The state of human rights in Turkey recently underwent a major decline, especially after July 15, 2016. On this day, members of the military attempted a coup against President Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
The government’s authoritarianism became increasingly pronounced after the attempted coup. The first emergency decree – announced on July 23, 2016 – allowed the government to dismiss judges, prosecutors and civil servants from their posts without any investigation or possibility of legal challenge. It also conferred upon the police the power to detain suspects for at most 30 days without being taken before a judge, and severely curtailed the right of detainees to have private communications with their lawyers. This state of emergency was extended for the fourth time in July 2017, and many have voiced concerns over the danger of allowing the cabinet and President to rule by decrees circumventing constitutional checks.
Continuous crackdown on protests and dissidents further illustrates the deteriorating state of human rights in Turkey. The latest incident took place on Aug. 10, 2017; Turkish authorities issued arrest warrants for 35 employees of media groups on suspicion of links to Fethullah Gulen, the alleged leader of the failed 2016 coup.
In the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, Turkey was ranked 155 out of 180 countries, dropping six ranks from 2015. On July 23, Turkish police detained 47 protesters demonstrating in support of the two teachers who were arrested two months prior for going on a hunger strike; the purpose was to highlight the plight of numerous state employees suspended by the government after the July coup attempt. The crackdown involved the use of pepper sprays and water cannons on dissenters, which alarmed the international community.
A major effort by the Turkish civil society, human rights organizations and the rest of the international community seems necessary in order to improve the state of human rights in Turkey.
– Minh Joo Yi