Turkey Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as TUR by Abbreviationfinder, Turkey is both tolerant, sometimes severe. The freedom to choose lifestyle is quite large, but in political contexts the boundaries are fixed. At present, a religious president sets the tone, and the judiciary and other authorities are used to punish the president’s opponents and silent critical voices.

As a result of Turkey’s long-standing military rule, the state’s rights have been strong and the individual’s weak. The citizen is still weak, but now it is not, as before, a rock-hard secular military hierarchy without top-down Islamism that sets the rules. The same moderate Islamist leaders who at first seemed to want to work for a tolerant society have become increasingly authoritarian and pushed through legislative changes that extend the power of the president (see Political system).

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In 2015, the police were given increased powers to intervene against protesters and use firearms against civilians. Following a coup attempt against the president in 2016, a two-year state of emergency, with very far-reaching interventions, prevailed on a large scale: More than 100,000 teachers, academics, lawyers, police, military and other public servants have lost their jobs and tens of thousands of people have gone to prison (read more in Current politics). Most are accused of being Gülenists – supporters of a different Islamic movement than the form of Islam advocated by the state leadership. The development can be summarized as follows: Previously, until a little into the 21st century, the state countered those who wanted to give religion a greater role in society and now the non-religious are opposed. And for those who are religious, it can also be dangerous not to be a believer in the right way.

The state also looks with suspicion of ethnic origin other than Turkish. Kurdish activists encounter difficulties. After the 2019 local elections, some of the pro-Kurdish party HDP’s electoral winners have been barred from taking up their posts, despite being approved as candidates. Many HDP representatives are imprisoned accused of supporting Kurdish terrorism. (Parties designated as extremists were banned already in the past, in particular the PKK with depositors as they advocate a Kurdish state and have driven their demands with weapons, see Kurds).

Accusations of corruption have been made against the AKP’s higher strata (see Calendar). The president’s new palace outside Ankara with far away thousands of rooms has cost large sums and led to comparisons with how Ottoman sultans wasted the treasury on luxury, including the palace buildings, during the 19th century. It was when prosecutors related to the minister Gülen began investigating charges against the circuit close to the president that the cooperation between the two Islamist movements AKP and the Gülen movement broke down (see Religion and Political system). On Transparency International’s list of corruption rates in the world in 2019, Turkey was ranked 91 out of 180, see list here. The investment was worse than the year before.

Freedom of expression and media

Canan Kaftancıoğlu, Istanbul’s politician for the secular party CHP, is one of those who felt that punishment threatens the person who “insults” the president and the state. In her case, it is criticism of the government via Twitter that led to the trial. cultural heritage, is another (see Calendar) In Kavala’s case, the European Court of Human Rights, as well as individual organizations, has stated that he was persecuted because he opposed President Erdogan’s political rhetoric, which ignites conflicts in society.

Mass media is also not free in the same way as in Western Europe. Freedom of the press was limited since before, and several editorials have in recent years been closed down by authorities or put under forced management with new, government-led management. After the attempted coup in 2016, the state took control of the news reporting. 45 magazines were closed since the authorities triggered a clap-hunt on the media, mainly press related to the Gülen movement.

According to the EU, Turkish law has a sweeping definition of “terrorism”, which makes no distinction between political views and the use of force. President Erdoğan has been accused of trivializing the term by calling virtually all critics “traitors” or “terrorists”. Anyone who questions the war against the PKK or advocates a Kurdish state risks prosecution. Nor can it be said that Armenians were subjected to genocide during the First World War. Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk is one of the voices the state has tried to silence with the notorious section 301 of the Criminal Code, which is aimed at the person who insults government bodies or “Turkish” (2008 changed to “the Turkish nation”).

On such grounds, the authorities also intervene in the media. The Zaman newspaper, which supported the president’s opponents in the Gülen movement, and the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet (the country’s oldest) have been arraigned on staff by arrests and trials. Newspaper deaths following the coup attempt also hit Özgür Gündem, the country’s first daily newspaper devoted entirely to Kurdish issues, and liberal Taraf, who made himself known for digging journalism with the cape aimed at power holders.

