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  •  Demonstrators raise their chained hands during a protest over the arrest of journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul in Ankara, Turkey, on Nov. 27, 2015.

    Demonstrators raise their chained hands during a protest over the arrest of journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul in Ankara, Turkey, on Nov. 27, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 March 2018
Opinion

According to the United Nations report, "Routine extensions of the state of emergency in Turkey have led to profound human rights violations."

The United Nations on Tuesday called for Turkey to end its 20-month-old state of emergency, stemming from the July 2016 failed coup attempt against Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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The report spanning 2017, accused Ankara of mass arrests, arbitrary sackings, and other abuses, which in some cases amounted to "collective punishment," adding that there was a "continued erosion of the rule of law and deterioration of the human rights situation."

According to the U.N. report, "Routine extensions of the state of emergency in Turkey have led to profound human rights violations against hundreds of thousands of people." 

The report also referred to nearly 100,000 websites, many pro-Kurdish websites, and satellite television channels, which were blocked in Turkey in 2017. It also documented the use of torture and other ill-treatment in custody, listing severe beatings, threats of sexual assault and actual sexual assault, electric shocks, and waterboarding.

"One of the most alarming findings of the report is how Turkish authorities reportedly detained some 100 women who were pregnant or had just given birth, mostly on the grounds that they were 'associates' of their husbands, who are suspected of being connected to terrorist organizations," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein U.N. Human Rights Council chief, said in a statement. "The numbers are just staggering: nearly 160,000 people arrested during an 18-month state of emergency." 

The report pointed out nearly 300 journalists had been arrested on the grounds that their publications contained "apologist sentiments regarding terrorism" among other changes.

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In addition, he pointed to the "152,000 civil servants dismissed, many totally arbitrarily, teachers, judges, and lawyers dismissed or prosecuted, journalists arrested, media outlets shut down and websites blocked."

"Clearly, the successive states of emergency declared in Turkey have been used to severely and arbitrarily curtail the human rights of a very large number of people," he said.

In late 2016, the Turkish president imprisoned the left-wing Turkish author and politician, Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtas.  In January 2017, Turkey's state prosecutor announced that it was seeking a 142-year jail sentence for Demirtas.  

While in prison, Demirtas penned a compelling short story, 'Aleppo Mince,' detailing the violence in southeast Turkey, with a majority of Kurds in the region.  

The journalists, Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay, were arrested in the wake of the failed July 2016 coup. 

The European Court of Human Rights has also condemned Turkey's decision of detaining the two journalists, citing violations of their right to freedom of expression and liberty.  

"The court found in particular that Mr. Alpay's continued pre-trial detention... could not be regarded as 'lawful' and 'in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law,'" it said in a statement. 

Responding to the U.N. human rights violations report on the country, Turkey called it  "biased" and "unacceptable." 

Turkey's foreign ministry cried foul, saying the U.N. report is meant "to stifle any form of criticism or dissent vis-a-vis the government." 

Despite detailed accounts of human rights violations used by the U.N. in its report, the foreign ministry in Ankara said, "[The report] contains unfounded allegations matching up perfectly with the propaganda efforts of terrorist organizations."

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