Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders – Turkey was launched on February 27, 2019 following a press conference organized by a group of human rights organizations which came together to address the need to regularly act on protection of human rights defenders in Turkey. One of the events that triggered the launch of the network was an indictment drafted against civil society members in 2019, six years after the Gezi protests. It claimed that these civil society members organized the protests with the objective “to overthrow the government”. The indictment presented to the court aimed to put pressure on rights defenders. A week later, ten human rights organizations came together to hold a press conference. The press conference focused on the pressure government was putting on rights defenders and academics, especially through Büyükada trial, prosecuting 11 rights defenders; Özgür Gündem Trial, prosecuting 4 rights defenders; and the trials of academics who are signatories of the statement titled “We will not be a party to this crime”. The press conference also underlined that the government was ceaselessly trying to silence and suppress civil society and human rights defenders in Turkey.
Following this press conference, civil society organizations started to meet regularly to discuss issues around protection of human rights defenders. During these meetings, they identified a need to more actively address the issue of protection and decided to form a solidarity network.
13 organizations that have been following the aforementioned meetings announced the launch of the Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders – Turkey on December 17, 2019 and made their manifesto and principles public as part of a series of activities organized for celebrating the Human Rights Day. Many other organizations joined the Network right after its launch, and the number of members organizations rose to 22 within its first year.
The objective of the Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders – Turkey is to advocate for the rights of human rights defenders who are being suppressed and silenced through prosecution, investigation and arrests among other methods.
According to the Network anyone who takes an initiative to protect human rights will be considered a human rights defender, including, but not limited to, members of civil society; journalists; attorneys-at-law; public officers who make violations or abuses public; prosecutors and judges who prioritize rights of people; and politicians who advocate for or draft laws to protect human rights.
How does the Network work?
Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders – Turkey aims to facilitate solidarity initiatives with rights defenders, along with communication and cooperation. The members of the Network are bound to principles of transparency, non-hierarchy, anti-discrimination, equality and democracy. The Network is not an umbrella organization. It works in solidarity, not in competition, with other organizations and umbrella organizations.
The Network is open to any institution in Turkey that believes in universal and equal access to human rights.
Regular meetings of the Network are open to all constituents and members of constituent organizations. These forum style meetings allow for every organization to freely and transparently share information. The Network is responsible for organizing the executive board meetings, notifying members of the meetings, and ensuring the Network meets at least once a month. The Network meetings or forums do not need to reach a quorum to take decisions regarding the agenda or activities.
The Network welcomes any organization that has been actively pursuing the abovementioned objectives for at least a year; working towards universal and equal access to human rights; and that accepts the principles, workings and mission statement of the Network.
Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders – Turkey organizes meetings, creates advocacy initiatives, conducts documentation and monitoring, and publishes press releases, alongside other activities that address the goal and objectives of the Network. The members organize campaigns, lead activities and publish news bulletins regularly or on an ad-hoc basis in order to raise public awareness, to put certain topics on stakeholders’ agenda, and to stand in solidarity with human rights defenders.
In pursuit of the goals of the Network, members ensure coordination among independent initiatives and co-facilitated activities, and aim to increase participation and support to such initiatives.
If they choose to do so, the members of the Network are able to share their initiatives to defend human rights defenders with the Network for gathering support. The Network gives priority to supporting activities that are co-led by human rights defenders, rather than those independently run. The activities independently run by members of the Network do not qualify as Network activities.