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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs