Duvar English

Bar associations in Turkey have said that their march to the capital Ankara is being carried out “against darkness,” adding their aim is for the draft bill on changing bars’ election systems to be withdrawn.

Heads of 80 bars hit the road to Ankara for the Defense March on June 19.

The move came after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) intensified its efforts to amend the law on changing bar associations’ election systems in what critics say an effort to increase the number of pro-government figures in bars.

The issue came to the agenda after Ankara Bar Association slammed Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) for its remarks targeting LGBT individuals on Islamic grounds. The bar released a statement against the homophobic remarks, which was followed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling for a change in their election system.

The bar association heads of the southeastern provinces of Urfa, Mardin, Diyarbakır and Van met in Urfa on the second day of the march.

Van Bar head Zülküf Uçar said that the superiority of law and human rights need to be protected and put to use.

“We see that the bars have been carrying out strong and result-oriented works against rights violations. Their discomfort is caused by this. Their aim is to prevent bars from working in the area of human rights. What we’re saying is that if there are no superiority of law and institutions that protect human rights, the future of the country would be dark,” Uçar said.

“We are not in darkness, but against it. We’re marching against darkness. We hope that our efforts yield results. This country needs bright days and we hope that we’ll see them together,” he added.

Diyarbakır Bar head Cihan Aydın said that their march is based on justice, superiority of law, freedoms and equality.

“We haven’t had any results in our talks with the government. That’s when we decided to march to Ankara. Our aim is for the draft bill on the law of lawyers to be withdrawn,” Aydın told Mesopotamia News Agency.

“We are also calling for rights, law and justice for all citizens, because if the lawyers are under pressure and if there are threats against bars, all citizens are under threat,” he added.

Urfa Bar head Abdullah Öncel said that the government targeted the bars of the western province of İzmir, Ankara and Istanbul and ignored all bars’ demands.

He also said that any future amendments need to be discussed with the relevant parties, including the bar association, academics and the government.