When the Turkish government unleashed the full fury of its repression following the July 2016 failed coup, thousands of teachers, journalists, lawyers, doctors, and members of civil society were fired from their jobs, jailed, arrested, or put on trial — including PHR’s fellow-activists Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, and Dr. Serdar Küni of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey. But PHR has a decades-long history of standing by our Turkish colleagues.
“The courage of activists like Dr. Fincancı has been a huge inspiration to all of us who care about human rights, about justice and truth and decency. By standing with them, by mobilizing public outrage, and by speaking out against their oppressors, we give them strength and we show the power of our solidarity,” said PHR Executive Director Donna McKay, who attended Dr. Fincancı’s first trial in Istanbul for alleged terrorism after Fincancı participated in a press freedom campaign.
When Dr. Küni was put on trial in the spring of 2017 for treating alleged members of anti-government Kurdish armed groups, PHR sent Director of International Policy and Partnerships Susannah Sirkin and Researcher Christine Mehta to Dr. Küni’s first two court appearances in the southeastern city of Sırnak.
“The fact that we traveled there to attend the trial of a doctor in the crosshairs has a huge impact locally. This is a potential watershed case in which the Turkish government is targeting a doctor simply for doing his job. The whole human rights community is watching very carefully,” said Mehta, who conducted an investigation and published a report last year on the Turkish government’s widespread attacks on medical care in the country’s southeast. Said PHR’s Sirkin: “In the past year, citizens in Turkey have been arrested, human rights are under threat, and the rule of law has essentially unraveled. By standing with our colleagues around the world, we put repressive governments on notice that we see what they’re doing and that human rights activists are not alone.”
This kind of solidarity helps transform hardship into victory. “From the farthest part of the world people came to support our cause,” Dr. Fincancı told PHR after her hearing. “It is a celebration of humanity!”