Blog: Time for the government to end their silence on Turkey

Since President Recep Erdogan imposed a state of emergency, following the attempted coup in July 2016, Turkey has experienced an extraordinary erosion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The government has targeted many of its actual and alleged critics, including politicians, academics and trade unionists. According to Amnesty International over 120 journalists have been detained, 180 media outlets closed down and 50,000 people remain imprisoned awaiting trial.

Public service workers and their unions have been hit particularly hard, with approximately 150,000 workers dismissed or suspended, mainly for alleged terrorist offences. Most have little or no right of appeal and have lost their passports, pensions and rights to work. Only 100 have been reinstated by the government’s State of Emergency Commission.

This April President Erdogan declared that the elections planned for late 2019 will now take place at the end of June this year. The decision is controversial, as freedom of speech and assembly will probably be limited by the state of emergency, numerous opposition politicians remain behind bars, and it will bring forward the move to an executive presidency with unprecedented power and very limited parliamentary scrutiny.

Today President Erdogan arrives in London for a three day visit which is expected to include meetings with senior government ministers, the Prime Minister and the Queen. The Conservative government has looked to forge a close relationship with President Erdogan, since the result of the EU referendum in June 2016. Prime Minister Theresa May travelled to Turkey to sign a £100 million arms deal in January last year, whilst Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has promised a “jumbo trade deal” and even urged the EU to stop pushing Turkey “into a corner” over the death penalty.

Although the UK government vocally condemned the attempted coup for undermining democracy, they have remained almost silent on the subsequent state of emergency, mass detentions and dismissals, and the erosion of democracy and rights.

Today I have written to Theresa May to call on the government to end their silence on Turkey and urge President Erdogan to:

  • End the state of emergency;
  • Reinstate dismissed and suspended public service workers;
  • And release trade unionists, human rights defenders, journalists and political prisoners.

I have also called on the government to end the sale of arms to the Turkey and requested that democracy, social justice and workers and human rights are embedded in any future trade deal with Turkey.  You can read the letter here.