Amid Criticism Over Rights Record, Turkey Renewing State Of Emergency
Critics argue that Turkish government using the state of emergency as cover to crack down on dissent
Turkey is set to extend its state of emergency for the seventh time this week, amid calls to end it over concerns of human rights abuses.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been able to rule through decrees since Ankara declared the state of emergency on July 20 2016, days after an attempted coup resulted in the deaths of over 240 people.
The government says the state of emergency is needed to deal with security threats.
By contrast, Selina Dogan, a member of parliament for the main CHP opposition party, claims the government has abused the state of emergency by shuttering media outlets and illegally purging professionals and civil servants. “They bypassed the parliament for daily laws which had nothing to do with the fight against terrorism,” Dogan wrote in a statement to The Media Line, citing as an example a decree on regulating winter tires.
“The parliament is symbolic since the 20th of July 2016.”
She added that her party from the beginning rejected calls to impose the state of emergency and stressed that her party was willing to cooperate with the government on security matters.
Dogan believes the vote on the extension will take place either Thursday or Friday.
On Monday, CHP held dozens of protests across the country. In Istanbul, protesters walked down the main pedestrian street after police blocked them from getting to Taksim Square at the center of the city where rallies often take place.
In response, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ stated, “they cannot stop the Justice and Development Party [AKP] by sitting in. We will move on. My advice to them: Now is not the time to sit, now is time to rise,” Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Amnesty International’s Researcher for Turkey, Andrew Gardner, said that the wide-ranging powers afforded by the state of emergency has allowed the government to target opponents and rule without the checks of parliament or the courts.
“But more importantly,” he told The Media Line, “along with the state of emergency has come a kind of climate of fear in which people are scared to speak out, scared to take action, scared to lend their name to anything, scared to oppose the government in anyway because of the…steps the government could take under the state of emergency powers.”
The Chairman for Amnesty International in Turkey, Taner Kilic, has been in prison since last June over terrorism charges.
Overall, since the failed coup some 50,000 people have been jailed and another 150,000 suspended or dismissed from their jobs, including academics, judges and police officers.
Last week, the U.S. mission to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation called on Turkey to end its state of emergency.
“The United States calls on the Turkish government to end the protracted state of emergency, release those detained arbitrarily under emergency authorities, and take concrete steps to safeguard the rule of law,” asserted Charge d’Affaires Michele M. Siders.
Nicholas Danforth, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Bipartisan Policy Center said Washington was unlikely to exert significant pressure on its NATO ally because of short-term priorities, such as cooperation over the fight against the Islamic State. “Throughout the purges and everything that Turkey has done,” he explained to The Media Line, “the United States has been fairly consistent in saying that this is not going to be a serious concern for U.S. policy makers.”
However, Danforth qualified that over the long-term, a strong democracy in Turkey is a U.S. interest because anti-American sentiment is more likely to flourish in an authoritarian state.
Washington and Ankara agreed to improve relations in February and, a month later, most charges were dropped against Turkish security officials allegedly involved in a brawl with protesters in the U.S. last year.
While the White House is unlikely to try to force a different political direction for Ankara, Danforth said that the Turkish government is facing outside pressure from investors and creditors.
In this respect, Turkey’s currency, the Lira, recently plummeted to record lows and the country is facing ongoing high inflation. Ratings agency Moody’s last month downgraded Turkey’s sovereign rating, citing concerns over the lack of judicial independence; the future expansion of Erdogan’s authority after he narrowly won a referendum last year; and Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian conflict which has adversely effected its tourism industry.