1 350 000 Syrians in Turkey – a Nation in a State of Limbo
When the first influx of Syrians looking for refuge in the neighboring countries of Syria took place in 2011/12, the international community could not anticipate that the Syrian Civil War would cause the biggest humanitarian crisis of our era. Thus, the Government of Turkey (GoT), among other neighboring countries, established in response to the sudden and large numbers of refugees a Temporary Protection (TP) regime that is providing protection and assistance to Syrians in Turkey, including “unlimited stay, protection against forcible returns, and access to reception arrangements where immediate needs are addressed.”Material assistance, however, is mainly only provided inside the camps whereas the majority of Syrians does not receive any assistance as they are residing outside the camps. Non-Camp Syrians are faced with hardship as they do not have access to resettlement programs, are not allowed to work in Turkey, are not given the opportunity to go to free Turkish language courses and are increasingly victims of hate speeches by the Turkish media and the Turkish population. İn summary, they are victims of Turkey’s reluctance to implement integration policies for the Syrian population that would be beneficial for both the refugee as well as the host community, resulting in an insecure future for this group.
Can we trust the Turkish media?
A few days ago we read in the Taraf daily that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been paying some young people TL 800 to 4,000 monthly to manage Twitter accounts and send fake tweets to manipulate public perception. They do not hesitate to target and insult people, especially those who do not share the AKP's views. According to the analysis in Taraf, all these account holders are overseen by AKP Deputy Chairman Süleyman Soylu. I really wonder what kind of justice and development can be brought to Turkey through the use of these techniques, including manipulating perception, insulting key figures and targeting those who have fallen out of favor with the government. This situation is now becoming an even greater threat to Turkish democracy as the media is under tighter control and journalists are regularly cursed and threatened. Many important figures in the AKP do this without batting an eye. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been known to call media bosses and “request” the dismissal ofspecific journalists who don't conform to his expectations. In my opinion, this atmosphere of pressure will carry on for some time.
Subsistence Rights and Cultural Heritage Rights in the case of Hasankeyf: Human Rights Violations Perpetrated by the Turkish Government
The Ilisu Dam project being carried out in the city of Batman, Turkey is part of a larger regional development project called the GAP Project (Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi/Southeastern Anatolia Project). According to the government’s website, GAP is a “multi-sector and integrated regional development effort approached in the context of sustainable development.”[i] The southeastern region of Turkey has been largely neglected since the formation of the Turkish Republic. It is important to note that the east of Turkey is home to the Kurdish population which comprises close to 20% of Turkey’s population.[ii] The entire project was originally planned in the 1970s for irrigation and hydraulic energy production on the Euphrates and Tigris, but has since transformed into a multi-sector social and economic development project. The goal is to improve the agricultural and industrial potential of the region, therefore increasing regional income and creating new employment opportunities. The Ilisu Dam project is one of 22 dams that are part of the plan. The dam is being built downstream from the historic town of Hasankeyf on the Tigris River and the reservoir that will form following the completion of the dam will completely submerge the town. The project will affect about 108 villages. Of the total affected villages, 6 are located in dam construction sites while the other 102 are located in the reservoir area, Hasankeyf being one of them.[iii] It is because of this reservoir that the people of Hasankeyf are being resettled into government built communities outside of Hasankeyf and away from the reservoir. This resettlement is very important both in terms of subsistence and cultural rights as will be later explained. Though the dam’s construction has legally been suspended by the court, construction continues and the dam is set for completion in 2015.
Let me write down some of the recent developments in Turkey:
* A parliamentary commission which was established to investigate corruption allegations leveled at ex-ministers cannot hold sessions because members of the ruling party do not attend meetings. On top of that, the chairperson of the commission, who happened to be a member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), sent the probe file back to prosecutors for an absurd reason. He said the file does not contain an index and that prosecutors should prepare one. We knew from the very beginning that this commission would not work.
International Justice Day
Since June 2010, July 17th has been chosen as the anniversary of the International Justice Day, as stated in art. 12 of Kampala Declaration. The date represents the most suitable time to remark the importance and primary need of having an appropriate International juridical system in dealing with crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The most significant component of this system is the International Criminal Court (2002), the world's first permanent judicial body competent in bringing perpetrators to justice and providing redress to victims in case of States' unwillingness or inability.
On the other hand, the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute (1998) shows the hidden side of the Court's work: the ICC, in fact, represents an incentive for all States to fulfill their primary obligations to prevent, investigate and prosecute the crimes, underlining the importance of domestic courts at national and international level, in the construction of an effective system of International Justice. The States, whether parties or not of the Rome Statute, are the first actors able to fulfill the “never-again” promise, issued on the aftermath of World War II.
