Fırat Akdeniz is a teacher dismissed on the grounds of Statutory Decree no. 672, who works as the Diyarbakır Branch director for the Human Rights Association (İHD) and is a member of the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen). He has been detained and sued countless times for participating in demonstrations and meetings for the Human Rights Association and the union of which he is a member. Akdeniz has a prison sentence of 1 year and 6 months for defying Law no. 2911 and another prison sentence of 6 years and 3 months for “membership of an illegal organization”.
Fırat Akdeniz was born in 1983, in the Kulp district of Diyarbakır. He attended middle school in Diyarbakır and high school in Mersin. He graduated from the Çukurova University Physical Education and Sports Teaching Department.
His father was forced to leave Kulp for Mersin in 1992 because of the environment of conflict in the early 90s. Fırat Akdeniz and his brother followed their father to Mersin in 1995. Their mother and seven sisters remained in Kulp. In 2011, their father moved back to Kulp after 19 years and passed away after a short while.
Akdeniz was assigned to Silvan as a teacher after graduating from university. He joined the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen) as a member as soon as he became a teacher. He became the Silvan representative of the union after 2010. He was actively working for Amnesty International from 2019 to 2020, and he is still a member.
Akdeniz worked as a physical education teacher for 11 years in Silvan. He was dismissed from his job like thousands of other public servants due to Statutory Decree no. 672 which was issued on September 1st, 2016. He was detained in Kulp and taken to the counterterrorism unit on September 23rd, 2016. His detention lasted for nine days. He was asked about his relationship with the organization during his interrogation. Later, there was a verdict of non-prosecution.
Fırat Akdeniz has been unemployed since his dismissal from civil service. He is currently staying with his sister and receives economic, legal, and moral support from the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen). He visits his village from time to time and pursues animal husbandry. He maintains his living through family support mechanisms. His application to the Inquiry Commission on the State of Emergency Measures (OHAL) was denied on March 22nd, 2022 based on the allegations of his association with the PKK. After the second rejection decision coming from the 27th Administrative Court of Ankara, he took his file further to the Ankara Regional Courthouse.
He has been a member of the Human Rights Association since 2016. He has been working for the Commission to Investigate Enforced Disappearances Under Detention and Murders by Unknown Assailants (Gözaltında Zorla Kaybetmeler ve Faili Meçhuller Araştırma Komisyonu) since 2020.
Fırat Akdeniz is a close relative of a victim of enforced disappearance. In 1993, his uncle disappeared in Kulp. When asked when he started considering himself a rights defender, Akdeniz replies, “We are the generation of 1990, the children of war. We’ve been born into an environment of rights violations and to the pursuit of claiming these rights.”
In the last six years, he has been assaulted and detained eight times. In two of these instances, he was removed by torture from his house in front of his sister. He was handcuffed from the rear, his head was stepped on, and he was physically harassed. He was intentionally kept waiting in rear handcuffs in the center of his residential complex so that everyone could see him.
His nose was broken in a police vehicle after being detained during the protests against trustee appointments, held on August 23rd, 2019. He was taken to the hospital a day later when his situation worsened. He was detained again as soon as he was out of the operating room. Later on, Akdeniz filed a criminal complaint against the police officers that tortured him.
On May 24th, 2021, The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Diyarbakır detained many people by making home raids in Diyarbakır, Adana, Mersin, Antalya, Dersim, Istanbul, and Batman as a part of its investigation based on demonstrations, gatherings, and anonymous witness testimonies. Fırat Akdeniz was one of these detainees. After two days of detention, Akdeniz was arrested for “membership of an illegal organization” and put on trial at the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court. The evidence against him included his participation in demonstrations, his condolence visits, and statements by anonymous witnesses. The final hearing of the trial took place on March 23rd, 2022, and the court sentenced Fırat Akdeniz to 6 years and 3 months in prison. He appealed the verdict.
Akdeniz has been sued twice for defying Law no. 2911 which regulates the right to hold meetings and demonstrations. The first of these lawsuits was about the protest on July 17th, 2017, organized by the Confederation of Public Employees’ Unions (KESK) against the Statutory Decree (KHK) dismissals. The Diyarbakır 10th Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Akdeniz to 1 year and 6 months in prison. The ruling was reversed on January 6th, 2022, and the case was sent back to the trial court. The second hearing of the case was held on 14 November 2022 and Akdeniz gave a new statement to the court. The next hearing will be held on February 13, 2023.
The lawsuit filed on the same allegations at the Diyarbakır 9th Criminal Court of First Instance is about Akdeniz’s attendance at the press statement held on May 4th, 2019 in response to the call of the Confederation of Public Employees’ Unions (KESK). He and all defendants were acquitted on 21 June 2022 from this case, which was opened on 20 April 2021, but the prosecutor appealed the decision. The case is currently in the appeal phase.