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EU Accused of Ignoring Human Rights in Turkey

  • Dorian Jones

FILE - Wrecked boats and thousands of life jackets used by refugees and migrants during their journey across the Aegean sea lie in a dump in Mithimna, Greece, Feb. 19, 2016.

FILE - Wrecked boats and thousands of life jackets used by refugees and migrants during their journey across the Aegean sea lie in a dump in Mithimna, Greece, Feb. 19, 2016.

The leader of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party has accused the European Union of ignoring the deteriorating human rights situation in the country in a bid to secure a migrant deal with Ankara.

As the EU looks for cooperation from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stem the growing number of migrants entering Greece from his country, potential human rights abuses are being overlooked, according to Selahattin Demirtas, the head of the People's Democratic Party in Turkey.

As Turkey seeks to join the EU, the EU is obliged to confront Turkey over its human rights record, Demirtas said. However, he added, European diplomats and political leaders have told him that the EU needs Erdogan, so they are failing to confront him on his record so as not to make him angry.

Demirtas declined to specify names, saying the comments occurred in what he called closed-door meetings.

Human rights groups

His allegations come as Turkish security forces continue a major crackdown against the PKK, the Kurdish rebel group, in towns and cities across Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast.

FILE - A women and her children stand in the ruins of battle-damaged house in the Kurdish town of Silopi, in southeastern Turkey, near the border with Iraq on January 19, 2016.

FILE - A women and her children stand in the ruins of battle-damaged house in the Kurdish town of Silopi, in southeastern Turkey, near the border with Iraq on January 19, 2016.

Human rights groups say nearly 200 civilians, including children, have been killed by fighting that has forced tens of thousands from their homes — and many more to live under a 24-hour lockdown.

Andrew Gardner, an Amnesty International Turkey researcher, says there is a worrying international silence over the situation.

"The situation internationally has been very disappointing in terms of the international community really turning a blind eye to the serious abuses that have been going on in the southeast of Turkey," Gardner said.

Despite such concerns, Brussels has unfrozen Ankara's bid to join the European Union. The bid has been blocked, in part, because of human rights concerns. Turkey is demanding further progress in its membership bid in exchange for cooperation over the migrants.

Additional concerns

Concerns over human rights in Turkey deepened further Friday, with a court seizure of the country's best-selling Zaman newspaper. Zaman was one of the last mainstream papers critical of the government and the president.

The court has given no reason for its decision. French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault says the seizure is unacceptable, and a pluralist media is a European standard.

Observers say that, while the move against Zaman may be embarrassing for Europe's leaders, it is unlikely to get in the way of its courting of Turkey's leaders. Last year, a world press freedom index by rights group Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 149th out of 180 countries.

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