HEAD OF RIGHTS COMMISSION CALLS ON PROSECUTORS TO ACT AGAINST RACIST SIGNS

Today's Zaman
Feb 28 2012
Turkey

The head of Parliament's Human Rights Commission, Ayhan Sefer Ustun,
has called on the country's prosecutors to take action against
protesters who displayed racist and discriminatory signs at a rally
to commemorate the victims of the Khojaly massacre, which saw 600
Azerbaijanis killed by Armenian forces in 1992.

Many Azerbaijanis also attended the rally, held Sunday in İstanbul's
Taksim Square. Some of the protestors held signs with remarks that
targeted Armenians. One read "You are all Armenians. You are all
bastards," referring to the phrase "We are all Armenians," used many
times in various rallies held in protest of the lack of action taken
to solve the murder case of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist
who was assassinated in 2007.

Ustun, speaking to journalists on Monday, said some of the slogans at
Sunday's rally praised the murderer of Dink and were about Armenians.

"The posters there had completely racist, discriminatory expressions
that are hateful. We made amendments to the penal code in 2005. The
law states the terms for those who commit overt discrimination.

However, because prosecutors don't act on these [laws], racist and
discriminatory expressions are still used. They want us to pass a
law against hate crimes. Yes, we should do that. But first, we should
apply the laws that we have."

He also stated that the "ugly signs" held up by protestors during
the demonstration invalidated what was being done. "Whatever is
necessary [for justice regarding Khojaly] should be done, but that
crowd shouldn't have used those expressions. It completely devalued
what was being done. We always say Turkey will be a great state. It
will embrace all colors. We always say we are striving for the ideal
of co-existence. But it is unacceptable that such racist language is
being used -- that other people are being insulted."

In response to a question about what he thought of the participation
of Interior Minister İdris Naim ~^ahin in the demonstration, who
also made a speech while he was there, Ustun said: "This is for each
individual to decide. I don't know if he saw those signs or not,
so I can't really answer."

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Association (İHD) filed a criminal
complaint on Tuesday against the organizers of Sunday's rally and
Interior Minister İdris Naim ~^ahin for displaying "signs with racist
and hateful content." A group of İHD members who met outside the
Caglayan Courthouse in İstanbul filed the complaint. Meral Cıldır,
a spokesperson for the group, indicated that some Armenians in Turkey
feel increasingly threatened. She said ~^ahin's speech also included
instances that could be considered racial crimes.




From: A. Papazian