Rosa Women’s Association leads a struggle against all forms of violence against women. Since May 2020 its executives and members have experienced multiple police raids, after which they were taken under custody and arrested. They are now facing trial with the allegation that they are “members of an armed terrorist organization”.
Rosa Women’s Association was founded on December 29, 2018 in Diyarbakir as a civil society organization. It is one of the few NGOs in the region that specifically focuses its activities on women’s rights.
Adalet Kaya, who has worked against violence against women and promoted women’s rights under different institutions, founded the association, along with the following founding members: Ayla Akat Ata, Ruken Ergüneş Özdemir, Narin Gezgör, Fatma Gültekin, Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş and Yüksel Baran.
Among the association’s objectives are: Leading a struggle against all forms of violence against women, doing away with all kinds of discrimination against women, developing and implementing projects that promote gender equality, strengthening civil society and women’s associations, protecting nature and natural life, promoting and establishing a culture of democracy and peace. The association has supported approximately 160 women who survived violence since its foundation.
The detention and arrest operations against the Rosa Women’s Association started on May 22, 2020 around 4 am. Rosa Women’s Association members and executives were among the 18 people taken under custody that day, who were later questioned on why they organized an event on March 8 and carried a sign concerning Gülistan Doku’s case. 13 association executives and members were taken under custody on May 22, 2020. five women, including Ayla Akat Ata, were released on probation next day and eight others were arrested. Two of the arrested were released later. The accusations brought against the association included a statement from an anonymous witness which read: “In order to garner more support for their cause and to expand their membership base, they bring up content concerning women’s rights and cases that attract the attention of the public, such as murders of women and sexual harassment, to portray themselves as a legal organization.”
The second wave of operations against the association took place on June 7, 2020. Association executive Gülistan Nazlıer and member Suzan İşbilen were taken under custody. Since İşbilen suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), she was taken under house arrest. Nazlıer was arrested. Association executive Rojda Barış was taken under custody on June 26, 2020 following a police raid at her house. Barış was arrested on June 29 with the accusation that she is a “member of an armed terrorist group”.
During their interrogations at the police station and the prosecutor’s office, the following allegations were made: Organizing March eight protests, creating a convoy against sexism and violence in traffic, organizing a workshop titled “peace, as imagined by women”, holding a press conference against the war, protesting and making statements against policies that promote appointment of trustees, receiving an SMS from the association, collaborating with other NGOs in the province, giving statements to journalists, attending funerals and commemorations and posting on social media.
After three waves of operations against it, eight women affiliated with Rosa Women’s Association are arrested while eight others were released on probation. There is a warrant against two women, whereas one affiliated woman is already released.
The names of the arrested human rights defenders are: Adalet Kaya, Narin Gezgör, Fatma Gültekin, Rojda Barış, Gülistan Nazlıer, Gülcihan Şimşek, Remziye Sızıcı, Sevim Coşkun.
The alleged accusation brought against them is being a “member of an armed terrorist group”. Adalet Kaya and Remziye Sızıcı were supposed to appear in court for the first time on July 9, 2020. The court held the hearing ex officio, therefore the hearing was held in absence of the defendants and their representatives, whereby a request was made to combine the cases and postponed the hearing to September. It was also decided that Kaya and Sızıcı remain under custody. Adalet Kaya was released on August 18, 2020, before the trial date, and Narin Gezgör on September 4, 2020, as a result of the detention examination conducted by the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court. On September 7, 2020, while Gülistan Nazlıer, whose first hearing was seen at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court, was released, Sevim Coşkun's detention was decided to continue.
The first hearing of the trial of Rojda Barış was held on October 14, 2020. Barış, who was tried in Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court with the allegation of "being a member of an armed terrorist organization" was released on the grounds that the evidence had been collected and there was no suspicion of fleeing. In the second hearing on November 2, 2020, a decision was made and she was acquitted of "terrorist propaganda" and sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison for "membership in a terrorist organization".
On October 29, 2020, Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office prepared an indictment against journalist Nurcan Yalçın on charges of "being a member of an organization" and "making propaganda for a terrorist organization", demanding a prison sentence of 10 to 15 years. In the indictment, the statements of anonymous witnesses, membership to the Rosa Women's Association, and social media posts were cited as reasons.
