Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği, İHD) was founded on July 17, 1986 by 98 individuals. The founders included inmates’ families, intellectuals, authors, journalists, publishers, academics, lawyers, physicians, architects, engineers, and teachers. We remember our founders who have passed away with love and gratitude.
İHD has been speaking out that Turkey has a democracy and human rights problem and has been struggling for the the eradication of this problem since July 17, 1986, the day it was founded. The most significant reason why the democracy and human rights problem in Turkey has still been persisting is the insistence upon a policy that maintains the official ideology of the state. This ideology is based on a state-based/oriented form of Turkish ethnicity and Sunni Islam. It denies other ethnic and belief groups other than these. As the peace and resolution process of 2013-2015 failed, in other words, as no genuine conflict resolution could be achieved, an environment of armed conflict and war was witnessed once again; and consequently, those who supported the official ideology and the current political power have leant towards a more authoritarian regime in order to survive. Turkey has steered towards a more authoritarian regime with the Constitutional amendment referendum held on April 16, 2017. Moreover, this referendum was held under the State of Emergency conditions. Turkey has moved over to a new regime as a result of the June 24, 2018 elections again held under SoE conditions that have been going on non-stop since July 20, 2016. Findings on manipulation in this election and the legal infrastructure that formed a basis for such manipulation will prove to be controversial issues for a long time. This is a regime based on the single-handed administration of a one-man heavily characterized by an anti-democratic attitude. Coining a term for this regime is not a matter of the present. We can, however, state that it is beyond doubt that the character of the regime is anti-democratic.
Global developments have also contributed to the slide of the regime to a more authoritarian point in Turkey. The crisis brought about by capitalism has impelled states to adopt more protective economic policies and more authoritarian tendencies. Under such an environment, international bodies have not been able to take the necessary preventive measures towards such countries as Turkey that slid towards more authoritarian governments. For instance, the Council of Europe was initially a mere spectator to the fact that SoE was declared 4 days after July 15, 2016 despite the military coup d’état was quenched and the fundamental rights were completely suspended in Turkey. The Council resolved to implement a political monitoring process after 8 months but did not take the necessary steps in that direction. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, too, has not been able to act against gross human rights and humanitarian law violations caused by Turkey’s military campaigns both at home and in Syria and Iraq. All these incidents have rendered it easier for governments to become more authoritarian not only in Turkey but in many countries as well. Capitalist modernity has become incapable of protecting the very human rights system it founded. Developments in the world stand testimony to the fact that human rights are being instrumentalized.
There are an ample number of issues to be mentioned with regards to the deteriorating state of democracy and human rights in Turkey. We would, however, like to offer some significant recommendations and requests in our 32nd anniversary wrought with a continuous struggle for human rights.
- Turkey needs to achieve a genuine conflict resolution and confront its past in order to become a democratic country. Turkey needs a novel peace process that would acknowledge and solve the Kurdish problem. Moreover, a new political will, which will accept the human rights pleas of all otherized segments, notably the right to equal citizenship by Alevis, is called for.
- Turkey is also in need of a new and democratic Constitution alongside with a genuine conflict resolution. Amendments to the ’82 Constitution, devised by plotters, will not be able to offer any kind of remedy unless a new and democratic Constitution is penned. The conspicuous feature of the current amendments referred to as the Presidency Government Model is the fact that they boil down to an anti-democratic one-man administration.
- Freedom of expression is constituent of democracy. Freedom of expression should be secured by any means necessary in order to open the path to democracy. It is not possible to lead the way to democracy unless the rights to freedom of expression and press are guaranteed.
- The recent elections held within the last two years have also revealed that there remains a strong public opposition for democracy and human rights in Turkey. Democratization in Turkey can be achieved through social struggle if the public opposition undertakes a collaborative struggle based on the principle of democracy and human rights on the largest encompassing base. We, as human rights defenders, are engaged in this struggle.
- When the political history of Turkey is taken into consideration, the fact that the suspension of the struggle for the construction of a parliamentarian system and democratization that has been maintained since the Ottoman State by the single-handed administration of a one-man is a major setback. The political power needs to admit that it cannot maintain the official ideology in this way and needs to confront its problems like any developed country. Turkey’s problems can be solved within a democratic system in this regard. It is not possible for an 81-million strong country, which lacks the principle of separation of powers and where democracy is not truly established, to solve its problems with a rather strict and authoritarian regime.
- The significance of the principle of separation of powers manifests itself dramatically in an independent and impartial judiciary. It is not possible for justice to be served without a judicial structure in line with the principle of the rule of law.
- One of the most important problems in Turkey is the failure to disband in-state gangs. Following the counter-guerilla reality, the fact that the Fethullah Gülen organization has not revealed its existence within the state until the failed military coup attempt puts forth the magnitude of the danger at hand. A democratic government, however, is essential in order to prevent the formation of new illegal organizations to replace the ones that have been disbanded. Furthermore, the policy and culture of impunity should be put to an end and the protection of public officers who have committed offenses should be renounced.
- Setbacks in economic and social rights that came along with authoritarianism are on the rise. This persistence on authoritarianism is also in effect in order not to extend workers and laborers their rights. The struggle for economic and social rights should increasingly be taken on in this period.
- The right to promote human rights of human rights defenders and İHD -that have significantly contributed to the development of human rights awareness and culture in Turkey- should be acknowledged. The policy of exerting pressure on human rights defenders through the judiciary should be put to an end.
- The political power has announced that it would not extend but lift the SoE that has been going on for about 2 years now. But there are concerns regarding the fact that the SoE would become permanent through a legislative proposal introduced at the Assembly. 32 Emergency Decree Laws issued and thousands of amendments that took effect in hundreds of law articles during the SoE should be reviewed and the permanent SoE regime should be abandoned. It should be remembered that those that suffer during the SoE are purely and simply the fundamental rights and freedoms, and individuals who are supposed to enjoy these rights.
The 32-year-old struggle of human rights defenders under the umbrella of İHD will increasingly continue with demands for freedom, equality, justice, and peace based on human dignity and Turkey’s struggle to have a democratic regime will be maintained.
Human Rights Association