More than a thousand Turkish expatriates and human rights activists gathered in front of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg on Tuesday to demand justice for the victims of human rights violations in Turkey.
The demonstration aimed to draw attention to the ongoing rights abuses in Turkey and urge the ECtHR to take swift action against them.
The top European human rights reviewing body is accused by the victims of human rights violations in Turkey that escalated after an abortive putsch in 2016, when the government launched a crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight, of not expeditiously processing applications from the victims or of issuing rulings in favor of the Turkish government in some cases.
The Peaceful Actions Platform, an umbrella organization consisting of 24 civil society groups, organized the protest and broadcast it live on YouTube.
The protest echoes a similar demonstration held in June 2022 that saw the participation of hundreds of victims of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, activists and EU parliamentarians.
Former NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom, who has been a vocal critic of human rights abuses worldwide, was among the protesters. Kanter is on the Turkish Interior Ministry’s “Terrorist Wanted List,” which offers a reward of up to TL 10 mln for info leading to the capture of the wanted person.
Melek Çetinkaya, who has been advocating for the release of military cadets, including her son Furkan, who she believes were unjustly imprisoned on false charges following the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, was also among the protestors.
The crowd marched toward the ECtHR building in Strasbourg, chanting slogans and carrying banners that said, “ECtHR, stop injustice in Turkey” and “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
The demonstration aimed to highlight the inaction of the ECtHR and the Council of Europe (CoE) regarding Turkey’s post-coup crackdown. The Peaceful Actions Platform submitted letters to the CoE and the European court, expressing frustration with the lack of progress in addressing the human rights situation in Turkey.
Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the UK’s Labour Party and current member of the British parliament, delivered a passionate speech during the demonstration. Corbyn denounced the unlawful dismissal and arrest of civil servants, teachers, police officers, journalists and lawyers by the Turkish government. He emphasized the importance of standing up for the rights of ethnic minority groups, such as the Kurds and Armenians, and called for international solidarity to promote human rights and democracy.
Andrej Konstantin Hunko, a member of Germany’s Left Party, the Bundestag and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as well as Odd Anders With, a former Norwegian politician, journalist and advocate, delivered speeches in solidarity with the protestors.
The protest also featured video messages from prominent figures including Cuban journalist Abraham Jiménez Enoa, Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, Belgian politicians Viviane Teitelbaum and Simone Susskind, Cypriot politician Costas Mavrides and Belgian Member of the European Parliament Marie Arena. These messages expressed solidarity with the protesters and highlighted the need for accountability and the protection of human rights in Turkey.
In addition to speeches in solidarity with the victims, there were mini concerts by Turkish singers, and a rap song dedicated to the crackdown victims was performed by Grifon.
There were also theatrical performances with props such as inflatable boats to highlight the plight of the refugees who had to flee persecution, prison bars and handcuffs to allude to those who were unjustly imprisoned.
During the protest, a participant dressed in a Diogenes costume held a lantern, alluding to Diogenes of Sinope’s famous act of searching for an honest man by illuminating the faces of the citizens of Athens. Another impactful representation featured three protestors wearing three wise monkeys costumes, symbolizing those who have chosen to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil about the human rights violations in Turkey.
Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 24,706 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.
According to a statement from then-interior minister Süleyman Soylu on July 5, 2022, a total of 332,884 had been detained, while around 101,000 others had been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group outlawed by Ankara, since the failed coup. The minister said there were 19,252 people in Turkey’s prisons at the time who were jailed on alleged links to the movement while 24,000 others were at large.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.
Some of these people had to take illegal and risky journeys in boats to Greece because their passports had been revoked by the government.