The Punchline: Keskin Heads to Prison?

About a week before the Perincek versus Switzerland retrial was scheduled to begin at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Jan. 28, a Turkish court handed down a 10-month prison sentence to long-time human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin.

A Turkish court handed down a ten-month prison sentence to longtime human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin.
A Turkish court handed down a ten-month prison sentence to longtime human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin.

Keskin is a member and former chair of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association of Turkey, an organization that has offered its testimony in favor of Armenia to the ECHR regarding the Perincek case.

You might have guessed it: Keskin was charged with Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, for “insulting Turkishness” and the Turkish state.

She had dared to criticize the state over the murder of a 12-year-old boy, Ugur Kaymaz, and his father by police in the south-eastern city of Mardin during a panel discussion in 2005.

“The state has such a violent mentality that it would kill a 12-year-old,” Keskin had said in a statement that brought on the charges.

The judge expressed fear that Keskin might repeat her speech crime–that she is a habitual criminal “who won’t refrain from committing future crimes”–and thus refused to fine her instead or suspend her sentence.

Keskin will appeal the sentence, according to reports. She has refuted the judge’s ruling, saying that she has no criminal record. “I am being convicted for thought crime,” she was quoted as saying.

Keskin has a track record of activities that challenge the state’s policy of abuse against women, minorities, and history. She was imprisoned in 1995 for her human rights work, and was labeled a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.  She’s been outspoken about abuses against women in Turkish prisons, and has established projects to offer legal aid to women who have suffered at the hands of Turkish security forces.

In 2006, Keskin was sentenced to a 10-month prison term for insulting the Turkish military. Her sentence was later changed to a fine of 6,000 liras. She refused to pay it.

Keskin, an Armenian Weekly contributor, has also spoken against Turkey’s denialist policy. Her first article for the Weekly addressed the Turkish-Armenian protocols, which she vehemently rejected. She wrote, “The only thing that should be normal is accepting the fact of the genocide, with all its consequences, and apologizing to the Armenian nation.”

Recently, she was a signatory to a statement that condemned anti-Armenian rhetoric in primary and middle school textbooks in Turkey.

Rewind to Jan. 11,  when in a bizarre attempt to show solidarity with a wounded France, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu joined world leaders on the streets of Paris to condemn the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

It was clear that the march had been hijacked by leaders from some of the most repressive governments—leaders that Reporters Without Borders labeled as “predators.” Their presence was a cruel joke for the thousands currently persecuted under their leadership.

After the rally, once at the Turkish Embassy, Davutoglu held a press conference and preached about “human values,” “human dignity,” and “sensitivity.” Meanwhile, his government continues to cover up one of the greatest crimes in recent memory, upholds a policy of oppression, and continues to harass activists, journalists, and writers in an attempt to silence all dissent.

The emergence of the “New Turkey” touted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is cynical, authoritarian, and stands on shaky foundations that are built on decades of abuse and oppression.

Davutoglu’s presence at the Paris Unity Rally was a crude joke, and Keskin’s prison sentence the delayed punchline.


Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).


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  1. Turkey has become a terrorist state, other countries with much less support to terrorists are on the list of terrorist states, instead of condemnation enjoys sympathy and support from the west. DOUBLE STANDARD AS USUAL

    • Turkey has been acting like a terrorist state for decades. This is based on how violently they treated the Kurds and other minorities. This is action against Keskin is a slide away from democracy (which had never fully taken hold to begin with). Terrorism against freedom of speech and liberty if you will.

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