‘Minority groups face increasing discrimination in Turkey’

20 March 2014 by MELTEM Naz Kaso, İstanbul (Today’s Zaman)

Despite March 21 being both the UN-designated International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the start of the Nevruz festival, which marks the first day of spring and has been celebrated by people from diverse ethnic communities and religious backgrounds for thousands of years, some prominent voices in Turkey have used the occasion to tell Today’s Zaman that discrimination is increasing against those who do not practice Sunni Islam or identify as ethnic Turks.

Aren, a Christian of Armenian heritage in his 30s, says that on one occasion, when he was exercising at the gym, some people opened windows soon after he started running and said that “the room had started to smell like an Armenian.” Another man of Aren’s age referred to a dumbbell as being “as heavy as an unbeliever’s dead body.” He tells Today’s Zaman that this is far from being the most severe incident he has experienced in Turkey in terms of discrimination due to his ethnicity and religion. He could well be right. Other prominent incidents of racial and religious discrimination — such as the murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist who was killed outside his office, and three Christians who were brutally murdered at the Zirve publishing house in Malatya — reveal that intolerance can be deadly.

On paper, Turkey has taken significant steps to fight against discrimination. After the long-running public debates over the implementation of a “democracy package” — an initiative to extend rights to Turkey’s disadvantaged minorities — hate crime entered the Turkish statute books for the first time in December 2013. Hate and prejudice crimes are defined as “crimes committed against someone or some group based on their language, race, nationality, skin color, gender, disability, political views, philosophical beliefs or religion.” Yet, unlike the preferred definition of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), it lacks criteria based on ethnicity and sexual orientation. In addition, the largest ethnic minority in Turkey, the Kurds, are not specifically included in the regulation.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued a public declaration in January 2014 to draw attention to these gaps in Turkey’s hate crime legislation. So far, no subsequent changes have taken place.

Erdal Doğan, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the Zirve murder case, thinks that the problem of ethnic and racial discrimination is deeply rooted in Turkey and will not be resolved soon. “Since the founding of the Turkish Republic, our country had been built according to the concept of ‘oneness.’ To ‘Turkify’ everyone, governments normalized hate speech and did not recognize ethnic or religious differences,” Doğan tells Today’s Zaman. According to the lawyer, the goal of such policies was to label as an enemy all those who were not Sunni Muslim Turks.

From: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-342607-minority-groups-face-increasing-discrimination-in-turkey.html

Tagged Hrant Dink, Nevrus festival, Zirve murder case, ethnic and racial discrimination

The woman in red speaks

Using the influence of a symbolic photograph is not a sign of justice

The woman in red (Ceyda Sungur) is not satisfied that the police officer who sprayed her is being prosecuted (https://translatingtaksim.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/policeman-who-sprayed-tear-gas-to-woman-in-red-faces-three-years-in-jail/)

woman in red

In an article she wrote in Radikal (http://www.radikal.com.tr/turkiye/kirmizili_kadin_radikal_icin_yazdi_o_polisin_yargilanmasi_yetmez-1171207), she says:

I didn’t want to speak till now as I didn’t want to change the symbolic value of ‘the woman in red’ and I didn’t want to make an individual more important than the movement itself. But now I feel I owe an explanation especially to the families of those who were killed during Gezi. No one should talk of justice until the killers and those responsible for the killings are punished. Prosecuting a 23 years old police officer for acting alone yet still under the orders of his superiors is not sufficient compensation for the violence incited by a government who described the police as ‘legendary’.

During the 7 months since Gezi, no case has been brought against the police for those they injured. While this is the case, prosecution of a police officer spraying tear gas into my face contributes nothing to justice. It is clear that this prosecution will not go beyond using the influence a photograph had internationally and beyond an attempt to quash the rebellion of millions.

Prosecuting officers whose job security and working conditions are dictated by their superior is no consolation for those who lost their lives, suffered brain injuries, lost their eyes, broke their limbs and sustained other injuries, and for their families and those of us who managed to stay alive during Gezi.

ETHEM, ABDULLAH, MEHMET, İRFAN, MEDENİ, SELİM…

How unfortunate that the following were not wearing a red dress

Ethem Sarısülük – when he was shot in the head by a police bullet;

Abdullah Cömert – when he died after being hit on the head by a tear gas canister;

Mehmet Ayvalıtaş – when he was run over by a car during the protests in the “1st May” neighbourhood;

İrfan Tuna – when tear gassed in his work place;

Medeni Yıldırım – when he carried a placard against the construction of a police station;

Selim Önder – when he went to visit his daughter living in Gümüşsuyu;

Zeynep Eryaşar – when she joined her children guarding the Gezi Parkı;

Ahmet Atakan – when he protested to demand the killers be punished;

Ali İsmail Korkmaz – when he was beaten to death; and

Serdar Kadakal – whe he sat outside his place of work.

Berkin Elvan did not commit a crime other than going to the shops to buy a loaf of bread. [when he was shot in the head by a tear canister and has been in a coma since June, and earlier this month celebrating his 15th birthday still in a coma]

Just because these people were not accidentally captured in a press photo cannot be an excuse for not prosecuting and punishing those responsible for their death and suffering.

Of course today we cannot talk about a justice and equity in a system which prosecutes journalists fighting for freedom of speech, lawyers helping those unjustly treated and academicians defending independent science and protects those responsible for the killing of Hrant Dink (7 years ago this Sunday) and many others.

Despite all this, nothing will be forgotten and this unjust treatment will not be accepted. Justice will only be achieved through fighting for our rights and I believe Berkin will wake up for this.