Statement of support for Mr Yiğit Aksakoğlu

by the Department of Social Policy, LSE

Mr Yiğit Aksakoğlu, a former student on the Department’s MSc Management of Non-Governmental Organisations programme in 2001–2, is currently being held by the authorities in Turkey.

After graduating, Yiğit went on to work for the İstanbul Bilgi University’s NGO Research and Training Unit, where he provided training on advocacy, organization management and project cycle. He maintained links with the School during this period, and Professor David Lewis from the Department of Social Policy contributed to the Bilgi University’s programme in 2005.

Since 2014, Yiğit has served as Country Representative for the Bernard van Leer Foundation, a Dutch foundation that works to improve the well-being of vulnerable sectors of society, and which works closely with municipalities in Turkey. Yiğit’s recent work has focused on the improvement of early childhood services.

From 17 November 2018, Yiğit was held without trial in solitary confinement in Silivri High Security prison near İstanbul. He was arrested along with 15 others in connection with the peaceful Gezi park protests of 2013. On 24 June 2019 the court trial of Yiğit and the other defendants began in Silivri. We understand that they are accused of attempting to overthrow the government by allegedly organising and funding the protest, and that the sentence could potentially be one of life imprisonment.

Family and friends, along with human rights groups such as Amnesty International, are leading calls for their immediate release, for a fair judicial process, and for all charges to be dropped.

According to a statement by Amnesty International’s Andrew Gardner on 21 June 2019,

“The 657-page indictment against Osman Kavala, Yiğit Aksakoğlu and 14 others does not contain a single shred of evidence that they were in any way involved in criminal activity, let alone conspiring to overthrow the government. Instead it is absurdly attempting to portray routine civil society activities as crimes.”

The Department of Social Policy wishes to express its support for our former student and LSE alumnus. It strongly protests against this attack on freedom of expression and association, and would encourage the LSE community to take note of the restrictions being placed on civil society activity in Turkey.