About William Jones

William Jones, Chair of Amnesty International USA's Turkey Coordination Group, has twice been a Fulbright Professor in Turkey and served for four years with the American Embassy in Ankara as Cultural Attache. He is currently completing his third year as a member of AIUSA's Board of Governors. Dr. Jones has been with the Turkey Coordination Group since 1999.
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Kurdish Kids and Turkey’s Shameful Prisons

turkish police arrest kurdish boy

Turkish police arrest a Kurdish boy during a demonsration in main Kurdish city Diyarbakir on December 31, 2011 as they protest aginst a Turkish air raid.

In 2010 the Turkish Parliament, reacting to criticism by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, modified their Anti-Terrorism Laws to end the prosecution of children in adult courts solely for taking part in demonstrations. Despite this change, children, and particularly Kurdish children, continued to be arrested, prosecuted, jailed and abused under other provisions in the Turkish Anti-Terrorism laws.

What has taken place at Pozanti prison outside of Adana, Turkey, reveals just how badly children are being abused and mistreated under these laws. According to a report by members of the European Parliament, children in the prison were deprived of food and medical treatment, beaten while naked with iron bars by prison staff, and sexually abused by adult prisoners. As H.D. a 15-year-old, reported:

Freedom of Speech? Not if You’re a Turkish Student

Recently, a group of faculty set up a white board outside a prison in Northwestern Turkey and proceeded to give lectures.  The students, unfortunately, were inside the prison and not allowed to attend.  Prof. Dr. Beyza Üstün from Yıldız University began the class by explaining

“We came here for our students under arrest. This is not their place, they should be at their classrooms.”

According to BIANET, the independent human rights news organization that reported on the faculty lectures, some 600 high school and university students are currently under arrest.  Their offenses vary: a number of students were arrested for selling concert tickets; some for demanding free education; some for taking part in demonstrations; one for carrying a sign that declared “Women are not slaves of men nor power”.  This particular student was found not guilty of “being a member to a terrorist organization”; however she and five other students were found guilty of making “propaganda of a terrorist organization”.


Turkey Passes Law to Stop Pervasive Violence Against Women

Turkish Activist at a protest against violence against women

A Turkish woman with fake bruises stands with protesters holding placard reading ''end violence'' during a demonstration to protest against rape, killings and domestic violence against women, in Ankara last year. ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

International women’s day in Turkey began with the murder of a woman seeking shelter from family violence in a medical center. It ended in Ankara with the Turkish Parliament passing a bill “to protect the family and to prevent violence against women.”

The long-overdue bill was badly needed.  “What do we have in Turkey?” a representative of one of Turkey’s leading women’s rights groups asks in Today’s Zaman.  “Violence against women, exploitation of female labor and bodies, female poverty, female unemployment, child brides and girls who are not sent to school.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

"Kill All The Lawyers": Stifling Dissent in Turkey

Turkey’s jailing of writers has received increasing attention in both the Turkish and the international press, enough to force Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to defend the fact that Turkey has more journalists in prison,  describing them as “so-called journalists” who “ are actually “police murderers, sexual molesters and supporters of a coup”.

In 2011 Turkey imprisoned 104 journalists, causing Reporters Without Borders to drop Turkey’s press freedom ranking to 148th in the world.  Either the country has one of the most vicious and corrupt press corps in modern history or these arrests are politically motivated.  However, the Prime Minister will have none of this.  When American Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone stated that he was unable to understand the massive arrests, he was dismissed by Erdogan as a “rookie ambassador” who just didn’t understand Turkey.


Who Really Murdered Hrant Dink?

Hrant Dink

Hrant Dink was shot dead outside his Istanbul office in 2007. © Private

Five years ago, Hrant was gunned down in front of his Istanbul office by a 17-year-old Turk named Ogun Samast.   Dink, an outspoken member of Turkey’s dwindling Armenian community and the editor of the newspaper, Agos, had long been subject to public vilification and state harassment.  His death was a shock, but it was no surprise.

