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Standing for Human Rights in Turkey – July 20 and 21 in Bucharest

This month’s story should be the proposed new public gatherings law, which a few activists and Remus Cernea worked on and which he submitted to the Parliament on July 1. However, after a brief initial push to announce this as a major event and promises to quickly release tools to gather comments and suggestions for improvement before taking to the streets and staging various other events in order to both create awareness and show support, the matter seems to have mostly been dropped, which is quite strange and worrying in itself.
As such, with these posts mainly being protest reports and there being no protest or other public event to report regarding the issue, I had little reason to mention it so far… And equally little reason to write more about it now, other than to say I sure hope things will change, because that proposal needs massive changes in order to actually be a good thing, and then it will need to be pushed through against the will of the politicians, so the only chance is to push them in every way possible, and at the moment none of that seems to be happening.

So what I’ll be writing about now are the two silent, “standing man” protests that took place in front of the Turkish Embassy this Wednesday and Thursday, as a reaction to the “witch hunt” that was the Erdogan regime’s response to the recent attempted coup, seeing how it was used to purge all sectors of any trace of known or potential critics, suspend human rights and entrench an obvious dictatorial regime, making the foreseeable future terrible and terrifying to even think about for anyone except the loyalists. There was a petition at first, released on July 17, demanding a reaction from our authorities, but what official statements were released were even in explicit support of the regime, so somebody had to at least react to what was happening in some visible manner and any members of the Turkish community who may have been inclined to do so failed to make that position public, probably out of fear.
As a result, a first such protest was announced for July 20, starting at 7 PM. While I didn’t attend myself, I did see a few pictures and a little description, plus one more picture better showing the group of supporters of Erdogan, which I heard was in large part made up of embassy staff, who were already there at the time. Obviously, that made for quite a tense situation, all of seven Romanians showing up to silently protest outside the Turkish Embassy against a regime that a larger and noisy group of Turks was there to support. Don’t see anything about actual incidents though, but it remains to be seen whether there will be any fines, since the gendarmes definitely weren’t happy about the protesters.
It was somewhat different the next day, when I also at least showed up, though I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t actually take part in the protest, feeling too edgy in spite of the much calmer situation and only sort of hovering around and taking a few pictures. A couple of minutes after 7 PM, when I arrived, about a dozen protesters and a similar or even larger number of journalists were already there, and the number of protesters eventually peaked at around 20 around 8 PM, when I also left, after seeing one or two peel away from the group, what I saw later saying that the rest left very shortly after that as well. There were no supporters of Erdogan this time around, so the event was calm and silent, and I made note of the great discipline of most protesters, who truly stood pretty much motionless during that time, also not interacting with the gendarmes except to calmly and silently present their cards when asked for identification. There were even at least a couple who refused to move at all even then, prompting the gendarmes to search their pockets and backpacks until they found their cards, which they also calmly put back after copying the information.
No other events were announced after that, so we’ll see whether anything else will happen. It depends to some extent on what else Erdogan will do, but I’d say it depends mostly on what the Turkish community here does, as the lack of reaction of those who oppose that regime sends a terrible message. Back in 2013, it was the Turkish community that quickly reacted and came out in support of the Gezi Park protests and against the regime’s reaction to them, before a Romanian NGO organized a protest in front of the embassy for the same reason, which Romanians and Turks attended in similar numbers, but now there’s very little public reaction and what is there is usually unfortunately in favor of the regime. The notable exception was the General Manager of the Lumina University, part of the Lumina group of educational institutions, who took an explicit stance against the regime, not shying away from calling it “pure dictatorship” and the real coup taking place after the Turkish ambassador requested all institutions belonging to the group to be shut down. However, even he mentioned he personally dissuaded a person who contacted him wanting to protest in front of the embassy because of it, saying they’ll take the necessary measures to protect themselves through official channels, protests not being the way they do things.

On a completely different note, some good news regarding cyanide mining came on July 22, but the event itself took place the day before, when the construction permit for the site management facilities of the Certej tailings dams was suspended by the Court. This is the second attempt to obtain a permit and the second one struck down, though not even this particular battle can be considered over when an appeal is to be expected. The war itself, against cyanide and open-pit mining in general, has a long way to go yet, but Certej is at least the second major project successfully challenged so far.

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