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Concern grows at destruction of democracy in Turkey

31 October, 2016 IndustriALL Global Union again expresses its concerns at the destruction of democracy and the demolition of the rule of law in Turkey.

After the attempted coup on 15 July 2016, Turkey is increasingly run through government decrees, without the control of the elected parliament. IndustriALL condemned the coup in July, but also challenges the reaction of the Turkish government, which is using the failed coup to destroy all democratic opposition and consolidate the absolute power of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
A state of emergency was declared on 20 July that allows the president and the ruling AKP party cabinet to bypass parliament and rule by decree. Two new decrees were issued at midnight on 29 October, resulting in the dismissal of some 10,000 civil servants and university professors, and the closing of 15 media outlets, with the arrest of journalists.
The editor and other staff of Cumhuriyet, a left wing opposition newspaper, were arrested in a dawn raid this morning. A total of 160 media outlets, including TV and radio stations, newspapers and agencies, have closed since July, and Turkey is now the world’s biggest jailer of journalists.
The civil servants and media outlets are accused of supporting “terrorism”, and have been linked by the government to followers of the cleric Fethullah Gülen, who the government blames for the coup. However clear evidence of these links have not yet been presented by public prosecutors, and the crackdown happened without court orders or due process.
These actions by the Turkish government are not aimed at identifying and subjecting to judicial process the people responsible for the failed coup, but instead and overwhelmingly, demolishing democratic opposition and civil society. A previous decree saw university rectors no longer democratically elected, but appointed by the president. This is an attack on intellectual freedom, freedom of thought, expression, opinion, association and assembly.
The attacks on democracy are part an attempt by the president and his party to introduce a presidential system to replace parliamentary democracy, under the shadow of presidential decrees which create an undemocratic environment for open, transparent and free political activity. Much of Turkey’s democratic infrastructure has already been broken down, and, as a very prominent result, the independent judiciary is almost about the disappear. The legal system is now used against civil society for shutting down their voices and democratic reflexes. There are attempts to control trade unions by not allowing them to voice workers’ legitimate demands, with legal processes launched to limit freedom of association.
This is part of a broader attempt to silence and intimidate any democratic opposition. There have been attacks – blamed by state media on “terrorists” - on opposition politicians, including the attempted assassination of the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. The CHP is a centre left party, supported by unions in Turkey, and is the main opposition. There have been other attacks on CHP politicians, including an assassination attempt on the deputy mayor of an Istanbul district that left him in critical condition, and an attack on the deputy chair of the party last week, which left him with a gunshot wound.
In addition, the co-mayors of the city of Diyarbakir, Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli, elected by an overwhelming majority of people, were arrested yesterday, along with other senior officials from the pro-Kurdish leftist People's Democratic Party (HDP). The offices of HDP have been raided many times by security forces and elected officials were arrested with the claim that they have connections to terror. The Turkish government appoints trustees to replace democratically elected mayors in the cities where opposition parties, overwhelmingly the HDP, win elections.
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:
“What is happening in Turkey nowadays is a truly frightening development. IndustriALL Global Union condemns any act that weakens democratic institutions, and expresses solidarity with the Turkish people, with unions in Turkey, and with progressive forces fighting to keep democracy alive.”
“The route of Turkey must be to establish a fully democratic system and society with all the internationally-accepted rules and standards. We will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all the progressive institutions in the country who fight and resist for a democratic, contemporary and secular Turkey”.