News on the health of former co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş caused a stir on Monday. Last week, the jailed opposition politician allegedly lost consciousness for a few minutes due to chest tightness and an inability to breathe. The deployment of first aid was delayed.
While Demirtaş’s lawyers and visitors announced he was in good shape, they also said his “condition” had worsned in prison as he suffered 20 such attacks in the past three years. What Demirtaş suffers from remains unclear. After his aides publicized the scandal, the Ministry of Justice for the first time allowed the politician to consult several specialists. HDP MP Erol Katırcıoğlu, who visited him, told me on the phone that due to “high security” regulations, a hospital needs to be completely cleared in oder to perform medical treatment on Demirtaş. But the Ministry was reluctant to do so.
Demirtaş, who was named third after Erdoğan and Imamoğlu as the “most admirable politician” in a recent AKP poll, announced that didn’t want to bother his party or the public with his health, while there were so many ill prisoners struggling to survive under horrendous conditions. Indeed, ill prisoners – hundreds of which suffer from fatal diseases – are widespread if severe human rights violation in Turkey. Their plight goes mostly untold.
As I was writing this article, HDP Viranşehir district admin Emine Aslan Aydoğan (64) who had been suffered from a fatal disease in a prison, in Şanlıurfa died after being hospitalized. Aydoğan’s family had to take her body with a pickup since they couldn’t get a funeral vehicle – which is supposed to be provided as a civil service. What is more, no Imam was appointed for her funeral. Except for a few independent and pro-Kurdish media outlets, this affair did not make it to the news.
Let alone the number of ill prisoners and their condition, it is hard to get reliable data of any kind in Turkey. Political prisoners, including those who have health problems, are held under inhumane conditions. This only catches the attention of a few human rights advocates. According to the Human Rights Association (IHD), in the last 17 years, 3,500 sick prisoners died in prisons. It has been estimated that there are 1,333 sick prisoners in total, 457 of which have fatal diseases.
A sick prisoner can only be released by a decision from the Ministry of Justice’s, if the Institution of Forensic Medicine (ATK) gives permission. Since ATK is not an independent body, political prisoners are seldom released. The prevailing idea is that “if they are terrorists, they do not deserve a treatment, but should rather rot in a cell”. The case of Aydoğan is the latest proof of this understanding. Political prisoners are treated like trash not only when ill, but also after their death.
Last year, CHP MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu made a law proposal for sick prisoners and babies imprisoned with their mothers. No one cared. Recently, HDP MP Ebru Günay presented a report on prisons and prisoners, with the help of IHD data. Examining seven prisons across Turkey, the report showed that the right to get medical treatment is hurdled, that beatings and torture are common and that access to media and books is prohibited. Food defiency and quality are also common problems, whereas sick prisoners can’t get food in line with their dietary needs. As a example, prisoners with diabetes are served sugar-based diet and they cannot eat.
HDP MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who frequently brings forwards human rights abuses in prisons, says the process of being hospitalized is a common problem. Prisoners receive belated medical attention, are cuffed while being transferred and at times, whilst getting their physical examination. Complaints regarding medical treatment abound.
The severe violations of sick prisoners rights are against the law and contradict with international agreements Turkey partakes in. Human right advocates accuse the government of being unwilling to address these problems and point to the The European Council, which remains silent.
While the Turkish government presents judicial reforms and boasts at how well the system functions, hundreds of lives are at stake in prisons.
Just as Kavala was preparing for his release after 840 days spent in the Silivri Prison, the prosecutor’s office announced the philanthropist would be questioned on “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order." This proves how partial, arbitrary and politically involved the Turkish judiciary is. Yet the dynamics of this process remain unclear.
It’s hard to voice opposition to war when the coffins of slain soldiers are being sent back from Syria and when the nationalist mood is in full swing. However HDP deputy and former journalist Ahmet Şık, who has been jailed twice and is still tried on the Cumhuriyet case, says that they have the responsibility to question why so many young people are dying for.
