Turkey’s new “Prisoners”
Last weekend, one of my friends from the Italian Women Journalists’ Association called me and invited me to participate in a journalists’ forum to be held in Rome in March. I sadly told them that I am under a judicial control, meaning I have report to the police station once a month and have a travel ban; I can’t leave the country. She was shocked. It was not easy for her to understand a travel ban without a court judgement. I told her: “Believe me; it is also hard for me to understand”.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey now live under such judicial controls and travel bans. An investigation has just opened against me because of my tweets against Turkey’s offensive against the Kurdish-controlled Syrian enclave of Afrin. After three days in detention, I was released on bail, but I also received a travel ban. My lawyer told me: “Nurcan, welcome to our new community. The community of the forbidden!” My lawyer, my doctor, my kids’ teachers, my neighbours, my friends, thousand of teachers, academics, former state officials, many Kurdish politicians, activists, NGO leaders, even the cleaning staff fired from their jobs with the municipality have received travel bans and are under judicial control. I am only one of the “forbidden”.
Some are not as lucky as I am.
Those who were dismissed from their jobs under emergency decrees have been ostracised and are unable to provide for their families.
Some have committed suicide or taken extreme risks to leave the country. Four days ago, while trying to leave the country, Ayşe Abdurrezzak, a teacher who was dismissed from her job, lost her life with her two small children in the Maritsa River between Turkey and Greece. If she had her passport, she and her two children would be alive today.
When we look at the Turkish constitution, we see that Article 15 states the limits of suspensions to fundamental rights and freedoms. It states that the measures taken must be in conformity with the severity of the situation and in conformity with Turkey’s international obligations. Furthermore, there are rights which can never be taken away even in exceptional situations such as war, military mobilisation, martial law, and state of emergency:
“One’s right to life, and the integrity of his body and mind shall be inviolable … no-one shall be compelled to reveal his or her religion, conscience, thoughts or opinions or be accused on account of them; offences and penalties shall not be made retroactive, nor shall anyone be found guilty until so proven by a court ruling”.
After the declaration of state of emergency on July 20 2016, more than 150,000 civil servants have been suspended or dismissed without any investigation or possibility of legal challenge. The passports of those dismissed, as well as the passports of their spouses and children have been cancelled. This is against the right to freedom of movement that is protected by Article 23 of the constitution, by Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and by the Additional Protocol Number 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, approved by Turkish government in 1994.
Passport cancellations and travel bans have no relation to human rights. The Turkish government is punishing people it thinks do not support their policies. Today, travel bans, passport cancellations and judicial controls are a new kind of punishment in Turkey.
Yesterday was my first time “signing in” under judicial control. I went to the police station and it was very crowded. Many, men, women with children, doctors, teachers, business people, politicians, students, former state officials and municipality workers were there. People entered, went directly to the shelf where the files are held, would open their files, sign them, and give them to the police officer to witness their presence. These “prisoners” would then put their file back on the shelf before leaving. Each “prisoner” has a number. I learned that most of them sign in every day. The police officer told me that I was lucky because I only need to come once a month. He explained the procedure to me.
He also explained that from today I am Nurcan 15/15!
No one really knows the exact number of these new “prisoners”. It is estimated to be more than 200,000 people. In this new kind of prison, Turkey’s borders are the walls.
And these new “prisoners” are unseen!