deadline for submissions: 
May 23, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Hasan Aydin, Florida Gulf Coast University


Human Rights in Turkey: A fading shadow of democracy


Editors: Hasan Aydin, Florida Gulf Coast University

   Winston Langley, The University of Massachusetts-Boston


The rationale for the Book:

Over the last several decades, Turkey has been confronted with the anti-democratic practices of its government. The country has been unable to resolve critical issues regarding and affecting the rights of the nation’s various minority ethnic groups, those who hold beliefs and ideologies different from the mainstream and the sanctioned or deal with issues of gender, which are main concerns of human rights defenders (Langley, 2002). Even though in the early 2000s, Turkey took several critical steps in the name of democratization as a result of its desire to join the European Union, this progress was not sustained. The country advertised its goals as increasing democratic values, integrating laws with European standards, increasing the prosperity of her citizens, and showing concern for the general welfare of Turkish society. During this period, Turkey achieved considerable progress and became recognized as one of the most successful countries in the world in decreasing human right violations and promoting democratic values (Abramowitz, 2018). Such progress ended as the politicians could not find their way to unite the country’s differing interests into a politically cohesive whole. Under the current government, in fact, Turkish society has become more polarized than ever before under an autocratic regime that has brought a halt to the democratic transformation.

Beginning with the use of excessive force by law enforcement agencies to disperse civilian activists fighting an urban development plan in Taksim Gezi Park in May 2013, human rights violations began to escalate in Turkey. The government response to the protests led to the killing of three in the center of Istanbul, in Taksim Square, and the protest, a peaceful one at first, turned violent when police, at the behest of the political party in power, responded with undue force (Amnesty International, 2015; Human Rights Watch, 2014). Protests against the government followed nationwide with approximately three and a half million people participating in almost 5,000 demonstrations (Bellaigue, 2013). During these protests, 12 people lost their lives, one of whom was a child, Berkin Elvan with more than 4,000 people injured, and 5,513 civilians taken into the custody. Hundreds of those arrested were charged with terrorism. More than a hundred organizations supporting what came to be called the Gezi Park Protests formed a coalition called Taksim Solidarity, which became the subject of criminal investigations. Prominent journalists and commentators opposed to the government’s response to the  Gezi Park protests were dismissed from their jobs due to the pressure of the government on their media outlets (Amnesty International, 2015; Human Rights Watch, 2014).

Even while the actions at Gezi Park were taking place, corruption related to the granting of government contracts remained a major problem in Turkey (Freedom House, 2014, 2019b). A corruption investigation that occurred between the 17th and 25th of  December 2013 involved several high-level officials including Ministers and their relatives, which many understood to be a serious threat the possibility of a Turkish democracy (Freedom House, 2014). Members of the government involved in the scandal denied the claims made against them and accused those conducting the investigation of staging a judicial coup. Prosecutors, judges, and police officers who took part in the investigation were eventually declared to be terrorists and were accused of working for a parallel state (Freedom House, 2015). Instead of probing corruption claims widely, the Turkish government accused the civil servants involved in participating in a conspiracy (Freedom House, 2019b; Human Rights Watch, 2016b). When the in-place judiciary attempted to bring the cases to trial, the government interceded and, with the help of pro-government members of the judiciary, brought corruption hearings to an end (Amnesty International, 2015; Human Rights Watch, 2016b). 

A scandal broke out on January 2014, when trucks were seized and were found to be carrying weapons in Adana that were bound for Syria. However, the Turkish Gendarmerie who conducted the search were all fired from their positions and faced legal investigation. The first official statements about the incident were that those trucks were loaded with humanitarian aid for Turkmen groups located in northern Syria. Later, however, both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other government officials accepted the fact that those trucks were part of covert operations. Two prominent journalists, Erdem Gül and Can Dündar, published stories revealing the actual content of the trucks in the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, but the government responded by accusing them of espionage, and they were subsequently detained in prison for several months (Amnesty International, 2016).

This singular event marked the beginning of a government campaign to control the media, and pressure on the media escalated to the point at which the opposition media were silenced. The private cable channel, Digiturk, for example, stopped broadcasting TV channels belonging to the Gulen Movement. At the beginning of the November of the very same year, daily newspapers and televisions channels belonging to Ipek Group was raided, and government trustees were assigned to take over the company. Further, Turkish Satellite Communication Company Turksat dropped programming by the Samanyolu Group, media outlet, and the chief executive of the group, Hidayet Karaca was sent to prison. Subsequently, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2018 after four years of pretrial detention (Amnesty International, 2015, 2016; Freedom House, 2017, 2019a; Human Rights Watch, 2014).

