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Turkish (Turkiye)

Roma target: a Pan-European stigma

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“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

This is the literal quotation of Article 2 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), one of the most important articles in fighting against violations of people's fundamental rights -- the well-known right to non-discrimination. With the same words, Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) remarks the importance of this provision within the EU's corpus juris. Although clearly institutionalized within legal international tools, the benefit does not seem to own the same strength as other fundamental freedoms: Its boundaries are blurred and easily penetrable; moreover, the idea of non-discrimination is strictly connected to several variables, from the time in which the violation was committed up to the social fabric of the structure in which the misbehavior took place.

Due to these factors, I personally consider the prescription as a legislative hybrid, a figure somewhere between the reality of the right and the conceptualization of the claim. To fully implement it, other social sciences must come to rescue this fundamental freedom from the pure legislative requirements. A sociological approach is needed to draw the border of the provision's intrinsic efficiency and identify its possible infractions.

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The Gezi Park Process and the new democratic values in Turkey

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From a peaceful sit-in in defense of a city park to a nation-wide protest movement. This could be a brief summary of the events that occurred in Turkey during the last few months. Just few words to describe an affair that is completely changing daily life all over the country. What began as an environmental assembly against the umpteenth “cementification project” of one of Istanbul's last urban green areas, has undergone several transformations, especially after the brutal intervention of the police in a violent attempt to clear out the park of the green occupants. Suddenly, plural demonstrations of solidarity were sparked all over Turkey; moreover, the protests have turned into a cross-movement disapproving of the government's recent policies. While the citizens faced police brutality during the rallies, the entire world ideologically joined them against the harsh repression of their civil and human liberties. The newly-born Gezi Park Movement inspired different actions and reactions in which it has been compared to almost all the manifestations of dissent or popular uprisings which punctuated the 2000s -- from the #OccupyMovement to #TahrirSquare, passing through the #TurkishSpring. Actually, it is not the aim of this article to analyze the similarities between the Gezi Park Movement and other modern protests. My intention is to show a different perspective of the remostrances, sharing my personal thoughts and setting the Gezi Park Movement and its developments inside the democratization process that is taking place since the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has ruled the nation.
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International Justice Day

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The 15th anniversary of the International Justice Day comes in a changing time for Turkey.  The efforts made the present Government for the democratization of the country are reaching now the pinnacle of the path thanks to the ongoing peace process between the Republic of  Turkey and the PKK members: the process is showing to the entire world the strong will, from both of the actors, to end a thirty years long conflict within the borders of the region. The peace talks were greeted by the whole international community but, at the same time and in this day, some remark must be done.

Since ten years Turkey is undergoing a renewal of the domestic policies, in an unprecedented attempt to grant democratic and civil liberties to all its citizens like never before. Unfortunately, not ratifying yet the Rome Statute shows Turkey as not expressing its will of becoming a part of the civilized world, instead of standing together with states like USA, Russia, China, Israel and Iran. These states, including Turkey, are the few states which are not state parties to the Rome Statute, that 139 states signed and 122 of them became party.

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Religious Freedom in Turkey

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HRAA General Secretary Salih Efe spoke about religious minorities rights in Turkey at a conference held at the EU Parliament on 03 July 2013 in Strasbourg, France. He was invited to be speaker at the conference by the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) and Mr. Peter Van Dalen, Member of the European Parliament for the Netherlands.  
 
The final stage of the Ottoman era was an unmitigated disaster for everyone in the empire. As a matter of fact, the end of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century were a virtual “living hell” for minorities. The same dark period experienced in Turkey during this time was also happening across the world. When the new Republic of Turkey was formed, the Armenians, Greeks, Arameans, the Jewish people, and other non-Muslims (those who had managed to survive) all dreamed of a fresh beginning. This was because, after all, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his men all asserted that they were forming a modern, secular, and democratic new nation, and received the praise of the world in so doing.
While minorities maintained this vision for the newly arising country, the facts did not bear out such claims in practice. A new nation was formed upon an ideology that rejected the very people who constituted the nation. Serious mistakes made and wrong policies adopted during the formation of the Turkish Republic still deeply affect the policies prevailing today. With the bureaucracy of the state being entrusted to the hands of a new class in Turkey in 1921, particularly after the 1924 Constitution, everyone was required to be a Turk and to embrace the identity accorded them by the state. Then, “the feelings of guilt” from the 1915 Armenian massacre (which to some clearly constituted genocide) during the last years of the Ottoman period “transformed into hatred for Armenians and other minorities” in the new, strongly secular Republic[1]. After the 1938 massacre in Tunceli (Dersim at the time) against Alevi Kurds, no further large massacres could be carried out, but the minorities could be “brought to their knees” economically by the state’s constant harassment[2].
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What Happened in Taksim ?

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The protests born in Istanbul last week in defense of Taksim Gezi Park from an urban renovation project, which would deprived a megalopolis increasingly constrained by cement of another green area, reached Ankara on 31st May in late afternoon. After a peaceful meeting in Kuğulu Park, in the central district of Cankaya, close to embassies and governmental offices, the demonstrators decided to march all together showing their solidarity to the Istanbul-based occupiers.

During the gathering in the Capital's parlor, many participants noticed the complete absence of the police, the absolute freedom granted to the protesters balanced with the different attitude towards the settlers in Gezi Park. No policeman was around the “Park of Swans”-Kuğulu Park. A joyful, peaceful  atmosphere, made even more pleasant thanks to the urban green space and the mild weather, colored by different flags, emblems of several political beliefs, united in an act of civil resistance.

