On 9 March, there was a parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall on “human rights and the political situation” in Turkey. In it, MPs insisted that Theresa May’s government was not doing enough to hold the current Turkish regime to account; and that the government appeared to be putting business deals ahead of human rights concerns.
It has now been more than four and a half years since Members have had a full debate in Parliament on issues relating to Turkey… the slide to authoritarianism in Turkey is not a new development. Last summer’s failed coup attempt was not the starting point of this descent, but instead has served as a catalyst for anti-democratic trends that have been apparent under President Erdogan for some time… our Government should take the situation much more seriously.
Business deals before human rights?
In late January, Theresa May met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and signed a much-criticised £100m fighter jet deal. On this visit, May said “it is important that Turkey sustains that democracy by maintaining the rule of law and upholding its international human rights obligations as the government has undertaken to do”.
But Labour MP David Winnick slammed these weak comments from May in the 9 March parliamentary debate, saying:
The Prime Minister did make a reference to human rights, but she could not very well have said less. It was a passing reference with no emphasis, and the general impression was that, those few words having been said, the UK Government were willing to make the commercial deals in question with Turkey, and that human rights in Turkey are not really on the UK agenda.
Joan Ryan, meanwhile, insisted that:
Valuable as our trading relationship is, human rights issues should never play second fiddle to commercial diplomacy.
In fact, even Conservative MP Sir Edward Garnier had strong words on Turkey. He stressed that:
The fact that Turkey is a useful military ally… does not, however, excuse its abusive behaviour towards its own citizens, its neglect of the rule of law and its wholesale abuse of human rights.
Europe and Turkey clash, but the UK government stays quiet
As The Canary reported on 13 March, governments across Europe have been clashing with the Turkish regime in recent days and weeks. This is in large part because President Erdoğan is currently seeking to further empower the office of the Turkish presidency. And ahead of a referendum on the issue, his government is trying to increase its likelihood of winning by reaching out to Turkish people living in Europe.
A number of European countries, however, have cancelled events sponsored by the Turkish government; or they’ve stopped Turkish officials from attending them. One reason for this may be that Europe has a number of tense elections coming up itself. Another may be the ongoing civil conflict in Turkey, with the UN recently slamming Erdoğan’s regime for its crackdown on freedom of speech; and for the devastating effect its war has had on human rights in the country.
The British parliament, however, can only seem to bring itself to ‘consider’ human rights in Turkey in a debate. And as Joan Ryan summed up on 9 March:
We need to say and do so much more to be a critical friend of Turkey… I do not think we are a friend to Turkey if we do not speak up loudly now, while it matters. When we do finally speak up, it may well be far too late and we may well deeply regret the fact that we are not now taking the responsibility that we should be taking… it does not have to be a case of trade or human rights; there needs to be both.
Ryan is right. The UK government has turned a blind eye to human rights abuses in Turkey for too long. And it is about time it finally spoke up.
– See the full 9 March debate here.
Featured image via Flickr
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?