The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights issued a report this week detailing a “constantly deteriorating human rights situation, exacerbated by the erosion of the rule of law” including the imprisonment of moms who had just given birth on suspicion of being foes of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Since the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, Erdoğan’s government has conducted massive sweeps of perceived opponents; U.S. consulate employees have been among those arrested, as well as pastor Andrew Brunson, who faces up to 35 years in prison, and NASA scientist Serkan Gölge, who was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison. Turkish authorities accused both American citizens of having CIA links.
The UN report uncovered “interference of the executive with the work of the judiciary and curtailment of parliamentary oversight over the executive branch of Government; arbitrary mass dismissals of civil servants and private sector employees; arbitrary closure of civil society organizations, including prominent human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and media; arbitrary detention of people arrested under state of emergency measures; the use of torture and ill-treatment during pretrial detention; restrictions of the rights to freedoms of expression and of movement; arbitrary expropriation of private property; and methods of collective punishment targeting family members of individuals suspected of offences under the state of emergency.”
By the end of 2017, according to Turkey’s official statistics, 159,506 people had been arrested in relation to Erdoğan’s post-coup emergency decrees. Some 300 journalists have been arrested for “verbal act offenses” against the Islamist regime. Last year alone, Turkey blocked more than 100,000 websites, many of them Kurdish.
In July 2016 the Turkish government cancelled at least 50,000 passports to keep targets and their spouses in the country.
The report chronicled a litany of offenses committed by Turkish forces against Kurds in southeast Turkey: “killings, torture, violence against women, excessive use of force, destruction of housing and cultural heritage, prevention of access to emergency medical care, safe water and livelihoods, and severe restrictions of the right to freedom of expression.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called the findings “staggering”: “152,000 civil servants dismissed, many totally arbitrarily; teachers, judges and lawyers dismissed or prosecuted; journalists arrested, media outlets shut down and websites blocked – clearly the successive states of emergency declared in Turkey have been used to severely and arbitrarily curtail the human rights of a very large number of people.”
“One of the most alarming findings of the report is how Turkish authorities reportedly detained some 100 women who were pregnant or had just given birth, mostly on the grounds that they were ‘associates’ of their husbands, who are suspected of being connected to terrorist organizations,” Zeid said. “Some were detained with their children and others violently separated from them. This is simply outrageous, utterly cruel, and surely cannot have anything whatsoever to do with making the country safer.”
The report estimated at least 600 women with young children were being held behind bars in a “particularly alarming pattern” of persecution.
The UN documented the use of torture and ill treatment of detainees, including severe beatings, sexual assault and threats, electric shocks and waterboarding by police, gendarmerie, military police and security forces.
Civil servants who lost their jobs for allegedly opposing the regime lost their pay, benefits, medical insurance and even their homes under an eviction stipulation.
“I urge the government of Turkey to ensure that these allegations of serious human rights violations are investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice,” Zeid said. “I again call on the government to grant my office full and unfettered access to be able to directly, independently and objectively assess the human rights situation in the South-East of the country.”