Concerns on "friction" in Syria and scope of anti-terror laws in Turkey

Concerns on "friction" in Syria and scope of anti-terror laws in Turkey
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"Friction with the US" resulting from Turkey's targeting of Kurdish militia in Syria, and rights violations under anti-terror laws in Turkey have been noted with concern in US State Department' latest report on terrorism.

US State Department's 2021 report on terrorism pointed out that Turkey's targeting of Kurdish militia in Syria has resulted in "a significant point of friction with the United States," and that "affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK] which operate on Syrian soil represent Turkey's primary counterterrorism concern in Syria."

The report, released on Monday, said that Ankara "views the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US partner in the counter-ISIS campaign, as a branch of the PKK terrorist group, and this remained a significant point of friction with the United States."

Concerns over rights violations

The report also expresses concerns over detention and arrest of Turkish citizens and foreigners residing in Turkey for "alleged terrorism-related links" that are "often based on scant evidence and minimal due process."

It said:

"Since the failed coup [on 15 July 2016], the Government of Turkey has conducted 135,916 Gulen-related operations, arrested 312,121 citizens, dismissed or suspended more than 125,000 civil servants from public office, and closed more than 1,500 NGOs for alleged Gulen movement links. Politically motivated detentions and arrests of individuals - including journalists, human rights activists, lawyers, and politicians accused of supporting or aiding either the PKK or the Gulen movement - under antiterror and other laws continued in 2021."

Another concern was expressed over the implementation of a new law approved by the Turkish Parliament in 2021, titled "Prevention of Financing of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” reportedly aimed at addressing shortcomings in anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism.

While Turkey's Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) created a system to categorize non-profit organizations (NPOs) according to risk criteria and increased its audits of those in what it deemed to be the highest risk categories, it has not publicly released its risk criteria, the report noted, adding:

"To date, audits have focused on NPOs working on human rights issues and vulnerable communities, particularly groups that focus on the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons (...) The indiscriminate scope of the new legal provisions on aid collection do not seem to meet the requirements of necessity and proportionality to protect freedom of association, and lack of judicial oversight to authorities could constitute serious infringement of the right of associations to conduct their own affairs. The Venice Commission and other international bodies have issued opinions and recommendations aimed at addressing these deficiencies."