All above-mentioned oppressive practices and the decline of democracy led to a reaction against the ruling AKP party in 2015. In a general election carried out on 7 June 2015, the AKP lost the majority it held in the parliament. To regain control, the AKP decided to employ a war strategy to garner popular support. During this period, the process to find peace with Kurdish elements in Turkish society was taking place. However, the government, to provoke a diversionary crisis, escalated human rights violations against the Kurds, especially in southeastern Turkey. Attacks against the Kurdish media and the Kurdish political party, (People’s Democratic Party, HDP), increased severely (Human Rights Watch, 2016b). Such actions were consistent with previous actions by the Turkish government that reserved the right to close down political parties at will using the pretext that such entities posed a threat to the state (Lewis & Skutsch, 1991). As a result, the ruling party launched operations against those who were clamoring for autonomy in southeastern Turkey. The excessive force used in those operations included torture, the destruction of houses belong to civilians, violence against women, disruption of medical care, and intentional creation food and water shortages among the civilians (Human Rights Watch, 2016a; OHCHR, 2017). According to some estimates, more than 350,000 people were compelled to evacuate their homes and to move to other cities (Human Rights Watch, 2016a). In subsequent security operations, civilians who wanted to return to their homes and repair the damage caused by the operations were not allowed to do so by Turkish authorities. Damaged houses and buildings were, in fact, demolished by bulldozers to prevent the rebuilding of the settlements (OHCHR, 2017).

For some time, the anti-democratic actions of the repressive regime were prosecuted on no legal base. While seeking ways of how to create the legal environment in which such practices could be made legal and permanent, a coup was attempted on July 15, 2016. The government crack-down in response to the coup attempt, caused serious damage to Turkish society. The response resulted in 237 civilian deaths, 2191 injures, and the arrest of  34 coup plotters (Amnesty International, 2017b). After the coup attempt, the Turkish Government declared a three-month  State of Emergency that was eventually extended to two years (Amnesty International, 2017b). The scope of the State of Emergency was not limited to prosecuting those involved in the coup attempt.  Instead, it turned in to a “witch hunt” throughout Turkey (Abramowitz, 2018). A considerable number of people who were not involved in the coup attempt or in any other crime were persecuted based on their perceived ideological beliefs.  Political opponents were accused of being terrorists and enemies of the state, and the ruling political party consistently used the term “enemy” in its campaign slogans during their elections (Abramowitz, 2018).

Human right violations reached unprecedented levels after the failed coup attempt.   Beginning in July of 2016, Turkish government dismissed from service thousands of people who never were involved in any kind of violent acts, included among them high-ranking military officials, university professors, journalists, judges, human rights defenders, police officers, scientists, teachers, doctors, students, and others, many of whom were jailed. Turkey became a world leader in jailing intellectuals and opposition politicians (OHCHR, 2018). During the declared a state of emergency in the aftermath of the coup attempt, the government reportedly suspended from employment, detained, or placed under investigation without any evidence of wrongdoing a considerable number of people (Human Rights Watch, 2017, 2018). The U.S. Department of State (2018) reported that the number of people under investigation was 612,347, 2,060 of whom were under the age of 18.

The Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) made calls for the protection of the between 16,000 and 20,000 women, some of whom were pregnant, and the 700 children who were then being held in pre-detention custody or in prisons in Turkey (Stockholm Center for Freedom, 2017). Exposing pregnant women to unhealthy conditions and incarcerating them in prisons where the lack of medical equipment and staff makes them vulnerable to serious health risks such as birth complications and death (Amnesty International, 2018) has become a common practice in Turkey (Stockholm Center for Freedom, 2017).

In addition, Human Rights Watch (2019c) noted that Turkey has also seen mass arrests and trials on terrorism charges of hundreds of lawyers tried in proceedings that rights groups have documented as being politicized and unfair. While lawyers always have a critical role to play in protecting the rights of suspects in police custody and defendants in court, their role in protecting the rule of law and human rights is all the more fundamental in the context of the current crackdown in Turkey. Yet, or more likely because of that, as this report demonstrates, authorities have also targeted lawyers, in particular, criminal defense lawyers (Amnesty International, 2017a; OHCHR, 2018). More than a thousand lawyers have been prosecuted for terrorism offenses in the past two and a half years, with several hundred held in prolonged pretrial detention. A civic group, the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, reported in April 2019 that 1,546 lawyers have been prosecuted, with 274 among them convicted in first-instance courts of membership of a terrorist organization, with 598 having been held in pretrial detention for varying periods (The Arrested Lawyers Initiative, 2019) and approximately 34 bar associations were shut down on the grounds of an alleged affiliation with a terrorist organization (OHCHR, 2018). 

