Sunday, March 4, 2012

Initiative for Solidarity with Students in Prison (TODI--Tutuklu Öğrencilerle Dayanışma İnisiyatifi)


The state resort to legal mechanisms in order to block social dissidence and grassroots movements is obviously not a first in Turkish political history. These mechanisms can take a different form and shape, depending on where the political powers locate themselves as well as their identification of the character of the "threat" against itself. Today, we reached a point where "terror" and "fight against terrorism" come across as key political tools to purge opposition whereby arbitrary arrests and detentions are justified. In that respect, we consider standing against such arbitrary legal practices as an important platform for solidarity with those who were subjected to grievances.

We see that the political party in power [AKP] has undertaken the mission to intimidate social dissidence. It is obvious that the principle of checks and balances to ensure the separation of powers is increasingly violated in the present political climate in Turkey. As for the international press coverage on Turkey announcing that the country is "making important progress towards democratization" is not only misleading but also worrisome. AKP has established a complete hegemony over all state ranks including jurisdiction, legislation, executive powers, as well as security units, and thus turned the state and their party into one unified entity [whereby the state cannot be separated from the party anymore]. Within this framework, all the state institutions have turned into a technical tool that act as one single, unified body, to serve the interests, opinions and strategies of the political party in power. In addition to all this, the media, which should have functioned as a control mechanism of the public over the political powers, has been operating as a propaganda apparatus that serves AKP's witch-hunt campaigns against the dissidents. The cooperation between these institutions offers a lack of control and complete freedom to the government in the path to wipe out undesired dissidence from the public domain, at a scale that can only be comparable to authoritarian regimes.

Over the last few years, in order to annihilate different dissident groups from the social arenas in general, political arena in particular, various umbrella trial cases have been opened including Ergenekon, KCK, Sledgehammer [Balyoz], Revolutionary Headquarters [Devrimci Karargâh]. Numerous dissidents have been arrested and detained as part of these trials, whereby artificial connections with different organizations are shown as a pretext to prosecute them. One of the key concepts used in this process is "terror" and the legal apparatus of this process is the Anti-Terrorism Law. This law is part of our lives since 1991, and in 2006, under the AKP government it has gone through a change and took its present form. The current definition and framework of the Anti-Terrorism Law offers an ambiguous terrain for the judiciary to interpret "terror" in a very broad manner. This makes it possible to engage many acts embedded in our daily lives, and which fall under the rubric of freedom of thought, expression, association and organization as "acts of terrorism" in different contexts. For instance, the law clause that states "acts to support a [terrorist] organization's discourse, even if one is not a member of that organization" provides a basis for such ambiguity that leads to arbitrary interpretations of the law and thus, for detentions and arrests.

In that respect, "detention" generates a problem all by itself. This legal measure, which should have been resorted to in exceptional cases only where it is clearly necessary, has become one of the main apparatuses of AKP's policy to neutralize its opponents. It has become a commonplace to accept such excuses as strong suspicion against the suspect, suspicion that the suspect might escape, or that the suspect might attempt to destroy evidence to directly decide the detention of different people, without even questioning, the need for justification of such a decision and without a strong factual basis for them. With this mechanism in motion, only in the last years the detention toll of people arrested under the Anti-Terrorism Law has reached 13000. According to the Associated Press numbers, 35000 people in the world are currently in jail with "terrorism" accusations; the fact that Turkey all by itself constitutes one third of these numbers shows the gravity of the situation at hand. In addition to the arrested and tried deputies, mayors, political party leaders, human rights activists, academics, and journalists, it is estimated that about 600 students are also in jail, including high-school, university-placement test prep schools, and university students.

Of course, no matter what their political position or background might be, all those dissidents arrested in this process, are equally victimized by AKP's intimidation politics and policies. There are, however, important factors for considering students as a special case in that respect. These people [students] are much more vulnerable to the state's arbitrary violence, because they do not have the economic and social security or the means to be organized due to their status. But more important of all, students are all social subjects in the process of building their political identity, and this political pressure on students has detrimental effects.

