This NATO member’s an absolute mess. But Theresa May supports it anyway.

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NATO member Turkey has been in an absolute mess ever since its government chose to restart a decades-long civil war back in 2015. And things are just going from bad to worse. But while some European leaders are now starting to take action, the situation doesn’t seem to bother UK Prime Minister Theresa May too much.

From bad to worse

On 5 July, Turkish authorities reportedly detained eight leading human rights campaigners, including the head of Amnesty International in Turkey.

This comes in the context of a damning UN report in March which described:

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  • The “use of counter-terrorism legislation to remove from office democratically elected officials of Kurdish origin”.
  • The “severe curtailment and harassment of independent journalists”.
  • The “massive dismissals of civil servants, including teachers, on unclear grounds and without due process”.
  • The massacre of Kurdish citizens by government forces.
  • The displacement of hundreds of thousands of people of mostly Kurdish origin.

The Turkish regime has also forged an alliance with neo-Nazis. And according to Reporters Without Borders, it has turned Turkey into “the world’s biggest prison for the media profession”.

Europe challenging Turkey?

In a separate development linked to Turkey’s descent into authoritarianism, the European Parliament called on 6 July for member states to “formally suspend the accession negotiations with Turkey without delay if the constitutional reform package is implemented unchanged”. In a context of growing repression since 2015 (and in particular since a failed coup in 2016), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won sweeping new powers in a referendum in April 2017. And EU leaders have been increasingly critical of Erdoğan’s behaviour.

However, the European Parliament’s lead negotiator on Turkey, Kati Piri, believes that the “current strategy of the European Commission and EU leaders seems to [be to] wait silently for things to improve in Turkey”. A stance she says is simply “feeding President Erdogan’s authoritarianism”.

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik responded to the parliament’s decision by saying it was “based on false claims and allegations” and was “of no value for us”.

Theresa May urged to act

In a statement regarding Turkey’s detention of human rights activists, Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

We are urging Prime Minister Theresa May to raise this detention with Turkey’s President Erdoğan as a matter of urgency… As world leaders meet at the G20, they must speak as one to exert pressure on President Erdoğan to halt the crackdown on civil society in Turkey. They cannot continue to turn a blind eye to this growing human rights catastrophe. This latest series of arrests is part of a relentless attack on human rights across the country in the wake of last year’s attempted coup… We are urging the UK Government to show their support for human rights too and call for the release of our colleague and the seven others detained in Turkey.

At the time of writing, there currently appears to be no comment from May’s team regarding the developments in Turkey. But as the G20 meets on 7 July, she has an important opportunity to speak out.

However, British MPs have previously suggested that Theresa May has been putting business before human rights where Turkey and other anti-democratic countries are concerned. This is in a context where, since 2015, the UK has sold its NATO ally at least £330m-worth of arms. And these sales continued even amid the campaign of repression which followed the failed coup of 2016.

In other words, it seems very much like the situation in Turkey doesn’t bother Theresa May all too much. So significant public pressure will be essential in encouraging her to act.

Get Involved

– Ask Theresa May and your MP to urge the Turkish regime to resume peace talks with its Kurdish communities; and to respect freedom of speech and human rights. Also ask the UK government to stop putting business before human rights in Turkey; and to follow in Germany’s footsteps by suspending arms deliveries to Turkey.

– See more on Turkey at The Canary Global.

– Support The Canary so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

– Also join at least 400,000 Brits who have cancelled holidays in Turkey, and support the boycott campaign here.

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