According to the State of Emergency Commission (Ohal İşlemleri İnceleme Komisyonu, 2018), more than 136,000 people have been purged from public service through emergency government decrees. Three hundred journalists have been arrested on the grounds (many of the arrested journalists are known to be liberal, leftist, pro-Kurdish or nationalist) that their publications contained “apologist sentiments regarding terrorism” or other “verbal act offenses” or for “membership” in terrorist organizations. Hundreds more are currently on trial (Kingsley, 2017). The individuals arrested have not been “provided with specific evidence against them and, were unaware of investigations against them” (OHCHR, 2018). Because the stated purpose of the emergency regime was to restore the normal functioning of the democratic institutions, it is unclear how measures such as the eviction of families of civil servants from publicly-owned housing may contribute to this goal,” the OHCHR, report states. More than 200 media outlets and 1,769 non-governmental organizations, such as associations, unions, and confederations, have been closed.  In addition, more than 100,000 websites were reportedly blocked in 2016, including a high number of pro-Kurdish websites and satellite TV channels.

The Turkish Constitution was designed, in 1982, in conformity with Turkey’s strict adherence to a single Turkish nationalism (Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP), 2011). Turkey has enacted laws that are either patently undemocratic or authoritarian such as prohibiting minorities from getting primary education in their mother tongue (Ozfidan, 2017). The country's largest minority, the Kurds, who comprise 23% of the population, have no right to self-determination even though Turkey has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This refusal is felt through Turkey’s embargo of their language, cultural, and political freedoms (KHRP, 2011). The government’s refusal to support such cultural has issued results in violence and arbitrary detention for several decades. Turkey today is riven by internal polarization and is increasingly estranged from the West. The country faces serious social, economic, and political challenges—particularly a deep division between supporters and opponents of the current government and its more religious, nationalist, and populist agenda. For example, in the wake of July 2016 coup attempt, the Turkish government shuttered 1,500 civil society groups (CSOs) and many groups, such as Gulen movement supporters, Kurdish groups, liberal activist groups, and the rule of law organizations are under tremendous pressure (Center of American Progress, 2017). Scholars and human right organizations are urging Turkey to recognize all the minorities in its territory and to provide them the full opportunities to enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights and to adopt the necessary plans of action for this purpose.

The quasi-legal practices of the administration during the state of emergency also have seriously affected education rights. Looking at restrictions on the right to peaceful protest and assembly in Turkey, the World Report (2019) described attacks on academic freedom, and a failure to investigate allegations of torture in police custody. More than 7,257 academics were fired, and 5,705 academics were suspended and fired since July 2016 (United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, 2017). In addition to that, around 463 academics are estimated to have lost their jobs because they signed “the academic petition.” Apart from 26 academics who have been forced to retire, 437 academics have been dismissed without due process or legal recourse (Ozsoy, 2018). The petition for Peace Initiative called for an end to the war against Kurds in Turkey and protested the use of force against civilians and members of a trade union. Many of the hundreds who signed the petition have been subjected to suspensions from their jobs, disciplinary action, dismissals, criminal investigations, and even incarceration in solitary confinement. On September 8, 2016, the government also announced the suspension of 11,500 Kurdish teachers for alleged links to a terrorist organization (Butler & Toksabay, 2016). An atmosphere of fear has been created to silence all democratic dissent. In the wake of the failed coup attempt of July, violations of fundamental rights and freedoms have further eroded democracy in Turkey.


Since the failed coup attempt more than 15 higher education institutions, 1069 private schools, 848 students’ dormitories, 301 university preparation schools (dershane), 19 unions and trade confederations, and many civil society organizations have been shut down (Stockholm Center for Freedom, 2017; United States Department of State-Bureau of Democracy, 2018).  More than twenty thousand academic faculties have been closed; their staffs fired.  Close to 100,000 public and private school teachers, across the country, were abruptly dismissed from their jobs and most of them were detained or jailed, and some of them are still under investigation. All 1,576 deans serving universities in Turkey were forced to resign, and a travel ban was imposed on all academics. All of those affected were dismissed on allegations of being members of terrorist organizations or undermining the national security of the state. None were afforded any procedural rights or confronted with any evidence to justify such allegations and dismissals, and no official charges have been brought(Human Rights Watch, 2017).

While the attempted coup represented a threat to democracy in Turkey, the dismantling of democracy was in the making before the coup attempt. The government's measures constitute further attacks on all critical voices and the rule of law in the country. The targeting of individuals and institutions for their associations, real and alleged, without evidence of wrongdoing, is a violation of fundamental human rights and, where academic personnel and universities are involved, they constitute a severe assault on academic freedom that, in itself, is a threat to democracy. In addition, whether fired in the post-coup purge or for signing a petition decrying violence against scholars, academic and other professionalisms are leaving in the country in droves. It is unlikely, under the current conditions, that intellectuals will serve as civil servants in Turkey.

