In response to EC Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatoviç’s letter of concerns regarding Turkey’s draft law on civil associations, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu stated that “In Turkey, there is no impediment against the freedom of organization of civil society”.
The draft law, i.e. the Law on Preventing the Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, contains 43 articles. According to HRW, it enables the Interior Ministry to target the lawful and legitimate activities of nongovernmental groups as well as the right of association of their members.
In his letter, Mr. Soylu emphasized that in European countries, associations can be banned in the event of terror or racism-related charges. He forgot to mention that terror-related charges in Turkey are used arbitrarily to target civil groups. The government may appoint a “trustee” to rule over human rights organizations, as well as minority, womens’ rights and professional chambers.
The term “kayyım” or “kayyum” translates as “trustee”, but it does not reflect the gravity of those undemocratic and politically motivated appointments, which became a popular form of seizing power and rights. Thus, I prefer to use the term “commissar”, like the administrative, political commissars of the former USSR.
The Turkish Presidential System appoints commissars to municipalities, universities, and now, to rule over civil groups. Like the Kurdish cities, like universities, civil society is a great place to control and suppress people, as well as using these institutions for propaganda.
During the State of Emergency rule (2016-2018), 1,400 associations were banned within 2 years. Among them were lawyers, women and childrens’ and human right associations.
Minister Soylu also answered Milatoviç’s questions with regards to the right of assembly and improper use of police force in a similar fashion: Oh yes, there is freedom of speech, people have the right of assembly. But if they engage in terrorist activities or “marginal” groups, the judiciary will rule.
We know exactly what he means by that. Like many politicians, lawyers, human rights activists, journalists, students are also handed terror-related charges. Every year, more than 300,000 people are investigated with being members of a terrorist organization (Source: IHOP-Human Rights Platform).
Below are the most recent “terrorists” according to Soylu:
Doğu Demirtaş was one of the Boğaziçi University students that were arrested. He studies Physics and his mother served as the head of the AKP womens’ organization in the Sarıyer district of Istanbul. She recently resigned.
Selahattin Can Uğuzeş had transferred from Boğaziçi Physics to Istanbul Technical University (İTÜ). His cell is next to that of Demirtaş, where they play chess vocally. He was a practicing Muslim in high school and his father voted for MHP before switching to IYI Party.
Beyza Buldağ’s family votes for the AKP. She is a former Boğaziçi student who was charged with managing the Twitter account “Boğaziçi Solidarity”. Buldağ was released but now faces trial for 20 tweets.