Bloodshed in Kenya, plans for it in Turkey

News of more bloodshed, killings and chaos is coming from Kenya every day at the moment.  Despite international mediators installed in the region to bring agreement between the two political leaders, the violence blazes on, leaving hundreds of people seriously injured, homeless or dead.

The Indie has given prominence to this issue today by making it a front page story, while the Guardian reports that police have used military helicopters to disperse a crowd of people who are carrying machetes and clubs. The Times reports how a Reuters witness saw one man who had been forcibly circumcised before dying.

Elsewhere there are reports in the Guardian and Time magazine today that Turkish police have busted a network of ultra-nationalists who were plotting to kill Nobel prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk and other targets. The 13 arrests included a former general and a high-profile lawyer according to Time, who also report that a cache of weapons and explosives was seized during the arrests.

Terrifying as this network is for anyone speaking out in Turkey, the arrests are something of a milestone. The arrested general, Veli Kucuk, is the first general officer in recent Turkish history to be brought in by police for questioning, according to Turkish newspapers.

However this faint sign of progress is undermined by another story from Turkey, the sentencing of Professor Atilla Yayla for insulting the nations founder, Attaturk, by suggesting that the early nation wasnt quite as progressive as official accounts state. Naturally, he is contesting this as a flagrant attack on freedom of expression.

In Turkey there is a culture of censorship, the cornerstone of which is the reviled Article 301 banning any speech which insults Turkishness. It is a culture which fosters attacks on journalists and academics, whether it is in the courts or in physical violence like the murder of Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink. Even my colleagues in Amnesty International Turkey have been affected: when I visited last year I heard how their assets had been frozen and their fundraisers harassed by the police.

Closer to home, I found this story a cross erected by an Armenian community in Wales to commemorate the Armenian Genocide was vandalised this week, hours before a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of Hrant Dinks death.

Theres more info on Amnestys campaigns to protect free speech in Turkey here.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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