Human Rights And Politics

How a Lone Human Rights Champion Scares the Government in Turkey

A Turkish court’s approval of a prison sentence against a lawmaker reveals the depth of anxiety in the government regarding human rights activism.

Abdullah Ayasun
5 min readFeb 20, 2021

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Turkish police tries to stop lawmaker Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu in Ankara in this archive photo.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu.

A physician. A former academic. A citizen. A father. A lawmaker and a human rights activist. One of the most iconic figures of the post-2016 era is now facing what hundreds of thousands already went through: imprisonment.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld a prison sentence against the lawmaker, paving the way for the deprivation of his seat in Parliament in the latest setback for human rights efforts in Turkey.

“It has been determined that the suspect has shared a link to a news article that included a statement by the PKK armed terrorist organisation, and in doing so aimed to embrace the statement, increase public sympathy for the organisation and garner up active support for it,” the court statement reads, according to a quote by Ahval news. What was cited by the court was a news article share by Gergerlioglu, dating back to August 2016.

Both the court’s ruling and the subsequent public uproar tell a lot about the government’s unmasked fear and the lawmaker’s strong appeal in a society gripped by an endless political clampdown over the past years. The very name of Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu has been etched in public memory as the embodiment of courage, defiance, and dedicated fight for human rights in Turkey where such norms are trampled by the government with impunity.

When the long-anticipated news broke out, thousands vented their frustration with the verdict on social media, expressing a torrent of support for Gergerlioglu who has long been in the vanguard of defending human rights in Turkey’s Grand National Assembly. Kati Piri, EU Parliament’s former rapporteur on Turkey, noted that…

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Abdullah Ayasun

Boston-based journalist and writer. Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. 2023 WHCA Scholar. On art, culture, politics and everything in between. X: @abyasun