismantling democracy in Turkey: a civil rights perspective

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The term democracy describes a form of government in which the legitimacy to rule (kratos) is bestowed upon the people (demos) of a state, who exert it with a direct or indirect system of representation through free elections.

Since the second half of the 20th century, the democratic axiom has been the subject of in-depth analyses denoting its nature as a problematic criterion, an “essentially contested concept” able to acquire different meanings according to the social and cultural context in which it develops, without losing its primacy as a key term in the domain of social sciences.

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Cizre and Manavgat

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“Can Turkey become another Syria?” a friend asked yesterday in a matter-of-fact voice. I said, “Have you seen the pictures of Cizre?”

There was a curfew in place for more than a week in Cizre, a district of Şırnak province in southeastern Turkey, and we've seen pictures from there after the lifting of the curfew. Demolished houses, bullet holes in the walls, broken showcase windows, collapsed roofs because of mortar shells and the punctured water system of the city can easily be seen in the photographs.

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From time to time, I think about the social roots of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.

It is obvious that there is ongoing discrimination against and “otherization” of Kurds in society. It is still very hard for Kurds to become top government officials if they reveal their identity. Although there has been an improvement in recent years, measures to prevent discrimination are still insufficient. Social inclusion is the key aspect for a possible solution to the conflict, but it is hard to claim that there are real social policies and legal measures to prevent this discrimination.

In fact, there are dominant identities in Turkey. Turks against Kurds, Muslims against non-Muslims and Sunnis against Alevis are some of the examples of dominant identities that deserve a special approach. The Kemalist ideology, enacted even before Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, excluded and slowly isolated all sub-identities. The Committee of Union and Progress (İttihat ve Terakki), which ruled the last years of Ottoman Empire, saw all minorities as a threat to the existence of the state. This mentality resulted in the Armenian Genocide of 1915, aiming at the transfer of capital to Turks, and had an effect on the new republic with a huge perception that it was under threat. In Dersim in 1938, there was another genocide, which resulted with civilian massacres of Alevi Kurds.

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Rule of Law Perceptions in Turkey

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" The rule of law is a pillar in the constitution of Turkey. Altough it is prescribed in the constitution, the relation of Turkish politics with the concept of rule of law was always problematic. During the recent years in turkey, it is observed that Turkey has dropped down in the rule of law index. There has been published extra-judicial and non-constitutional texts like “the Red Book”, foreseeing the threats to the republic with binding affects towards the administration. In collaboration with these texts, the judiciary can lose its impartiality and independence as some groups that declared as threats in Red Book may receive enormous pressure. The judges who have decided against this current have been detained and prosecuted, as well as citizens who have criticized the president. On the other hand, the ministry of justice is trying to take control by not letting its members to receive education fulfilling international standards. These developments force Turkey drift apart of rule of law and losen its momentum on democratization process. It is discussed in the article by giving concrete examples that clinging on democracy, rule of law and human rights will change to promote and raise the humanitarian level of development of Turkey."*
*Abstract of Dr. Günal Kurşun's article, President of the Human Rights Agenda Association, published on E-Journal of Law.


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ARTICLE 34 of the Turkish Constitution

« Everyone has the right to hold unarmed and peaceful meetings and demonstration marches without prior permission. The right to hold meetings and demonstration marches shall be restricted only by law on the grounds of national security, public order, prevention of commission of crime, protection of public health and public morals or the rights and freedoms of others.

The formalities, conditions, and procedures to be applied in the exercise of the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches shall be prescribed by law. »


The 13th edition of the LGBTI Istanbul Parade has been marked by unlawful and disproportionate use of force by police officers against the participants to the rally. The events occurred on June, 28th , could represent an u-turn in the relationships among the LGBTI community and the Turkish Government. After the last elections of June 7th , in which several LGBTI exponents run for a parliamentarian chair, showing a more than welcome opening of Turkish society, the harsh police crackdown on the PRIDE MARCH has created huge disappointment and concern within national and international human rights defenders.


The declarations released on June, 29th , by the Istanbul Governor's office , are creating much more worry, if possible. In the official statements could be read that the demonstrators were prevented to gather and march do to a possible and undefined risk “to be open to provocation”. The Governor's office also asserted that the participants were dispersed according to the principle of proportionality and within the boundaries of the law.


The Human Rights Agenda Association is concerned about the use of vague terms such as “open to provocation” and the respect of the principle of proportionality while dispersing the crowd. If a march could be targeted from external provocations, the role of the police is to prevent the external provocations itself and not dispersing people attending a peaceful walk using water cannons, tear gas and bullet pellets. Moreover, the Human Rights Agenda Association is asking the Istanbul's Governor to which acts the police officers involved in the Istanbul Pride were supposedly responding according by the principle of proportionality. For this reason, the Human Rights Agenda Association is asking the Istanbul Governor to clarify the meaning of “a demonstration eventually open to provocation” and the legal guidelines followed by police officers when they were supposedly complying with legal provisions, respecting the principle of proportionality.


As stated in the Art.34 of the Turkish Constitution, and remarked in international human rights conventions to which Turkey is party, including the European Convention of Human Rights (art.11) and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (art.21), the authorities have a responsibility to protect and facilitate the right of peaceful assembly. The significance of this right is underlined also by the UN Human Rights Council resolution 15/21 in which is remarked:


  • Reaffirm[ed] that everyone has the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and that no one may be compelled to belong to an association;

  • Recognizi[ed] the importance of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to the full enjoyment of civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights;

  • Recogniz[ed] also that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are essential components of democracy, providing individuals with invaluable opportunities to, inter alia, express their political opinions, engage in literary and artistic pursuits; and

  • Recogniz[ed] further that exercising the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association free of restrictions, subject only to the limitations permitted by international law, in particular international human rights law, is indispensable to the full enjoyment of these rights, particularly where individuals may espouse minority or dissenting religious or political beliefs”

    HRAA Board




Laïcité versus freedom of religion: a Gordian knot within the French republic?

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Since its entry into force in 2004, the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols has been perceived as a matter of concern by actors involved in dialogues over multiculturalism, human rightsfreedom of religion and belief and the role of the state, especially in its duties to grant equal treatment to all citizens.
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Words are opening the gates of prisons

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I have many journalist friends who have either a criminal charge pending against them or have already been convicted.

Each conviction of a journalist is a chain attached to the pens of other journalists and those chains have increased in numbers so much that journalists find it harder and harder to write now.


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More convictions for journalists

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Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Dr. Bülent Keneş was given a suspended sentence yesterday of 21 months in prison over a tweet. Even though Keneş did not even mention a name in his tweet, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took a word personally and claimed that he had been insulted. In Turkish, the word “rezil” (rascal) is used to describe corrupt and immoral people. In his tweet, Keneş was describing corruption and Erdoğan found this word insulting.


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Mediterranean Sea and Frontex: a deadly war against the weakest

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In the aftermath of the Lampedusa tragedy of October 2013, more than 360 lifeless bodies were rescued from the waves in what was then labeled the worst shipwreck of modern times. The statements by all of the European Union representatives were supposed to lead to a new commitment to facing migration influxes by sea in order to avoid the recurrence of similar disasters. Almost two years later, in the wake of the disasters in April that have resulted in an estimated death toll of more than 1,000 migrants, the declarations and future commitments are the same statements we heard in 2013.

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