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Turkish prisons are beyond the pale of inhumanity

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin shake hands at a press conference in Moscow on March 5, 2020. Photo: Pavel Golovkin / Pool via Reuters.

The violations of human rights under the Turkish despot Recep Tayyip Erdogan go beyond the framework of inhumanity and moral decadence.

The list of Erdogan violations and cruelty is too long to count. The gruesome detention and torture of thousands of innocent people for months and sometimes years, without being charged, is hard to comprehend. Many prisoners languish in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. This treatment has become common. He is calculated to inflict horrific pain and suffering to bring prisoners to breaking point, often for crimes they never committed.

Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison, eloquently but painfully described the real purpose of unlawful detentions under a despotic regime: prison is designed to break the spirit and destroy resolution. To do this, the authorities try to exploit every weakness, demolish every initiative, deny any sign of individuality – all with the idea of ​​extinguishing that spark that makes each of us human and each of us who we are. .

In the hope of seeing their loved ones, many prisoners first try to endure torture but eventually succumb and confess. At that point, they are just a shell of themselves. According to a story I heard, there was a prisoner who was determined not to confess. After months of torture, he was threatened with imprisonment for his wife and son if he did not confess. For a few weeks, he was torn between confessing to a crime he didn’t commit and fears that his family would soon be apprehended and face a similar fate.

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February 23, 2021 3:03 PM

One morning as a prison guard was doing his daily inspection, he was amazed to see this prisoner hanging by his neck from the ceiling. Like others before him, the prisoner found more meaning in his death than in his life as a broken man. From the letter he wrote to his wife, who was smuggled out by the same guard, we know that he decided to commit suicide to prevent the authorities from apprehending his family and to deny the authorities the satisfaction of confessing it. .

This case is not an aberration. Over a period of a few months, thousands of prisoners reach this point of hopelessness and despair, not knowing what to expect next, what day of the week it is, or what time of day. Many of them are handcuffed daily for questioning, largely about their alleged affiliation with the Glen movement and / or as conspirators behind the failed 2016 military coup. Individuals include judges, officials teachers, police officers, journalists and ordinary people. The incarceration of pregnant women and children in Turkey has also become common.

It is time for the US and the EU to warn Erdogan that he must stop his gross human rights violations. They must threaten Erdogan with sanctions that will cripple his economy and take an unprecedented step in expelling Turkey from NATO. Erdogan must start by freeing the thousands of detainees, including journalists, who have been held on false charges or not at all.

Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part. But if the West fails to insist that a NATO member state fully embrace respect for human rights and restore the fundamental pillars of democracy as enshrined in its own charter, NATO becomes shamefully complicit in the crimes of the Erdogans against humanity.

Hopefully Biden won’t allow undue political consideration to prevent him from warning Erdogan that these abuses must stop. The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, says Albert Einstein, but by those who look at them without doing anything.

Dr Alon Ben-Meir is Professor of International Relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.



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