Türkiye
30.01.24
Urgent Interventions

Türkiye: Acts of harassment and threats against Eren Keskin and the Human Rights Association (İHD)

© Tarik Haiga/ Unsplash


URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

TUR 001 / 0124 / OBS 002
Harassment /
Threats
Turkey
January 30, 2024

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) about the acts of harassment and threats against Eren Keskin, a human rights lawyer and the co-Chairperson of İHD, member organisation of FIDH and OMCT. For thirty years, Eren Keskin has contributed to the protection of minority rights, countered violence against women, and campaigned to challenge militarism and end torture. She is the founder of a legal office providing pro bono services for transgender persons and women who were raped or sexually abused by the national security forces. Eren Keskin is the winner of multiple international awards for her peace and human rights work, including the 2018 Helsinki Civil Society Award, and was a finalist of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2019.

On January 8, 2024, X (formerly Twitter) accounts close to the ultra-nationalist movement started to share posts using a photo of Eren Keskin taken during a press conference for the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on April 24, 2023, in which she participated. These accounts with large number of followers directly targeted Eren Keskin and the İHD in a smear campaign due to their criticism of Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and failure to apologise and provide reparations. In replies to and via re-sharing of these posts, numerous threats and insults were directed at Eren Keskin, other people who took part in the press conference, and the İHD. Such violent rhetoric was also shared from the official account of the Kocaeli Branch of the ultra-nationalist Victory Party (Zafer Partisi), furthering the gravity of the organised attacks.

On January 9, 2024, the same photo was shared by Semih Tufan Gülaltay, responsible for the planning and instigation of an assassination attempt against former İHD Chairperson, Akın Birdal, in 1998, on his X account alongside an insulting and threatening caption directly targeting Eren Keskin.

On January 10, 2024, Eren Keskin’s attorneys filed a criminal complaint with the Istanbul Anatolian Chief Public Prosecutor's Office.

The Observatory recalls that since its establishment in 1986, 23 members and executives of İHD have lost their lives as a result of extrajudicial killings. Between 1998 and 2002, two chairpersons of the association were attacked at the headquarters of the association, including Akın Birdal, who was subjected to an armed attack on May 12, 1998. Akın Birdal was in critical condition and survived after being in intensive care for a long time. Semih Tufan Gülaltay was arrested on June 2, 1998, and he was convicted for the crime of “deliberately premeditated attempt to kill” Akın Birdal, carrying a prison sentence of 19 years. Mr Gülaltay benefited from conditional release after four and a half years behind bars.

In this context, given the organised structure of the smear campaign against Eren Keskin and İHD, as well as Semih Tufan Gülaltay’s involvement in it, the Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the serious and imminent nature of the threats Eren Keskin and the organisation face.

The Observatory finally recalls that Eren Keskin has been continuously judicially harassed and intimidated for the past decades because of her peaceful human rights activities and exercise of freedom of expression.

The Observatory condemns the harassment and threats against Eren Keskin and İHD, and urges the authorities of Turkey to carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the harassment and threats against Eren Keskin, İHD and its members, while ensuring their protection, and bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international standards.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Eren Keskin, all members of İHD, as well as of all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the harassment and threats against Eren Keskin, İHD and its members, while ensuring their protection, and bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international standards;

iii. Ensure that an end be put to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Eren Keskin, İHD members and all human rights defenders in Turkey, and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance or fear of reprisals.

Addresses:

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.

***
Paris-Geneva, January 30, 2024

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • E-mail: alert@observatoryfordefenders.org
  • Tel FIDH: + 33 (1) 43 55 25 18
  • Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39

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