A message to the international community

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A huge legal scandal is taking place in Turkey at the moment. The recent ruling about me joins a series of scandals that have continued for many years now, and now I face imprisonment and losing my rights as a member of parliament.

I am a human rights defender. I have spoken out against entrenched human rights issues in Turkey, and paid the price for that.

The Kurdish question is one of the greatest problems in Turkey, and I have been speaking about it for years. I have been saying the same thing – regardless of the policies of governments. I propose a solution to the Kurdish question that is fitting to human rights, I propose peace and talks, I propose dialogue.

I oppose violence regardless of the perpetrator. I was very engaged at the local level on this issue during the peace process, and after the process ended, I was demonised for continuing to say the very same things.

On account of my pro-peace posts on the Kurdish question, I was dismissed from my profession as a medical doctor. I was a staff physician in the public sector as a pulmonologist for 27 years. I was made to undergo much material and moral distress. I was subjected to Nazi-like practices.

I was asked to drop out of associations in which I was a member, then I was expelled from them. The government opened investigations again later, as I continued to speak. I was repressed. I was not able to practice medicine in private hospitals either, as a result of this repression, and eventually the administrative investigation turned into a prosecution.

I was sentenced with the charge of engaging in propaganda of a terrorist organisation on Feb. 21, 2018. But the interesting part is that this sentence was based on another post I shared, not the one for which I was dismissed.

That social media post for which I was dismissed was found not to constitute a crime, but I was not reinstated to my medical occupation. Another post that I had shared was the statement of Murat Karayılan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), where he said “If the government takes a step toward democracy, we are also ready to take a step forward. We can go back to the peace process.” I only retweeted news of this statement on August 20, 2016. This act of retweeting was characterised as engaging in PKK propaganda, even though the content of the news story did not contain any propaganda for violence. The news story itself is still accessible online, and there are no lawsuits about it. It has not been taken down, there is no access ban on it.

I was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for engaging in PKK propaganda for retweeting a news story. I was taken aback by it. The court of appeal approved the sentence and the Court of Cassation upheld the decision. Despite one very qualified and precise objection by a member of the court, it approved my sentence with four votes in favour and one against.

This is an obstruction to my right to engage in politics, this is an obstruction to the will of the people, this is an obstruction to speaking about the Kurdish question, an obstruction to freedom of speech.

This is an obstruction of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) from engaging in politics in Turkey, and an assault to democratic politics as a whole.

I believe that this decision was expedited at the Court of Cassation because recently, as a human rights defender, I have been stoutly vocal on strip searches, tortures and abductions committed by the government and I believe that the court of appeal’s decision was upheld as a result of a political decision. It’s not only me, the whole public thinks that way as well. Because everyone knows that I have been bringing human rights violations forward without fear during my 2.5 years in parliament. Everyone knows that I have been putting in an outstanding performance alone in this field even before I started my duty in the Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission.

I will continue to be a human rights defender despite all these punishments.

(Gergerlioğlu made the comments in a video message in Turkish to Ahval TV.)

Ahval

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