Media that is not directly or indirectly under state control is characterized by self-censorship.

A 2019 report from the think tank Seta, which is close to the government, effectively lists a number of journalists working for foreign media.

In 1991, a ban on publishing books and newspapers in Kurdish was lifted, but Kurdish-language newspapers remained censored, confiscated or banned. Following the coup attempt in 2016, the authorities’ actions were sharpened.

In 2019, the international press organization IPI stated that 155 journalists and media executives were imprisoned. In Reporters Without Borders ranking for 2020, Turkey was placed 154 out of 180, see list here.

Many internet sites are blocked, for example, it hit Wikipedia from spring 2017 to early 2020. In 2018, a law was passed that gave the etheric media agency RTUK the power to stop broadcasting via the internet. Those responsible for a platform must apply for permission and could also be forced to remove content. The news site Bianet, which made itself known to monitor human rights issues, was blocked in 2019 by court decisions. “National security” was invoked.

Ethermediebolaget TRT has admitted that since 2016 there is a list of over 200 songs that must not be played. The ban is motivated by the tunes conveying bad ideals to children and young people, encouraging the use of alcohol and tobacco or spreading terror propaganda. Among the songs, both Turkish and Kurdish, are recordings with famous artists such as Demet Akalın, Sıla and Bengü.

Judicial system and legal security

Turkey has been convicted by the European Court of Human Rights several thousand times (subordinate to the Council of Europe). Most commonly, the defendant has not received a fair trial. The Court has also criticized the state for not properly investigating reports of abusive treatment of prisoners and suspected criminals.

The Constitutional Court has long held a strong position as a defender of the secular state. In 2008, the ruling party AKP with a hair moan escaped being declared illegal. Since then, the influence of democratically elected bodies on the court has increased – and the judiciary has been transformed into a tool for the AKP. This has become clear during the purges that gained momentum after the coup attempt in 2016. With the help of laws passed shortly before the coup attempt, the judicial system was restructured and the government was given new opportunities to appoint politically loyal judges. With the presidential board since 2018, there are new rules for the committee that appoints, or dismisses, staff in the judiciary: the president and parliament jointly appoint four members and the parliament appoints another seven.

Turkey is criticized for using Interpol police cooperation for political purposes by calling on regime critics internationally to risk being arrested. In 2017, Swedish-Turkish writer Hamza Yalcin was arrested in Spain during a vacation trip. Only after a month was he released. Different thinking – not only PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, but in recent years also supporters of the Gülen movement – has been brought home from other countries by the Turkish security service (see Calendar).

After the coup attempt in 2016, Amnesty International, among other things, raised the alarm that the arrested were subjected to torture – an accusation that used to be aimed at the Turkish military dictatorships.

The death penalty was abolished in 2002 for crimes committed in peacetime, in 2004 it was abolished completely. The abolition was a condition for Turkey to start negotiating membership in the EU. As the coup attempt was defeated in 2016 and an offensive against the PKK guerrilla escalated, the possibility of reintroducing the death penalty began to be debated.

Military courts were abolished by the constitutional amendments that came into force in 2018.

Turkey Crime Rate & Statistics



Setback for the Kurdish initiative

The government’s “Kurdish initiative” is threatened by the Constitutional Court banning the Kurdish party DTP for alleged links with the guerrilla PKK. Two of its leading representatives, Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk, are banned from politics for five years. The other MPs are moving to the new Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).


The government promises peace with the Kurds

Erdoğan gives an emotional speech in Parliament on a solution to the Kurdish problem. Unspecified reforms are being considered. The government says it wants to include as large a part of Kurdish society as possible in its “democratic opening”.


PKK announces ceasefire

The Kurdish PKK guerrilla announces unilateral ceasefire and says it wants to give the government an opportunity to resolve the conflict politically. PKK is believed to be strengthened by DTP’s success in the local elections in March.