The verdict trial against Narin Gezgör was held on November 11, 2020, and the court sentenced her to 7 years and 6 months in prison.
At the hearing of Gülistan Nazlıer on November 18, 2020, the prosecutor gave his opinion on the merits and cited her membership of the Rosa Women's Association as evidence with secret witness statements and demanded Nazlıer to be punished for "membership in an armed terrorist organization". The verdict hearings of the separate cases against Gülistan Nazlıer and Sevim Coşkun were held at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court on 23 December 2020. Gülistan Nazlıer, who was tried without arrest, was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison for "membership in a terrorist organization". Sevim Coşkun, who was on remand, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for "membership in a terrorist organization" and 1 year and 6 months in prison for "resisting the police". Coşkun was released until his sentence was finalized. Both decisions will be taken for appeal. The first hearing of Adalet Kaya's trial, which consists of combined indictments, was held at Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court on March 3, 2021. Kaya was asked about his membership in the Rojova Association, which was closed by the Decree Law. The court postponed the hearing to September 6, 2021 by writing a warrant to the Diyarbakır Governorate's Desk of Associations, deciding whether Kaya had an official application for the Rojava Association and to lift the judicial control measure.
During a detention operation against women in Diyarbakır on April 5, 2021, 11 months after the first wave of raids, the center of the Rosa Women's Association was also raided. Its door was broken, the alarm system was dismantled, and a search was made when there was no manager inside. The hearing of the case, which was filed against the President of the association, Adalet Kaya, on the allegation of "being a member of a terrorist organization", was held at the 11th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır on September 6, 2021. The Prosecutor's Office requested that the inspection report of digital materials be awaited. Kaya and his lawyer did not defend because the digital report did not come. The court adjourned the hearing to December 6, 2021, deciding to wait for the digital research report.
At the hearing on March 7, 2022, lawyer Gazal Koluman Bayram, who stated that there was no concrete evidence that Kaya acted on the orders of the organization imputed to her client, presented the judgments of the Court of Appeal for the two names of the same association executive, who were tried on similar charges in different files, to the court committee. He requested that the investigation file carried out by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office be requested from the prosecutor's office by the court, in order to determine whether his client is a DTK delegate or not. Accepting all demands, the court adjourned the next hearing to 22 June 2022.
On the early morning of March 16, 2022, the police raided many houses in Diyarbakır. 24 women, including President Adalet Kaya, director of the Rosa Women's Association Nevin Oyman, and Fatma Gültekin, a member of the Rosa Women's Association, were detained.
The final hearing of the case, in which Rosa Women's Association executive lawyer Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş is tried with a sentence of up to 15 years in prison for "being a member of a terrorist organization" due to being the director of the association, was held on June 1, 2023 at the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court.
The prosecution repeated the opinion it had given in the previous hearing asking for punishment. Emphasizing that the activities of the association are within the scope of “freedom of association”, Ulaş and her lawyers demanded acquittal, stating that the evidence seized during the search of the association and shown as a criminal element was obtained illegally. After the defense of the lawyers, the court decided to acquit Ulaş.
Fatma Gültekin, another director of the association after Elif İpek Tirenç Ulaş, was acquitted on 19 June 2023. At the hearing held at the Diyarbakır 10th High Criminal Court, Gültekin's lawyer Şeyhmus Bayhan stated that his client's statements and events on March 8, International Women's Day and November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, were carried out in Turkey as well as in the rest of the world. He stated that participating in the demonstrations does not include a call for an organization. He stated that the Rosa Women's Association is an association that continues its activities and that there is no closure case against it.
The court decided to acquit Gültekin on charges of "being a member of a terrorist organization" and "praising the crime and the criminal", stating that Gültekin's action was not stable.
The case of Narin Gezgör, who was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison on November 11, 2020, was brought to the Court of Appeal and concluded on November 11, 2023. Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court once again sentenced Gezgör to 7 years and 6 months in prison for "being a member of a terrorist organization".