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Turkey Interview with lawyer Ramazan Demir

01 Nov 17 

Lawyer Ramazan Demir from Turkey, recently distinguished with the Human Rights Award 2017 by the International Bar Association (IBA), continues his fight.  Despite the great personal risks he runs in the pursuit of his work: ,,I even expect to be indicted as a traitor soon. This happens nowadays to many who receive an award from abroad for their work in Turkey", he says. Lawyers for Lawyers interviewed Ramazan:

You defend anyone whose human rights are being violated. In particular, the Kurdish people in the south east of Turkey. Since 2009 you have represented, amongst others, lawyers and journalists in the Kurdish area.

What explains your great involvement with this population group? 

,,I’m originally from the eastern part of Turkey, Sirnak province, and I’m Kurdish. From a young age I have been faced with, and have personally witnessed, the human rights violations committed by the State against the Kurdish population. Those violations have not been limited to policies, restrictions and assimilation practices imposed by various bodies. Some of these actions committed by the State could probably count as war crimes in the future. As a person who has lived through such experiences it has fed my desire and motivation to be part of the struggle.’’

Together with a group of colleagues, you have defended 46 lawyers accused of being involved in terrorism. All these lawyers were at some point involved in the defence of the PKK leader, Abdullah ÖcalanThe Turkish government regards the PKK as a terrorist organization and now accuses these lawyers of being members of a terrorist group. Does this also put you in serious danger?

,,This move endangers all people who live in Turkey and stand up for human rights. They are the target of harassment, including judicial harassment, threats, surveillance and violations of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly. There are many judicial actions being brought against lawyers, journalists, politicians and civil society activists who carry out invaluable work to further human rights protection in Turkey. Judicial harassment includes criminal prosecution, violent attacks, prolonged arbitrary detention and ill-treatment. However, that doesn’t scare us. We are aware of the dangers and will not cease our work because of repression.”

How would you personally describe the current situation in Turkey, especially for people who criticize the government?

,,There is a continuing trend in judicial actions, which target human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists. Numerous other people have been prosecuted for their participation in political activities against the government, more recently under the state of emergency. Criminal prosecutions and convictions of the people in question, are having a chilling effect on the exercise of such freedom and are effectively preventing human rights defenders, journalists and academics from pursuing their invaluable work."

You're still young. You have been jailed and prosecuted twice. Recently you spent seven months in pre-trial detention. How does your future look in Turkey?

,,Dark but hopeful."

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