The problem of freedom of expression in Turkey is a Kurdish issue and there is also a problem of “selective empathy”, according to prominent human rights lawyer Eren Keskin, who spoke on the Gündem programme on Medya Haber TV on Friday evening.
Keskin, who is also the co-chair of Turkey’s leading human rights watchdog, the the Human Rights Association (İHD), emphasised that 90 percent of individuals incarcerated for their opinions are imprisoned due to their views on the Kurdish question.
She pointed out that a diverse range of individuals, including pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MPs, writers, journalists and human rights defenders, find themselves in prison simply because they hold different perspectives on the Kurdish issue compared to the state.
The lawyer underscored the broader implications of limited freedom of expression in one particular area, stating that if it is restricted in one subject, it can be curtailed across various domains.
She also maintained that a pattern of selective empathy has become prevalent in Turkey, where certain issues receive significant attention, while others, such as the isolation on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan in İmralı prison or the treatment of Kurdish political prisoners, are inadequately addressed.
The human rights lawyer stressed that discussing the rights of all prisoners, including those from the Gezi protests, is crucial. However, it is essential to also address the rights of individuals like Fatma Tokmak, a sick prisoner in Bayrampaşa prison, or the lack of communication and family visits for the prisoners in İmralı, including Abdullah Öcalan and three others.
According to Keskin, Turkey faces a significant legal problem regarding the situation in İmralı, as the state fails to apply its own domestic laws. The right to hope, which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) highlighted in 2014, must be part of the discourse. The court stated that the prospect of being imprisoned until death constitutes a form of torture, and every prisoner should have the right to hope. With the approaching 25th anniversary of Öcalan’s imprisonment, the discussion around this right gains further importance, she underlined.
Keskin emphasised that the recognition of the ECHR’s judgments goes beyond paying compensations. Turkey must address the right to hope and regulate it after 25 years of imprisonment, she reiterated.
Additionally, Keskin expressed disappointment with the lack of concern for human rights in Europe, emphasising that they do not adequately monitor the conventions that Turkey has signed. She pointed out that the Council of Europe fails to address these issues. Keskin attributed this lack of attention to the refugee issue, suggesting that it takes precedence over human rights considerations.