Write a letter. Change a life.
Our virtual Write for Rights event is only two days away. The registration page is here. As we near December 10, International Human Rights Day, I’m focusing on each of the seven Write for Rights cases. Today, I’ll focus on Özgür Gür, Melike Balkan and 17 other human rights activists in Turkey known collectively as the METU Pride Defenders.
The METU Pride Defenders were arrested on May 10, 2019 for taking part in a march for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI+) rights at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey. Although the march had taken place peacefully each year since 2011 and an administrative court in Ankara in February 2019 had lifted an emergency measure forbidding LGBTI+ events, the administration of METU banned the march. In light of the February court ruling, event organizers proceeded as planned. University administrators then contacted Ankara’s security forces to intervene. Many students and other activists were peacefully sitting on a lawn when tear-gas, pepper spray and plastic bullets were used on them to break up the event. 19 activists were subsequently arrested who now face up to three years in prison. In June 2020, another administrative court in Ankara affirmed the right to peacefully assemble and hold demonstrations. Despite this, Melike Balkan, Özgür Gür and 17 other human rights defenders still face prison sentences of up to three years for exercising these very rights. Join us this Human Rights Day, December 10, as we write letters urging their acquittal.