Middle East US slams Turkey in rights report

US slams Turkey in rights report
A woman holds a sign that reads "Don't ban my language" during a peace day rally in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, Sep. 1, 2009. (Photo: Reuters)

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – The US Department of State’s 2016 report on global human rights practices released on Friday revealed widespread violations against the Kurdish population, language, media, and politics in Turkey.

The report dealt with the Turkish government’s failures in upholding human rights and its repression of freedom of speech and media freedom.

Moreover, the restrictions on the Kurdish language, jailing of journalists, torture in prisons, and the army’s killing of civilians during clashes with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were also highlighted.

Citing human rights associations, the State Department said over 300 civilian killings in 2016 conflicts with the PKK were attributed to Turkish government forces.

The violence in Kurdish towns and cities where the army deployed heavy artillery displaced an estimated 300,000 people, most of them still not back to their homes.

In the military, most of the suicides and suspicious deaths frequently involved Kurdish conscripts, according to the Human Rights Joint Platform (HRJP).

There were also at least 140 journalists, most accused of having ties to the PKK or the US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds responsible for the failed summer coup.

The closure of over a dozen Kurdish-language media outlets by decrees reduced “vulnerable populations’ access to information and alternative viewpoints,” according to the Department.

A majority of the thousands of political prisoners were Kurds, with 6,592 inmates being alleged members of the PKK.

Among them, the State Department counted the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag as well as a dozen other lawmakers, and over 80 mayors.

“Human rights groups alleged that many detainees had no substantial link to terrorism and were detained to weaken the pro-Kurdish HDP and DBP or to silence critical voices,” read the report.

The report also pointed to a December 2016 investigation by the United Nations into allegations of maltreatment and torture.

There were 15 million citizens of Kurdish origin, yet the use of Kurdish dialects in public remained restricted, as authorities cracked down on private institutions providing children with education in their mother tongue.

One such school which gave parents grade reports in Kurdish since 2014 was closed in October 2016 with a government state-of-emergency decree.

“The closures left some 238 students without a school in the middle of the school year. The schools were reportedly closed for conducting ‘unauthorized activities,’” said the State Department.

Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed the findings were “allegations that cannot be accepted, misrepresentations, and far from truths,” in a press release on its website.


Editing by Karzan Sulaivany