The Progress of Human Rights Reform in Turkey
Throughout the last half-century of American politics, the Presidents of the United States have been more susceptible to public attack and scorn than ever before in our history. Through events such as Nixon's Watergate, Clinton's impeachment, and the Bush wars the public has voiced scathing criticism of our national leaders without fear of personal harm. People in America know that they can openly criticize anyone and anything in our country including our president or the pillars of our country's history like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, or even our first president George Washington.
Americans do not think much about human rights because they are interlaced into the very fabric of our society. However, such rights and freedoms are not afforded to all people, and in some countries, like Turkey, a person could be killed or tortured for simply criticizing their government. Turkey is an interesting nation because in many ways it represents the divide between Western Judeo-Christian societies and Middle Eastern Islamic societies. In fact, since the beginning of the 1900's, Turkey has always been the place where Europe trails off, and another reality, another world begins.[i] As a result, it possesses many different tenets that form an amalgam within their culture, government, and everyday life. For many years Turkey and human rights were tantamount to oil and water so in order to examine their progress we must consider the short history of Turkey as a country, Turkey?s current status, and the impact of the European Union.
Turkey?s brief history
?Since being founded on July 24, 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the self-proclaimed ?Father of the Turks?, Turkey?s history has been one filled with fierce, bloody fighting between the Turks and other minorities, but mainly the Kurds.[ii]? Ataturk was a domineering, former general for the Ottoman Empire before its collapse following World War One.[iii]? He realized the only way to organize the new nation was to westernize it in an attempt to ward off initial criticism from European nations.[iv]? The 1920?s and 30?s were filled with widespread reforms, such as separating Islam from the government and literacy campaigns, in an effort to secularize Turkey and strengthen the Turkish government and people.[v]? Ataturk wanted to abolish religion as the cord that fastened all of society together, and instead chose to make Turkish nationalism the cornerstone on which he would build a country.[vi]? However, he also ushered in a lack of democracy, repression of the Kurds, and a heavy reliance on the military, and laid the foundation for similar patterns and human rights abuses to continue throughout the nation?s history.[vii]? Ataturk promised he would make Turkey a nation for all, explicitly including Kurds, but it would not take long before riots began over unjust treatment of Kurds throughout Turkey.? As a result, Kurdish culture was banned...