Thank you for your email regarding the civil unrest in Turkey and the outrageous response from the Turkish government .
What started as a peaceful protest over the excessive commercialisation of Gezi Park in Istanbul has quickly become the catalyst for Turkish citizens of all backgrounds to air their criticisms at Prime Minister Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian policies.
The protestors are not the extremists Mr Erdoğan seeks to caricature them as. Rather, most protestors are moderate, ordinary citizens belonging to the fast-growing urban middle classes. Similarly, the protests are not part of the ‘Arab Spring’ or any other collective moment. The protests have a specific message distinct to Turkey where the protestors are demanding a pluralist and mature democracy for all Turkish citizens.
I have been heavily involved in the human rights situation in Turkey in recent years through my work as the Liberal Democrats spokesperson on human rights. I have previously called for guarantees on freedom of speech, condemned the ban of a Turkish LGBT organisation and the Kurdish party DTP and spoken out against the prison sentence of Kurdish politician Leyla Zana. You can learn more about my work on this issue here, here and here.
During the June plenary session the European Parliament passed a resolution on the situation in Turkey, which I co-signed, unequivocally stating MEPs’ dissatisfaction with Mr Erdoğan’s response to the overwhelmingly peaceful protests. It expressed Parliament’s concern over “the disproportionate and excessive use of force” by police in Gezi Park incidents and urged Prime Minister Erdoğan to assume “a unifying and conciliatory position” over issues in the country. The resolution encourages Turkey to strengthen democratic institutions, rule of law and fundamental freedoms as well as the priority of individual rights and the continuous training of police officers and judicial authorities on adhering to international standards and rules against torture and maltreatment.
Turkey has a great capacity to become the world’s first liberal modern democracy in a predominantly Muslim country. The EU must embrace the opportunity of encouraging greater freedoms and pushing for reforms that both benefit Turkish people and the EU accession process.
Thank you again for contacting me on this important issue.
Sarah Ludford MEP
Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP
Liberal Democrat MEP for London
Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman
36b St Peter’s Street
London N1 8JT
Tel/fax: +44 207 288 2526