UN report on Turkey is deficient
Turkey has been fuming over a U.N. report that stressed the country’s state of emergency has led to “profound human rights violations,” and High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was accused of “collaborating with terrorist organizations.” This is probably not the first time a U.N. official or the executive of an international organization is being criticized by a member country, but accusing an official of “collaborating with terrorists” will bring forth consequences.
Why was Turkey fuming? Was it because the report was so wrong and prejudiced that Ankara was shocked? Did Turkey not put thousands of people behind bars on charges that they were members of a terrorist organization and helped the group achieve its goals?
According to the latest figures, as of March 15, there are at least 135 Turkish journalists behind bars, most on charges of being members of either the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), which is believed to have masterminded the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Over 150,000 civil servants, many of them officers, teachers, and senior bureaucrats, were sacked. Some 160,000 people were detained over claims they were accomplices to the activities of the organization. Is it not true that over 100,000 websites were blocked over the past two years? Actual criminals were discharged earlier to make space in prisons for those accused of partaking in the coup, but worse, some for being the relatives of some alleged criminals. It was, of course, painful to hear Al Hussein condemning one of the alarming findings of the report, the detention of some 100 pregnant women and women who recently gave birth “mostly on the grounds that they were ‘associates’ because of their husbands who are suspected of being connected to terrorist organizations.” Was that finding wrong? Put aside pregnant women, did this country not see people over 80 years of age detained because they did not turn in their sons or daughters who allegedly have connections with the FETÖ gang?
While people actually linked to the leader of FETÖ, Fethullah Gülen, continue their services to the absolute power holder of Turkey as top bureaucrats, politicians, or worse, those in the media, did this country not jail people only for appearing in old photos with Gülen?
The state of emergency provided the tenant of the extravagant palace the authority to run the country the way he wants to. The Constitutional Court, providing him the carte blanche, further deteriorated the situation and helped to create a de-facto one-man rule in the country. I would say, contrary to the claims that it was supporting terrorists, the U.N. report was deficient in not sufficiently underlining the immense incompatibility with democratic governance.
Has Turkey become safer since the declaration of the emergency rule? Even though the country was transformed into a sui-generis police state with limited freedom of expression, little right to organize and almost no room for critical view in the media, Turkish people unfortunately do not feel safer. Demonstrations were banned. Going on strike is no longer allowed. Labor unions have either been tamed or replaced with yellow ones. The economy is not performing well. Irrespective to how politicians and the president might declare it, the exchange rate crisis is worsening, with the dollar edging the 4-lira mark, while the euro is heading towards exceeding the 5-lira mark.
This country should not be one denying a top U.N. representative access to some parts of the country. Is it not true that Al Hussein has been waiting for permission to visit Turkey’s southeast since June 2016?