US human rights report on Turkey is prejudiced, inaccurate, says foreign ministry

Turkish Foreign Ministry

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has accused the US State Department of making unfounded, prejudiced and inaccurate accusations regarding the human rights situation in Turkey in its annual report released earlier this week, Turkish Minute reported.

The State Department on Monday issued its 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, with an 86-page subsection on Turkey.

The report exposed the human rights abuses frequently faced by a wide range of people in Turkey including Kurds, Gülen movement followers, civil society members and journalists.

The ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that as in previous years, the 2023 human rights report includes “unfounded allegations, erroneous information and prejudiced comments regarding Türkiye.”

It said the ministry gives no credit to the report, which it said is based of allegations of unknown origin and the discourse of circles affiliated with terrorist organizations.

According to the ministry, Turkey remains firmly committed to the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, despite facing multifaceted and severe terrorist threats.

The US report, however, details ongoing issues including enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detentions and significant infringements on freedom of expression and the media, particularly targeting journalists and critics of the government in Turkey, with an ongoing crackdown on the Gülen movement and the Kurds.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The ministry said Turkey is waging a legitimate fight against various terrorist groups, implying that its actions against these groups should not be taken as human rights violations but as a fight against terrorism.

Tens of thousands of people including the elderly, the ailing and pregnant women were arrested in Turkey following the coup attempt on terrorism charges due to their links to the Gülen movement. Some of these people were released from prison in past years after serving their sentences, while many of them are still behind bars.

Following the failed coup the Turkish government carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 24,706 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

Kurds, on the other hand, see persecution and legal harassment due to their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies.

The ministry also claimed that the US report’s failure to accurately address the human rights tragedy unfolding in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza due to ongoing Israeli attacks shows that the report was prepared with “political motives, far from impartiality and objectivity.”

“We reiterate our call for the United States to focus on its own human rights record as well as to cease its partnerships with terrorist organizations and its double-standard policy on human rights,” said the ministry.

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