It was not too long ago that we were all expecting the Turkish state to be accepted into the European Union. While President Erdogan and his AKP party held a majority in government, the Turkish economy grew rapidly. But the stability and safety of the people, which was also included in their manifesto, has unfortunately not been seen through. The persecution of journalists, the war against the Kurds, and the dangerous security situation along the Syrian border has scared away foreign companies and thousands of tourists. Russia has also imposed sanctions and trade between the two unraveled after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet in November.
Throughout the years, allegations of Erdogan's power madness has always been present. It was especially evident during the Turkish elections not too long ago. Naturally, Erdogan's party was anticipating to have a complete AKP government as it had campaigned for. This did not happen, as the pro-Kurdish party HDP made it into Parliament and AKP’s dreams of having its own Sultan rule were destroyed. However, we now know that was no obstacle for Erdogan, as he re-launched the election shortly after to regain votes. The plan to run another election occurred alongside attempts to throw his own country into turmoil and chaos, to turn the people against the HDP through scaremongering and then, hopefully, win the election. HDP was presented as a party founded on a violent ideology and the Turkish government put a blanket of fear over civilians as they kept promoting the idea of terrorist threats in Turkey being the direct result of the election of HDP into the government.
Over time, Turkey has transformed from a vacation paradise for many into a cold-blooded country on which IS (Islamic State) wreaks havoc freely; the conflict with the PKK has escalated again, in which Kurdish civilians are being killed, singled out as terrorists and executed without trial or evidence. Recently, the attacks against the Kurdish population have been ruthless and barbaric. The affected civilians in this supposedly progressive country has only been the minority population – which are mostly the Kurds.
Mere days ago, the country’s Parliament voted to strip pro-Kurdish politicians of their immunity from prosecution, which could pave the way to trials for the president’s political foes. Erdogan has accused representatives of supporting the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). He is expected to sign the move into law almost immediately, dealing a significant blow to his opponents. He just recently stated:
"It's a historic vote. My people do not want to see guilty criminals in this Parliament."
It was only around 20 years ago, during the 1990s, that the then Turkish government also removed immunities and prosecuted four Kurdish politicians. History is repeating itself while the world sits and watches each time. However, Erdogan is not speaking on behalf of the entire Turkish population, as I have met and seen many young Turks who support the Kurds in the region. Not all support the authoritarian ways and excuses of their president’s attempts to stop Kurds from gaining basic human rights.
HDP’s two leaders, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, now face possible prosecution for making statements last year in support of calls for Kurdish self-rule in south-eastern Turkey. In terms of ‘self-rule’, Demirtas was referring to the idea that an autonomous region in the South East could help relations and reduce conflict – as was the case in Iraq. However, it is now being labelled as ‘inciting hatred’ and ‘supporting a terrorist group.’ To some it may be justified, and to others it becomes clear how far they will go to try and alienate Kurdish people from politics. This entire fascistic move is widely seen as targeting only the pro-Kurdish, Peoples' Democratic Party.
There is also something really unpleasant in the relationship between Europe and Turkey. The country's unpredictable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has now also made it clear that he refuses to change the country's terrorism laws, which the EU demanded should be addressed. In Turkey, both journalists and human rights activists are sentenced for terrorism if they bring the country's assault on minorities into the spotlight. It is something that often happens – Turkey has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world. Erdogan also becomes increasingly authoritarian and provokes an ongoing low-intensity civil war in the south-eastern provinces.
Turkey systematically violates human rights and Amnesty International recently revealed that Syrian refugees are being forced to return to Syria. Nevertheless, the EU for some time has had an agreement with Turkey in which they play the role of border guard – and in this role people fleeing to Europe are sent back to where they came from. An amendment to the terror laws is a requirement of the EU to grant Turkey visa-free travel to Europe. Visa freedom is, in turn, Erdogan's prerequisite for stopping the refugees. Turkey is among one of the countries that have received the most Syrian refugees so far and the EU have given millions and millions to Turkey to prevent the refugees getting to Europe. The refugee crisis has become the EU's excuse of obscuring the serious human rights violations taking place in Turkey, such as those reported by Amnesty International. The fear of having to accept even more refugees seems to be more important than the quality of life of refugees fleeing persecution on grounds of ethnicity, political opinion and more. We are speaking of refugees as if they are objects, objects for us in the West to control, limit and toss around as we wish.
The EU’s desperation in stopping the increasing flow of refugees to Europe suggests its moral compass has malfunctioned. The EU has entered into an agreement with Turkey and given it a huge financial contribution for dealing with the refugee situation at home and, at the same time, to prevent people from coming to Europe. How the EU’s financial contributions are used by the Turkish state however is highly questionable and my fear is that my country of residence, Sweden, is now also guilty of the crimes and hideous war taking place against civilians, refugees and minorities. In remaining complacent, the EU is guilty too in Turkey's crimes and they are putting blood on our hands too – it is, after all, our tax paying money that is used to fund Turkey.
I may be passionate in writing this article but the events that have been mentioned within it are all factual. If I was a journalist in Turkey, I would be thrown into jail like other journalists and activists, and it would not be because what I say is not true, but only because I dared to expose and criticise the government’s actions. And what consequences do these actions have in the long run? What message does the constant persecution of Kurds in politics send to the rest of the population? Such clear blockades of human rights, such as freedom of speech, will only alienate the Kurdish population further and lead the country into even more conflict and distress.