While the bans that did not end in Van continued for 6 years, it was claimed that the ban was lifted by Governor Ozan Balcı, who was appointed from the Governorship of Van to the Governorship of Tokat. HDP co-chairs, non-governmental organizations, human rights organizations and lawyers in the city evaluated the decision of the governor’s office, which demanded notification within 24 hours.
The ban on actions and activities declared on November 21, 2016, on the grounds of the State of Emergency (OHAL) declared after the coup attempt of 15 July in Van, continues to be applied by being extended successively every 15 days since then. The ongoing bans affect the people of the city as a whole, especially NGOs, associations and political parties.
All the objections of the Van Bar Association, which have repeatedly appealed against the ban, were rejected. Lastly, the Constitutional Court overturned the decision regarding HDP Çaldıran District executives, who had previously been fined with an administrative fine, and evaluated the practice as a violation.
Obligation to ‘notify’ instead of ‘prohibitions’!
Prohibitions were frequently brought to the agenda of the parliament during the 6-year period. Bringing the issue to the agenda, HDP MPs of the city demanded that the bans end. Associations, political parties and other organizations in the city have repeatedly expressed their objections. Finally, the Van Governorate issued a statement on July 24 and shared the information that the bans were lifted by exempting many areas in the city. In the same statement, an obligation to notify 24 hours in advance was introduced for all actions and events to be held in the city.
Commenting that the decision in question makes the bans more permanent, representatives of political parties and NGOs in the city state that many rights such as freedom of expression, peaceful action and activity, which are guaranteed in the constitution and international conventions, are violated with the ongoing bans.
‘Prohibition is a way of designing society’
According to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Van Provincial Co-Chair Fikret Doğan, the bans that led to this violation are a way of designing society for power. Emphasizing that actions and activities are a constitutional right, Doğan underlined that they do not accept a society that is silenced, does not object, or is in a position to give thanks or is deceived from time to time by aid packages. Doğan said, “This society can no longer be governed in this way. We have been saying this from the beginning; The current government is trying to design the society at a point that does not recognize any laws and international conventions in the country. “There is a question of creating an autocratic regime that does whatever it wants by silencing and suppressing every segment that wants to make a contrary voice,” he said.
So why Van?
Bans are also applied periodically in cities such as Batman and Hakkari. However, in Van, it is extended uninterruptedly every 15 days in a chain manner. “Why Van?” Doğan, to whom we asked the question, attributes this mostly to the position that affects the cities around Van. Doğan gives the following words: “Van is a big city, and with its size, it has big problems. It is in a position that affects the cities around it. It is a city that sets an example for Hakkari, Ağrı, Muş, Iğdır and even Erzurum. Managers say: “In terms of social opposition, if we suppress Van, we can easily control other cities.” That is why they are coming on Van with such great pressure and lawlessness.”
‘While the bans continued, the government held events comfortably’
Doğan draws attention to another issue and reminds that the government continued to operate in the city during the prohibition period. “The current bans have affected us the most. This society has real problems in terms of democracy. We will be on the streets every day because we do not accept this. We are faced with hundreds of police, panzers and oppression at the slightest statement we make. It was something applied to dissident voices, to opposition. The administrators who did not allow us to walk five steps violated their own ban. They have closed Maraş and Cumhuriyet Caddesi many times, and they have created an area of action and activity”, drawing attention to the unlawfulness experienced.
‘The people of Van will give the necessary answer against all embargo attempts’
HDP’s other provincial co-chairman, Handan Karakoyun, thinks similarly to Doğan and states that there is an intense embargo on Van. Drawing attention to the fact that Van is a city where Kurds live heavily and that affects the entire Serhat region, she says: “For two periods, all the rights of the people of Van have been taken away from them. Despite all these negative policies, there is an intense embargo against Van due to the fact that the people of Van put forth their will and their policies did not yield results in Van. The CHP’s landing in the city with all its staff, followed by the arrival of the AKP, and finally the visit of the newly formed parties to Van are examples of the interest in Van. However, at the nearest opportunity, the people of Van will give the necessary answer to both the government and other political parties.”
Who was most affected?
The residents of the city as a whole were affected by the bans. However, the influence of opposition parties and NGOs was felt more intensely. NGOs working on areas that concern the society such as health, climate, human rights, migration, economy and women’s studies and parties other than the ruling party have not been able to go out on the streets in recent years.
