Human Rights Watch :Turkey saw erosion of rights as Erdoğan gained power

The international rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday that Turkey has seen a very real erosion of human rights and the rule of law over the past two years as President-elect and incumbent Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has consolidated power.

“If the days of military tutelage in Turkey are thankfully over, that doesn’t yet mean that Turkey has a government that is fully accountable to the people or a justice system that is independent and can guarantee that the law applies to everyone,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, a senior researcher on Turkey from HRW said in a written statement.

Sinclair-Webb said that since a corruption scandal broke out in Turkey in December 2013, Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) have sought to change laws to suit their own agenda and muzzle social media.

“They have interfered repeatedly in the corruption investigation, reorganized entire parts of the criminal justice system, and in the process pursued a politically polarizing discourse rounding on opponents and critics. All of that came on the heels of Erdogan’s demonization of the Gezi protestors last year and repeated expressions of support for violent police tactics and a clampdown on demonstrations,” she said.

Erdoğan won the Aug. 10 presidential election, garnering 51.8 percent of the popular vote, and delivered a message of reconciliation in his victory speech. “I will not be the president of only those who voted for me, I will be the president of 77 million,” Erdoğan said.

“Will that include people who criticize him on Twitter? His rivals in government? If Turkey is to embrace its place as a democratic country where everyone’s human rights count, it is essential that all political players, including the new president, take urgent steps to address the rights crisis,” Sinclair added.

With regard to Turkey’s decades-long Kurdish issue, Sinclair said: “A successful Kurdish peace process in the absence of a democratic and rights-respecting environment for all citizens seems a contradiction in terms: a human rights and justice deficit after all lies at the heart of Turkey’s Kurdish problem.”

Erdoğan vows to fulfill his dream of what he calls a “new Turkey” while his critics say he will grow more authoritarian.

Erdoğan competed against two rivals — Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, an academic and former head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) who was nominated as a candidate by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and Selahattin Demirtaş, a Kurdish lawmaker who was nominated by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). During his presidential campaign, İhsanoğlu focused on a message of unity. Demirtaş, on the other hand, is described as a “rising star” on the minority Kurdish population’s political scene.

Incumbent President Abdullah Gül, who was elected in 2007, will leave his post on Aug. 28.

Erdoğan’s election triumph, which has given him the power to rule Turkey for five more years, has stirred controversy within the country as well as abroad.

The secretary-general of Germany’s Christian Social Union (CSU), Andreas Scheuer, recently expressed concern about the future of freedom and democracy in Turkey under the rule of president-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and said that Erdoğan’s Turkey does not belong in the European Union.

“Erdoğan’s Turkey has no place in Europe… The president will trample democratic values under [his] foot, expand his power, want to restrict freedom of [the] press and continue his inciting remarks against Israel,” the German Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung (HAZ) daily quoted Scheuer as saying.

This is not the first time Scheuer has called on the EU to halt accession talks with Turkey on the grounds that Turkey “doesn’t belong in Europe.” In April, Scheuer voiced some concerns regarding steps taken by Erdoğan, saying he was acting against European norms and democratic values. “The CSU has always spoken in a loud [and] clear way [by saying] that Turkey does not belong in the EU,” stated Scheuer, adding: “Now, we expect everyone to come to this realization… many [would] understand the fact [that Turkey doesn’t belong in the EU] if they just look at Erdoğan’s remarks and acts closely.”

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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