Erdoğan’s Democracy and the situation in Turkey

The crackdown continues in Turkey

On 12 November 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered the suspension of 370 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on suspicion of links to terrorist organizations and of being a threat to the nation. According to deputy prime-minister Numan Kurtulmus’ declarations, “Turkey has to fight terrorism on so many different fronts. We are trying to clear the State institutions from Gulenists. At the same time we are fighting against Kurdish militants and Islamic State.”

This situation comes a few days after European Union Commissioner Johannes Hahn said that the country “is certainly not heading in the European direction” after the escalation of violence prompted by actions of Erdoğan’s government.

The concerned NGOs are associations of lawyers, human rights organisations, organizations for the promotion of the Kurdish language, women’s rights associations, or refugee support groups. According to the Turkish Government, 153 of the 370 groups are suspected of having ties to the Fethullah Gülen movement; 190 are linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK, classified as a terrorist organisation); 19 to a left-wing extremist group; and eight associated with Daesh.

The European Parliament’s stance

On 22 November 2016, Manfred Weber, head of the European People’s Party, said that “our message to Turkey is very clear: accession negotiations should be frozen immediately.” Gianni Pitella, leader of the Socialist group, mentioned similarly that “we want to freeze the accession talks.” Following these declarations and the support shown by countries such as Austria and Luxembourg in canceling talks with Ankara EU accession, Binali Yildirim stressed that “cutting off ties with Europe would harm Turkey, but it would damage Europe 5-to-6 times more.”

After 479 Members of the European Parliament voted in favour of halting the long-term membership negotiations with Turkey,  Erdoğan warned the EU: “If you go any further, these border gates will be opened. Neither me nor my people will be affected by these dry threats. It wouldn’t matter if all of you approved the vote” pointing out that “we have made clear time and time again that we take care of European values more than many EU countries.” Turkey is, allegedly, home to 2.7 million Syrian and 300,000 Iraqis.

Child abuse controversy

Also in late November, Turkey has been embroiled in controversy over child abuse. A legislative proposal, developed by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), “would have allowed sentencing to be indefinitely postponed in cases of sexual abuse committed ‘without force, threat or deception’ before Nov. 16, 2016, if the perpetrator married the victim.” Both the opposition and civil society organizations have campaigned for the proposal to be “entirely dropped.”

The aftermath of the attempted ‘coup’

Turkey suffered a failed coup on 15 July 2016 that opposed members of the armed forces to Erdoğan’s government. Ankara and Istanbul were the cities where the military attempted to control governmental institutions, claiming lack of secularism and democratic rule, as well as disrespect for human rights, and loss of Turkey’s credibility in the international sphere. Since then, Erdoğan has made a real purge: more than 125,000 people have already been fired, suspended or arrested, social networks – such as Twitter or Facebook – have been shut down several times, and Turks working abroad have been forced to return to the country (including students, professors, and members of the military).

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Photo by Kremlin / CC BY 4.0

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Mónica Canário

Research Assistant at CEI-IUL. Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, specialisation in International Relations (ISCTE-IUL).

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