Marking 2014's International Justice Day, the Human Rights Agenda Association and its President Dr. Gűnal Kurşun want to underline the importance and the centrality of the day in the country. Quoting verbatim the words appeared on the Minister of Foreign Affair Ahmet Davutoğlu's official twitter account in occasion of the commemoration of Srebrenica's massacre (11.07.2014):
“We will never forget forget Srebrenica and we will not let it be forgotten, even if everybody else does”
Refugees under attack
In December 2011, the court sentenced Cengiz Yıldız, a police officer who was on duty at the time of the incident, to four years and two months in prison for involuntary manslaughter in the death of Festus Okey. The trial process, however, caused several controversies. The police officer who was the suspect remained on active duty, the shirt Okey wore the day of the incident disappeared and the prosecution of local refugee rights organizations that criticized the investigation or demanded to be a part of the hearings. "The police officer pointed the gun at Festus Okey during the interrogation in order to scare [Okey] and to satisfy his own ego and was completely aware of the risk that it could result in killing the detainee," the prosecutor said in a statement.
YET ANOTHER DEATH UNDER DETENTION!
Allegations about the death of asylum seeker Litfiullah Tacik should immediately be investigated.17 years old Afghanistan citizen Litfiullah Tacik lost his life at Van State Hospital on 31 May 2014 with the diagnosis of cerebral hemorrhage as a result of violence he had allegedly subject to at the Foreigners Department of the Van Directorate of Security Foreigners.
According to existing information, it was identified that during investigations of 28 cases of death under custody since 2007 today, video camera recordings were not accessed/or not available.
According to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, if the health of a person deprived of liberty by public authorities was well before he/she was taken under custody, any injury in terms of health generated from the start of detention, the burden of proof rests with the State Authorities to reveal the truth. One of the important tools of the proof is the video camera recordings.
Sympathetic toward death penalty, intolerant of criticism
I was watching Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on TV after a tragic event that took place in Adana. A 4-year-old girl, Gizem, was kidnapped and then found violently killed. I saw Erdoğan on TV speaking with a young woman who was requesting that he give the child's killer the death penalty
He said, “I said this before. Haven't you heard? You know, the death penalty is what my heart desires. But we're governed by the rule of law and the death penalty does not exist [in Turkey] anymore. ... First, the death penalty is what my heart wants. If [that can't happen], then an aggravated life sentence [will]." The woman replied, “Please do not release the perpetrator of this act of violence,” and Erdoğan answered, “It is not possible for someone to be spend life in prison in our legal system." According to Law No. 5275, Article 107, dated 2004, those condemned to aggravated life imprisonment are able to request they be put on probation after serving 30 years in prison.
Hundreds of Afghani refugees protesting the UNHCR in Turkey
Eight Afghani refugees have stitched their mouth to protest UNHCR discriminatory policies against them.
Hundreds of Afghan women, men and children gathered in front of the UNHCR office in Ankara city to protest against the performance of UNHCR in considering their asylum applications. Protesters claim that the UNHCR Office in Turkey does not receive their asylum requests and does not conduct interviews with them which eventually cause them wait for longer than expected. Moreover, the resettlement of Afghani refugees are also stopped by the USA, EU member countries, Canada and Australia thereby making the human tragedy worse in Turkey for the Afgani refugees. At the moment no country accepts them for resettlement. That is why the UNHCR Turkey office does not submit their files to any country.
The protests have entered in its second week; the protesters are staying in front of the Unhcr Office day and night.
“There’s no food, no water and all people sleeping together on the pedestrian, that’s not the way it should be,” Mahboba 28 from Kabul complained to public Turkish media before the protesters were cleared out of the road said early Saturday .
An Afghani refugee representative stated that “....... we are victim of the international politics. The main responsible of our tragedy is the USA, EU member countries and the UN itself. The USA has created war in our country and the EU and the UN is just watching. Now they are not even accepting us as refugee. The Unhcr policies are designed by the USA and EU strong member countries. Where are the justice and human rights they are talking about......”
Conflict in Syria
On 6 March 2014, over 100 organisations from over 30 countries including Association Européenne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (AEDH), Amnesty International, Caritas Europa, CCME - Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, European Network Against Racism, Human Rights Watch, International Catholic Migration Commission, International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), Jesuit Refugee Service Europe, Reporters Sans Frontières and Save the Children EU Office launched a campaign to call on European governments and the EU institutions to make a concerted European effort to offer protection to those fleeing the conflict in Syria in a spirit of solidarity with Syria’s neighbouring countries. This campaign petitions European leaders to act now to ensure access to protection for the men, women and children feeing the conflict in Syria