Turkey: Behind The Veil

Turkey: Behind The Veil

Photo by: Tolga Ahmetler

Turkey, a country famous for its delicious cuisine, picturesque tourist destinations, and captivating dramas: beneath its surface lies a darker reality for its citizens.

Twenty-five years ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed those in power for corruption after a deadly earthquake destroyed everything in 1999. He made a promise of a corruption-free government that is responsive to the needs of its citizens after his Justice and Development Party (AKP) started gaining power. Twenty-five years later, Erdogan has now centralised all power in his hands, placed his loyal followers in key government positions and wiped out any organization who stood up against him. To provide an insight on the magnitude of this wipe out, the number of individuals arrested exceeds 332,000. Among those, there are thousands of journalists, doctors, judges, police officers, soldiers and teachers who are unjustly expelled from their jobs.

“We are seen as stateless and homeless. We were not only left unemployed, but also our entire citizenship rights were taken away from us. We try to report all the unlawfulness we are exposed to. For us, Turkey is turning into a huge Nazi camp and we’re its prisoners.” –  Emine Yuzgec (KHK victim)

But how was he able to gain such power? On 15 July 2016, Erdogan and his followers staged a fake coup, which he described as “a gift from the God”. Even though the peace was restored after two days and no further risks were present, Erdogan took the opportunity and declared a state of emergency. He amended hundreds of laws and moved every stone in the country, allowing him to be the one and only great power. Basic human rights were destroyed, more than 100 people were kidnapped, 133,792 people were dismissed from their jobs and more than 100,000 were arrested. This was the first time in History Turkey was found guilty of “crimes against humanity” by the United Nations. Even though Guenther Oettinger, European Commissioner, had stated that if Erdogan continues to use the coup to further restrict democratic rights, they will move away from the core values represented by the EU and the NATO defence alliance, Erdogan did not stop.

Moreover, Erdogan maintains the control of traditional media. As the majority of Turkish citizens get their news on TV channels, which are controlled by the government, Erdogan was able to successfully brainwash the citizens into thinking his actions were justified. Many victims appealed to international organisations for Turkey’s breach of human rights. Recently, the European Court of Human Rights declared that the rights of a Turkish teacher, who was being accused of terrorism offences, have been violated. The court ordered Turkey to pay 15,000 euros for costs and expenses. However, the reply from the Turkish government has once again proved their unwillingness to acknowledge crimes they have been committing against their own citizens.

“Unacceptable for the ECHR to exceed its authority and give a verdict of violation by examining the evidence on a case in which our judicial authorities at all levels … deem the evidence sufficient.” – Yilmaz Tunc (Turkish Justice Minister)

The effects of corruption in Turkey can be seen in various cases. For instance, in 2014, 301 miners were killed in an Aegean town called Soma, due to a fire breakout which engulfed one of the pits with carbon monoxide. The chairman of the Soma Holding is a close associate of Erdogan who benefited hugely from privatizations during Erdogan’s years in power. The miners stated that the company did not take any cautions in regards to their safety. However, Erdogan and his companions’ disregard for citizen safety have not ended here. The recent earthquake has once again proved the level of corruption within the Turkish government. Many people had to dig out their loved ones under the rumble by themselves due to the government’s slow response. Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) only arrived at the disaster scene 48 hours after the earthquake. All these incidents are the result of Erdogan’s policies of taking all the power in his hands, taking institutions’ independence from themselves, and placing unqualified loyalists to key positions.

In the depth of Turkish prisons, thousands are silenced by the heavy hand of oppression. Stripped of their jobs, their dignity, their family, and their freedom, many endure both physical and psychological torture. Situation in Turkey under the regime of president Erdogan is alarming. The international community must continue to shine a spotlight on these abuses and advocate for justice and accountability. Turkey might seem like a beautiful holiday destination for many, but for its own citizens, it is a place of stifled voices and shattered dreams.


Further References

Fetö’den 332 bin Kişi Gözaltına Alındı, 19 Bini Tutuklu (2022) Sozcu. Available at: https://www.sozcu.com.tr/fetoden-gozaltina-332-bin-kisi-alindi-19-bini-tutuklu-wp7233107.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in its resolutions 51/2020 of 18 September 2020 (Pa. 102) and 47/2020 of 25 September 2020 (Pa. 101) clearly emphasized that the systematic mass detention and arrest practices against the Hizmet Movement in Turkey may constitute crimes against humanity.