Migration Monitoring Association (GÖÇİZDER), founded in Istanbul in 2016, aims to strengthen solidarity among groups forced to migrate and to advocate for their demands for a better life. Documentation, witnessing and reporting within the domain of forced migration are their main activities that contribute to memorialization. Until now, GÖÇİZDER has faced two trials related to the activities they have conducted. The executives of the association were fined for violating the Law on Associations. The association is undergoing an investigation regarding the “public degradation of the military or security forces of the state” allegation.
GÖÇİZDER started their activities around forced migration as a form of human rights violation five years ago. The association aims to support survivors of human rights violations and abuses in their quest for justice, to strengthen collective memory around these violations and abuses in service of peace and democracy. It strives towards recognition and reparations of grave violations of human rights. Forced migration in the context of Turkey mostly refers to the population movements enforced by public officers in the Kurdish provinces between the years 1989-1999.
GÖÇİZDER not only searches for ways to ameliorate the lives of Kurdish citizens who had been subjected to expropriation and deskilling for the past ten years (including searching for ways for voluntary return, demining of villages and other areas etc.) but also makes recommendations for reckoning with the past and document migration movements currently taking place. One of the most recent activities of GÖÇİZDER was the drafting of Edirne Refugees Observation Report which compiled data from onsite monitoring of incidents that took place in March 2020 following the opening of borders. GÖÇİZDER published another report on June 25, 2019 from the data collected and observations made during curfews declared in 2015-2016. The report focuses on the human rights violations experienced by women during this period and builds on 480 interviews conducted with women living in the provinces and districts of Diyarbakır, Mardin, Hakkari and Şırnak, along with others living in İstanbul, Mersin and Van. The Internal Migration Report published the same year reflected on migration tendencies by surveying bus passengers leaving from 8 provinces that have the highest rate of migration to other cities. Çobandüzü (Hespenek) village in Erciş distrcit of Van was raided by the gendarmerie in November 2018 and resulted in burning down a house in the village. The family whose house was burnt down had to leave the village. Göç-İz published their analysis-evaluation of the incidents following the operation. Also in 2019, they published the “Guide on Right to Legal Remedies for the Forcibly Displaced in Turkey”.
Following an audit and report drafted the by the Ministry of the Interior on March 4, 2020 GÖÇİZDER was found to have two unregistered activities and some official documents missing from their records. This led to the Directorate of Provincial Associations to request an investigation on June 4, 2020. This request not only mentions the missing documents but also includes quotations from the guide for survivors of forced migration and the report focusing on curfews and women’s experiences. It claims that the association intends to “create a perception that the legitimate institutions of the state force its own citizens to migrate, that the separatist terrorist organization has legitimacy in pursuit of their activities, and publicly degrade the institutions of the state”. On September 17, 2020, an investigation was launched by Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Bakırköy addressing the claims that the association was “Violating of the Law on Associations” and “Publicly Degrading the Military or Security Organizations of the State”. On November 27, 2020, 38th Criminal Court of First Instance of Bakırköy decided to fine the executives of the association 15 thousand TL each for violating the Law on Associations. The investigation regarding the “public degradation of the military or security forces of the state” allegation is ongoing.
On the morning of Friday, June 3, 2022, 22 members and administrators of the Migration Monitoring Association were detained. Among those detained were TİHV employee Bilal Yıldız and İHD executive Ali Koçyiğit. In addition, the building of the association in Istanbul was raided by the police, various materials in the building were confiscated, and the court ordered the confiscation of some books and reports published by the association. In the rationale of the operation, it was asserted that the association "used the funds obtained from the EU and the UN in terrorist organizational activities such as preparing publications that turned into propaganda of the organization and organizing seminars, and that they spent the resources obtained through fraudulent / collusive legal proceedings in line with the goals and objectives of the terrorist organization".
After eight days of detention, six people, including Ali Koçyiğit, were released under judicial control. 16 people, including Bilal Yıldız, were arrested on charges of "membership in an armed terrorist organization".
Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office completed the indictment against 23 people, including co-chairs Kamile Kandal and Mehmet Boğakan, in September. The indictment prepared against 23 people with the allegation of "membership in a terrorist organization".
In the 331-page indictment, the statements made by the directors of the association, the funds received from the European Union (EU), the activities carried out by the association, such as organizing a workshop, and the reports prepared were the subject of accusation. In the report prepared on forced displacement, it was claimed that the statements like "the places where the Kurds live intensively were forcibly evacuated and burned", and "the pressure and oppression caused by Turkey" were the words of the "PKK/KCK". It was also stated that the activities of the association were against the state and this situation puts Turkey in a difficult situation in the international arena.
Before the hearing on 13 December 2022, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Mary Lawlor, made a call to Turkey. “They should be acquitted immediately,” Lawlor said of the rights defenders. Lawlor wrote that “GÖÇİZDER's legal and standard money transfers are accepted as 'financing of terrorism' without any evidence in the indictment.
The first hearing began on December 13, 2022, at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court in Çağlayan. The presiding judge announced that, taking into account the number of lawyers and the audience, they decided that the second and third sessions of the hearing would be held in the large courtrooms in the Silivri Prison Campus.
In the first and third sessions, which took place in a tense atmosphere, the president of the court forced the lawyers out of the courtroom by the gendarmerie. In the last session, it was decided to release Songül Köse and Kamile Kandal, whose defenses were taken, and Veysi Yıldız and İlyas Erdem, who have illnesses, and the continuation of the detention of 13 detainees. The court also rejected the lawlers' request for the refusal of judge and postponed the next hearing to 4-5 January 2023.
In the second session of the second hearing of the case, held on January 5, 2023, at the Silivri Prison Campus, the court ruled that all detained defendants be released with a judicial control measure.