Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. HereÔŅĹs how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Itís time to hold Erdogan accountable

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Thursday, 4 April 2024

It is time to hold Turkey's President Erdogan accountable for his egregious human rights violations and defiance of NATO's charter, which weakens the alliance and plays directly into the hands of Russia and China

It is hard to fathom why, over the past eight years since the failed military coup in 2016 in particular, Erdogan has and still is rampaging against his people and defying his Western allies with near impunity. What makes this even more absurd is that Turkey is a NATO member state, which requires all members to uphold democratic principles while fully adhering to its military doctrine and foreign policy that directly and indirectly impacts its unity and effectiveness. Western officials who have been asked this question often revert to the explanation that Turkey occupies a critical geostrategic location between East and West and is the energy hub for Europe and a bridge that plays a critical geopolitical role. In addition, Turkey is important to NATO as it hosts the bloc's long-range missile systems, and to US military operations in the Middle East, especially the strategic use of the Incirlik Air Base in Adana, close to the Syrian border.

Whereas some of these elucidations may have some merit, it is hard to square them with Erdogan's egregious human rights violations and abrogation of Western values, which he must uphold. To effect a change in his behavior, it is essential to first survey and put in context the litany of his egregious domestic and foreign transgressions and take the necessary measures that correspond to the scope of his misconduct.


Erdogan's human rights violations

Sadly, Erdogan's voracious lust for human rights violations seems to have no boundaries and transcends any scale of cruelty and brutality.

During the prolonged state of emergency that he imposed following the failed coup in 2016, there have been and continue to this day widespread human rights violations, which include arbitrary detentions, infringements of freedom of association and expression, violations of the right to work, and freedom of movement. In addition, he fired thousands of people, including public servants and teachers, and prosecuted journalists, often without adequate due process. Torture and ill-treatment became routine in police custody and prisons, which included severe beatings, sexual assault, and deprivation of sleep. To make matters worse, he detained human rights defenders and activists, intended to exert pressure on civil society groups and NGOs critical of him.

In addition, Erdogan detained thousands, accusing them, without any proof, of having links with terrorist organizations. He dismissed 150,000 from their jobs, falsely accusing them of affiliation with the Gülen movement, which Turkey alone considers a terrorist group, and also sought the extradition of Turkish citizens from other countries who are allegedly affiliated with the movement. He persecuted scores of academics, wrongly accusing them of spreading militant propaganda, and removed thousands of judges and prosecutors and replaced them with lackeys to do his bidding. And he led a witch hunt throughout the Turkish air force, accusing many officers of being Gülenists and behind the coup. He regularly bypasses legal procedures, and engages in enforced disappearances and illegal transfers. The extensive use of his emergency decrees has eroded the rule of law in Turkey, drastically limited civil society activities, and nurtured impunity.

Erdogan aggressively pursued those he perceived as critics, especially journalists, while blocking websites, media outlets, and general restrictions on the internet, with over 100,000 websites blocked, including many pro-Kurdish ones. In particular, Erdogan targeted the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which predominantly represents the Kurdish community, by shutting down the party and attacking the rights of millions of Kurdish voters, deliberately subverting parliamentary democracy.

ErdoÄŸan encouraged anti-LGBT speeches and social media posts by top government officials, which have become more common, and targets LGBT students, particularly on days like International Women's Day. In this connection, ErdoÄŸan withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, a treaty designed to protect women from violence and femicide. Finally, but certainly not exhaustively, Erdogan has systematically violated Turkey's substantial Kurdish community, using excessive force, torture, and violence against Kurdish women while destroying their housing and cultural heritage, which has become standard under his reign of terror.


Erdogan's defiance of his Western allies Since the failed coup, many contentious issues have strained the relationship between Turkey, NATO, and the United States, and there seems to be no sign that any of these conflicting issues can be mitigated as long as Erdogan is allowed to leverage Turkey's "unique" geostrategic importance to the West.

Erdogan's human rights abuses, democratic backsliding, and erosion of the rule of law in Turkey have been and remain significant causes of friction between the two sides, which in fact led the vast majority of EU states to reject the country's candidacy. Erdogan has also initiated foreign policies contrary to the alliance's military and political interests. Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system has been a primary source of tension, leading to US sanctions. This move was incompatible with Turkey's commitments as a NATO ally. Adding to that is that Turkey's military interventions in Syria and its forceful posture in the Eastern Mediterranean have often been at odds with US strategic interests in these regions. In that connection, the US support for Kurdish forces in Syria, which is seen as vital in the fight against ISIS, has infuriated Erdogan, who views the Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist group linked to the PKK.

Turkey's growing relationship with Russia, typified by the S-400 purchase, and its cautious stance toward China, particularly regarding the Uyghurs and cooperation in Syria, have been another source of constant friction and raised concerns in the US about Turkey's strategic alignment and commitment to NATO principles, which challenges the traditional dynamics within NATO and between the US and Turkey.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

2 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Alon Ben-Meir

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 2 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy