On Saturday 24 April, Kariane Westrheim, Chair of the EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), was stopped by authorities at the airport in Istanbul before being officially deported and placed on a return flight to Scandinavia. Westrheim, an Associate Professor at the University of Bergen had been en route to speak at a conference on women’s rights in Diyarbakir, and to conduct fieldwork with support of University of Bergen about education in areas of war and political conflict. The treatment of Ms. Westrheim, who has published significant works on the Kurdish issue, appeared to be politically motivated. She asserted that the Turkish authorities had accused her of “supporting separatists” and being “very critical toward Turkish politics”, and had assured her that she would never be allowed to enter Turkey again.
KHRP Managing Director Rachel Bernu denounced the decision saying, ‘Unfortunately, Turkey still seems confused about what its commitment to free expression actually means. So, let us be clear. When Turkey does not allow foreigners who criticize its policies into the country, it is in violation. By arresting, detaining and imprisoning its own citizens who are critical, it is again in violation. If Turkey is truly committed to the principle of freedom of expression, it must find a way to ensure this commitment filters down to its security and judicial apparatus.’
The EU Turkey Civic Commission, of which KHRP is a founding member, was established following a conference in 2004 on ‘The EU, Turkey and the Kurds’. Other founding members are the Bar Human Rights Association of England and Wales, Medico International and The Thorolf Rafto Foundation.
Five further conferences have been held subsequently at the European Parliament in Brussels, the most recent of which convened in February 2010. The Commission is supportive of Turkish accession to the EU under compliance with the Copenhagen membership criteria. Accordingly, the work of the EUTCC regularly involves monitoring and disseminating information pertaining to Turkish compliance with the Copenhagen criteria.
The Turkish authorities are yet to issue comment on the matter.
For more information on the EUTCC, please visit the website here.