Global Independent Analytics
Miray Aslan
Miray Aslan

Location: Turkey

Specialization: Media, Politics

THE REFUGEES AND THE KURDS

Why is EU turning a blind eye to Turkey's human rights violations?

Being a European Union bloc member was the most important matter for Turkey's foreign policy for years.  After Turkey had refused to recognize the Republic of Cyprus which is an EU bloc member,  Turkey's accession process to the EU bloc had been frozen. Since then nothing has changed with Turkey's attitude about Cyprus. But the  Syrian refugee crisis made Europeans ignore that and talk about an EU-Turkey relationship once again.

Clearly, Turkey is a transit corridor to Europe for refugees coming in from Syria. According to Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş, who is responsible for refugees, there are officially nearly 2.2 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey. However, there are also many unregistered Syrians who entered Turkey illegally. The refugees are suffering from a lack of medical care, lack of necessities needed for daily life, poor housing conditions, malign working conditions and a lack of educational opportunities. Many refugees try to reach Europe by boat to obtain better conditions. In October,  thousand gathered to walk towards the Greek border on the highway. Europeans are now in panic about the flow of refugees.

Europeans know that it is not possible to make Syrians stay in Syria or send them back in the near future. However, it is still possible to make them stay at "the transit corridor" Turkey. So the European Union reached a deal with Turkey in order to limit the flow of refugees into Europe. Leaders from 28 EU member states met with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels on October 2015, finalising an agreement that offered 3 billion euro cash, reopening Turkey's frozen EU-accession chapters and allowing for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens into EU starting October 2016.
"Our agreement sets out the clear plans for the timely re-establishment of our shared frontier, Turkey's accession process to the EU bloc will be "re-energised," said European Council president Donald Tusk. “This is an historic day," said Davutoglu, and added that "3 billion euros are not given to Turkey. They are given to Syrian refugees." So, what made Turkey agree to prevent refugees from going to Europe?  The answer must be the opening of Turkey's frozen accession chapters or obtaining visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the Schengen zone. Which reason made it worth while to take complete responsibility for millions of refugees?  As I believe, Turkey was strong enough for the first time at the negotiation table  and played  its cards well. Clearly there are some disclosed articles of the agreement which have not been declared.

DEAD BODIES IN THE STREETS

Neighboring counties are at war, a loss of economic growth, an influx of millions of refugees,  two elections in a few months and hundreds of interior problems - 2015 was an unlucky year for Turkey. However, 2016 seems to have come with bigger problems. Turkey is heading towards a civil war in the Eastern cities where the Kurds are fighting for autonomy and the government is trying to suppress the citizens by imprisoning mayors, conducting military operations and imposing around-the-clock curfews.

Violence has escalated sharply since a cease-fire between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces came to an end in July.  More than 150 residents have reportedly been killed as state forces have clashed with the Revolutionary Patriotic Youth Movement (YDG-H), the youth wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).  Human Rights Foundation of Turkey recorded 162 deaths during the curfews, including 29 women, 32 children and 24 people over 60 years of age, in areas under curfew since August 2015.

According to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey curfews are currently in force in three locations where it is estimated that 200,000 residents are at risk. The towns of Cizre and Silopi, both in Şırnak province that borders Iraq and Syria, have been under uninterrupted curfew since December 14 2015, and six neighbourhoods within the Sur district in the city of Diyarbakir have been under curfew since December 11. Dead bodies of civilians are not allowed to be taken by their families for weeks, due to curfews. Taybet Inan, a 57 year old mother whose body was forcibly left on the street for 7 days, has been described as a “terrorist”; Miray Ince, a 3 month old baby, was killed by snipers. Hundreds of homes and work places have been burnt and destroyed by the Turkish security forces including Diyarbakır Castle, which is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List  and Kursunlu Mosque in Sur.

"FOR YOUR OWN SECURITY"

"Curfews do not mean restricting civilians. Operations are carried out spot-on while everyone is at home. We do not allow you to take the bodies from the streets, for your own security," said Prime Minister Davutoglu and added: "operations against PKK that are targeting both Turkey and northern Iraq have been the most effective in the last 30 years." Turkish lawyers applied a few times to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to end the curfews but ECtHR rejected a petition for a temporary injunction ordering the end of frequent all-day-long curfews that the Turkish government has been enforcing in southeastern Kurdish towns since late July 2015.

EU HAS MARKETED ITS OWN PRINCIPLES

The co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş  accused the EU of covering up the Turkish government’s crimes. “The EU has sold out on its own principles. The EU is now in a position to be questioned about human rights and the Copenhagen Criteria,” he said on December 8.  German politician and Member of the European Parliament Ska Keller said that "the European Union  stands for fundamental rights, but where are they in the EU-Turkey deal? This deal ensures that refugees are detained in Turkey, while the EU ignores the violations of Turkish citizens’ fundamental rights by the Turkish government.” “A devilish pact," she said at European Parlament on December 3.

A petition against military operations and curfews entitled “We will not be a party to this crime,” was signed by over 2,000 academics from nearly 90 Turkish and foreign universities, and supported by renowned leftist intellectuals as Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Etienne Balibar and David Harvey. Turkish authorities responded to the petition by detaining some of the signees, while Erdogan is denying any human rights violations and called the academics "dark and ignorant who are  siding with the Kurdish terrorists."

THROW THE PING-PONG BALL

The human right violations are not only about the Kurds, many refugees in Turkey are seeking fundamental human rights. By reminding us of the sentence “work shoulder to shoulder regarding the refugee crisis," uttered by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in the EU-Turkey Summit, I would like to analyze  what "shoulder to shoulder" means:

  • Turkey and EU, shoulder to shoulder, blamed Assad for being a dictator and accused him of human rights violations.
  • Turkey and France - a member of EU  - supported rebels against the Assad government, shoulder to shoulder, and turned a civil war into an international endless war.
  • Turkey and EU failed to provide fundamental rights to the refugees, shoulder to shoulder.
  • Turkey and EU ignored the bodies of refugees washed up to the coasts of Greece and Turkey, shoulder to shoulder. Neither Turkey nor EU have taken sufficient precautions against  human trafficking or manufacturing of fake life-jackets. The number of refuges being pushed back are forced to eventually use smugglers.

In short, the refugees have turned into a ping pong ball, whomever seems responsible suddenly throw them into air but at the same time tries to get a good  score.  "Democracy protector" Europe plays good, throws them, while Turkey tries to get score by holding them, for now.  As time goes by, Turkey will see that 2.2 millions Syrians are more than a ping pong ball, they should have fundamental human rights at least, and some are aware of what Turkey has done to them. By the way do you think the country that failed to provide basic human rights to its own citizens, would be able to provide fundamental rights to millions of refugees? If not, would the EU mind it?

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