chapter  16
18 Pages

Human rights in Turkey


Although Turkey has been exposed to human rights language and claims for decades through its founding membership of the UN and its signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the European Convention of Human Rights, its human rights record has often been severely criticized on the grounds that these rights have not been fully enjoyed by its citizenry. Turkey’s human rights record was particularly poor in the 1990s, mostly owing to measures taken to combat the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, Kurdistan Worker’s Party)–the terrorist-guerrilla organization that launched a violent secessionist campaign in the South-East. Among such measures, the state of emergency which extended to cover 10 cities where the military and governors enjoyed immense powers, the establishment of the ‘village guards system’ and the Anti-Terror Law which contained severe restrictions on human rights and liberties were the most significant, paving the way for very serious human rights violations. In the period following 1999 when the PKK was militarily defeated and

the European Union (EU) accession perspective came into being, important steps have been taken to strengthen human rights and fundamental freedoms in Turkey. This article focuses on the state of human rights in Turkey in the period following the introduction of EU conditionality at the Helsinki Summit of December 1999, when Turkey was declared as an official candidate destined to join the EU. This chapter will first provide a brief account of the EU-induced reform process that accelerated in the 1999-2005 period. It will then shed light on the impact of the Union on various dimensions of human rights reform in Turkey, including the fight against torture, freedom of expression and of association, and the rights of minorities. The current state of affairs in these areas will be identified, followed by a discussion on the prospects of human rights reform in Turkey against the framework of the given structural constraints in the country, the current stalemate with the EU and the challenges posed by the low degree of socialization in the field of human rights, mainly through the medium of education policy.