Turkey sees further curtailment of right to assemble in 2020

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Police intervened in at least 549 peaceful demonstrations in 49 provinces across Turkey, resulting in the detention of 1,816 people, according to the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights, an İstanbul-based rights group.

Demonstrations organized by the victims of a massive government purge launched in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016 were at the top of the list of groups that faced police intervention while exercising their right to assemble, with 120 of their demonstrations broken up by the police.

Some 130,000 public servants were removed from their jobs through controversial government decrees, known as KHKs, during a post-coup state of emergency.

Demonstrations held by women’s rights activists, LGBTIQ+ persons and environmentalists were also frequently broken up by the police in 2020.

Alara Sert, Right to Assemble Project coordinator at the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights, told the T24 news website that the coronavirus pandemic had led to further restrictions on the right to assemble because the movement of people was restricted by measures to contain the spread of the virus.

“The pandemic led to a significant rise in the number of violations of the right to peaceful assembly. Press statements, demonstrations and protests that are made on the street were in particular prevented,” said Sert.

Some local administrations also ban demonstrations, as in the eastern province of Van, where a prohibition on demonstrations imposed by the governor’s office has been in effect since Nov. 21, 2016.

Meanwhile, according to a new regulation published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday, weapons and vehicles belonging to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) will be allowed by the Defense Ministry to be used by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the National Security Directorate to suppress public incidents and intervene in acts of terrorism and violence.

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