Samast was convicted last year of the killing, and sentenced to over 22 years.  It was obvious, however, that the teenager was not acting alone: not only had Samast himself confessed he was driven by a group of people whom he called “older brothers;” In 2010 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Turkish authorities had “failed to act on information they received that could have prevented Dink’s murder and had failed to investigate the role of state officials in his death.”


Turkey's Anti-Terrorism Law Tramples on Human Rights


On December 3rd, demonstrations were held in Istanbul and 40 provinces of Turkey, protesting lengthy pre-trial detentions, mass custodies and arrests, and called for the abolishment of Turkey’s draconian anti-terrorist law. In Istanbul alone, some 2000 persons, including the Deputy Chair of the CHP, Turkey’s main opposition party, engineers, architects and doctors joined in the demonstration.

As we noted in a previous blog, thousands of Turkish citizens have been imprisoned and await trials—some for over two years–under this law. Those arrested and imprisoned have even included lawyers defending others who were incarcerated.

In its most recent Annual Human Rights Report, Amnesty International again underlined the violations of freedom of speech carried out under the anti-terrorism law.


Punishment Without Trial: Pre-trial Detention in Turkey

Ragip Zarakolu

Ragip Zarakolu

Years ago, Tom Lehrer sang “when correctly viewed, everything is lewd.”  In today’s Turkey, one might well sing “when correctly viewed, everyone’s a terrorist.”  How else do you explain the recent incarceration of Ragip Zarakolu, currently being held in a prison designed for hardened and dangerous criminals?

Zarakolu, 65-year-old and in ill health, is a book publisher and human rights activist who has been accused of terrorism– apparently because he gave a talk at a legal Kurdish political party’s Politics Academy.  Professor Büşra Ersanlı was also detained and records of their interrogation by prosecutors show that both Zarakolu and Ersanlı were asked about their participation with the Politics Academy.


Turkish Women's Escalating Crisis

Turkey women protest

Turkish women protesting on International Women's Day in Ankara on March 8, 2011. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite the activism of women’s groups in Turkey, violence against women has dramatically increased since Turkey’s Justice and Development Party gained power almost a decade ago.

The murder of women has increased by 1,400 percent between 2002 and 2009. The latest official figures indicate that during the first six months of 2011 alone more than 26,000 women in Turkey reported family violence cases, including domestic violence, honor killings, sexual assaults and incest.


Turk Bombings and Civilian Casualties in Northern Iraq

Hundreds of Iraqi Kurds hold up torches

Iraqi Kurds hold up torches as they protest to denounce Turkey's latest bombing campaign on Kurdish separatist bases in northern Iraq. (Shawn Mohammed/AFP/Getty Images)

In the early afternoon of August 21, 2011 Hussain Mostafa Hassan, a 61-year-old Kurdish farmer from the village of Bolle near Mount Qandil on the Iraq-Iran border, was heading to the town of Rania, accompanied by six members of his family, when the car he was driving was bombed, reportedly by a warplane belonging to the Turkish armed forces.

Hussain Mostafa Hassan, his 43-year-old wife, Mer Haci Mam Kak, his daughter Rezan Hussain Mostafa, aged 20, together with her two daughters Sonia Shamal Hassan, aged two, and Sholin Shamel Hassan, aged six months, his son Zana Hussain Mostafa, aged 11, and his niece Oskar Khuzer Hassan, aged 10, all died as a result. Later their burnt bodies were taken to a hospital in Rania and buried the same day.


In Istanbul, Forced Evictions of City's Most Vulnerable

Besra, a single mother with a small child, returned from visiting her mother in the hospital to find her door broken in.  Officials forced her to vacate her home immediately, throwing her belongings out onto the street.

Istanbul Evictions

A number of vulnerable families in the Tarlabaşı district have already been evicted © Jonathan Lewis

Another resident, an unemployed 60-year-old man with a lung condition, told Amnesty International that he had been forced to sign eviction notices that he was not allowed to read.

According to Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey,

“Most of those facing eviction have not been given adequate notice. They have not been consulted, provided with legal remedies, or offered adequate alternative housing or compensation. This is a violation of their human rights. There must also be an investigation into the allegations of harassment by public officials.”