Unfortunately, it was just an illusion: once started to parade, the demonstrators were blocked by the so long expected police in Bestekar Street, a narrow road close to assembly's point. The officers were simply waiting for them in an unexpected place. After a while, the anti-riot police started to shoot tear-gas bombs in direction of the participants, trying to break up the rally. The same tactic used in Istanbul but they faced the same resistance in Ankara too. The clashes lasted all the weekend. On Sunday night something changed. After attempts to violently repress the events, after several clashes between demonstrators and security forces, the protest vehemently culminated in the Capital, showing that main subject of the complaints was not only the Istanbul's Park but the Government's policies too. So Ankara suddenly became the center of the riots.

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Today'S Zaman columnist Cengiz presented with LDT Freedom Honor Award

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The Association for Liberal Thinking (LDT), a Turkish think tank, has chosen to bestow its 2013 Freedom Honor Award on lawyer, activist and Today's Zaman columnist Orhan Kemal Cengiz.

Following a speech by journalist Mustafa Akyol at the award ceremony on Saturday, Professor Ergun Özbudun, the previous recipient of the award, presented it to Cengiz.

The Ankara-based LDT was informally founded on Dec. 26, 1992, by conservative intellectuals and gained official status as an association under Turkish law on April 1, 1994. Each year, it gives its Freedom Honor Award to a person who has contributed to freedoms in the country.

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HRAA press release on 9 Lawyers’ arrest

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The police operation took place against the mainly advocates and some musicians were named as “DHKP-C operation against the lawyers”.

However, when we look at the profiles of the advocates we can clearly notice that these lawyers are the ones who continuously fight against the tortures within the security forces, protest against the unlawful acts of the police, participate in the burial ceremonies of the left wing oriented people or militants, as well as issue many press releases against the security forces. The police raiding of their offices by force is a clear violation Turkish law as well as human rights law. According to the Turkish Advocacy Law police cannot raid lawyers Office without any notice. This issue is very strict in Turkish law. The police can search an advocate’s office only with the permission and presence of prosecutor as well as with presence of one representative from the Bar Association.  However, in practice the security forces have never obeyed the Turkish law as well as the international standards.

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Mor Gabriel Manastırı under siege

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The thesis is focused on the struggle between the Monastery of Mor Gabriel, the Holy place of the Assyrian minority living in Turkey, located in the South-East of Anatolia, and the Turkish Government. Starting from the study of the lawsuit concerning the real estate of the Monastery's foundation, this analysis will show the several human rights violations handled every day by the Süryaniler in Turkey. The aim of the research is to explain how the battle over the lands of Mor Gabriel must be seen not only as a strive to preserve one of the most ancient place of Christianity all over the world, but it is mainly the latest representation of the never-ending conflict which the Assyrians in Turkey are dealing with.

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An inseparable pair: Mor Gabriel land and Aramean rights by Roberto Frifrini*

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Last November the monastery of Mor Gabriel suffered further defeat in an attempt for recognition of its rights. The Supreme Court of Appeals rejected a petition by the Mor Gabriel Foundation asking for a review of the judgment issued by the 20th chamber of the same court in June 2012. It seems the age-old struggle between Mor Gabriel and the Treasury has come to a dead end.

If viewed from a broader perspective, the court's decision leaves me speechless: It occurred during a time in which we see significant changes in the state's behavior towards minorities.

‘Becoming like Turkey'

In recent months two major events bear witness to this new focus on the issue of minorities: the so-called “Restitution Decree” of August 2011, and the discourse of President Abdullah Gül on Oct. 1, 2012 -- in my opinion the most important one, especially from a constitutional perspective. Speaking in Parliament on the opening day of the legislative year, President Gül highlighted Turkey's leading role in the region, stressing that every neighboring nation would like to become like Turkey.

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Déjà vu -- removing immunity of Kurdish MPs?

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I think it is the same for individuals and nations alike: If you do not learn from your experiences, you never grow, never become a mature individual or nation.

And it is obvious that Turkey has not learned from its past experiences. Otherwise, we would not see this motion in Parliament to remove the immunity of pro-Kurdish, now-defunct Democracy Party (DEP) members of Parliament.I can’t remember how many pro-Kurdish political parties have been closed down in Turkey so far. There have been so many. However, I clearly remember what happened in 1994; in that year some pro-Kurdish MPs had their parliamentary immunity removed. They were arrested in Parliament and taken into custody by police officers who grabbed them by the neck like they were kittens, and all the MPs ended up in prison.Putting MPs in prison had been taken as a clear message by most Kurds that there was no room for peaceful means to promote Kurds’ rights, and that violence was the only option. I have never agreed with the view that violence can be a useful means to gain rights, but I am talking about the mindset back then. Today, we have quite a different set of circumstances than we had in 1994 in terms of democracy, freedom of expression and the situation of the Kurds in Turkey. But, one thing is certain: Removing Kurdish MPs’ immunity would create exactly the same mental state of being that was created by the 1994 disaster.

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Headscarf discrimination spills over into private sector

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Headscarf discrimination spills over into private sector

Discrimination against women wearing headscarves continues to be recorded despite expectations that stigma would have waned.

Gunal Kursun, Human Rights Agenda Association President and assistant professor at Adana Cukurova University, said that the headscarf debate is a natural outcome of a democratic transformation process through which Turkey is passing.

"In countries where different ethnic groups and identities exist, such debates continue for some time. But afterwards the societal balance will fall into place," Kursun told SES Türkiye.

According to Kursun, there is a widespread perception within the society that views the right of women to cover their bodies as contrary to laicism. "But such a right," he said, "should in fact be conceived as the foremost guarantee of laicism."

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