Head of rights commission calls on prosecutors to act against racist signs

The head of Parliament's Human Rights Commission, Ayhan Sefer Üstün, has »»

The head of Parliament's Human Rights Commission, Ayhan Sefer Üstün, 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.

Üstün, 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 Şahin in the demonstration, who also made a speech while he was there, Üstün 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 Şahin for displaying “signs with racist and hateful content.” A group of İHD members who met outside the Çağlayan Courthouse in İstanbul filed the complaint. Meral Çıldır, a spokesperson for the group, indicated that some Armenians in Turkey feel increasingly threatened. She said Şahin's speech also included instances that could be considered racial crimes.



Columnist: TODAY'S ZAMAN