During the summer Turkey became famous for dawn raids on peaceful protests and sit-ins. Now, in a dawn operation, the AKP has passed another bill to prevent any future mass protests like Gezi Park. The “democratization package” bill will allow parties to run campaigns in languages other than Turkish and minor parties to get state funds if they pass a 3% threshold in elections. Yet the limitations it is imposing are great.
According to the new bill, anyone willing to organize a protest rally will need to consult with mayors, political parties, unions and syndicates, and then the local governor at the highest level will decide on the location and direction of the rally in the light of these consultations. Prior to the protest, the locations will be declared by the governor on local newspapers and websites. The new bill only allows protests to take place before sunset and all protests that do not disperse after sunset would be declared illegal.
While the government might want to prevent any future mass protests, this means that the right to assembly is on hold, since especially in wintertime, sunset is long before people get off from work. The limitation only allows weekends for protests to be organized, and then only at the place where the local governor (part of the apparatus of the Prime Minister) allows.
The organizing committee of the protests now “must” have a commissioner from the government body. And according to the new bill, police will be obligated to make visual recordings of protests and determine the identity of those attending. Although the bill states that this is only for security purposes, to find suspects in case of a crime, in a country where there is official profiling of citizens based on ethnicity, linguistic background, religious belief, and city of origin, this would only serve to further advance the surveillance state on the street after the infamous censorship bill and secret service bill.
The new bill also states that the moment a protest starts getting out of hand, the organizing committee will have to make a decision to disperse the crowds and notify the police chief of that decision. Again, the responsibility is placed on the organizing committee to declare to the crowd that the protest is over and that everyone should disperse.
In case the committee fails to carry out this “responsibility,” the police chief will notify the governor and give immediate orders – not in writing – to disperse the crowds. It is no secret what methods will be used to disperse them. This is yet another violation of human rights in Turkey.