Magazine article New Internationalist

How Turkey's Citizens Lost Their Rights

Magazine article New Internationalist

How Turkey's Citizens Lost Their Rights

Article excerpt

The last straw came this summer when well-known human rights activists, including Amnesty International (AI) Turkey Director Idil Eser and founding member Özlem Dalkıran, were taken into custody during a training workshop in Istanbul. They are still in pre-trial detention for allegedly aiding a non-specified terrorist organization. Their lawyer Hülya Gülbahar sees this as a clear message to Turkish society: 'We now live in a system without any citizens' rights, nor any chance of survival for organizations defending such rights.'

When AI Secretary-General Salil Shetty called world leaders to break their silence on the human rights meltdown, few democratic dissidents inside the country held out much hope. Advocates for a secular Turkey are still trying to digest being re-labelled as 'the East' following the Soviet decline. Turkey's NATO membership no longer entitled it to membership in 'the West', with geo political thinking assigning us the role as 'moderate Muslims' who could bridge East and West. Playing a leading role in the Middle Eastern world seemed to suit Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Erdoğan's Western enthusiasts included German Chancellor Angela Merkel whose pre-election state visit to Turkey back in October 2015 drew accusations of meddling in the electoral campaign. Earlier in the year, there had been other elections. On 7 June 2015, a coalition of leftists, feminists, LBGTI+ and peace activists had supported the proKurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), and helped it overcome the electoral threshold to become the third largest party in the Turkish parliament. The victory of this democratic bloc was shortlived. The ruling AKP quickly manoeuvred for new elections to restore its majority. More than half the population was outraged.

The four months between the two sets of elections were full of disasters. Bomb blasts ripped across the country, some claimed by ISIS or Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK). A few weeks before the second elections, two bombs went off killing 103 people at an Ankara Peace Rally.

But when, just days later, Merkel visited Erdoğan it was all broad smiles for the cameras - it felt like the two politicians were mocking a mourning country. It was in this climate of desperation that Erdoğan regained his majority.

A bizarre and useful coup

The attempted and supressed coup of 15 June 2016 was bizarre. It was all over in a matter of hours. The coup and its aftermath which left 264 dead also left even the most experienced Turkish political analysts scratching their heads. …

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