Tens of thousands of Turks are marching from Ankara to Istanbul in an attempt to fight the rise of illiberal populism and defend democratic values, opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu writes for The Guardian.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament on Thursday asked for Turkey’s European Union accession talks to be suspended if Ankara implements a constitutional overhaul, backed by a referendum in April, which expands the powers of President Tayyip Erdogan, Reuters adds:
The Venice Commission, a panel of legal experts from the Council of Europe, a rights body to which Turkey belongs, warned in March ahead of Turkey’s referendum that the proposed constitutional shakeup represented a “dangerous step backwards” for democracy.
The European Parliament has advised the EU to freeze accession talks amid growing concerns over the country’s human rights and democracy.
Ten human rights defenders detained on July 5, 2017, in Istanbul on alleged suspicion of membership of an armed organization should be released immediately, Human Rights Watch said today:
Turkish police detained the group of prominent activists at a hotel on the island of Büyükada in Istanbul, where they were attending a workshop on protecting the work of human rights defenders. The activists were subsequently taken to various police stations, and lawyers told Human Rights Watch the rights defenders are under investigation for membership of an armed organization, though there is no information on any evidence against them.
“Detaining some of Turkey’s leading rights activists at a training workshop is a repressive new low for the Turkish state,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Turkish government should ensure their immediate and unconditional release and provide a public explanation of why it is investigating them as members of a terrorist organization.”
A second senior official with Amnesty International, the leading human rights watchdog, has been detained in Turkey in the space of a month, The New York Times reports.
One year after the failed coup of July 15, 2016, Turkey is in crisis, The Washington Institute adds:
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used the post-coup crackdown on the junta plotters to cast a wide net over his opponents, from leftists to seculars and Kurdish nationalists. Yet the country is deeply polarized in its perception of Erdogan: he is either blindly loved or completely loathed. Furthermore, this crisis is shaping not only Turkey’s role as a U.S. ally against the Islamic State in Syria but also its ties to NATO, Russia, and the EU.
To discuss the foreign policy implications of a divided Turkey, The Washington Institute will host a Policy Forum with:
Omer Taspinar is a professor of national security strategy at the National War College, focusing on the political economy of Europe, the Middle East, and Turkey. Formerly a foreign policy fellow and director of the Turkey Program at the Brookings Institution, he is also an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies. He is the author of Kurdish Nationalism and Political Islam in Turkey: Kemalist Identity in Transition (Routledge, 2005).
James F. Jeffrey is the Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute and former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Iraq, and Albania. He also served as assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration, and as principal deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
Soner Cagaptay is the Institute’s Beyer Family Fellow and director of its Turkish Research Program. He appears regularly in U.S. and foreign media outlets, including Fox News, CNN-Turk, the BBC, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Jane’s Defense Weekly. His much-acclaimed recent book, The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey, assesses how Erdogan has cemented his rule over the years at great cost to his country’s stability and democratic future.