The head offices of the Human Rights Association (İHD), the Education and Science Workers' Union (Eğitim-Sen) and the Health and Social Service Workers Union (SES) in the south-eastern city of Urfa were raided simultaneously on Tuesday morning (27 September). At the same time, the homes of executives of the association and the union offices were searched.
A total of 23 people were taken into custody, among them İHD Branch President Cemal Babaoğlu, İHD executives Müslüm Kına and Müslüm Çiçek, Eğitim-Sen Branch President Halit Şahin, Eğitim-Sen former Branch President Sıtkı Dehşet and Eğitim-Sen executive Veysi Özbingöl.
"Raids are a government project"
İHD General President Öztürk Türkdoğan evaluated the recent incidents for bianet. According to Türkdoğan, the process carried out in the context of the KCK operations has turned into a process of operations aimed at intimidating social opposition, human rights advocates and politicians.
The KCK is the so-called Union of Kurdistan Communities, an organization that intends to organize the Kurdish people and also includes the armed outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Türkdoğan noted that people were being declared "members of an illegal organization" because they attended press releases, meetings and demonstrations. The İHD top executive claimed that the oppression applied to the social opposition was not implemented by the judiciary but the result of a project planned and implemented by the government.
"The belief in democratic life is dwindling if people who want to make politics within democratic boundaries are being accused of being members of illegal organizations and are being treated the same way as people with weapons in their hands" Türkdoğan criticized.
"Special authority prosecutors and courts are now exposed to unlawful practices. They are authorities that fully work upon the order of the government. We have to ask the government: You arrested thousands of people in the context of KCK - is there not something wrong if there is still no end?" Türkdoğan questioned.
"Raids did not reveal any element of crime"
The former Branch President of the İHD in Urfa, Bekir Benek, now joint attorney for some of the people in police custody, said that the homes of three İHD members had been searched. These persons were taken into custody under allegations of "making propaganda for an illegal organization" and "participating in activities in line with the action and aims of that organization".
Benek reported that subsequent to the raids on the private homes also the İHD Branch had been searched under the supervision of Branch President Babaoğlu. The searches did not reveal any elements of crime, Benek said.
He explained that Branch President Babaoğlu and the two İHD executives Kına and Çiçek were not going to be allowed to talk to their lawyers for the first 24 hours in custody according to the Anti-Terror Law (TMK). The files are being kept confidential. Benek announced to file an appeal against the decision for confidentiality today (Tuesday).
"The result of discontent with our struggle"
Eğitim-Sen Secretary General Mehmet Bozgeyik published a statement on the website of the union regarding the recent developments.
"In recent times, intense repression by the police and detention practices are being applied to groups who are waging a struggle for labour and democracy", Bozgeyik wrote. He claimed in his statement that the raid on the Eğitim-Sen Branch in Urfa lacked any official reason. The Secretary General confirmed that Eğitim-Sen Urfa Branch President Şahin, former Branch President Dehşet, branch executives Özbingöl and Remziye Şahin and union member Yasin Öztürkoğlu were taken into custody.
It was furthermore written that the incidents in Urfa were the most recent example of anti-democratic practices that had been increasing ever since the general election in June.
The statement criticized the raids and custodies and indicated that the methods lately applied by the police were not complying with a democratic country but an oppressive authoritarian power.
The statement continued, "It is absolutely noteworthy that this sort of oppression that we frequently see in recent times happen during a period of discussion on a new constitution and at a time of increased discourse on democratization".
Bozgeyik went on, "For us, this kind of oppression is not surprising. It is the result of the discontent with the struggle waged by our union".
"It is a shame for the ones who are trying to teach the world democracy and freedom that the branch of a union organized all around Turkey can be raided by the police that easily", Bozgeyik concluded. (EKN/VK)