Defending human rights in Turkey

Imagine being attacked by police for dancing in the streets for women’s rights or peacefully marching for LGBTI+ rights. Imagine being arrested for tweeting disapproval of your government; protesting to save a park; signing a peace petition. Imagine your professor being fired, or your doctor being arrested. These are all examples from Turkey’s reality.

This website highlights stories of twenty individuals who have chosen to stand up for human rights. The individuals presented here all continue to defend human rights in Turkey, despite the increasing difficulty and mounting pressure posed by the government. Learn more about the everyday people taking everyday actions in Turkey to stand up for human rights.

Read their stories, each one a story that needs to be heard.

Gönül Öztürkoğlu

Gönül Öztürkoğlu

Civil Society Activist

Gönül Öztürkoğlu is a human rights defender and peace activist. In 2019, she was sentenced to over six years imprisonment on charges of terrorism related offences based on her work for a human rights organisation.

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Bülent Şık

Bülent Şık

Academic and Whistle-blower

Bülent Şık is a food engineer and public health researcher, convicted for his whistle-blowing activities. He has remained steadfast in his work to spread information relating to public health, which he believes the public has a right to know.

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Füsun Üstel

Füsun Üstel

Academic

Füsun Üstel, is the first of the Academics for Peace to be imprisoned for signing the “We will not be party to this crime!” petition. She stood up for her belief that condemning human rights violations or calling for peace is not a crime.

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Cihangir Öz

Cihangir Öz

Civil Society Activist

Cihangir Öz is an LGBTI+ rights defender, who has defended rights for all in Turkey. An active member of the LGBTI+ rights community in Ankara and throughout Turkey, Öz has remained steadfast in fighting for what they believe in.

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Canan Arın

Canan Arın

Lawyer and Civil Society Activist

Leading women’s rights defender and lawyer Canan Arın has been fighting for women’s rights in Turkey for most of her life. Arın is an influential voice in the women’s rights movement.

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Kazım Kızıl

Kazım Kızıl

Journalist and Video Activist

Documentary maker and video activist Kazım Kızıl is a prominent voice seeking justice for the voiceless and the disenfranchised. Despite facing interrogation and trial on multiple occasions, he continues his invaluable work of documenting injustice.

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Nadire Mater

Nadire Mater

Journalist

Nadire Mater is a journalist who has dedicated much of her career to freedom of expression. She has been judicially targeted for her solidarity to the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem.

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Yiğit Aksakoğlu

Yiğit Aksakoğlu

Civil Society Activist

Yiğit Aksakoğlu, with Can Atalay, are civil society leaders currently being prosecuted by Turkish authorities, accused of organising the Gezi Park protests in 2013 in an attempt to overthrow the government.

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Berrin Sönmez

Berrin Sönmez

Journalist and Civil Society Activist

Berrin Sönmez has been fighting for women’s rights in Turkey for most of her life. Despite media suppression and shrinking space in publications for dissenting voices, she is an influential and critical voice in public debate.

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Şeyhmus Gökalp

Şeyhmus Gökalp

Doctor

Şeyhmus Gökalp is a doctor who has dedicated much of his career to social causes. He has been legally targeted for a statement opposing the violence of the Turkish army, made by his organisation, the Turkish Medical Association.

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Yasemin Öz

Yasemin Öz

Lawyer and Civil Society Activist

Yasemin Öz is a human rights lawyer, who contributed to the foundation of the LGBTI+ rights movement in Turkey. Despite the often dangerous situation in the country, Öz has remained steadfast in defending the rights of all people.

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Cihan Aydın

Cihan Aydın

Lawyer and President of Bar Association

Cihan Aydın is a human rights lawyer. Despite the often-dangerous situation for government critics, Aydın has remained steadfast in defending the rights of all people.

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Sebla Arcan

Sebla Arcan

Economist and Civil Society Activist

Sebla Arcan is a human rights defender who has dedicated much of her life to demanding justice for those who have been subject to enforced disappearance in Turkey. She has remained steadfast in her support for the Saturday Mothers.

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Evgil Türker

Evgil Türker

Journalist and Civil Society Activist

Evgil Türker is an Assyrian rights defender and journalist who has dedicated much of his life to protecting the Assyrian community and culture. He has remained steadfast in his fight to defend the rights of his community.

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Pelin Ünker

Pelin Ünker

Journalist

Pelin Ünker, an award winning journalist who has dedicated her work to contributing to the public interest, has been legally targeted for her coverage of tax evasion schemes of Turkey’s political and business elite.

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Nejat Taştan

Nejat Taştan

Civil Society Activist

Nejat Taştan has been defending human rights in Turkey for over thirty years. He is one of the Istanbul 10 — a group of human rights defenders taken into custody during a digital security training in 2017.

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Meltem Aslan

Meltem Aslan

Civil Society Activist

Meltem Aslan, one of Turkey’s prominent human rights defenders was taken into custody and interrogated in 2018. Due to an imposed travel ban, continuing her international work in defence of human rights has become impossible.

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Can Atalay

Can Atalay

Lawyer and Civil Society Activist

Can Atalay, with Yiğit Aksakoğlu, are civil society leaders currently being prosecuted by Turkish authorities, accused of organising the Gezi Park protests in 2013 in an attempt to overthrow the government.

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Cavidan Soykan

Cavidan Soykan

Academic and Civil Society Activist

Cavidan Soykan is an academic who has dedicated much of her career to refugee rights. She is one of the Academics for Peace who opposed the military violence perpetrated by the Turkish state in the pre-dominantly Kurdish southeast region.

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Raci Bilici

Raci Bilici

Lawyer, Teacher and Civil Society Activist

Raci Bilici, a human rights defender from Diyarbakır, is under investigation in Turkey. Bilici faces up to 15 years imprisonment for his legitimate human rights work with the Human Rights Association in the country’s volatile Southeast.

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