Human Rights in TurkeyThe 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

Photo: Google

Refugees in TurkeyRefugees are flooding into Turkey daily, which currently hosts over 3 million people — the largest refugee population in the world. Syrian nationals make up a majority of the refugees in Turkey, a consequence of the devastation inflicted by five years of civil war.

10 Facts About Turkey’s Refugee Population

  1. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that there are 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey as of July 28, 2016. The total refugee population registered in Turkey as of July 31, 2016 includes people from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Somalia.
  2. Human Rights Watch states an estimated 250,000 Syrian refugees are residing in one of the 25 camps administrated by the government. The remaining 90 percent of the refugee population live outside these camps.
  3. According to Project Hope, an international healthcare organization, Turkey has created an identification card system to provide registered Syrian refugees free health care and education.
  4. Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that Turkey spent more on those living outside the camps, between $20 and $25 billion, compared to about $10 billion on those living in the camps since 2011. According to Human Rights Watch, the government has been increasingly under pressure to generate sufficient resources for a growing refugee population.
  5. The World Food Programme partnered with the Turkish Red Crescent in 2012 to form the Electronic Food Card Program for Syrian refugees residing in camps. Each household is given a card containing a monthly stipend that allows individuals to purchase food inside and outside of the camps.
  6. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) has reported it will fund the Faculty for Refugees in Turkey, providing 3 billion euros in humanitarian aid and development in 2016 and 2017.
  7. According to the Washington Post, about 1 million refugees, mostly Syrian nationals, have traveled illegally to Greece via Turkey in the last year and a half. The journey by sea on small boats is costly, very dangerous and many have died.
  8. In January 2016, Syrian refugees were permitted to work legally in Turkey after the government issued work permits. Al-Monitor reported that the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was planning to offer Turkish citizenship to up to 300,000 Syrian refugees living in Turkey in July 2016.
  9. According to the Economist, the flow of refugees traveling to Europe slowed in recent months because of a deal brokered between the EU and Turkey in March 2016. The plan is controversial with human rights groups but allows migrants and refugees that came to Europe from Turkey to be sent back. In exchange, Turkey will receive 6 billion euros in assistance for refugees, renewed EU membership talks and visa-free travel in the Schengen area for Turkish citizens.
  10. In an August 2016 interview with Le Monde newspaper, President Erdoğan said readmissions of migrants and refugees will stop if the EU does not implement the visa-free travel which was to begin simultaneously with readmissions on June 1.

A thwarted coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016 generated concern as to the possible implications it could have on the EU-Turkey deal agreed to in March to end erratic migration from Turkey to the EU.

Prior to the coup attempt, there were EU concerns going forward with the deal. This unease may now be heightened due to the internal disquiet occurring presently in the country.

Heidi Grossman

Photo: Flickr