SP Members of Parliament in Turkey for talks on human rights

11 March 2012

SP Members of Parliament in Turkey for talks on human rights

On Friday, SP Members of Parliament Harry van Bommel and Sadet Karabulut began a short working visit to Turkey. In Diyarbakir, Tunceli and Istanbul they will hold talks on recent developments in the country with human rights organisations, lawyers, trade unions, politicians and others. Their principle source of concern is the oppression of the Kurdish people. After several years of overtures to the Kurds the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is once again coming down hard in reaction to their aspirations for autonomy.

According to Order of Lawyers Secretary Devrim Barisbaran, when it comes to the rule of law things in Turkey are moving in entirely the wrong direction. “A statement from Erdoğan illustrates this,” he says. “He said that, if necessary, it’s best if you can now and again simply step outside the law. In Turkey this doesn’t stop with words. Demonstrators are repeatedly arrested in droves, often for doing know more than making the ‘V’ for Victory sign. They receive discriminatory punishments, with stiffer sentences for Kurds. Lawyers are arrested because they are defending Kurdish suspects. Children are tortured and may even suffer rape in overcrowded prisons.” Barisbaran’s conclusion is extremely gloomy: “The law has lost its independence and become a weapon in the hands of the ruling power.”

The message from the management committee of the Democratic People’s Congress is the same. The Democratic People’s Congress, a movement which organises people from all sectors of Kurdish society, and in which Members of Parliament, professors and artists participate, has thrown itself in recent times into the task of being the voice of the entire Kurdish community. Though it has neither direct power nor any kind of budget, the People’s Congress is an important moral authority, attempting to push through change from below by involving the people in decision-making and by involving itself emphatically in the public debate. Just like the Order of Lawyers, the People’s Congress has to contend with serious, harsh opposition from the government. By its own account, half of its management committee has been arrested by the Turkish authorities.

The Turkish human rights union IHD, which documents abuses of human rights in the country, is also under fire. The head of its office in Diyarbakir has been behind bars for two years and during the same period the office has been raided by the Turkish authorities and all of its computers and other data taken away, according to deputy chief Mr Racibicici, the last occasion being just two weeks ago. From 2006 human rights abuses in the south east of the country have been on the rise, and the 2011 annual report on such abuses in the region runs to more than 40,000 pages, Racibicici says. Amongst those he emphasises are the treatment of sick prisoners in overcrowded Turkish jails. More than a hundred could be in mortal danger, but any aid is denied them. Terminally ill prisoner are never allowed to return home to die amongst family and friends.

The Order of Lawyers, the Democratic People’s Congress and the IHD see in addition to this rapid retrogression within Turkey a weakening of international interest in Turkey in general and in particular in the Kurdish question. They call for a stronger international stand against this injustice in Turkey, a call for which in the discussion Van Bommel and Karabulut promised their support, as well as committing themselves on their return to the Netherlands to contact Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in order to put this promise into practice.

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