Outcry over Turkey’s ban on protest concert and detention of participants

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has come under fire following the detention of 18 people on Saturday when they tried to organize a protest concert in Istanbul with a slogan of “Revoke the Emergency Decrees, Close the State of Emergency Commission”.

The concert was planned by a platform called “Assembly for Resistances” at the Sisli Cemil Candas Cultural Hall. However, Turkish police used force to prevent a group that had gathered to participate in the concert from entering the hall on the grounds that there was a ban issued on Thursday by the Sisli District Governorship.

A total of 18 people were detained, with some being reportedly injured. Among those detained on Saturday, a day before Teachers’ Day, were two teachers, Nuriye Gulmen and Acun Karadag.

Writer and composer Ekrem Ataer, one of the guests scheduled to appear at the banned event, lashed out at Turkish officials on Sunday through Twitter, saying people were intercepted by police even in the street and were dragged away to be detained.

“I feel embarrassed [for the Turkish authorities]. I feel embarrassed for banning the art [concert] and for people who cannot express their thoughts. You make an exhibition of ourselves. You behave shamefully,” said the composer.

Ataer also said the officials had extended the detention period of the detainees for four more days.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a lawmaker from the opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and an activist, also cried foul over the detentions and allegations of torture imposed on the teacher Karadag.

“What [the hell] is happening. Stop oppressing those demanding justice [against their sacking] and free them,” the MP called out.

Besides Ataer, the banned concert was due to be attended by several others, including music band Grup Yorum, poet, and actress Pelin Batu, actor and writer Orhan Aydin, poet Ibrahim Karaca and actor Mehmet Esatoglu.

At the time of the ban being issued last week, the organizer platform had released a statement vowing that “bans should be overcome”.

“Since dismissals with decrees have started, nearly 100 of our people committed suicide due to depression and despair they fell into or died while working at construction or similar jobs,” read the statement.

The assembly holds the AKP government responsible for the deaths as they claim that they were caused by the AKP’s oppression policies.

The group had called for unity and solidarity against the Turkish state’s crackdown.

“We have the shared conviction that these bans imposed on arts, artists, theater plays, artists and concerts for a long time now and this repressive mindset needs to be overcome somehow,” said the platform.

Erdogan administration formed the State of Emergency Commission as an inquiry unit to view appeals regarding the emergency measures taken during the two-year period following the failed 2016 coup.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP blamed US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers for the coup attempt and ousted more than 150,000 public servants, including the judiciary officials, military officers, police, and academics, over their alleged links to the Gulen movement. More than 77,000 people have been jailed.

Critics say the State of Emergency Commission is nothing more than an effort of the Turkish government to slow down the appealing processes and prevent the cases to be transferred to the international courts. They argue the commission is solely aimed at reducing the number of applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Several international institutions, including the European Union (EU)’s Commission, also question the effectiveness of the State of Emergency commission due to its processing rate of applications, doubts on individual examination and unavailability of hearings.

The Grup Yorum, a Turkish folk-rock music group known for its music that incorporated political themes, is accused by Ankara of having links to the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a militant Marxist group listed as a terrorist organization.

Since the State of Emergency was declared by the AKP government, a total of 11 members of the music group have been arrested on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.”

Some group members have been on an indefinite hunger strike which is intended to call upon the Turkish government to meet a list of their demands, including the release of its jailed group members, the drop of all charges against them and the lifting of the ban on group’s concerts.

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