Turkey is sliding more quickly than ever to being an autocracy, or perhaps even worse, to a dictatorship. Europe’s neighbouring country is facing what many are now terming as the “dark period”.

Turkey is being faced with a number of internal issues – right from the backlash against the LGBT community and wide-spread homophobia to the Kurdish minority, who have been persecuted for years now – but the last step of this collapsing democracy is the on-going witch hunt that has been carried out since the failed coup d’état of 2016.

After this failed attempt to overthrow Erdogan’s government, the Turkish President has called for a constitutional referendum in order to change the constitution. He achieved his goal: the referendum was won, albeit with much criticism and protests regarding the validity of the votes.

Erdogan has now more power than ever, being both President and Prime minister, as well as chief of his party and being able to dismiss the Parliament whenever he wants, without having to justify such a decision.

If a democracy and State where the “rule of law” can be considered stable depends for a great part on the balance of powers within a country, the respect for human rights is another fundamental aspect which cannot be ignored. The constitutional changes that Erdogan imposed with the referendum are only part of the plan of both expunging his opponents and any person potentially linked to them, together with gaining more power.

After the failed coup, Erdogan issued a decree of state emergency, allowing him to suspend freedoms and rights of the population “in name of the state safeguard”. Since then, purges have been carried out in the country, leading to arrests of officials, scholars, journalists, lawyers and many others accused of being linked to terrorist groups. People are either arrested or suspended and their employment range from the private to the public sector.

Those charges are never supported by proof and people simply end up in jail, without being able to defend themselves properly.

This is all possible because of the state emergency decree that allow arresting people even if only suspected of a crime.

On May 19, another attack on the press led to the arrest of journalists and the director of the newspaper Sozcu himself was accused of having connections with the network of the attempted coup. Only one week before, 160 arrest warrants were issued in one morning, addressed at people working at the stock exchange.

In March itself 80 lawyers were arrested, vaguely and generically accused, once again, of being connected to the coup d’état network. The fact that lawyers are being arrested weakens the democracy even more since it is a direct attack at the legal system, making it impossible for people to have a legal defense.

In the end, a last target of Erdogan has been the NBA player Enes Kaner, who was blocked at Romania airport, where he was supposed to attend several events. At the Bucharest airport, the basketball player was told that his passport had been invalidated by the Turkish government. Kaner is a supporter of the lawyer Gülen, an eminent Turkish figure who is now in exile in the US and who has been accused by Erdogan of masterminding the coup d’état. Only because of this support expressed in the media, Kaner is now another target of Erdogan but thanks to the NBA pressures, he managed to go back to the US.

The witch-hunt Erdogan is carrying out is crossing many lines and concerns are being raised regarding the respect of human rights that are being systematically violated.

Chiara Merlino, Correspondent (Travel)

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