‘The HDP and the Kurds are wanted to be intimidated with bans’
HDP says that almost all of its actions and activities were banned during this process, and comments that the bans affect them the most. Karakoyun notes that the HDP and the Kurds are tried to be intimidated with the bans. Karakoyun said, “These bans, which the government imposed monism and the effect of which was felt most in Van, was a process in which it made its own propaganda. In this process, HDP was in a position to continue its political activities within a democratic framework despite all the obstacles. From now on, we will continue our democratic and organizational activities without interruption.”
The bans also affected journalists!
Gathering and demonstration bans prevented political parties and non-governmental organizations from taking to the streets and made it difficult to do journalism. An investigation was also launched against journalists who were prevented from taking pictures from time to time due to the bans, on the grounds that they did not comply with the bans.
Bans became the subject of prosecution or punishment
The ban, which has been going on for 6 years, has been counted as a reason for trial or punishment for many party and NGO members in the city. Ali Kalcik, Chairman of Van Environment, Historical Artifacts Protection Research and Development Association (Çev-Der), who was fined four different times for his press statements about environmental issues, is one of them. Kalçık was given four separate administrative fines in two years on the grounds of “violation of order”. Kalçık, who was sentenced on the basis of the Misdemeanor Law at different times, says that the freedom of expression is hindered by the ongoing bans and penalties in the city and that the association is trying to make it unable to work on the deepening climate crisis.
‘Our rights, which are guaranteed by law, are hindered by prohibitions’
Kalçık expressed his exposure as follows: “We are an environmental organization. We are trying to raise awareness about the environmental problems of the region. Our work does not have a political dimension, but three people cannot come together in the city; because all kinds of demonstrations and marches have been forbidden for a long time. There are significant environmental problems in the country and the region. We tried to make a press release about it, but I got suspended four times for it. It is said that we did not comply with the decision of the property supervisor because we attended the press release. We want to raise awareness against ecological damage and draw the attention of the authorities to environmental problems so that they can be resolved. We can also do this with a press release. However, even press statements that we say ‘we need to protect our environment’ are penalized. Our rights, which are guaranteed by law, are hindered by prohibitions.”
Constitutional Court overturned the sentence
While the legal struggle carried out by different institutions in the city has been going on for 6 years, there has been a development that can be considered as the first in the past days. The police fined a group of HDP members who distributed leaflets to invite to the party congress in Çaldıran district. Thereupon, 10 people objected to the decision at the Çaldıran Criminal Court of Peace. The court also rejected this objection.
The party members then applied to the Constitutional Court for the issue. Evaluating the application, the court gave a violation decision recently.
Has the ban been lifted with the final decision or has it been made more permanent?
Governor Ozan Balcı, who was appointed to the Van Governorship from the Tokat Governorate with the governors’ decree published on May 12, first removed the barriers in front of the governor’s office. After this step, the issue of whether the bans would continue or not started to be discussed again. So much so that in the statement of the governorship dated 14 July 2022, the changes regarding the bans were announced. In the statement, which led to comments that the bans were partially relaxed, it was emphasized that the events to be held in the city should be reported to the police 24 hours before and the places where the actions were prohibited were listed.
Karataş: The ground application means that the bans become permanent
İHD Van branch head Mehmet Karataş says that he finds the decision positive and adds an annotation. According to Karataş, the ground practice in question means that the prohibitions become permanent.
“With the statement made on July 14, 2022, it was shown as if the bans were lifted. Although this decision is positive, it means that these bans become permanent. All areas in Van were actually banned. From the busiest areas to the furthest places such as Atatürk Park, a ban has been imposed” and points out that the decision is actually a continuation of the ban.
Referring to the obligation to notify the events before 24 hours in the continuation of his speech, Karataş gave the following words: “For example, there was a violation of rights on the weekend and you want to voice it on Monday, but you will not be able to notify it on Sunday. Again, there may be situations that develop suddenly, even within a week. This notification requirement is actually another situation that prevents the exercise of this right. The decision is actually not internally consistent.”
‘Rejections are political’
Referring to the rejection of the objections made by the Van Bar Association and other institutions in the city regarding the annulment of the bans, Karataş said, “The court made a political decision by looking almost from the eyes of the administration, without mentioning the dimensions such as the necessity and proportionality of these decisions and without making a legal evaluation. This is a massacre of law and law, and we think it will come back from the constitutional court.”
Translator : Akif Coşkun
Leave a Reply