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Exhibit showcasing Turkey’s rights violation victims draws great interest in US

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An exhibition showcasing photographs and belongings of victims of human rights violations in Turkey held in New Jersey with the aim of giving viewers “an insight into intense sufferings in Turkey” attracted great interest, the TR724 news website reported on Tuesday.

The Social Genocide Exhibition was held on Sunday as part of the International Solidarity For Human Rights Forum organized by the Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), a nonprofit human rights organization.

US Congressman Tom Suozzi, New York State Assemblyman Phil Ramos, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, Kurdish author Meral Şimşek and Garibe Gezer’s sister Asya Gezer joined via video messages to the forum, which was participated in by a number of activists, journalists, opinion leaders and volunteers.

Garibe Gezer was an inmate who was found dead in her cell in Kocaeli’s Kandıra Prison in December 2021 after alleging that she had been beaten and sexually harassed by prison guards.

Among the exhibited items were those belonging to Gezer; victims of the Roboski massacre; Zabit Kişi, a former teacher who was abducted from Kazakhstan by Turkish intelligence agency MİT and subjected to torture for 108 days; Tahir Elçi, a former head of Diyarbakır’s bar association and a human rights activist who was assassinated on Nov. 28, 2015; Ali İsmail Korkmaz, a university student who was killed as a result of police violence during the anti-government Gezi protests of 2013; and Hatice Akçabay, who lost her life along with three sons after a boat carrying several Turkish asylum seekers capsized in the Evros River in July 2018 while fleeing a crackdown in Turkey.

The incident commonly known as the Roboski massacre refers to the killing of 34 male Kurdish civilians, most of them teenagers, on Dec. 28, 2011, when military jets bombed them after receiving intelligence on terrorists from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Uludere district of Şırnak province near the Turkish–Iraqi border.

The belongings of the victims of human rights violations in Turkey gave the audience emotional moments, while Elçi’s tie was the most popular personal item of the exhibition, TR724 said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s centralized presidential government has set back Turkey’s human rights record by decades, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its annual review of human rights in January, adding that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) continued targeting perceived government critics and political opponents, profoundly undermining the independence of the judiciary and hollowing out democratic institutions.

Ill-treatment and torture have become widespread and systematic in Turkish detention centers and prisons. Lack of condemnation from higher officials and a readiness to cover up allegations rather than investigate them have resulted in widespread impunity for the security forces.

An annual report by Amnesty International on the state of human rights in the world revealed that serious and credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment were made in Turkey last year.

A record number of 914 people complained to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) in 2021, most of them saying they were subjected to mistreatment in police custody or during confrontations with the police in street protests, according to a recent report.

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