News / Europe

Turkey's 'Anti-Terror' Law Casts Increasingly Wide Net

FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Dorian Jones
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's democratic reform package is facing criticism following the Justice Ministry's revelation that 20,000 people have been convicted under the country's anti-terrorism law during the last four years, 8,000 of whom were jailed just in the last 12 months. Most of them, including journalists and members of the country's legal Kurdish party, were jailed for non-violent offenses.
 
Turkey’s anti-terror law is facing growing national and international criticism. The law was introduced in 1991 to counter an insurgency by the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. But concerns have been growing that the law is increasingly used to target critics of the government.

Emma Sinclair Webb, senior researcher on Turkey for the U.S.-based organization Human rights Watch, says there has been an alarming increase in the use of the anti-terror law.
 
"According to official figures of the Justice Ministry, in the last four years an enormous number of people - somewhere around 40,000 - have been prosecuted for membership of armed organizations, and half of them have received convictions under that law. Now it applies disproportionately to Kurds in Turkey, but it also applies to other groups: it has been used against leftists, it has been used against journalists, students, for activities which could not in any way be counted as terrorism," said Webb.

The failure to reform the law in last month’s government democracy package was criticized domestically and internationally. Richard Howitt, a British member of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs and human rights committees, said the Turkish government had missed a "key opportunity" to change the anti-terror law.  Adding to those concerns, the anti-terror law is now being used against those involved in last June’s anti government protests.  The European Union’s annual progress report released this week strongly criticized Turkey over freedom of expression and assembly, and called for legal and judicial reform.

In launching his democracy package, Prime Minister Erdogan tacitly acknowledged its shortcomings by acknowledging the need for further reforms.

"These reforms will never be the last and there will be other reforms to enhance freedom and democracy in Turkey. Opposition parties are trying to exploit the sensitivities and fears of the people over the reforms," said Erdogan.

Observers say these popular sensitivities are especially important given the local, presidential and general elections scheduled to take place in Turkey over the next 18 months.

The image of being weak on terrorism is unlikely to win votes among the ruling AK Party’s core constituents, according to Cengiz Aktar, a political columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf.

"The prime minister, like every other politician, wants to stay in power. He thinks the only solid constituency he can gain votes from is Turkish nationalist voters," said Aktar.

The thousands of members of Turkey’s legal pro-Kurdish Party, the BDP, would be among the main beneficiaries of any reform of the anti-terror law. The BDP claims over 6,000 of its members are being held under the law, including dozens of mayors. Their release is a key demand of the PKK as part of the Kurdish rebel group's peace talks with the government. But those talks are currently stalled.

According to international human rights groups, the anti-terror law is the reason why Turkey is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists. Award-winning journalist Ahmet Şık, who is facing 15 years in jail under the law, says it is a threat to democracy in Turkey.
 
"We live in a time in which students demanding free education are immediately labeled as terrorists. Journalists are also seen as terrorists. There is an incredible regime of suppression, he says: whoever raises their voice in opposition can be imprisoned on terrorism charges," said Şık.

The government rejects such criticism, insisting that it has introduced unprecedented democratic reforms during its decade in power. But observers warn that the voices of journalists like Şık, who addressed the European Parliament last year, are expected to weigh heavily on EU leaders next month, when they are expected to decide whether or not to put Turkey’s membership bid back on track.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mazhar Efendi from: Cleveland, Ohio
October 21, 2013 7:28 AM
US Foreign Service: Please do not accept placement of your new embassy on grounds stolen from the Ataturk Orman Ciftligi. Please stop your support for this or any related group purporting to be moderate Islam. You nurture false champions of the concept, mercenaries that run counter to your core values. They are a horse of a different color. Best Regards.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs