“History repeats itself.” Well that dictum is true so far as the rule of the experienced and able Prime Minister of Turkey, Bulent Ecevit, is concerned. Late 70s: the crisis and Ecevit resigns. Early 2001: the crisis and Ecevit hanged on for dear job and now nothing short of an ultimatum from Heavens’ above is forcing him to let go.Repeated financial injections from the International Monetary Fund under the indirect influence from the close ally, the United States of America, can keep the military-propped government in place, but it is impossible to comprehend how the nation can do anything while the executive arm is in limbo.
Early last year the row over corruption between no-nonsense President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a very popular public figure and a five-time prime minister in full attendance of the proxy rulers of Turkey, and the military brass sent an alarming signal across Europe about the state of affairs in Turkey.
Turkey, the 13th country on the list of candidate countries vying for membership in the wealthy and democratic club of European Union nations, was the first country to apply for the accession, ahead of other 12 applicant countries. But like its shackled and much ill treated prisoners, Turkey is unable to even inch along on the path of accession, thanks mainly to its human rights record.
Turkey applied for membership in the European Economic Community in 1959, and in 1963, was granted an associated arrangement and then recently entered into a Customs Union with Europe. The European Union officials indicate that membership is unlikely in the near future given Turkey’s human rights record, and in fact, withheld aid promised to Turkey under the Customs Union agreement, claiming that Ankara has not complied with its pledge to improve its human rights situation. Turkey, a party to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in 1989, and since that time, several decisions have found violations of these conventions by Turkey.
The most important of these cases was issued in September 1996 in the Akdivar case, in which the court held that the government had violated the property rights of Kurdish villagers when soldiers destroyed virtually all the homes in the village of Kelekci, southeastern Turkey. occupied the northern one-third of the island in 1974.
Add to that an umpteen number of reports originating from respectable international observers like Amnesty International to many obscure ones but the charges are always the same: people who have dared to speak out against the government, even peacefully, have been imprisoned, or have disappeared.
While Turkey continues to press for membership in the EU, the European Parliament very rightly points to the country’s record on human rights as the main reason for leaving the Turks out in the cold.
Moreover, the word “Secular” seems to have a strange meaning in Turkish context. Secular countries give their citizens freedom of religion and speech but in Turkey the suppression of Islamists parties is giving them more appeal. And it’s a fact that unemployment, suppression and lack of human rights always lead the population to the intoxication of the omnipotent arms of religion. Successive governments made some progress towards establishing parliamentary democracy and fundamental freedoms, but national security — internal as well as external – was always left to the discretion of the security forces. They have treated international human rights standards and Turkish law with equal disdain. EU accession talks can begin only if Ankara agrees to place the “proxy rulers,” the powerful military under political control and passes with in-tow implementation of different laws to give cultural rights to the country’s Kurdish-speaking minority. Add to that a simple improvement in human rights practices with a pinch of salt.