Un­prece­dented de­ten­tions in Turkey

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This ap­peared in the Wash­ing­ton Post:

The 418-kilo­me­tre trek from Ankara to Istanbul is a gru­elling jour­ney through rough ter­rain and scorch­ing heat, but this hasn’t stopped more than 10,000 demon­stra­tors from set­ting out on an am­bi­tious march for “jus­tice.” For the past three weeks, op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers have walked for about 20 kms a day to protest Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan’s crack­down on dis­sent. An­other leader would have looked at this groundswell of public out­rage and re­frained from per­se­cut­ing crit­ics. Er­do­gan went in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion: On Wed­nes­day, Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties de­tained two for­eign train­ers and eight hu­man rights ac­tivists.

Er­do­gan’s sweep­ing as­sault on dis­si­dents and civil so­ci­ety is much larger than these ar­rests: In April, it was es­ti­mated that more than 110,000 peo­ple have been de­tained since a failed coup at­tempt in 2016. Er­do­gan should not be al­lowed to im­prison his crit­ics with im­punity. Though the march from Ankara is an en­cour­ag­ing sign, they can­not be ex­pected to stand up to their re­pres­sive gov­ern­ment alone.

It was heart­en­ing to see the U.S. State De­part­ment im­me­di­ately is­sue a state­ment re­buk­ing Turkey for these un­war­ranted de­ten­tions, but the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has ig­nored such state­ments be­fore. The United States needs to send a stronger mes­sage to Er­do­gan and other for­eign lead­ers who con­tinue to stomp on hu­man rights. For a start, Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son should put this is­sue at the top of his agenda when he vis­its Turkey this week.

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