The European Union is a democratic family of countries set up to create peace and prosperity (“United”). One of the many countries that have been striving to become a member of this democratic family for almost 50 years now is Turkey (Ahto ,”Leaders”) and it almost “got its wish” because on the 3rd of October 2005 negotiations on becoming a member were started (Ahto, “EU “). However, before Turkey can join the EU it must meet the requirements of the Copenhagen entry criteria, which include improving its human rights record (“EU Reports” Ahto).Although Turkey, has had a notoriously poor human rights record , it has recently made significant improvements in this as a result of its desire to join the EU. If Turkey’s attempt to join the EU is to be successful it must continue to improve it’s human rights, particularly in it’s treatment of minorities, its routine use of torture and its treatment of women.
Turkish discrimination against Kurds and Armenians goes back to the Ottoman Empire when the Ottoman forces killed a large number of Kurds and Armenians. In 1915, the Kurds suffered greatly under the Turkish Ottoman rule (“Kurds”). Moreover, this discrimination continued until the 90’s as the government fought the Kurdistan Workers Party and killed many Kurds forcing the remaining ones to leave Turkey. Until very recently broadcasting has only been in Turkish. However, the situation for the Kurds in Turkey has improved since then because it became to an extent legal for radio stations to broadcast in languages other than Turkish (Karimova and Deverell).Therefore, this showed that Turkey believed the Kurds to have a place in their culture and that it acknowledged the fact that they have the right to remain in Turkey. Furthermore, to fulfill one of the many requirements of joining the EU, Turkey allowed private education and the naming of children in Kurdish and “put a lid” on the emergency rule in Southeast Turkey (“Kurds”).
Yet, the Kurds have a low status in Turkey where the government is taking a strong stand against the PPK (“Kurds”). Thus, traces of discrimination still and will continue to remain unless the Turkish government wisely withdraws from its fight against the PPK. Not only will this withdrawal improve Turkey’s chance to become an EU member but it will also clear up its terrible human rights record. The Armenians also endured the cruelty of Ottoman rule in 1915 when it nearly wiped out the Armenian culture from existence. This historical event known as the Armenian Genocide is a major issue these days because Turkey stubbornly refuses to admit that killings have occurred. One recent improvement in Turkish Armenian relations is the Black Sea Economic Co-operation meeting because it forces Turkish officials to come to points of agreement with the Armenians. In order to allow the European Union to accept Turkey into its circle of members it will have to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
In addition, Turkey’s government system in the past allowed the torture of prisoners during interrogation and punished them during their time in prison. Therefore, “more than four hundred Turkish citizens died in custody” after 1980 (“Turkey”). This and other horrendous events led to the European Union questioning Turkey’s Human rights record and that is one of the main reasons why the EU started passing the “penal code” to regulate(Smith). Yet again Turkey has improved because after 1997 it created new laws hoping it would lead to its alignment with the other members of the European Union and improve its prospects for joining the EU (“Eradicating Torture”). Despite the fact that those laws were implemented with the new penal code in mind, they were not fairly carried out by the Turkish government and at times, they were neglected (“Eradicating Torture” 4).
Moreover, there have been significant improvements because now prisoners are provided with medical check-up and legal counseling (“Eradicating Torture”). However, police officials have not quite efficiently supervised police stations in the past because as mentioned by a Human Rights Watch article they neglected their duties without having to face any authoritative rebuke .Despite the improvements in 2004 interrogators were still torturing prisoners and laws created making this illegal were neglected (“Eradicating Torture”). To prevent this illegal torture Turkey has to closely monitor the situation in police units and keep them under surveillance and then place in prison those who disregard the laws so as to ensure that police officials fully implement them. This will help Turkey make a new start and join the EU (“Eradicating Torture”).
Furthermore, to join the EU Turkey will have to treat women and men equally. This is because the EU was established on the basis of “gender equality” and its members operate on that basis. Nevertheless, Turkey treats women and men differently. Although Turkey has shown progress with regard to women’s rights by modifying the penal code that recognizes and tries to solve issues such as “honor killings, sexual assaults and virginity testing” (Pavan-Woolfe), problems still remain because women are still being treated harshly. Presently, it’s not unusual for women to be raped, shunned by family members and forced to marry their rapists due to Turkey’s cultural beliefs and traditions which do no comply with that of the EU. One terrible example of this is, Ayse Ozgur who was raped and forced to marry her rapist, beaten by her father, starved by her mother and locked up in her home attic (Smith).
Lisa Pavaan-Woolfe in the article “Combating Discrimination in the European Union and in Turkey” describes the European Union as being “funded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law” (Pavaan-Woolfe). If Turkey is to join the EU Turkey it will have to stop discriminating women which will not be easy, however, because this has been a basic part of Turkey for a long time and so real change will take time (Pavaan-Woolfe). To do this Turkey will have to educate people more on women’s rights since it already has begun an “awareness raising event” in 2004 (Pavaan-Woolfe). Gradually, this will change Turkey’s harsh attitude towards and harsh view of women. Further, the Turkish government must see to the full implementation of the Law for Family Protecting, which defends most importantly women from “spousal abuse” and the Civil Law that prevents discrimination of women by families (Pavan-Woolfe).
Thus, Turkey will have to tackle its human right issue though it might take some time in order to redeem itself in the eyes of the European Union Committee. This means that the European Union has to combat discrimination of minorities, women and mistreatment of prisoners.
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