No Protests After Dark in Ankara as Erdogan's Crackdown Deepens

  • Decree is latest curb on freedoms in Turkey since coup attempt
  • Ban follows Erdogan guards beating protesters in Washington

A protester stands in front of police during a demonstration in Ankara, on May 22, 2017.

Photographer: Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images

Turkey’s capital banned “all acts of protest” after dark, including press events and group singing, deepening a crackdown on dissent triggered by last year’s coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The governor’s office in Ankara said on its website Friday that it was exercising powers granted under Turkey’s state of emergency to eliminate risks to “public order,” including events that create targets for terrorists by attracting large numbers of people. Shouting and chanting slogans are also proscribed after sunset.

The curbs on assembly are the widest yet since Turkey declared emergency rule after the failed putsch last July, suspending some constitutional rights. The new legal system, which allows for rule by decree and was originally instituted for three months, will continue to be extended until peace and tranquility are achieved, Erdogan said this week.

“This is happening in the context of an unprecedented clampdown on free speech that scoops up both people who are known and have a high profile on social media, like journalists, as well as unknown people," said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the country chief for Human Rights Watch.

Hunger Strike

The Ankara ban comes after two teachers, Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca, were arrested and jailed on the 76th day of a joint hunger strike to protest losing their jobs. More than 100,000 public-sector workers, including some 40,000 educators, have been fired by decree since the failed coup.

Gulmen and Ozakca are facing prison terms of as long as 20 years on charges of belonging to a leftist terrorist organization, the DHKP-C, which they deny.

“We don’t send our children away to have them educated as terrorists,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said of the case on Thursday, calling the hunger strike a publicity stunt. “They eat at home and they’re on a hunger strike. Now they’ll be in jail. We’ll see the hunger strike now.”

Washington Beatings

Erdogan’s intolerance for protest became an issue in the U.S. last week when members of his security detail were filmed attacking protesters outside the Turkish diplomatic residence in Washington during a state visit. One man was kicked by at least three different guards after being knocked down.

The Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution condemning the violence. House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, called for Turkish leaders to apologize.

“Erdogan is busy turning his own country into an authoritarian state, but he needs to know that his thugs are not welcome here,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican from California.

Turkey rejected the U.S. resolution, calling it “one-sided” and attacking what it said were insufficient U.S. security measures. Turkey’s foreign minister has said the protesters were affiliated with Kurdish terrorist organizations.

Several U.S. lawmakers, including Republican Senator John McCain, have called for a tougher response, including by pressing charges against members of Erdogan’s entourage, banning their entry to the U.S. and expelling his ambassador.

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