May 20, 2015

TCRP report: Violations of human rights on rise in Turkey

A human rights report recently released by the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), one of the most prominent civil society organizations in the US, has said violations of human rights and democracy in Turkey are on the rise and that democracy is regressing in the country.

The think tank's director, James C. Harrington, emphasized that Turkey has been experiencing subtle and incremental degradations of democratic rights and procedures in recent years and said, “President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, almost single-handedly, has reversed the course of Turkey's forward trajectory.”

Harrington pointed out that nongovernmental organizations such as Kimse Yok Mu, a Turkish charity, should not be targeted by the political authority for political purposes. He spoke highly of Kimse Yok Mu and said: “Established in 2002, Kimse Yok Mu is one of the world's most respected humanitarian aid programs and ranks within the top 100 of the world's nongovernment organizations. It has consultative status with the United Nations [ECOSOC] and a $71 million annual budget.”

Harrington underlined that the organization serves the needy irrespective of their faith and said in his report that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has been making it considerably more difficult for Kimse Yok Mu to operate and respond in time to natural calamities around the world, and has harassed the foundation with a “terrorism” investigation and extreme inspections by regulatory authorities.

The report also included Harrington's thoughts on Turkey's authoritarian regime and said: “Through authoritarian rule, Erdoğan essentially has seized power, overriding the nation's constitution. As the suppression of journalists, civil society leaders, and his political opponents crescendos, Erdoğan is proving in spades Lord Acton's maxim that ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' Such is the risk of the poison of power.”

Harrington said many people from the Hizmet movement, also known as the Gülen movement, and other civil society organizations have been working hard to bring Turkey to where it had been just five years ago, and commented on the future of Turkey: “How much democracy grows in Turkey from here on out is very problematic. The only star on the horizon, faint though it be, is made up of all those people pushing back against the authoritarianism of the government.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 19 May 2015, Tuesday