International organization Human Rights Watch issued a pessimistic report on the future of democracy in Turkey in Istanbul on Jan. 27. The human rights advocacy group noted an upswing in human rights violations and a lack of checks on government power in the country.
“We are seeing the dismantling of all checks on power of the [nation’s] leaders," senior HRW researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb said in a statement, according to Today’s Zaman. "Turkey is basically dismantling and eroding its democratic framework. This spells, for Turkey, dark times ahead.”
The human rights report specifically targeted the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who began his fourth term in November 2015 following a controversial election.
Sinclair-Webb and HRW noted the resurgence of violence in Kurdish regions as a sign of weakening democracy and mounting human rights abuses.
“The sheer spread of the descent into violence has been so shocking. We see that the state security forces are willing to take the conflict to city centers and that we are seeing that the [Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK] are a willing partner in taking the conflict to city centers,” Sinclair-Webb said.
Sinclair-Webb and the HRW also listed Turkey’s state censorship of media and handling of the refugee crisis as primary causes for concern.
“The combination of the breakdown of the Kurdish peace process and crackdown on media and political opponents over the past year spell dark times ahead and take Turkey further away from the goal of being a rights-respecting country,” noted Sinclair-Webb.
While Turkey hosts many refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East, it does not give asylum status to migrants. Turkey’s decision to not give asylum may be pushing refugees west, according to HRW’s report.
“Obviously, if refugees can have their claims heard with a reasonable prospect of finding safety in a country of first asylum, many will choose that option rather than risking their own lives and the lives of their families on one of these awful rickety boats across the Aegean or across the Mediterranean,” said an HRW representative.