Terrorist organization membership and propaganda accusations brought against the students are justified with such acts as participating in dissident demonstrations, carrying signs, writing articles, and even wearing "poşu" [the headgear widely associated with the Kurds]. Following wiretapped phone conversations and technical surveillance, many objects (i.e., posters, signs, books, photos, "poşu," umbrellas) confiscated during the police raid to houses have become the routine basis for arresting and detaining students because of "heavy suspicion of criminal act." Once the students are arrested, it might take months for the indictments that contain accusations against them to be written and for them [the students] to be brought to court. In fact, once a person is "taken in," there is an effort to create evidence/find a basis for criminal charges. During the long process of investigation and trials, the court decisions to keep files confidential and therefore beyond the access of the detained, turn the detainees into victims who are deprived of any basis to object against charges attributed to them. On the other hand, some trials get come to a gridlock, because the detainees are not given the right to defense in their mother tongue. The lengthy trial and detention durations have been turned into an indirect form of conviction. In this process, the imprisoned parties are subjected to arbitrary bans and prohibition, isolation, heavy physical and psychological pressures and disciplinary actions.

During the time students spend in the detention facilities, they are not only deprived of their freedom but also their rights to higher education. Arrested students are not allowed to be transported from prisons to their exams for security reasons and they are subjected to violations of their rights to education such as suspension or not being allowed to repeat the courses or the semesters they are absent from. In this process, the cooperation of the academia with the government locks up the students in an indefensible situation. The disciplinary investigations at the universities and the consequent penalties in addition to the lawsuits they are subjected to, add to the unfairness of their situation.

In the face of this process, we, “Tutuklu Öğrencilerle Dayanışma İnisiyatifi” [TODI] Initiative for Solidarity with Students Prison, hereby come together and stand in solidarity with those who have been “taken in” without a foreseeable ending in this political climate of arbitrary detentions with unproven allegations, unclear impeachments and random targets where detention and arrest become a tool for intimidation, threat and elimination. At this point, we especially want to be in solidarity with the ones who are muted and isolated. We aim to publicize their conditions of detention, the judiciary processes and their educational status in order to support those for finding solutions. For these reasons, we, a group mostly composed of people meeting for the first time for this cause, come together as an initiative open to anyone who wants to foster this cause.

As an initiative our goal is to be in solidarity with the students who got arrested for political reasons through unjust ways explicitly beyond measure and who have been facing otherization from the existing counter terrorism system. Our aim is to oppose marginalization and social exclusion of these students. Therefore, we have been working on following up the trials, assessment of the indictments, providing legal assistance to those in need, preparation of related media works, running campaigns for raising public awareness, coordinating between the campaigns organized by the students, externalizing this cause to international platforms for raising awareness and support, and appealing to European Court of Human Rights. And we call everyone who wants to contribute to this cause to participate in this process and to spread our following demands:


1) This 'state of emergency' that uses the judiciary as a tool needs to be given an end immediately.

2) The Anti-Terror Law and the Special Authority High Criminal Courts need to be abolished. Articles 100, 250 and 252 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which lead to this 'state of emergency' need to be abolished. Articles 220 and 314 of the Turkish Criminal code need to be either rewritten or abolished completely. The indictments need to be prepared fast and in accordance with law so as to inform the suspects, as fast as possible, about what they are charged with.

3) No arrests should be made without any lawful and tangible reason; serious and effective ways of applying against the arrests, until the judgment is passed, need to be envisaged; the right of indemnity needs to be structured so as to function effectively against unjust detentions. The judges who enact unjust arrests need to be held accountable for their decrees.

4) The physical and legal obstacles preventing the trial of state officers who strike, torture and treat badly the persons under custody need to be abolished. The arbitrary disciplinary punishments and investigations need to be put an end to.

5) Arrested students' access to educational materials need to be facilitated. The costs of transportation to exam locations need to be paid from the public budget. The rights of students to take exams and to continue their education should not be prevented by arbitrary excuses like 'security reasons' which are easily exploited by university administrations. Detained students need to take the exam with those who are arrested with charges unrelated to the Anti-Terror Law. The practice of putting students to cells on grounds of 'security' reasons need to be cancelled. The Higher Education Institute's (YÖK) Disciplinary Code, that pushes academicians to be judges and polices of their own students and that forces the students to be reasonable, need to be abolished."
To visit TODI's website, please see the "anonymous student" site: