The road to Silivri, the notorious high security state prison in Istanbul, is a tough one. It’s the remotest district on the European side. The trip can last around 2.5 to 3 hours from the city center. In total 22,781 inmates are held here, most of whom are charged with or accused of ‘terror related’ crimes.
Silivri district is not happy with its ‘image’ associated with the high security prison. In fact, Silivri was a popular summer holiday district for middle class Istanbulites in the 80’s. The center, just a 10-15 minutes drive away from the gruesome prison campus, still bears some traces of a peaceful summer town. Families and elderly sit around in cafes and restaurants, drinking tea or raki, enjoying the park and watch fisherboats when the sun sets in.
At the entrance of the park, there are red, plastic heart shaped symbols, reading:
‘Love in Silivri is something else.’
People are taking pictures for instagram, but for me, it sounds more like a wicked joke. Especially when thinking of inmates just a few kilometers away, who are held on totally false, unlawful charges, like Osman Kavala.
On Tuesday, 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.
Although the European Court of Human Rights ruled for Kavala’s immediate release on Dec. 10 , the Turkish Court announced that ‘a correspondence between the Ministry of Justice and the ECtHR will be held about the finalization of the verdict’. This could mean Kavala might be detained one more year. All requests by the defendants were denied, too. The upcoming hearing will be held on Jan. 28.
This last hearing on Dec. 24, which coincided with Christmas holidays, made it more difficult for foreigners to monitor the case. Still, a group of diplomats, like Consul Generals of Netherlands, Italy and Sweden, member of European Parliament Sergey Lagodinsky, former deputy Consul General of Germany were present. Peter Ericson, Consul General of Sweden in Istanbul brought his two little daughters to Court.
Professionals of law can make a case study on the Gezi case to explain how law is undermined in Turkey by ignoring the ECtHR verdict. But you don’t need to be an expert to understand how troubled this case and the rule of law in Turkey is. To give you an idea what sort of a theater is being held, here are some of the highlights from Osman Kavala’s fourth hearing:
- Two ex police officers, both discharged in 2016, were on the witness stand. Neither of them attributed any crime or violent act with the defendants. They knew Kavala from the newspapers, never saw him in person. They got to learn about the protests and press statement organizations on twitter. When asked of protesters equipment such as gas masks, one officer said ‘They had a lot of lemon for sure’. People tried not to laugh, as the Judge got angry even with the slightest murmer in the courtroom.
- Lawyer Turgut Kazan made an important point: The complainants in the case have not been summoned to Court. He personally contacted even the highest authorities and no one had a clue. According to law, the complainants should be informed and summoned.
- The Ministry of Treasury’s request to intervene the cases was accepted, although the defendant lawyers objected: If there is a crime, the prosecutor is here to be the side of the state. By law, you can not intervene in a case in which the government is already a party.
- The Court has also accepted police officer Mevlut Saldogan’s request as an “aggrieved party”. Saldogan was involved in the brutal killing of young Ali Ismail Korkmaz in Eskisehir. He was tried and sentenced for the crime.
In short, the Heavy Penal Court acted in accord with the prosecution. An opposition member of Turkish Parliament whom I met after the hearing, said: ‘It’s very hard for political hostages to get a fair trial, unless the climate changes.’ Indeed, just like HDP’s former Co-Chair Demirtas and journalist Ahmet Altan, it is clear that Osman Kavala is one of the political hostages of President Erdoğan.
These trials are top examples of how rule of law is undermined and how human rights abuses are executed. Kavala is not being released because the President and his MHP partner want to punish and make an example of well known figures and civil rights activitists. They enourmously fear street protests, especially one like Gezi, where so many different groups of people united peacefully to ask for their rights.
They do not want Turkey to prosper, but only assure their own leadership.
Some medical experts in Turkey argue that the hospitals which were previously emptied by the AKP government, can easily be ransformed into functioning hospitals with minimal spending to treat COVID-19 patients. One might wonder why they were closed in the first place.
Turkey has one of the world’s fastest growing coronavirus outbreaks, confirmed cases double every three days. The statistics, combined with the capacity of the health system and nature of the restrictions raise great concerns. Doctors are forced to apologize for their critical remarks, health workers are banned from making press releases on their conditions. Aside […]
The last time President Erdoğan, who is 66 years-old, physically took part in a meeting was a week ago. Nobody asks whether the President and his close circle have been tested for coronavirus. And of course, no one dares to ask what happens if he gets sick, and what the Turkish Presidential System would bring.
The Covid-19 will inevitably affect a much wider population, and Turkey’s limited testing is dramatic. Scientists, doctors unanimously urge for a radical testing procedure. In Istanbul, a city of 16 million, there are only four hospitals conducting tests. Meanwhile, states of emergency, strict restrictions and bans are anything but new in Turkey!
As he traveled back to Turkey from Azerbaijan, Erdoğan ominously announced a new wave of repression. A few days later, Osman Kavala was re-arrested, the mayor of Diyarbakır Selçuk Mızraklı was sentenced to more than 9 years in jail and 7 journalists were arrested.
Again we see them on the news, migrants flocking to the borders and the human traffickers going about their “business” in front of the cameras. As thousands of migrants seek to cross the border from Turkey to Greece and Bulgaria- some getting injured and dying whilst doing so - authorities talk of them as if they are cheap tokens. Not only in Turkey but in the EU countries as well.
The pro-governmental media in Turkey, which usually targets well-known individuals or critics, targets ordinary people as well. But what’s perhaps more worth talking about is how the life of the poor living in cities has changed — and how they are perceived. They, too, want to live a good life. Or just to be a part of it, even for a few seconds. And they, too, want to show off.
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.
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.
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.
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.