Sometimes one cannot help sitting back considering overwhelming events that continue to reshape various parts of the world. Away from the razzmatazz of the campaign in United States presidential election and the current battle to dislodge Islamic States (ISIS) from their self-proclaimed capital city in Mosul, Iraq, the endless onslaught on human rights in Turkey has not ceased to send cold shivers down my spine.
The judiciary, media organisations, opposition parties, civil servants, charity groups, just to mention a few, are being subjected to a daily dose of massive abuses and suffocation in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The recent catch to the abuse list is the sacking of medical professionals, scientists, and other academics from universities.
This may not come as a surprise to many as even before the aborted coup that took place in Turkey few months ago, which was allegedly designed to overthrow the President, Erdogan has not always hidden his obsession to crush dissenting views on his iron-hand style of governance amid claim of being a democrat. The coup became a perfect opportunity to squeeze out life from any perceived opposition groups by fingering them as the coup plotters.
But it appears having tagged members of Gulen movement, a group inspired by the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, as elements behind the coup despite no concrete proofs and in the face of denial by the peace-loving and highly-respected cleric, Erdogan seems to be now afraid of his own shadow, hence the unending quest to hit hard on anything, groups, individual believe to be a possible threat to his ‘rulership.’
Recently some Nigerian students in Turkey were made to also taste the bitter pill of rights violation as they were brazenly detained for their alleged support for some Turkish people who are said to be against the government thereby sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries.
Such rights abuses of both the Turkish people and other nationals are now beginning to unsettle international commentators and other lovers of humanity, with many questioning the seeming conspiracy of silence in the war against human rights being waged in Turkey.
One of such groups that recently added its voice against human rights repression in Turkey is the New York-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). The group has already launched a public petition campaign asking people to urge Turkish government against what it calls “the worst repression we have ever seen.”
According to a statement pasted on its website that almost melt away my heart, Physicians for Human Rights said “Medical professionals, scientists, and other academics are being fired from universities in Turkey by the thousands. Their crime? Participating in groups peacefully advocating for human rights and freedoms. It is imperative that these academics be immediately reinstated and that the right to freedom of expression be upheld.”
“Don’t Let President Erdogan Get Away With It. …Our medical colleagues need our support right now. We’ve been working alongside them in Turkey for decades — and this is the worst repression we’ve ever seen,” the statement further said.
The statement has already sparked various petitions from the website readers calling on President Erdogan to tread carefully and reinstate the sacked academics. One of the petitioners writing under the title “Uphold Human Rights and Reinstate Persecuted Academics,” didn’t minced words as he pointed out that arrest of academics and purging of the judiciary send a wrong signal on blatant human rights violation.
Parts of the petition read: “I am writing to express my deep concern with the recent purge of thousands of university professors, deans, and other academics including medical professionals and scientists from Turkey’s institutions of higher education based on their alleged membership in groups advocating peacefully for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“These restrictions on academic freedom further compound the consequences of the dismissal of nearly 60,000 government employees in the immediate aftermath of the failed July coup. Any functioning democracy requires a functioning judiciary.
Yet Turkey’s courts have virtually ground to a halt after nearly 3,000 judges were dismissed from their jobs overnight for suspected links to the attempted coup, hampering the judiciary’s ability to independently evaluate the potentially arbitrary arrests of nearly 10,000 people and reports of ill-treatment in detention.”
While I join others to call on President Erdogan to reinstate the sacked academics, it still appears to me as if I’m dreaming to see a highly-respected country like Turkey descending so low to an abyss of human rights violation fiefdom that even a third world country would not dare in a 21st century.
––Usman Dikko, a public affairs commentator, writes in from Kaduna