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Eren Keskin

HRD, Lawyer & Vice President
Human Rights Association (İHD)
Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe Statement
2018

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media calls for charges agains Eren Keskin to be dropped.

Eren Keskin is a prominent human rights defender and lawyer in Turkey. She is the vice-president of the Human Rights Association (İHD). She is also the founder of the Legal Aid Bureau against Sexual Harassment and Rape in Custody.

For more than thirty years, Keskin has struggled for fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey, especially for the Kurds, women and the LGBTI+ community. Keskin has played a significant role in the establishment, activation, and strengthening of civil society structures in Turkey. In the early days of her career as a lawyer, she got involved with the Human Rights Association (IHD). For years, Keskin served as the president of the Association’s Istanbul branch, before becoming IHD’s co-president.

Keskin is also founding member of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), the most prominent human rights organisation in Turkey on rehabilitation and treatment of torture survivors. She is also one of founders of THIV (Turkey Human Rights Association), established in 1990, and TOHAV (Foundation for Society and Legal Studies) which was created in 1994 to investigate human rights violations in the country.

In 1995, Keskin  was convicted for using the word “Kurdistan” in a newspaper article, and spent 6 months in prison. During her time in prison, she met many women who were systematically subjected to strip searches, sexual assault, and rape in detention.  In 1997, together with Jutta Hermans, she co-founded the project “Legal Aid For Women Who Were Raped Or Otherwise Sexually Abused by National Security Forces”, to expose abuses of women in detention.  Currently her work includes legal work at the “Legal Assistance Office against Sexual Abuse and Rape in Detention”, which she founded.

Keskin has been arrested, attacked and threatened for her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights. She was assaulted in 1994, and again in 2001. She was targeted by the mainstream press and state authorities for publically raising incidents of sexual violence. A Turkish columnist publically threatened her with rape. The İstanbul Bar Association withdrew her licence to practice for one year in 2003 for using ‘Kurdistan’ in a newspaper column.

Within the context of the worsening human rights situation in Turkey, notably since the coup attempt in July 2016, Keskin is once again at the centre of intimidation attempts. As part of a solidarity campaign to support Özgür Gündem newspaper, whose editorial staff was imprisoned, Eren Keskin held the title of “editor-in-chief” of the newspaper from 2013 to 2016, when it was closed by the authorities. She has been convicted and sentenced to 12.5 years in jail for having published articles deemed to have “degraded” the Turkish nation and “insulted” the Turkish president. She is currently free pending the appeal, but she has been banned from traveling.

Despite all, Keskin continues to stand for equal rights and freedoms for all, sometimes under the most difficult and life-threatening conditions. She continues to work on political cases mainly related to the freedom of expression and thought. She also works on cases related to sexual violence, torture, ethnic identity, racism, discrimination in the context of LGBTI+, and women rights as well as enforced disappearances, unidentified murders, deaths in custody, and the Armenian Genocide.

turkey protest

Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Turkey have been subjected to judicial harassment, including criminal prosecution, violent attacks, threats, surveillance, prolonged arbitrary detention, and ill-treatment. In the aftermath of an attempted coup in July 2016, the environment for the work of HRDs deteriorated even further.