Step up the pressure on Turkey

21 July 2017

Step up the pressure on Turkey

On Wednesday I received an answer from the government to eleven questions concerning the arrest of the head of Amnesty International and nine other human rights activists in Turkey. The government condemns the arrests and is currently preparing a common response with the rest of the European Union. In the recent past, on the SP’s initiative, the government has argued in favour of suspending Turkey’s ‘pre-accession aid’, the EU’s contribution to the country as it prepares itself for eventual membership. They are now repeating this demand, so it’s both striking and disappointing that the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs is not demanding the immediate release of these prisoners.

By Sadet Karabulut

Germany has gone much further than has the Dutch government, probably encouraged by the approaching elections. The Turkish ambassador has been called to account and more political steps have been threatened should Turkey not repent. In addition, there have been indirect threats of a tourist boycott from a German minister. What further measures may follow is yet to be seen, but in the meantime it’s clear that lip service isn’t sufficient.

The arrest of the nine activists, one of whom is German, is a frontal attack on human rights, an attack of the kind which the Turkish regime has been conducting for many years against all forms of opposition. Kurdish towns razed to the ground, MPs from the left Kurdish HDP imprisoned now for almost a year, newspapers closed down and journalists arrested, 150,000 civil servants sacked: the list of serious violations of people’s rights is too long to give here in full.

The EU and the Netherlands should really have already taken political measures. Sure, an ambassador has been carpeted; and yes, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, with the elections behind him, has drawn a line, but for domestic consumption; certainly the condemnations have grown more strident; and of course we have a problem with the Turkish regime. But measures capable of putting Turkey under pressure, measures compatible with the values for which the Netherlands claims to stand, values which at EU level are known as the Copenhagen Criteria, remain to be taken. .

It appears that the last few weeks have seen the interim cabinet (‘interim’ because the inconclusive results of March’s elections have thus far made it impossible for anyone to form a government, so the old one stays for the moment in office) actively pursuing ‘normalisation’ of relations. There is nothing I’d like more than to have, out of solidarity, normal relations with all those Turks who, despite the difficult conditions, continue to write, speak out and fight for freedom and democracy. It’s just that the circumstances are abnormal. By acting as if they were indeed normal, you won’t change these circumstances but instead sell out democratic values and human rights.

Erdogan’s regime finds itself in a tight corner and is thus taking some unusual measures. It is extremely sensitive when it comes to its trade relations with EU countries. Clear political steps, such as the suspension of pre-accession aid and accession negotiations are needed as a means of exerting pressure. At the same time we must extend our solidarity, help and links with the political opposition, with parties such as the HDP and CHP in the Turkish Parliament. In this way we would not only be taking them seriously, but ourselves and our own population.

A policy based on the honouring of human rights, democracy, the rule of law and respect for minorities would then no longer be hollow rhetoric, but actual political practice.  

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