Target: Barack Obama
Goal: Ensure Turkey’s continued progress towards democracy
A number of human rights organizations recently addressed an open letter to President Obama detailing their concerns about the socio-political environment of Turkey. For years, the US has been fostering Turkey’s democratic development and empowerment of the public, but throughout the country progress has slowed and even regressed in terms of basic human rights. The result has been terrible suffering for the Turkish people. In order to end it, we must support the rights group letter and implore President Obama to take a firm hand on human rights with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.
Although claiming democracy and being a member of the EU and NATO, Turkey is facing human rights violations more serious than those entertained by the oppressive regimes of many developing countries. Freedom of information and free speech, for example, are nearly non-existent. Turkey is the number one jailer of journalists in the world, and has recently reached a record high of 232 imprisoned reporters. Also one of the world’s worst places for internet censorship, over 20 thousand sites (including Google) are blocked in the country.
Women’s rights are suffering just as badly. The Turkish prime minister has been quoted as saying “I don’t believe in equality between men and women,” and government policies reflect the statement. Legal birth control, abortions, and even access to safe reproductive health is extremely limited. Female victims of domestic abuse or rape have few places to turn to for help, and the frequent occurrence of violence against women has been an ongoing human rights concern for many years.
As if these issues weren’t enough, Turkey was listed as one of the worst offenders of religious freedom by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2012. Although Istanbul is home to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Eastern Orthodox Christians, the Orthodox seminary is in a state of forced shutdown. Said Bartholomew of the current situation, “Our seminary remains closed. We can’t educate our clergy. We don’t have a legal personality in Turkey and neither does the Catholic Church, Protestant churches, the Armenian Church, the Jewish community.”
Turkey has been an important ally of the United States for years. Close ties with Turkey and its government give the US a lot of weight to throw around on political issues—weight President Obama can use to make human rights a serious concern for the Turkish Prime Minister. The open letter by American rights groups is requesting just that, but voices must be raised behind it in order for this request to be heeded. Sign this petition and demand President Obama make human rights a priority in Turkey.
Dear President Obama,
For many years, Turkey has been an important ally to the United States. Through those years, our country has provided aid to foster the growth of a democratic government in Turkey—one empowering its people and granting the liberties we enjoy in America. But in recent years, Turkey has been rising on the concern lists of many human rights, women’s rights, and religious freedom watchdog organizations.
Where human rights are concerned, Turkey’s progress towards true democracy has stalled and even regressed. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights watch have called attention to the Turkish government’s failure to address women’s rights. In 2012, the U.S. commission on International Religious Freedom added Turkey to its list of worst offenders. Turkey is thought to be the world’s foremost imprisoner of journalists—breaking the record last year at 232 individuals jailed—and has one of the world’s most censored internet environments.
These concerns being all too clear, it is time to take a stand against the Turkish government and Prime Minister Erdogan. Recently addressed to you was a letter signed by numerous rights groups from around the country. That letter outlines the concerns listed above and requests a firm hand taken by the U.S. government on these issues. In the interest of Democracy and the lives of all Turkish people, I urge you to heed the rights group letter and make human rights a priority for Turkey.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: zeroarcanus via deviantArt.com