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Webinar: “Mechanisms to combat antisemitism in the world and in Turkey”

“Mechanisms to combat antisemitism in the world and in Turkey” webinar, organized by the Freedom of Belief Initiative was held on 13th January 2021.

Moderated by Dr. Mine Yıldırım, the webinar hosted The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Dr. Ahmed Shaheed and Lawyer and Avlaremoz Author Betsy Penso.

On the webinar, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed touched on the findings of the report he prepared in 2019 to draw attention to discrimination based on religion or belief and to combat antisemitism. Stating that antisemitism is a serious threat to democracy, he mentioned that attacks against Jews continue to increase worldwide. He pointed out that, by associating Jews with the actions of the state of Israel and conspiracy theories, hatred against Jews is systematically triggered offline and online. Shaheed emphasized that the primary responsibility for addressing discrimination rests with states. He underlined the necessity of human rights-based laws and the importance of sustainable development goals in preventing discrimination. In addition, he stated that monitoring and reporting should be carried out more effectively and broadly to combat antisemitism.

Betsy Penso, Author of Avlaremoz, an online platform to combat antisemitism and all forms of discrimination, discussed the reflections of antisemitism in Turkey and combatting practices against it. Penso mentioned that antisemitism-based hatred, discrimination, and crimes are not visible enough in Turkey as in the world. She stated that hate attacks and impunity in hate crimes are among the most important problems. She underlined that there are obstacles to take legal actions for hate speech and crimes, such as distrust in the judiciary, the victims’ lack of awareness regarding hate crimes and security concerns. Furthermore, she mentioned that the word Jew is often used as an insult, Jewish people are associated with conspiracy theories, criticism against Israel is convoluted with an antisemitic discourse and the negative representation of Jews in popular culture as other significant issues. Emphasizing the necessity of detecting and exposing antisemitic incidents, Penso stated that they strive for this as Avlaremoz. She highlighted the annual “The Most Antisemitic Case of the Year”  poll  organized by Avlaremoz. She also drew attention to the importance of visibility of antisemitic incidents in alternative media and the work of civil society in terms of combating antisemitism. In this regard, she stated that the activities of the DurDe Platform, SEHAK and Hrant Dink Foundation’s “Media Watch on Hate Speech” project could be listed as some of the good practices.