Turkish FM Davutoğlu: Human rights are not interior affairs
Davutoğlu poses with Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif and Azerbaijani FM Elmar Memmedyarov in front of Lake Van following a trilateral meeting March 14. AA photoI had criticized Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in my column March 13 because of his answer to a reporter’s question regarding the death of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old boy who was in a coma for nine months, because of a pepper gas canister fired by police, crushing his skull during the Gezi Park protests in June 2013.
Davutoğlu was in New York to talk to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon regarding Turkey’s possible membership to the U.N. Security Council.
When a reporter had asked him whether the issue was discussed during the talk, “Out of the question,” Davutoğlu replied. “This is an incident inside Turkey, an issue about which we talk among ourselves.”
My criticism was if Turkey -rightly- acknowledges the human rights violations in Syria, Ukraine, not as those country’s interior affairs, human rights violations in Turkey should not be seen by the government as Turkey’s domestic affairs as well.
If Turkish people and the government felt sorry about 17-year-old Esma el-Biltagy in Egypt who was shot during protests during the coup there, the same should be valid for Berkin; they are children, after all.
Davutoğlu called up on March 14 about the article. He said he wanted to make a few points clear about what he actually said and about his stance regarding human rights. Here are the main points about what Mr. Davutoğlu said:
* “I did not say Berkin’s death cannot be spoken about outside of Turkey. What I wanted to say was it was not an issue we would discuss with the U.N. secretary-general. Actually, he did not ask such a question; should I ask him “Such a thing has happened in our country, what do you think about that?” He wouldn’t anyway, but if he had asked, I would tell him that we are taking care of it and that was not the place to discuss it. The reporter’s question was whether the secretary-general had brought up the subject. Actually, I had given my condolences to his family and asked for God’s mercy as soon as I heard about the death. When just my answer was reported, it failed to reflect the whole of my view of the affair.”
* “Yes, those killings are affairs that we have to handle ourselves inside the country. But it is out of question to say we would not discuss them internationally. For example, if someone brings up the issue in the Council of Europe, I would have no objection to discuss it there, because it is the place to discuss all kinds of human rights issues. I want to say Berkin’s death is not something we discuss with the U.N. When similar incidents in Britain, Germany or France would come up in U.N. talks, then those in Turkey could come, too. The case in Turkey has nothing to do with the cases in Syria or Ukraine.”
* “Of course, human rights are not country’s interior affairs. You know me personally and you have also noted it was me who signed the U.N. protocols on Children’s Rights and Ending Violence Against Women on behalf of Turkey, by giving priority to them. I do not want to seem insensitive to human rights on anyone. What I say is the democratic mechanisms are working in Turkey and that is why I said we have to solve those problems inside the country.”
* Another young man, Burak Karamanoğlu, was killed right after Berkin Elvan. One of them as a result of a gas canister hitting his head and other with a bullet deliberately shot at him during the mayhem of a confrontation; as you know the illegal DHKP-C organization had claimed responsibility afterwards. Esma el-Biltagy in Egypt, which you mentioned has a different story; she was hit by a sniper just to punish her father, to make him suffer. The situations are different, but death is death and it is bad in whichever form it finds you. Both Berkin and Burak are our sons. May God’s mercy be upon them and give patience to their parents to cope with their losses.”
It is clear Davutoğlu was trying to make a point that he is a politician caring for human rights, which is something positive. It is also positive he takes media criticism seriously and making efforts to clarify them.
To make a last point: There is still no statement of sorrow or message of condolence from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan as of Friday (March 14) evening, regarding the death of Berkin Elvan.