International Online SYMPOSIUM - October 3-7, 2020




Freedom of expression, media, association and assembly, and the non-discrimination principle are vital elements of an open civic space within which civil society can effectively organize, participate and communicate to fulfil its central role without hindrance. With the severe restriction of these freedoms in recent years, many countries including Turkey, witnessed the closing of the civic space, which in turn imposed serious limitations to the effectiveness of the human rights movement. In the meantime, public authorities’ discourse legitimizing gross and serious human rights violations had severe repercussions in terms of societal perception of human rights and fundamental freedoms, undermining the legitimacy of civil human rights actors. Unfortunately, the international human rights mechanisms and instruments, designed to promote universal human rights norms and to support local human rights movements particularly in challenging contexts, could not create the desired impact in the face of these developments.
It is in this context that the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey organises this symposium, “Towards a novel human rights movement: what to do in the face of global human rights crisis?”. With the participation of scholars and activists from Turkey and abroad, the symposium will be held online on October 3-7, 2020. It aims to bring together activists, scholars, and the general public –particularly social groups with a potential to engage in human rights struggle– for discussing the alarming agenda of human rights and producing ideas with a view to overcoming current challenges.



03 October 2020

first day

14:00-14:30 Opening session
Moderator: Aslı Davas
Opening speech by Şebnem Korur Fincancı
14:30-16:00 From regulation to transformation: forgetting/remembering the political horizon of human rights - Nilgün Toker
16:00- 16:30 Coffee break
16:30-18:30 Political violence, truth and confrontation
Interviewer: Feride Aksu
Is it possible to construct truth where confrontation is impossible? - Şebnem Korur Fincancı
Using action research to address trauma caused by organised violence - Dumisani Maqeda Ngwenya 

second day

14:00-16:00 Undoing the national and international human rights mechanisms
Moderator: Serdar Tekin
Human rights protection mechanisms: occidental Lies - Kerem Altıparmak
The forcibly disappeared and their relatives on the pathways of the pursuit of justice: loyalty, persistence and political belonging - Özgür Sevgi Göral
16:00- 16:30 Coffee Break
16:30-18:30 The limits of humanitarianism in human rights advocacy
Moderator: Zeynep Özen
Between humanitarianism and solidarity: where do human rights sit? - Radha D’Souza
Human rights in an age of humanitarian crises - Lülüfer Körükmez

04 October 2020

05 October 2020

third day

16:30-18:30 Human rights advocacy under authoritarianism
Moderator: Nilgün Toker
Resisting borders - Elçin Aktoprak
The new era: dilemmas of rights based struggles and their potentials - Murat Çelikkan

fourth day

16:30-18:30 Interview: Defending human rights under authoritarian regimes - Interviewer: Feride Aksu
The case of the children of Kavumu: a watershed moment for justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo Susannah Sirkin.

06 October 2020

07 October 2020

fifth day

16:30-18:30 Responses to the global human rights crisis
Moderator: Güldem Özatağan
Solidarity networks and social innovation in face of the socio-urban crisis: lessons from Barcelona (Spain) - İsmael Blanco
The politics of commons from singulars to sociality - Umut Kocagöz 


Kerem Altıparmak
Kerem Altıparmak is an academic and lawyer specialized in Human Rights Law. Holding an LLB and an LLM from Ankara University, he completed his PhD in the field of human rights law at Leeds University. He worked as a faculty member at the Faculty of Political Science at Ankara University until 2018, and served as the director of the university’s Human Rights Centre until it was closed down in 2017. Dr. Altıparmak also participated in numerous projects run by human rights organizations outside academia. His major research interests are theory of rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, freedom of expression, prevention of torture, and impunity.

Elçin Aktoprak
Dr. Aktoprak obtained her PhD from the Faculty of Political Sciences at Ankara University, with a thesis entitled "State Bulding Processes in Western Europe and National Minority Problems". She worked at the same university until 2017, when she was dismissed by a decree law for signing the Academics for Peace petition. She pursues her research on nationalism and minority rights, and works as the project coordinator at the Human Rights School since 2018.

Murat Çelikkan
Murat Çelikkan has worked as an editor and columnist and been an active member of the human rights movement. He worked at the Human Rights Association, Human Rights Foundation, Amnesty International and the Citizens' Assembly as a member and founding member. He is one of the directors of the Hafıza Merkezi. His research interests include confrontation, memory, struggle for impunity and support for human rights advocates and institutions. He is also the producer of two movies and one documentary. He is a fellow of the AHDA programme at the University of Columbia. Çelikkan was awarded as the Civil Rights Defender of the Year in 2018 and was granted the International Hrant Dink Award in 2018.

Radha D'Souza
Radha D'Souza is a professor of international law, Development and Conflict Studies at the University of Westminster, London. She practiced as a barrister in the High Court of Bombay in the areas of labour rights, constitutional and administrative law, public interest litigation and human rights, and taught law at the Universities of Auckland and Waikato in New Zealand before joining University of Westminster. D’Souza is a writer, critic and commentator on Third World issues. She is also a social justice activist. She has worked with social justice movements in the Asia-Pacific region to focus attention on the effects of international economic policies on developing countries. She is the author of What's Wrong with Rights? (Pluto, 2018) and Interstate Disputes over Krishna Waters (Orient Longman, 2006) and works with the Campaign against Criminalising Communities in the UK.

Ismael Blanco Fillola
Ismael Blanco is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science and Public Law of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and Director of the Institute of Government and Public Policies (IGOP) at the same university. His main research areas are urban governance, urban segregation and citizen engagement.

