The Turkish government’s intolerance of criticism knows few bounds.
Police detained writer and human rights activist Nurcan Baysal from her house in Diyarbakır, southeastern Turkey, late Sunday. As I write this she remains in custody.
She has been detained in connection with her tweets calling for peace and condemning the Turkish government’s military incursion in the northwest Syrian enclave of Afrin, her lawyer told Human Rights Watch. Afrin is under the control of Kurdish forces, which Ankara has long opposed.
Baysal is among 30 people detained in Diyarbakır for their social media posts. The city’s chief prosecutor’s office announced those tweeting had, “spread propaganda for armed terrorist organizations … and a call for provocative actions.”
Yet nothing in Baysal’s tweets advocates violence. If anything, it’s the opposite. As the Turkish government knows, Baysal, who is Kurdish, has long advocated for dialogue and political negotiations to end the decades’ long conflict between the Turkish state and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). She has joined countless efforts to bring together government officials and civil society actors to that end, and is someone who believes communication should be kept open on even the darkest days.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday declared that those who protested the military operation on the streets would pay a “very heavy price.”
Police prevented an attempted street demonstration in at least one district of Istanbul, and the move against people who took to Twitter shows that Turkey’s government is determined to censor critical voices.
Prosecutors in Turkey have repeatedly misused articles of the law such as, “spreading terrorist propaganda,” and, “inciting hatred and enmity among the population,” to silence journalists, government critics, and activists. So far, three members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish opposition are also under investigation for their tweets criticizing the military operation. The Istanbul chief public prosecutor’s office has stated that investigation into social media posts and the crackdown on street demonstrations will continue.
Turkey’s silencing of voices who speak out against war is in violation of its own laws and obligations under international human rights law. I hope that by the time these words are published, Baysal will be out of police custody and home, with no charges.