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Turkey: A year of emergency measures, a year of global solidarity

The defeat of the attempted coup a year ago today should have been a triumph for Turkish democracy. Instead, it ushered in one of the most wide-ranging assaults on freedom of expression in living memory.

Today, 20 July 2017, marks one year since Turkey declared a national state of emergency. It has been renewed four times. The defeat of the attempted coup against an elected government by popular protest — it should have been a triumph for Turkish democracy. Instead, it ushered in one of the most wide-ranging assaults on freedom of expression and thought in living memory, with thousands of academics and lawyers dismissed from their jobs and over a hundred media outlets shut down.

It has been a year of sustained outrage, but also a year of activism and solidarity between Turkish defenders of freedom of expression and organisations around the world, inside the IFEX network and beyond. There have been many such moments; Below we spotlight 10 of them, from physical protests and innovative awareness-raising tactics to direct advocacy work with governments and intergovernmental bodies.


1. Turkey's "black list" casts a long shadow

Ankara police headquarters, badly damaged by the attempted coup, 19 July 2016
Ankara police headquarters, badly damaged by the attempted coup, 19 July 2016

REUTERS/Baz Ratner

On the day the state of emergency was declared, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported fears that a black list of Turkish journalists to arrest had been drawn up. This fear unfortunately proved founded, as hundreds were taken into custody in the months ahead. CPJ's ongoing crackdown chronicle has tracked the growth and spread of the crackdown week by week since.


2. Solidarity protests with Ayşe Ceylik

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression protesting outside Turkey's consulate in Toronto, Canada.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression protesting outside Turkey's consulate in Toronto, Canada.

CJFE

While supposedly aimed at the Gulenist movement Turkey's government claimed was behind the coup attempt, leftist and Kurdish groups were also heavily targeted by the state of emergency's crackdown. In September, several IFEX members answered Turkish member the Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey's call to hold protests in support of Ayşe Ceylik, a Turkish teacher charged for publicly decrying the ongoing violence in the province of Diyarbakir.


3. Calls for Turkish parliament to defend their democracy

The floor of Turkey's house of parliament.
The floor of Turkey's house of parliament.

Creative Commons

In October, 40 IFEX members and allies signed a joint letter calling on Turkish parliamentarians to end the state of emergency and begin repairing the damage it had dealt to Turkish democracy. The letter followed on an earlier joint letter coordinated by Article 19, which outlined in detail the failure to uphold international human rights standards under the state of emergency.


4. Cartoonists draw in solidarity with Cumhuriyet’s Musa Kart

Antonio Rodríguez

In November, IFEX member the Cartoonists Rights Network International launched their ongoing solidarity action with Cumhuriyet cartoonist Musa Kart. Cartoonists from around the world have contributed work expressing their sympathy and solidarity with his plight and that of his colleagues.


5. International delegations march with Turkish colleagues

International delegates join Turkish colleagues in marking International Human Rights Day 10 December 2016.
International delegates join Turkish colleagues in marking International Human Rights Day 10 December 2016.

IPI

In December, the first of several international missions visited Turkey, where representatives of International Press Institute (IPI), PEN International and Reporters without Borders (RSF) joined broad coalition march of Turkish journalist and writers associations. The combined group was barred from delivering a public statement in solidarity with local Turkish allies at the entrance to Silivri prison, where many journalists were behind bars. More international visits followed. PEN International sent a high-level delegation to meet with Turkish writers in January, with an accompanying statement of solidarity from writers around the world. In February, IPI and RSF returned to Turkey, accompanying another group of international delegates in a mission that visited and interviewed Turkish writers and journalists, jailed and free.


6. IPI launches FreeTurkeyJournalists website

IPI

After the visit of their delegation to Turkey, IPI launched the #FreeTurkeyJournalists platform, a news platform and database initiative to document and track the case of every journalist jailed or facing trial in Turkey -153 at the site's launch.


7. Free expression community joins forces on Turkey hearings

Turkish supporters of the embattled Özgür Gündem, June 2016
Turkish supporters of the embattled Özgür Gündem, June 2016

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File

In February, representatives of RSF, A19 and PEN International came together to jointly monitor the Özgür Gündem, Oda TV and Taraf court cases. In support of the Özgür Gündem case, A19 submitted an amicus briefing to the joint case of Erol Önderoğlu and his colleagues Sebnem Korur Fincani and Ahmet Nesin, tried for their one day guest editorship of Özgür Gündem.


8. "Can we carry on as if nothing is happening in Turkey?"

RSF

Also in February, RSF launched a public ad campaign aimed at Angela Merkel, François Hollande, Theresa May and other European leaders, asking "Can we carry on as if nothing is happening in Turkey?" In a sequel campaign in May, RSF collaborated with a Parisian street artist to stencil the features of ten imprisoned Turkish journalists.


9. #FreeTurkeyJournalists Campaign and World Press Freedom Day

Projection of Free Ahmet Sik on Turkish embassy on the Netherlands
Projection of Free Ahmet Sik on Turkish embassy on the Netherlands

Twitter/Milena Buyum

In May, IFEX members and other human rights defender allies used the occasion of World Press Freedom Day to draw attention to the deteriorating situation for expression in Turkey. IFEX members drafted a joint letter to the UN-Human Rights Council urging them to push for an end to the crackdown, and sent individual letters to 26 Turkish embassies around the world, urging a curbing of the excesses of the state of emergency and return to a human rights-based legal framework. Amnesty International attempted to present a 250k signature petition to Turkish ambassadors to free Turkish journalists, and projected the names of detained journalists onto Turkey's embassy in The Hague.


10. A new low: Turkey detains ten human rights defenders

Amnesty International’s Belgium Director Phillipe Hensmans, in cage in front of Turkish embassy in Brussels to protest detention of his Turkish peer, Idil Eser.
Amnesty International’s Belgium Director Phillipe Hensmans, in cage in front of Turkish embassy in Brussels to protest detention of his Turkish peer, Idil Eser.

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

A year after the state of emergency began, protest and solidarity have not stopped – but unfortunately, neither have abuses of authority, or violations against free speech. This month IFEX and 40 human rights groups condemned the detainment of ten prominent human rights defenders detained during a workshop.

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