The future of human rights in Turkey CNN

Liberal explanations tend to approach globalisation with liberal democracies and economic growth (Scholte, 2005), where states protect and promote human rights, but illiberal democracies are rising in the globalised world (Zakaria, 1997). Angola, Hungary, Indonesia, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and Venezuela are some examples of regimes where democratic elections exist concurrently with a crackdown on civil liberties. Turkey, a global emerging power, became an illiberal democracy with human rights violations, and this shows that globalisation is not strictly connected with the protection of human rights, and non-state actors have a key role in promoting them.

The first years of AKP government provided the political and economic stability necessary for the implementation of essential reforms to homogenise governance with European values and human rights. This culminated with the opening of the EU accession process (David, 2016). Political and economic forces helped Turkey’s rise as a global actor, a model for the MENA region and an important player between the emerging economies. Although some authoritarianism have emerged since 2007, the Gezi Park protests mark the move from a liberal to an illiberal democracy in Turkey. The protests showed the Europeanisation of the Turkish public sphere (David and Côrte-Real Pinto, 2017), when the social movement mobilised part of the Turks to defend a more liberal democracy. The clashes between the authoritarian government and the secular society were now more visible, while corruption scandals also appeared ending the Erdoğan-Gülen alliance (Bechev, 2014).

The “New Turkey” idea led to a referendum on the presidential system, showing the polarisation of the Turkish society. The end of the Kurdish peace process brought more human rights violations from both sides. The failed coup d’état showed Turkey has an oppressive democracy, as the persecution of journalists, academics, human rights advocates, lawyers, military leaders, opposition politicians, and Kurds have increased exponentially. Due to these facts, the Council of Europe decided to re-open the monitoring procedure on human rights on Turkey.

Turkey was on the path to liberal democracy- respecting human rights and being part of the globalised world where the homogenisation of human rights protection is the trend- but Turkey stepped out by becoming an illiberal democracy in recent years. People in Turkey who do not share AKP’s ideas are in jail, or considered terrorists, which the government justifies as the necessary means to end the terrorist threat to Turkey’s national security.
When the state, under the guise of fighting terrorism, breaches the protective mechanisms of an effective human rights law at an international level, such as the international courts on human rights with impunity, they will not hesitate in proceeding to employ further repressive measures. Human rights defence will then rely on civil society, with non-state actors advocating the human rights against abuses from the state (Shelton, 2002).

Despite Western critics to human rights backlash, Turkey does not expect Western sanctions against its behaviour as it is a crucial ally. Nonetheless, pressure from civil society against the government, and the international community’s judgment of its actions against the human rights will erode the AKP government’s legitimacy, making it more difficult to be respected in the globalised world.

Human rights and globalisation do not come hand-in-hand, but human rights can help a country to become a respected actor in the globalised world. Turkey is only one example where political and economic forces were able to improve human rights in the first stage, but the same political forces are now breaking the human rights boundaries. The absence of international coercive power capable to judge the atrocities, and by being an important Western ally, the AKP government alone will not stop its human rights violations. However, civil society and other non-state actors can play an important role advocating the human rights in a state who no longer defend and promote them. This way human rights could prevail in a globalised world where illiberal democracies are on the rise.


Bechev, D. 2014. “Turkey’s illiberal turn”. European Council on Foreign Relations: Policy Brief. 16 July 2014.

David, I. 2016. “Strategic democratisation? A guide to understanding AKP in power”. Journal of Contemporary European Studies. DOI: 10.1080/14782804.2016.1235555

David, I. and G. A. Côrte-Real Pinto. 2017. “The Gezi Protests and the Europeanization of the Turkish Public Sphere”. Journal of Civil Society Vol. 13 , Iss. 3.

Scholte, J. A. 2005. “Globalization: A Critical Introduction”. Palgrave Macmillan (second edition).

Shelton, D. 2002. “Protecting Human rights in a Globalized World”. Boston College International & Comparative Law Review 25: 273-322.

Zakaria, F. 1997. “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy”. Foreign Affairs. November-December. Retrieved 12 September 2017 from