Keep the Volume Up: Rights Defenders’ Almanac 2022, takes the pulse of Turkey’s repressive climate against civil society in 2022. With this new format that we use, we aim to present the oppressive environment and practices faced by civil society organizations and rights defenders in a comprehensive manner.
For us, Almanac 2022 is also a means of remembering the obstacles rights defenders face and how they cope with them, and of memorializing the human rights movement of Turkey. This is important for us because the courage of those who insist on continuing to defend our rights in the face of intimidation inspire us to preserve hope for a future where defending our rights and criticizing policies will not be a crime.
Rights Defenders’ Almanac presents the most significant obstacles faced by rights defenders throughout 2022 on a monthly basis.
The compiled data show us that police custody, criminal complaints, trial proceedings, smear campaigns by those in power through media and statements, and administrative sanctions stand out as the most prominent repression tools used against rights defenders.
Among the issues that made their mark in 2022 could be listed as: the conclusion of the Gezi Park trial with harsh convictions for all defendants despite the ECtHR’s Osman Kavala judgment, attempts to wear down the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) with terrorism accusations, lawsuits demanding the closure of civil society organizations, the decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, increasing number of anti-LGBTI+ rallies, the enactment of a so-called “Disinformation Law”, widespread accusations of “inciting the public to hostility”, “denigrating the nation, the state and its organs”, and “membership and propaganda of a terrorist organization” against rights defenders, and SLAPPs filed by private companies against environmental defenders.
Unfortunately, almost all events covered by the Almanac are associated with repressive practices. But not all of this is bad news. By utilizing a simple method of textual analysis, it is possible to find both clues about the nature of the repression and a silver lining among this bad news when we look at the concepts frequently mentioned in the almanac. For example, two of the most frequently used concepts are police custody and lawyer. While custody (which we know to be the most common and pervasive tool of repression) is mentioned 60 times in the text, the word lawyer is used 46 times. Furthermore, Almanac shows us that trials against rights defenders do not always result in a sentence since the word acquittal is used 28 times.
To see a full list of most frequently used concepts, see the index of the Almanac.
While preparing the Almanac, we conducted an open source research and categorized interventions against rights defenders as perpetrated by the judiciary, public authorities and the media. In this regard, we benefited from news stories that the Hafıza Merkezi team compiled for the Sessiz Kalma (Keep up the Volume) website by media monitoring efforts and reviewing civil society reports published throughout 2022. The almanac also includes monthly media monitoring summaries on who has been targeted by pro-government media amid the current political climate.
While intimidation tactics and smear campaigns against democratic opposition in Turkey and around the world continue to affect our lives, at the heart of this harassment are rights defenders who remind us of the limits to the state’s monopoly on violence. Authoritarian regimes, uncomfortable with this challenge to their power, have increasingly been trying to criminalize, intimidate and neutralize civil society organizations and rights defenders. It is more important today than ever to demonstrate the value and importance of rights defenders and rights-based advocacy in the face of this criminalization.
Hafıza Merkezi initiated monitoring, reporting and support-based activities for human rights defenders in response to pressures and the shrinking civil space in 2018. In line with our monitoring and documentation efforts in this field, we published our report titled Keep the Volume Up: Intimidation Policies Against Rights Defenders in 2022, aiming to provide a legal analysis of the data we collected. In this report we sought to highlight a comprehensive intervention repertoire of administrative and legal measures, which constituted a basis for unlawful and antidemocratic policies.
With Rights Defenders’ Almanac 2022, we now aim to present the repressive environment and practices that civil society organizations and rights-based struggles faced in 2022, based on the categories of interventions identified through the judiciary, public authorities, and media.