Authoritarianism And A Case Of Free Speech In Turkey
According to a report by Burak Akinci & Stuart Williams, On December 26th, 2014, a court in Turkey released a 16 year old by the name of Mehmet Emin Altunses, after complaints by his lawyer, after Altunses was said to have criticized Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. However, Altunses still faces the possibility of a trial. According to reports, “Altunses had delivered a speech on Wednesday in the central Turkish city of Konya, a bastion of the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), where he accused Erdogan and the ruling party of corruption. He was detained by police at school in Konya in the middle of lessons on Wednesday afternoon and immediately taken for interrogation by police. A court then ordered his arrest.”
But even though this event occurred, Altunses proclaimed that he would continue to speak out against Erdogan and the AKP party in Turkey. He was quoted as saying that Erdogan is the ““chief of theft, bribery and corruption”” (Akinci & Williams, 2014).
It is critical that Altunses not face any sort of trial for his comments about Erdogan. The events in the country in recent years have been quite troubling. The police response to the protesters in Gezi Park clearly violated human rights. In addition, Erdogan has repeatedly challenged reports about state corruption, and has went as far as arresting those that he felt had a part in reporting the story. Moreover, he has cracked down on Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet movement in Turkey, who Erdogan sees as challenging his authority. He has also ignored citizen and environmental rights as he has expanded upon new economic development projects.
This recent development is yet another authoritarian act by Erdogan, and one that needs to be stopped immediately. Turkey cannot in any way limit freedom speech. It must ensure that all citizens have the right to speak what is on their mind, to have the ability to voice their political position, and to live the way that wish to live, without interference or fear.
It is imperative that Erdogan immediately drop all charges against Altunses. We must continue to monitor developments in Turkey, and continue to demand that Erdogan stop his authoritarian actions with regards to human rights violations in the country. Despite the fact that many see a current divide between secularism and political Islam, what is directly affecting the future of Turkish democracy is the moves of authoritarianism by Erdogan.