The recent shrinking of civil spaces that is the basis for democratic values and human rights in Turkey constitutes a significant context that recently reshaped our work. In 2015, Turkey entered a new, highly conflictual period following the collapse of the peace process. In 2016, this was followed by the state of emergencies declared after the failed coup attempt, which has since been instrumentalized to intimidate all opposition groups. In response to such dire political developments, the Truth Justice Memory Center (Hafıza Merkezi) decided to widen its scope to also include monitoring and documenting of more recent human rights violations. It is in this context that we now define our activities geared towards supporting and strengthening of human rights defenders as a new field of work.
Human rights defenders from different corners of society – lawyers, teachers, journalists, scientists, union activists – face serious pressures in doing their work in Turkey. Their aim is to protect fellow citizens from unjust and inhumane policies; they speak up and act when people’s human rights are being infringed upon. Yet in Turkey rights defenders are increasingly being intimidated, detained and imprisoned. Their struggle deserves more visibility and national and international solidarity. As three organisations (Association Monitoring Equal Rights, Netherlands Helsinki Committee and Truth Justice Memory Center) working on human rights, both in Turkey and abroad, we felt called to join forces.
As such, we started a joint action on Increasing the Role and Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Turkey. With this initiative we want to ‘keep the volume up’ and make sure human rights defenders under threat can continue their important work. We created this online resource to bring together updates and information on the situation in Turkey. It is meant for all those interested to support or understand human rights defence in Turkey better: civil society, journalists, international organisations and citizens who care about the Rule of Law and democracy in Turkey. We are monitoring court cases in which Defenders are prosecuted. You will find a calendar for important trial dates, overview and news on individual cases, our statements as well as information on possibilities for actions. We also provide other Defenders with important resources as well as a list of emergency support options for when you, as a human rights advocate, need assistance. On a final note, we provide direct practical, legal and psychological support to a number of defenders at risk.
Another component of our work is to contribute to the processes of communications, solidarity and joint work amongst the rights based organisations. It is in this context that Hafıza Merkezi is an active part of the Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network, which was set up in 2019 as a coordination network to be able to act jointly in the face of pressures on civil society and human rights.