Şebnem Korur Fincancı
Şebnem Korur Fincancı received training on Forensic Medicine after graduating from the Cerrahpasa University Medical Faculty, and also she studied Archaeology at the Istanbul University Faculty of Literature from 1987 to 1990. She was a founding member of the Society of Forensic Medicine Specialists, and served as the Society’s chairperson from 1993 to 1999. She is also a founding member of the Turkish Penal Law Association. She has been a co-founder, and serves as the chairperson of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) since 2009.
She dedicated her professional career to the struggle against torture. In 1996, she took part in postmortems from mass graves in the Kalesija region of Bosnia as member of the PHR team on behalf of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal. In 1999, she was among the authors of the Istanbul Protocol document recognized by the United Nations as a standard set of international guidelines for the assessment of torture; she later also lectured in various countries on the implementation of the protocol, and conducted medical evaluations for alleged torture victims as a member of Independent Forensic Expert Group (IFEG). On behalf of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture (IRTC), she travelled to Bahrain disguised as a tourist and collected tissue samples from the body of a young man whose remains were discovered at sea, claimed by the police to have drowned. She brought the samples to Turkey, and in the autopsy she carried out, determined that he had been subjected to electric torture in detention as his family had claimed.
She teaches at graduate and postgraduate level at the Department of Forensic Medicine at the Istanbul University Medical Faculty since 1992 and she had been forced to retire in December 2018 due to being deprived of civic rights according to the Article 53 of Turkish Penal Code.
Professor Fincancı has co- authored more than ten books, and hundreds of articles on forensic medicine, and writes a weekly column in Evrensel newspaper.

Özgür Sevgi Göral
Özgür Sevgi Göral holds an LLB from İstanbul University Faculty of Law. She received her MA from Boğaziçi University Atatürk Institute for Modern Turkish History and her PhD from Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) with her dissertation on enforced disappearances and forced migration. She lectured at İstanbul Technical University, Yıldız Technical University, Sabancı University and Boğaziçi University. Dr. Göral is a founding member of Hafıza Merkezi, where she also served as a program director until 2018. Currently, she is a post-doctoral researcher at University of Paris 8.

Umut Kocagöz
Umut Kocagöz holds his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from Boğaziçi University and Master’s Degree in Philosophy and Social Thought from İstanbul Bilgi University, where he completed his thesis entitled “Rationality of the Politics of Commons”. He was involved in production of the documentary Against the Flow (Akıntıya Karşı, 2012). He is a contributor to the book For Everyone: A Critical Anthology on the Commons (Herkesin Herkes İçin: Müşterekler Üzerine Eleştirel bir Antoloji, 2017). Kocagöz is a PhD student at the Institute of Social Studies located in Hague. His areas of interest are rural social movements in Turkey, peasants’ struggles, food sovereignty, commons, and political theory. He offers voluntary support to farmers' unions and urban food movements.

Lülüfer Körükmez
Holding a PhD in Sociology, Dr. Körükmez works at the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT). Before joining HRFT, she was an Assistant Professor at Ege University, İzmir, until her dismissal by an emergency decree in 2017 for signing the Peace Petition. She obtained her PhD from Ege University Social Science Institute in 2012. Her PhD thesis addressed labor migration from Armenia to Turkey after dissolution of the Soviet Union. She has considerable research and teaching experience in both academic and NGO settings on migration, gender and discrimination issues.

Dumisani Maqeda Ngwenya
Dr. Ngwenya is the co-founder and executive director of Grace to Heal (GTH), a peacebuilding and healing organisation in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Since 2003 he has been working with grassroots communities in areas affected by the government sponsored atrocities of the 1980s in the South Western regions of Zimbabwe. He considers himself to be a practitioner first and foremost and an academic second. He holds a doctorate in peacebuilding from the Durban University of Technology, South Africa. He lectures part time at a local university and is also the course director for the Applied Conflict Transformation studies (ACTS Africa), a pan African Masters programme by action research, a collaboration between GTH’s Peace Research Institute and the Catholic University of Zimbabwe. He is a PhD external examiner for a number of universities in South Africa and a peer reviewer for three international journals and is on the editorial board of the recently established Sacrum Testamentum Imperium (Psychology and Practical Theology) Journal. His research interests include, trauma and memory, historic trauma, transgenerational transmission of trauma, Trauma and peacebuilding nexus.

Susannah Sirkin
Susannah Sirkin is director of policy and a senior advisor at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), where she has worked since 1987. She oversees PHR’s policy engagement, including with the United Nations, domestic and international justice systems, and human rights coalitions.
Sirkin has organized health and human rights investigations in dozens of countries. These include the documentation of genocide and systematic rape in Darfur, Sudan; exhumations of mass graves in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda for the International Criminal Tribunals; and documentation of Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s.
Sirkin has played a lead role in PHR’s extensive documentation of attacks on health care facilities and personnel in conflict zones, including Syria and Yemen.
Sirkin initiated PHR’s program to train doctors, lawyers, law enforcement officers, and judges to respond to sexual violence in conflict zones, initially working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, and Kenya. She has authored and edited numerous reports and articles on the medical consequences of human rights violations, physical evidence of human rights abuses, and physician complicity in violations.
Sirkin represents PHR as a member of the Steering Committee for the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition and served as PHR’s representative from 1992 to 2001 as a member of the Coordination Committee of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Peace. From 2017 to 2019, Sirkin was a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is a recipient of Tufts University’s Jean Meyer Global Citizenship Award.
Sirkin holds a BA in European studies from Mount Holyoke College and an MEd from Boston University.

Nilgün Toker
Nilgün Toker is professor of philosophy at HRFT Academy. She is a co-founder of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and also serves at HRFT's Ethics Commission. Her fields of interest are contemporary political philosophy, theories of justice, moral and political foundations of human rights. 



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