Because of the unlawful practices of the Turkish Government in recent years, Turkish people who have been seriously affected from human right violations, especially, after a coup attempt on 15 July 2016, began to escape the political conflicts and the ill-treatment of the Turkish government. Even though the UNHRC (2018) report did not emphasize the situation, Turkish became the 5th country among those nations whose citizens are seeking asylum in Europe. According to statistics, the number of asylum seekers from Turkey had gradually decreased from 2008 to 2016. However, a dramatic increase in the number of asylum applications occurred in 2016 in Europe, corresponding to the state of emergency declared in Turkey. By 2018, the number of Turkish refugees in Europe seeking asylum had arisen to 23,407, which was almost five times the number reported in 2016 (European Asylum Support Office, 2019).

The study of human rights violations in Turkey remains a limited area of exploration, specifically, during Erdogan’s era and especially, after the crack-down after the coup attempt in July 2016. This edited collection is an attempt to include a range of up-to-date social science, humanities, and political science empirical research articles and theoretical discussions on the nature of the experience of human rights violations in Turkey. Chapters for this book could include personal anecdotes and the collection of empirical data regarding shifts in an author’s thinking about including all aspects of violations of human rights in Turkey.

Book chapter contributions centered (but not exclusively) on the following themes are welcomed:

  1. The history of Turkish democracy
  2. The protection of the cultural and political rights of ethnic minorities
  3. Corruption and a lack of transparency in government
  4. Police activities including torture in custody and jail and abductions
  5. Academic freedom and educational rights
  6. The rights of women and children
  7. Freedom of speech and the press (Internet, social media, etc.)
  8. Discrimination and abuses
  9. Human trafficking
  10. Protection of refugees and the rights of migrants
  11. Turkish refugees (asylum seekers outside of Turkey)
  12. Impacts of the current political situation on the economy (brain drain)


Submission & Inquiry Procedures:


Chapter Proposal Submission Requirements: in your Chapter Proposal submission, please include the following information: (1) name(s) of authors and institutional affiliation; (2) title of the proposed chapter; and (3) a proposal narrative, not to exceed 500 words excluding references.  Additionally, the chapter proposal must identify which one of the themes of this edited volume you believe the proposed chapter would best fit.


Final chapters accepted for the book should be 25-30 pages (7000-8000 words), including all references, tables, figures, and charts.


Chapter authors must commit to reviewing one chapter as part of their participation in this project.

All proposals and questions should be submitted to the editors at




  • The call sent out: May 23, 2019
  • Proposal submission (a 500-word chapter abstract): July 10, 2019
  • Peer Review & Acceptance/Rejection Notification: July 30, 2019
  • A complete book proposal to the publisher: September 01, 2019
  • Full chapter to editors:  October 1, 2019
  • Chapters emailed to reviewers: November 01, 2019
  • Chapters reviews due to editors: November 15, 2019
  • Chapters returned with reviews to authors for revision: December 1, 2019
  • Completed and revised book to the editors:  January 1, 2020
  • Full book submission to the publisher: February 1, 2020
  • Given the review process, it is anticipated that the book will be published in the summer of 2020.
  • Chapters should be between 7,000 and 8,000 words, including the abstract, tables, figures, and references.


Publisher: An academic publisher has been identified. Based on the publisher’s response and their proposal requirements, a full table of contents is required for submission. Once authors have been identified and a table of contents created, the editors will submit this manuscript for review and acquisition.



General Formatting

Submitted manuscripts should conform to the following guidelines:

  • MS Word .doc or .docx
  • 12 point
  • Times New Roman font
  • double-spaced
  • 1" margins
  • Justified
  • APA 6th edition style for citations, tables, and figures
  • APA 6th edition style for paper sections.
  • Use the doi (Digital Object Identifier) when available


  • It is the author’s responsibility to obtain any permissions required for copyrighted material reused in the book before the delivery of the manuscript. This includes quotations of 40 words or more, illustrations, and tables that do not fit into the categories of fair use or public domain. Song lyrics and poetry always require permission unless they are in the public domain. These can be costly and/or difficult to obtain; we suggest avoiding such material whenever possible.
  • Where there is any doubt, such as using a modified version of an illustration, it is wise and courteous to ask for permission and to give credit for the material (e.g., Modified from …, Adapted from…).
  • Be sure to include the appropriate source line as a table footnote or as part of the figure caption. Follow any specific wording requirements itemized by the original publisher.




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OHCHR. (2017). Report on the human rights situation in south-east Turkey from July 2015 to December 2016. New York, NY: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Retrieved from OHCHR_South-East_TurkeyReport_10March2017.pdf

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Ozsoy, E. C. (2018, 15 June). Academics for peace – Imprisonment, censorship continue. University World News. Retrieved from story=2018061309132653

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