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Keskin and Yarkın face trial under Article 301 for using the phrase 'genocide'

Keskin and Yarkın face trial under Article 301 for using the phrase 'genocide'

Rabia Çetin

Eren Keskin and Gülistan Yarkın, facing trial due to a statement made by the Human Rights Association (İHD) on April 24, the anniversary recognized as the Armenian Genocide, appeared before a Turkish court on Feb 27. 

Keskin stated, "I do not accept this official ideology that disregards other identities," while Yarkın argued, "Disagreeing with the state and expressing it is a matter of freedom of speech." The trial also recalled President Erdoğan's statement on the anniversary of the genocide and the struggle of Hrant Dink.

The case against Eren Keskin, Co-President of İHD, and Gülistan Yarkın, member of the Commission Against Racism and Discrimination, was heard today (February 27, 2024) at the Istanbul 51st Criminal Court of First Instance. The case was opened under the accusation of "insulting the state" (Turkish Penal Code Article 301) due to their participation in a commemoration on the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2021. The hearing was attended by Keskin, Yarkın, their lawyers Gülseren Yoleri, Özcan Kılıç, Jiyan Tosun, Jiyan Kaya, Davut Arslan, Mehmet Kartal, as well as representatives from various international human rights organizations, European Union Delegation to Turkey, and consulates of Germany, the Netherlands, and the USA.

Keskin: You can penalize us, but we will not abandon our thoughts

Keskin, who spoke first in their defense, expressed her belief in the occurrence of the Armenian Genocide by the Committee of Union and Progress in 1915. "I am not insulting anyone or making accusations. I am expressing my thoughts within the scope of freedom of expression. My thoughts are my own. You can prosecute and penalize, but we will not abandon our thoughts," she said.

Keskin continued, "We started commemorating the Armenian Genocide only after 2005, which occurred in 1915. On April 24, 1915, about 200 Armenian intellectuals were detained, never to be heard from again. This was initiated by the Committee of Union and Progress, which forms the current state mentality of Turkey. This official ideology is problematic as it disregards other identities, which I do not accept."

President Erdoğan's statement recalled

Keskin also referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's 2014 statement: "We started commemorating the genocide in 2005 with calls for recognition, apology, and compensation. Until 2018, we freely made these statements. Even President Erdoğan made a statement in 2014. However, due to the constant change in state mentality in Turkey, this was abandoned; after 2018, we began to be obstructed by ministers like Süleyman Soylu, who disregard international treaties. I do not accept this accusation. I believe that the Committee of Union and Progress committed a great crime in 1915, and that a genocide occurred. I do not accept the accusations and request acquittal."

Yarkın: Disagreeing with the state is a matter of freedom of speech

Gülistan Yarkın, speaking next, mentioned that a case was opened against them following former Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu's targeting of them. "Disagreeing with the state and expressing it is a matter of freedom of speech," Yarkın stated, adding, "I evaluate the events of 1915 as genocide. This is why I participated in these commemorations. I do not agree with the accusation in the indictment. As a non-Christian, non-Armenian individual, I consider my own history to be part of the genocide. I believe that denying the genocide does not contribute to the development of communities living in these lands today, rather it holds us back."

Yarkın further elaborated, "Recognizing the genocide, apologizing, and compensating means accepting the responsibility for a crime against humanity, acknowledging historical truths, and taking responsibility for past mistakes. Apologizing means recognizing the pain, losses, and traumas of the victims and valuing their experiences. It reduces hostilities. A public apology means learning from the past and promising that such an event will not happen again. Along with an apology, compensation is also necessary for the establishment of justice. Thus, ending denial of the genocide, apologizing, and compensating is not an insult but rather a demand for societal progress."

Lawyer Tosun: Article 301 disregards other identities

Lawyer Özcan Kılıç pointed out the contradictions in the indictment, saying, "We are in 2024 but discussing an event from 1915. The indictment forces the responsibility of the Committee of Union and Progress's actions in 1915 onto the current Republic of Turkey."

Lawyer Jiyan Tosun argued that Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code is contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, saying, "Article 301 is a clause that leads to the prosecution of people by giving importance to the concept of Turkishness and disregarding all other identities. This article has been most contested by Hrant Dink. After his death, Mehmet Ali Birand's statement 'Do not look for Hrant's killer in vain, it was Article 301 that killed him' clearly demonstrates this. Investigations have been initiated against me under the same article. This article is a deterrent to human rights defenders and freedom of expression."

Lawyer Gülseren Yoleri pointed out that the events of 1915 occurred before the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, making the trial contradictory. "We believe this trial is conducted to cover up the truths," she said.

After the defense statements, the court adjourned the hearing to March 26, 2024, at 14:00 for the presentation of the prosecution's opinion.


Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) haber alma hakkı, ifade özgürlüğü ve basın özgürlüğü alanlarında faaliyet yürüten bir sivil toplum kuruluşudur. Derneğimiz başta gazeteciler olmak üzere mesleki faaliyetleri sebebiyle yargılanan kişilere hukuki destek vermektedir.