The Turkish government has ended the nationwide state of emergency that was imposed in 2016 after a failed coup attempt. However, the government has tabled a controversial anti-terrorism bill that will retain some of the state of emergency measures.
Situated at the nexus between Asia and Europe, Turkey divides the Black Sea from the Mediterranean. Nearly all of the country is in Asia, comprising the oblong peninsula of Asia Minor—also known as Anatolia (Anadolu)—and, in the east, part of a mountainous region sometimes known as the Armenian Highland. Turkey’s control of the straits of Bosporus, Dardanelles and Sea of Marmara, the only outlet from the Black Sea, has been a major factor in its relations with other states.
The Anatolian peninsula, comprising most of modern Turkey, is one of the oldest permanently settled regions in the world. Following the Armistice of Mudros in 1918, the victorious Allied Powers sought to partition the Ottoman state through the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres. The Turkish War of Independence, initiated by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his colleagues against occupying Allies, resulted in the abolition of monarchy and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, with Atatürk as its first president. The common threat posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War led to Turkey's membership of NATO in 1952, ensuring close bilateral relations with Washington.
Since the liberalisation of the Turkish economy in the 1980s, the country has enjoyed stronger economic growth and greater political stability. Turkey joined the EU Customs Union in 1995 and started accession negotiations with the European Union in 2005. However, conflict in Cyprus has hindered Turkey’s accession to the EU. The Syrian Civil War saw a large influx of refugees into the country, which complicated international responsibilities while striving for favourable realpolitik.
In 2016, a failed coup resulted in the imposition of a state of emergency which has since been extended on numerous occasions till now. Incumbent President Erdogan won, with a very small margin, a referendum which would reform Turkey’s government by granting greater powers to the President.
The Turkish government decided against extending the state of emergency after seven three-month renewals since 2016. The horrors of the state of emergency included thousands of people being arrested and dismissed from their public sector jobs. Under the emergency decree, more than 75,000 people were arrested for alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric and former ally of Mr. Erdogan. Mr.Gulen is blamed for the failed coup attempt of 2016 which killed close to 250 people.
Mr.Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) party has tabled a controversial anti-terrorism bill to deal with continued security threats from Gulen supporters, Kurdish rebels and the Islamic State group. If approved, the new anti-terror laws would also allow governors to bar entry into certain regions for up to 15 days. Open-air demonstrations would be restricted to daylight hours."They are bringing to parliament new legislation that is aimed at making the state of emergency permanent," Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's' Party said.
A U.N. report earlier this year said Turkey's state of emergency had led to human rights violations.
“Over the last two years, Turkey has been radically transformed with emergency measures used to consolidate draconian powers, silence critical voices and strip away basic rights,” said Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s deputy director. “The lifting of the state of emergency alone will not reverse this crackdown. What is needed is systematic action to restore respect for human rights, allow civil society to flourish again, and lift the suffocating climate of fear that has engulfed the country” he added.
The crackdown has also increased tensions with western allies such as the EU and the US. On Wednesday, a court in Turkey ruled for the continued detention of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor accused of having Gülenist links. This move could prompt congressional sanction and was described by an official at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom as a “mockery of justice”.
Erdoğan’s son-in-law and finance minister, Berat Albayrak, is also suing the journalists because of their reporting on offshore investments listed in the Paradise Papers. Reporters Without Borders condemned this move as it threatens the survival of independent media outlets reporting on corruption.
The crackdown appeared to have barely slowed even as the end of the state of emergency approached. A day before Erdoğan was sworn in, another 18,600 public servants were dismissed over alleged links to terror groups, and academics who had signed a petition calling for a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Kurdish separatists were sentenced to prison.
Our assessment is that the continued persecutions in Turkey tell us that even though Mr.Erdoğan is secure in his control of the state’s levers of power and authority, there will not be immediate relief for dissidents. We feel that the anti-terror law will reinstate a permanent state of emergency in the country and allow minimum scope to restore Turkey’s economy and uphold the spirit of democracy.