An Increasingly Tyrannical Turkish Regime?

Since the failed coup d’etat of July 2016, Erdogan’s tyrannical regime has arrested over 50,000 people suspected of militant involvement, 1,200 of which, according to the Interior Ministry, were detained in the last week. In April, the questionable ballot to drastically alter Turkey’s constitution led to the removal of a prime ministerial role and parliamentary system, in favor of an executive presidency. Erdogan’s greatly expanded authority, has led to the development of a judicial system, which freely violates human rights as the claims of widespread use of torture swell. The Turkish deputy PM Bekir Bozdag, on Sunday, chided the EU, asking whether “any other countries have waited [so long] at EU’s door? No”. In its current state, discussions regarding Turkey’s accession to the European Union should be unambiguously dismissed.

To gain an understanding of the moral fiber of Erdogan’s autocracy, look no further than Turkey’s role in the fight against ISIS since 2014. Prior to this, the Turkish government shockingly provided financial support and an open border with Syria for Islamic radicals, described as a ‘gateway to Jihad’. Since the challenge to Erdogan’s supremacy in 2016, the following crackdown has greatly circumvented human rights. Suspects are now allowed a maximum of 30 days in detainment, a massive increase from the previous 4 day period, not quite Habeas corpus? This extended detention has no doubt increased the risk of mistreatment, and even torture, as the Human Rights Watch, have uncovered in a recent report. Via the testimonies of victims, the HRW was able to ascertain this information, such as the case of Onder Asan, a teacher who went missing for 42 days, only to appear in police custody, later telling his lawyer that the period was spent being interrogated and tortured.

This case is in no way unique, and since the state of emergency was declared following the attempted coup, several hundred lawyers have been imprisoned on terror-charges, as well as three law associations being shut down. The extended powers of Erdogan also allow him to make decisions regarding appointments to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, yet another barrier potentially preventing fair trials and transparency. On Saturday, Chancellor Merkel expressed an unimpeded criticism of the Turkish approach, saying that “We have very many cases of people, who in our opinion have been unjustly imprisoned”. Thankfully, the UN’s attitude toward Turkey in recent years has been justifiably hostile, with Jean-Claude Juncker declaring that whilst he remains President of the European Commission, Turkey shall not further approach EU membership. The country’s increasingly autocratic rule, especially in the last year, has been widely recognized as a key roadblock in joining the European Union.

Since the failed coup last year, Erdogan’s government have taken part in a series of purges, purging the military, civil service, academia, and the private sector. To date, approximately 160,000 people have been arrested or dismissed, including over 15,000 teachers arrested and 15 Universities closed. Generally, those impacted by the purges have been declared by the government to be related to the moderate Islamic democratic movement called Gulenism, to which Erdogan attributes the attempted coup. Despite the movement’s founder Fathullah Gulen, denouncing the military coup, the group is scapegoated and then branded upon Turkish citizens with broad indiscriminate strokes. Furthermore, the decision in April to sack 12,000 Kurdish teachers uncovers the low-level ethnic cleansing in Turkey, evidently, these purges are nothing to do with the coup.

Social Media is also a victim, with limited access, and the shutting down of media outlets viewed as anti-Erdogan, a clear attack on democratic principles of the free press and freedom of speech. Importantly, Hahn, the EU commissioner in charge of Turkey’s bid for membership, stated that the government had compiled ‘arrest lists’ of political opposition prior to the coup, and were waiting to act upon them. It is quite clear that Erdogan and his authoritarian regime have no place in the European Union, and more must be done on the international stage to oppose the human rights violations so widely committed in the country.