Arrests in Turkey of Kurdish politicians and activists

Muharrem Erbey

In an early morning raid today, across 11 provinces, Turkish police arrested more than 40 individuals.  Most of those detained were Kurdish politician from the now-banned DTP, including mayors of Sur, Abdullah Demirbaş, and Siirt, Selim Sadak.  Also arrested were DTP provincial chairperson, Fırat Anlı, and Vice President of the Human Rights Association and President of the Diyarbakır branch of the HRA, Muharrem Erbey.

Below is a New Year’s message from Erbey sent out yesterday via e-mail.

(We’re celebrating the New Year with our belief in social peace)

Dear fellow human rights defenders,

23 December 2009

We’ve come to the final days of 2009.  At the start of every new year, accounting is done for the events that occurred in the previous year and promises are made regarding the coming one.  We hope that the serious questions regarding the exercise of fundamental rights and liberties are put to an end and that what has been experienced in Turkey in the fields of democracy and human rights in the last year won’t be experienced again.

In the year 2009, claims of torture and maltreatment, the security forces’ near beating to death of children and demonstrators in the streets and the killing of some, and crimes against humanity in prisons continued, as did serious obstructions in the laws regarding and implementation of the freedoms of thought, expression and association.  3 major operations were carried out against the Democratic Society Party (Demokratic Toplum Partisi – DTP) following the local elections held on 29 March.  More than 1,500 people were detained.  600 DTP activists have been held in custody for 8 months without knowing what they’re being charged with.

DTP became the 27th party to be closed in Turkey.  In the Progress Report regarding Turkey’s EU candidacy published on 13 October 2009, it’s stated that Turkey has made progress in economic competition, matters related to statistics and scientific research but that there have been very serious regression in the areas of democracy and human rights.   Children have continued to be tried and faced with sentences of between 10 and 25 years in prison for making the ‘V’ for victory sign with their fingers.  Discussing the Kurdish question in the Turkish Parliament as part of the ‘democratic opening’ was a considerably important step.  However it’s a step that’s been deprived of any implementation, as it hasn’t stopped the deaths of people and the blood of brothers and sisters continues to flow.

States are legitimized by the extent to which they comply with human rights.  The violations in Turkey are continuing.  However, we haven’t lost our dreams of or beliefs in social peace, the peaceful co-existence of Turks and Kurds in a spirit of brotherhood within a democratic Turkey, or of Turkey’s EU accession, and nor will we lose these.

As the Human Rights Association, for 22 years we’ve repeatedly gotten to the bottom of the truth in an independent and impartial way.

Our office was bombed in 1993.  We didn’t give up.

22 of our members have been killed.  We haven’t given up.

Our organization has been closed and its archives confiscated scores of times.  We haven’t given up.

About one thousand investigations and hundreds of lawsuits have been opened against the presidents of our branches.  We haven’t given up.

We’ve been threatened.  We haven’t given up.

We’re not going to give up.

We’re going to continue to follow and report on human rights violations and to share our findings with the public.  Both as an individual and in the name of the Human Rights Association I wish you all a happy new year in a spirit of peace.

With my respect,

Muharrem Erbey, Attorney at Law

Vice President of the Human Rights Association and President of the Diyarbakır branch of the HRA

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