Turkey - Sezgin Tanrikulu

Last month, it was the 25th anniversary of the 12 September 1980 military coup in Turkey. The effects of this fascist coup, its traces and the grave problems it created are still visible in Turkey even 25 years later.

The Constitution which was promulgated under military rule is still in force today, although it has been amended in some aspects.

In terms of the daily lives of people, some extensions of the militarised politics are still effective today, including torture and ill-treatment, although the extent and scope of such practices have been narrowed. Some of the overwhelming effects of the military rule include the restriction on political parties and their dissolution, as well as restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and organisation.

I would like to state some figures for the last 25 years, in order to give a clearer picture of what is happening in Turkey today.

Since 1980: 650000 people were detained, and systematically tortured 98000 people were tried in military courts, of which 7000 faced the death penalty 14 people died on hunger strikes and 171 people were killed under torture. 50 people were executed after being condemned to death.

The Kurdish conflict started in 1984; it became known by the military as a “low intensity warfare” and remained the most important issue on Turkish agenda until 1999.

The following information may summarise what happened during this period: A recent statement by the Ministry of Defence to the parliament indicates that, according to the official figures, 5691 members of the security forces were killed during the conflict and 11830 of their members were wounded, including some who were permanently disabled. According to the same source, during the same period, 25344 members of illegal organisations were killed, and 772 of their members were wounded. During the conflict, 8868 of their members were arrested “alive”, and 2500 of their members surrendered themselves. In the same period, 5106 civilians were killed and 5887 civilians were wounded. Another response by the Ministry of the Interior indicates that 811 villages and 2469 settlements, a total number of 3280 human settlements, were evacuated - only 11 of the provinces were in a state of emergency. (Others have argued that these figures are conservative) According to the same source, 60000 persons were indicted before the courts, although the number convicted is not known.. According to the figures of Human Rights Foundation (HRFT), at least 3664 persons were killed under conditions identified to be extra-judicial killings, “mystery” political killings, forced disappearances or under the custody of security forces. The number of persons detained under the jurisdiction of the Diyarbakır State Security Court since it began in 2004 is 26481, the number of persons indicted before the court is 30504 - 10477 of these cases were concluded, 3880 were sentenced, (including the death penalty), 995 of those on trial were below the age 15, 177 of these children were given prison sentences.

Turkey has achieved major reforms since its submitting its candidature for EU membership at the Helsinki Summit of 1999, and the reform process has gained new momentum in the last two years. Since Turkey’s candidature was deemed eligible, the government has passed important legislation, known as “adjustment packages”, in order to encourage pre-accession negotiations. Despite these developments, there are legitimate doubts about the whole process in the minds of many. The government’s reforms are not only inadequate, but they also fail to be properly implemented.

Human rights activists in Turkey risk their lives struggling to achieve rights and freedoms for all. Human rights defenders have been central in constructing Turkey’s weak democracy. For instance, the Human Rights Foundation, founded in 1990, has provided essential treatment and rehabilitation services for thousands of torture survivors, and has monitored and documented the human rights situation in Turkey.

Diyarbakır Bar Association and its members have been active in the struggle for human rights in the Kurdish populated region: a region which has undergone periods of martial law and has been under a state of emergency for most of the last century. The Bar Association is presently carrying out a project called, “Justice for Everyone”, which aims to give access to justice and judicial redress for various disadvantaged groups, including torture survivors, families of victims.

The democratisation process in Turkey has long been deadlocked by the Kurdish question. Today, not only have we failed to address past abuses and bring the perpetrators to justice, we also risk a resurgence of the violent conflict. Recent attempts at mass lynching in various parts of Turkey run the risk of escalating the violence between the two communities, Turks and Kurds. While human rights activists remain committed to their activities, serious obstacles to peace continue to exist in the form of violent groups which seek to deny the Kurdish population the recognition and rights they deserve.