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Turkey: No Evidence Of Human Rights Improvements
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: JONATHAN CLARKE
March 7, 2000 No. 14/2000 (202) 785-8430

Turkey: No Evidence Of Human Rights Improvements

The 52-page country report on Turkey in the 1999 State Department Human Rights Report, released on February 25, 2000, offers discouraging proof that Turkey has made little or no progress in improving its dismal human rights record. Much of the language is carried forward from earlier reports. The first paragraph highlights the pervasive and anti-democratic role played by the military in Turkish governance, stating that "the military exercises substantial influence over government policy and actions."

Subsequent sections list a catalogue of violations of basic human rights, torture, minority persecution, infringements of civil and press liberties, religious persecution, and transgressions on women's issues. Some of the prominent examples under these headings are as follows:

  • Abuses by the security forces: "Members of the security forces, including police 'special teams,' other Turkish National Police personnel, village guards and Jandarma committed serious human rights abuses;"
  • Torture: "Torture, beatings and other abuses remained widespread, at times resulting in deaths;"
  • Infringements of civil and press liberties: "Limits on freedom of speech and of the press remained a serious problem...at least 18 journalists remained imprisoned at year's end...the police and Jandarma continued to limit freedom of assembly and association. The police harassed, beat and abused and detain a large number of demonstrators."
  • Minority persecution: "The situation in the southeast remained a serious concern. The [Turkish] government has long denied the Kurdish population, located largely in the southeast, basic political, cultural, and linguistic rights."
  • Religious persecution: "The Authorities monitor the activities of the Eastern Orthodox Church and their affiliated operations. The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul consistently expressed interest in reopening the seminary on the island of Halki in the Sea of Marmora. The seminary has been closed since 1971 when the state nationalized most private institutions of higher learning. Under current restrictions, including a citizenship requirement, religious communities remain unable to train new clergy"
  • Women's issues: "Spousal abuse is serious and widespread...beating in the home is one of the most frequent forms of violence against women...some abuse of children, and child labor remain serious problems...Discrimination against women persists."

AHI General Counsel Eugene T. Rossides stated:

"The State Department report on Turkey shows that Turkey's record of human rights abuses is comparable to that of a rogue, backward Third World or communist state. No basic progress is being made. The fundamental reason for this sad state of affairs is that Turkey is not a normal Western democracy. Instead, under the Turkish constitution the military pervades all aspects of Turkish governance and civil structures.

In its December 1999 decision accepting Turkey as a candidate for accession, the European Union made it a requirement that that Turkey takes undertake fundamental reforms before accession negotiations can start. This is the right approach. We now call on the U.S. to follow a similar policy of calling Turkey to account for the human rights abuses documented in the State Department report and to call on Turkey to amend its constitution to bring the military under civilian control."