Hivos Middle East & North Africa

Middle East & North Africa

Human rights defenders arrested in Turkey are innocent. Take action!

On the evening of 5 July, we received the news that all the participants of a digital security training organised by Hivos in Turkey had been arrested and placed in incommunicado detention. This is the first time such a thing has happened to Hivos. The detainees include a trainer from Germany, a trainer from Sweden, the director of Amnesty International in Turkey, and individual Turkish activists from various human rights organisations.

The 'Istanbul Ten', as they are now referred to in the media, are still being held in a prison in Istanbul, in five-person cells. The detainees have been accused of belonging to an armed terrorist organization and will be held for seven days while the judiciary decides whether they will be officially charged before a court. This period has been extended for a further seven days.

Coup accusations

Hivos is deeply concerned by these arrests, as we believe they were motivated by the participants’ work - giving safety online courses - and by the participants’ commitment to defend human rights in Turkey.

The suspicions expressed by the Turkish authorities that 'The Ten' share the intentions of the perpetrators of last year’s failed coup attempt do not bode very well either. President Erdogan’s government has stated that the activists and the two trainers were planning a "follow-up coup". This is an absurd accusation. However, no official complaint regarding this accusation has been filed yet by the Turkish authorities.

In the meantime, fortunately, the trainers and the other human rights defenders have been able to contact their lawyers. However, the Swedish and German consulates have not yet received formal permission to visit the trainers.

Calls for action

Last week, Hivos and Amnesty International called on the G20 leaders to address this matter. We also urged the Dutch government to issue a statement demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the ten detainees and called on the European Commission to do the same.

Through Commissioner Timmermans, the European Commission has limited itself to explaining the relationship between the EU and Turkey in general terms. The Dutch government has not yet made its position on this matter public. Hivos finds this simply inconceivable.

Especially now, as the arena for voicing critical opinions is constantly being reduced, we feel public support for freedom of expression is urgently needed. Hivos therefore urges everyone to send a strong signal for the release of the ‘Istanbul Ten’ now.

The current repression and intimidation by the Turkish government, which has unjustly arrested citizens for merely exercising their democratic rights, is unacceptable.

Tell Turkey to release the detainees

We ask all those who are as appalled as we are by the arbitrary detention of the human rights defenders and Hivos trainers to demand their immediate and unconditional release. Please send a message using the page set up by Amnesty International, allowing your voice to be heard by the Turkish authorities.

Names of the detainees

The detainees are: Peter Steudtner and Ali Gharavi (trainers); the director of Amnesty Turkey, Idil Eser; and seven other human rights activists:  İlknur Üstün  (Women's Coalition), Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Nalan Erkem,(Citizens Assembly), Nejat Taştan (Equal Rights Watch Association), Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens’ Assembly), Şeyhmuz Özbekli (lawyer) and Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association).