Human rights activists detained in Turkey

The arrest of ten human rights activists in Turkey two weeks ago has seen tensions between Ankara and the EU spike. Six of them are now in custody, including the director of Amnesty International Turkey and a German and a Swedish advisor. Europe's press discusses the political context and potential reactions.

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Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

A firm stance is needed

The EU states must take a harder line with Erdoğan, Dagens Nyheter demands:

“Turkey's key geopolitical position puts President Erdoğan in a strong negotiating position. The country is a Nato member and an important base in the fight against the Islamic State. Moreover, the EU has made itself dependent on Ankara with the refugee deal. This makes it difficult for it to make hard demands. Nonetheless a clear and united European stance regarding the detained EU citizens and against Erdogan's authoritarian tendencies is needed. … We [also] can't rely on the presidential election in 2019 taking place under fair conditions. The voices of Sweden and Brussels must become clearer.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

The West has failed the Turkish people

In the view of the Daily Sabah the West is mainly to blame for the breakdown in its relations with Turkey:

“Feeling alone in the face of the silence of Western institutions such as the EU, NATO and the U.N. on the night of the coup attempt, the people joined hands. They clamped together even more tightly as a result of the fact that soldiers deemed responsible for the coup escaped to U.S. bases or took shelter in EU countries such as Greece and Germany. ... Obviously, this course of things has brought Turkey, which has been in the Western bloc for a century since the founding of the modern Republic, to a crossroads. However, the path that Ankara points to and moves toward is poised not only to influence its EU accession talks, but also its relations with institutions like NATO, which has high symbolic value.”

Libération (FR) /

Europe's Turkey policy is misguided

The director of Amnesty International was arrested back in June. Libération publishes an appeal by human rights advocates to Turkey:

“The arrest of these ten human rights activists marks a new stage in the Turkish government's shift towards authoritarianism. It's also the first time in the history of Amnesty International that two of its top representatives have been arrested in the same country, and within less than a month. No one working in the area of human rights can feel safe in Turkey any more. Turkey's leaders are solely responsible for this decline. Nevertheless it has been hugely facilitated, not to say encouraged, by the absence or timidity of reactions on the part of our European - and particularly the French - governments. It is time for this to stop, and for human rights to be placed at the centre of the EU's relations with Turkey.”

Público (PT) /

Cancel the refugee agreement now

Unesco Special Envoy Beate Klarsfeld and the president of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement, Benjamin Abtan, argue in Público that it's high time to end the refugee deal with Turkey:

“This agreement is utterly useless. Erdoğan is using it to avoid pressure from Europe while he constructs an ever more authoritarian regime. … Neither Germany nor Europe need Erdoğan to prevent the refugees from reaching Europe. It is Erdoğan who needs the refugees that have settled in the southeast of Turkey for his policy of repression vis-à-vis the national movement of the Kurds. … This agreement also reveals a lack of sovereignty among the Europeans, who are unable to command respect for the policies they have chosen without the help of states like Turkey.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Proof is needed

Hürriyet calls for transparency on the part of the Turkish judiciary to avoid further tarnishing their reputation abroad:

“People are saying that [the human rights activists] were arrested so they could be used as bargaining chips in the negotiations, that the judiciary is being instrumentalized. … If so, don't our police, our prosecutors and our criminal judges realise that they are digging their own graves? … Don't they see how this will destroy trust in the Fetö trials [against Gülen's supporters] and how much damage we are wreaking on this cause? And that it plays right into the hands of those who want to discredit our justice system? … The solid evidence must be revealed, the watertight proof laid on the table, the world must be shown who the spy is, who the terrorist and who the human rights activist is. That would teach the German media a good lesson.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

At least back then there was hope

The Süddeutsche Zeitung is reminded of the human rights situation after the military coup in 1980:

“Mass arrests, torture - even executions were carried out after that coup. Little separates Turkey today from Turkey back then. When Erdoğan's supporters go out onto the street, some carry nooses. Turkey in 2017 goes down as the first country in the history of Amnesty International that has dared to arrest the organisation's two top officials. To a certain extent the situation today is even more dismal than in the 80s and 90s, because back then it was the European Union and the prospect of accession that forced the country to change and improve. But every time Brussels holds out its hand today Erdoğan dims the light even further.”