The watchmen will not operate under a specific law or the constitution but under the government’s direct orders. Opposition parties thus warn of a “parallel police force” that enjoys unprecedented powers. At night, the watchmen could well turn into the state’s moral police.
Although the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled for his immediate release on Dec. 10, 2019, Osman Kavala remains as the only defendant under detention at the Gezi trial. So the question is whether the Council of Europe (CoE) and member states will stand up. If they will not do that, what is the function of the ECHR and why should other states bother to follow its rules?
Well-known economists have questioned how Kanal Istanbul will be financed, but they haven’t yet received any answers. Prof. Dr. Haluk Levent from Bilgi University believes that Kanal Istanbul is a Ponzi scheme, but with a difference: in a Ponzi Scheme, everything must be on the record, but this is not the case for Kanal Istanbul. The scheme is changing the town planning and zoning.
The media almost totally neglects or misinterprets cases related to July 15 in fear of being targeted themselves. On the other hand, high-ranking Gülenists, who have long fled the country, are in fact using the cases and prison sentences for their own PR.
Despite the government's pledge to combat femicide and domestic abuse, 474 women were murdered by men in 2019 in Turkey. Women’s rights advocates have repeatedly said the system is too weak to protect women.
Data from the last two years in Turkey points to a steady decrease in almost every aspect of a functioning, healthy democracy, such as freedom of speech, quality of education, gender and income equality, and the rule of law. It’s no surprise that society has become unhappier compared to 2017. Surely the AKP-MHP alliance is responsible for this great social, economic and political collapse.
Two days ago I went to the forth hearing of the Gezi trial in Silivri, where Kavala is the only imprisoned suspect among 16 civil society activists accused with ‘organizing and financing Gezi protests to overthrow the AKP government’ back in 2013. These trials are top examples of how rule of law is undermined and how human rights abuses are executed.
Kanal Istanbul is not only critical for Erdoğan financially. It also represents a political battlefield in which he wishes to beat his opponents, in this case the new opposition Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu.
General elections appear to be on the agenda in 2023. That is what statements from President Erdoğan and his alliance partner, the MHP leader Bahçeli, suggest. Yet, the prospect of snap elections also looms. Many politicians, economists and journalists claim snap elections will be held in 2020. While snap elections may not seem logical, logics don’t apply to Turkish politics.
Just a few hours before police teargassed women in the streets of Istanbul, Emine Erdoğan, wife of President Tayyip Erdoğan, was giving a speech that denounced violence against women on the occasion of the International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women. However, Mrs. Erdoğan has also stated that the rise in violence against women is just a perception and that today, thanks to the AKP, women can ask for their rights.
As a journalist, I find it to be embarrassing and paradoxical that President Trump, not known to be a supporter of the free press, mocked the Turkish press.
Yet his words, “You sure you’re a reporter? You don’t work for Turkey with that question?” reflect the truth regarding the group of people Erdoğan took along with him to Washington. These words sum up the status of the Turkish mainstream media.
Turkey generally does not rank high in suicide rates. One reason is religion; in Islam suicide is a sin. Culture and family ties also are among strong reasons why people refrain from taking their lives according to experts. However figures show that there is a rise in suicide rates in Turkey. The society does not only suffer from economical crisis and neo-liberalism, but also a harsh transformation from a hybrid democracy to a more authoritarian state.
Last week, another bunch of journalists were sacked from daily Hürriyet newspaper, which is still considered as the “flagship” of the mainstream media. In fact, Hürriyet lost its prestige long while ago. It doesn’t really matter who the editor in chief is now. Or why and how journalists were sacked. It is the final nail in the coffin. The mainstream media resembles the living death.
By looking at mainstream media, military salutes of popular figures or twitter trending topics, one might assume that Turkish people were heavily supporting the military operation in Northern Syria -officially called “Operation Peace Spring” ending in 8 days- no matter what the rest of the world says. When there is any military action in Turkey or outside its borders, it becomes even harder for critical voices to be heard.
Associate Professor Şık was the deputy director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University. Then, due to his scientific research, he became an enemy of the state.