We have entered a new phase in human rights violations after July 15 coup attempt. Heavy prison conditions are followed by the extended detention period with the state of emergency decrees. Press freedom and freedom of expression are almost totally suspended. Two important newspapers, Cumhuriyet and Sözcü, are trying to do their supervision duty for the public in mainstream media but others trying to make them silenced by using jurisdiction. We are talking about an atmosphere that journalists are getting detained because of a tweet which was lasted for 55 seconds. Cumhuriyet reporter Kemal Göktaş spoke the latest phase of human rights with Şenal Sarıhan, CHP parliamentarian and a member of TBMM Human Rights Committee, who worked as a lawyer on lots of important politic cases and is known for her fight on rights violations.
“Civil disorder era is starting,” she says. “As a citizen, we will look for justice against injustice. We love this country and our people. We openly will fight for the public interest, not for the individual.”
Here are some highlights from the interview with Cumhuriyet:
-How do you evaluate referendum result?
I say, “We won”. I can say the same thing for CHP. We organized very well during referendum process, despite all impossibility and, we won. Actually, this was resistance. A public resistance against the ones who used every opportunity of state for themselves. A resistance that we’ve been in it to help.
-After the referendum, there was some criticism about CHP for not continuing this resistance. And CHP told that “the streets could lead to internal conflict.” Why street and legal protesting right were left.
Actually, it didn’t happen like you described. CHP embraced same campaign both during and after the referendum. Later, it continued saying just as before referendum, “let’s all organize for each other’s no.” The referendum was a legal process. We were in streets for Yes or No. It was a campaign that weapons weren’t equal. The state was saying yes, people were saying no. We still waited for a legal result. Now we are facing with an illegal situation. Now, civil disorder era is starting. As a citizen, we will look for justice against injustice. We will do this to strength our citizenship bond. We love this country and our people. We openly will fight for the public interest, not for the individual. We object to illegal result, but we do it with legal procedure. The street is not abandoned. Besides, CHP continued to be in the field with people after the referendum, just as before that. CHP stood with people who were demanding justice in front of Supreme Election Board and the court. Like a fish in the sea. It stands with people wherever they are. May 1 was one of the great examples of this. There have been enthusiastic celebrations with a large turnout in all around of Turkey. We all uttered our “no” objections in the field. There was the same picture on May 6, while commemorating Deniz and his friends. Again, we all enhanced our no saying, while we looked after their memory.
A Democratic Constitution
-Overall tendency is in direction of deciding a mutual candidate in 2019, who can ensure that parliamentary system will come back more stronger. [Deniz] Baykal and [Muharrem] İnce had different suggestions. What is your evaluation about this?
The official result in the referendum is “yes” and soon we can see some implementations which will be provided by “yes” result. And of course, when that day comes, we will have a mutual candidate that we all agreed in “no” block” and this candidate will be someone who prioritizes democratic constitution and parliamentary system. However, this is not in CHP’s agenda today. Mr. Baykal and Mr. Ince have explained their own opinions. Our party’s opinion is stated by our party leader.
-CHP, HDP, majority of MHP and some AKP followers are in ‘No’ block. Wouldn’t be hard for this group of people to get on with the new constitution?
It will be hard, for sure. Conditions are difficult for the unity. A democratic constitution is everybody’s necessity. And we know that what you call as the social agreement is only possible if you overcome this difficulty. Otherwise, it would be a constitution for one side, not a socially agreed constitution as today. And this means losing for good.
-You following from the beginning of Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça’s hunger strike. Hunger strike mostly is a way to seeking justice in prisons. Do you think that is this a good way to seeking justice with a hunger strike in outside?
That’s correct, hunger strikes are a way of seeking justice in prisons. It is the last way for people who want to be heard. Actually, we need to say that “outside” is a half-open prison. The hunger strike is a voluntary decision and we have to respect it. I respect their decision at least. However, I, as a human rights activist, am defending life, not death.