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HomeExpertsÖmer Faruk Gergerlioğlu: The Unwavering Voice for Human Rights in Turkey

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu: The Unwavering Voice for Human Rights in Turkey

A Turk, coming from a sincere religious and Islamist tradition, yet within the leftist Kurdish political movement; he stands at the courthouse door for Boğaziçi University students and signs the most effective actions against the Political Islamist regime. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu continues to defend human rights with a line that has thrown many stereotypes in the trash. While questioning the White Toros, he does not ignore the Black Transporters.

He disturbs the balance of his former comrades, who positioned themselves at convenient spots after the transition from Jihadism to contracting. He confronts them with their contradictions, not just with his words but also with his stance. That’s why he increasingly becomes a target, and the anger towards him grows.

In Mazlum-Der’s resistance to military guardianship, the oppressed of that era were Kurds and those wearing headscarves. Gergerlioğlu was one of the figures who shaped this choice. While the Erdoğan Regime was hollowing out and seizing control of all institutions, Mazlum-Der was not spared either. The association, appointed a trustee, held a congress without waiting for a court decision; 12 of its 16 branches, located in cities inhabited by Kurds, were closed, and the presidency was taken from Ahmet Faruk Ünsal and given to Ramazan Beyhan. The headquarters were also moved to Istanbul. In fact, we can say that the Istanbul branch swallowed the whole organization.

The reason for what happened to the association and its former President Gergerlioğlu is the same. There is a ghost of CHP Governor Nevzat Tandoğan, who tortured communist youths saying, “If communism will come to this country, we will bring it,” now reincarnated in green clothing. This mindset, seeing itself as the authority to even set limits on human rights advocacy, did not hesitate to imprison Mr. Ömer Faruk.

Victimization was their monopoly, and nobody should raise their voice against their oppression. The contradiction in question was not limited to today and the psychology of power. In an interview with Gazete Duvar, Gergerlioğlu said: “The only thing that changed is that those who were beaten for the freedom of the headscarf are in power today. It’s not right to say that they didn’t see the rights violations others suffered when their problem was over. Because they didn’t see the pain of others even when they were oppressed.”

He noted this observation based on an incident he personally experienced. “When I was in Mazlum-Der, I started headscarf actions in İzmit in 2005 and we met every Saturday at 12.30. Local newspapers covered it as ‘New Saturday Mothers in İzmit’. I liked this, but conservative friends were uncomfortable. Being ‘put in the same basket with Kurds and communists’ was the cause of discomfort. I realized back then that people with this mindset needed to eat forty loaves of bread to understand and defend human rights.”

There is a Human Rights Investigation Commission in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, of which we would not even be aware if it weren’t for a few deputies, including Gergerlioğlu. Mr. Ömer Faruk is one of those who does justice to his commission and deputyship. That’s why he never escapes trouble. He is the only recourse for those who have lost hope in the judiciary, media, and all other rights-seeking mechanisms. He receives letters on a wide range of issues, from unemployed teachers to patients unable to receive treatment in prison. He strives to reach everyone in pain. So much so that he stands in a position that can be called nonpartisan. Many people declare they would vote for him regardless of which party he runs for.

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I mentioned that he upset the balance of the religious-looking organized crime syndicate AKP. The most important proof of this is his arrest two months after bringing up the issue of strip searches in detention centers and prisons. He became a target after the harsh polemic with AKP Deputy Group Chair Özlem Zengin on February 18, 2021; his immunity was lifted on March 17, he was detained in Parliament on March 21, released upon reaction, and then arrested from his home on April 2.

Strip searches were a known but not courageously spoken issue. Many women shared their experiences in response to Özlem Zengin’s obviously lying attitude and in support of Gergerlioğlu.

A photo from Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu’s prison days… Underneath a staged photo created with the theme ‘children should not die, mothers should not cry’ on a day of peace, he wrote on his social media accounts: ‘looking at this photo, you understand why this war has no meaning other than to end and consume. Mothers are the same, flags are different..! There is no difference between us when we die..! Instead of our children’s coffins standing side by side, let them stand alive, equally, fraternally, and shoulder to shoulder.’ Because of this, the execution of his 2 and a half year prison sentence for terrorist organization propaganda was hastily processed. The goal was to intimidate him, to make him retreat. He continued from where he left off when he was released following the Constitutional Court’s decision.

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Not only sensitive to local human rights violations, he is an activist attentive to international ones. Gaza and East Turkestan are among the issues he closely follows. And he disturbs the comfort and becomes the target of the ruling bloc’s reactions for protesting their prohibitive stance on both issues. His debate with MHP’s Erkan Akçay in the Parliament when he brought up the Uyghur Genocide was instructive. Deputy Group Chair Akçay confessed that they had no intention of doing anything with his words, ‘What should we do, declare war on China?’.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu is a medical doctor who was purged by a statutory decree, so he is not only a witness to oppression but also a direct victim. Historians can record a whole era in detail through his story. His words, “I opposed the headscarf ban, they called me ‘apostate’; I protested the cover-up of the Hrant Dink Murder, they called me ‘pro-Armenian’; I always defended the rights of Kurds, they called me ‘pro-Kurd, PKK’; I stood against the oppression of the State of Emergency and statutory decree victims, they called me ‘FETÖ’”, narrate not only himself but the madness of the country.

Of course, he also sends one of the clearest messages to human rights advocates who only mourn their own dead.

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