“The state of emergency regime has turned into an affair that took human rights back to the 90s”
A panel on "Kurdish Perception of Human Rights" organized by Tahir Elci Human Rights Foundation took place in Diyarbakır. Many people, including lawyers, intellectuals, writers, and journalists, attended the panel. The program moderated by Lawyer Neset Girasun, Deputy Chair of the Board of Directors of Tahir Elci Human Rights Foundation and researcher Reha Ruhavioglu announced the findings of the Research Report on the Human Rights Perception of the Kurds, which was undertaken by the Rawest Research Center.
PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY IN 11 PROVINCES
The Kurdish Perception of Human Rights Research Report was prepared by holding face-to-face interviews with 1,363 people in 11 provinces and 34 districts, including Diyarbakir, Mardin, Van, Mardin, İstanbul, İzmir, Mersin, and Adana. In the study, which was divided into two groups “Kurdish provinces” and “provinces where Kurds migrated,” the participants were asked questions on many topics including discrimination, perception of discrimination, freedom of expression, fundamental rights, and freedoms.
NO ONE IS AWARE OF INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS
To the question "What comes to mind when you think of human rights," 33 percent of the participants responded "Justice," 24 percent "Rights and Freedoms" and 10 percent "Law." According to the research, 9 out of 10 participants think that people have rights stemming from being human. More than 83 percent think that the state does not have the authority to grant rights and that these rights already exist. Although more than half of the participants know that there are laws protecting human rights in Turkey, they are not aware of international conventions.
THE MOST IMPORTANT RIGHT IS THE RIGHT TO LIVE
To the question “where do you learn your rights”, 42 percent of the respondents said that they learn about their rights from their family, 21 percent answered that they follow it on television. 11 percent said that they learn them at school and 8 percent said that they learned from books. The rights that stood out the most within the "Most Important Rights in Human Rights" were the "right to life", "freedom of expression" and "women's rights." While 72 percent of the participants considered the right to life as the most important right, half of them stated that freedom of expression is the most important one.
KURDS WHO MIGRATE TO THE WEST EXPERIENCE SECURITY CONCERNS BECAUSE OF DISCRIMINATION
According to the research, the right to life is equally important for everyone, regardless of gender, place of residence, or their political party. It is seen that the rate of men who care about freedom of expression is higher than women, the rate of young people is higher than the elderly, and that the more educated care more about it than those with lower educations attainment. Freedom of expression is more important for those living in Southeast Turkey than for those living in Western Turkey. The percentage of People’s Democratic Party (HDP) voters who care about freedom of expression is two and a half times higher than those who vote for the Justice and Development Party (AKP). On the other hand, the priority for the Kurds who migrated to Western Turkey is the "right to a safe life.” The report states that the reason is the concerns that those who live in the west have caused by the discrimination they face. The rate of women who care about women's rights is nearly three times more than that of men.
KURDS BELIEVE THAT THERE IS A “VIOLATION OF THE RIGHT TO LIFE”
To the question "Are Human Rights Violated in Turkey," 79 percent of the participants answered "yes," 8 percent "no" and 13 percent "no opinion." The second part of the previous question titled "What are the most violated rights in Turkey?" 63 percent of the participants answered "freedom of expression;" 60 percent "right to life;" 53 percent "Women's rights;” 19 percent "Right to education;" 15 percent “Right to a Fair Trial;” 10 percent “Right to Belief and Worship;” and nine percent “Right to Housing.” Four out of five respondents think that human rights are violated in Turkey.
THE REASON FOR VIOLATIONS IS THEIR ETHNIC IDENTITY
To the question about the reasons why their human rights are violated, 50 percent of the participants answered that they were exposed to discrimination because of their ethnic identity, 15 percent because of their gender, 10 percent because of their economic status, seven percent because of their religion and six percent because of their sect. Half of the participants claim that they are exposed to injustice because of their ethnic identity. Ethnic identity is followed by gender. This points to the discrimination experienced by women.
MOST VIOLATIONS HAPPEN TO WOMEN
According to the research, the most discriminated groups are women, Kurds, and the poor. In the “Groups Most Discriminated Against” section, women are at 67 percent, Kurds are 61 percent, the poor are 19 percent, children are 19 percent, the unemployed are 13 percent, and youth are at five percent. The headscarf issue, which was debated by the government and the opposition, remains at three percent.
GOVERNMENT, MEN, MEDIA, AND CORPORATIONS
In the title of "Violation of Human Rights", it is seen that the state is the institution that commits the violations the most. To the question "Which institutions commit the most violations of rights", 64 percent of the participants answered "state", 12 percent men, 10 percent media, nine percent companies, and four percent “family.” 83 percent of those who say that the state commits violations of rights are those who say that they vote for the HDP. 26 percent of those who vote for AKP think that the state has violated their rights.
THE CONDITION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE LAST 10 YEARS
According to 73 percent of the participants, the condition of human rights in Turkey in the last ten years has worsened. The rate of those who think that human rights are getting better remains at nine percent. According to 15 percent, there has been no change in the condition of human rights in the last ten years. To the question “How did human rights change in Turkey in the last 10 years”, 73 percent of the participants answered “it has deteriorated” and 15 percent answered, “it stayed the same.” The rate of those who said that the situation is improving remained at 9 percent. It is seen that among the Kurds living in Western Turkey, those who think that their human rights are deteriorating are proportionally higher than those living in Southeast Turkey.
PRISON, STRIP SEARCH, TORTURE
Participants think that in recent years there has been an increase in the number of people imprisoned and an increase of people being imprisoned due to their beliefs in Turkey. In addition, more than half of the participants think that exposure to police-military violence, strip search, and torture has increased in recent years. 65 percent of the participants believe that the number of people imprisoned increased, 54 percent of them believe that strip searches increased, 55 percent believe that tortures increased, 61 percent believe that imprisonment because of opinions increased, 55 percent believe the number of exposure to police and military gendarme violence has increased.
4 OUT OF 10 AKP SUPPORTERS THINK THAT THE SITUATION IS GETTING WORSE
Opinions about the course of human rights in Turkey vary according to political party affiliation. While the rate of HDP voters who think that the situation is getting worse is 84 percent. This rate is at 39 percent among AKP voters. According to the research, about 4 people out of every 10 Kurds who voted for the AKP think that the situation is getting worse.
PESSIMISM IS INCREASING
To the question "How will Turkey change in terms of human rights in the next 5 years," 51 percent of the participants answered "for the worse," 22 percent said "it will be the same," and 17 percent answered, "for the better." According to the data, there is pessimism about the future of human rights in Turkey. It is observed that pessimism about the future increases from Southeastern Turkey to Western Turkey, and it increases as the age gets younger and the education level gets higher.
WE ARE IN A WORSE PERIOD THAN THE 1990s
Another important part of the research is the answers given for the comparison of the present and the 1990s. Participants over the age of 30 think that nowadays and the 1990s are similar in terms of how much importance is given to human rights in Turkey. Participants believe that less value is given to human rights compared to the 1990s. People living in Southeast Turkey find the importance given to human rights lower than those living in Western Turkey. The proportion of those who say that the importance given to human rights has decreased from past to present increases as the level of education increases.
WOMEN ARE SUBJECTED TO DOUBLE DISCRIMINATION
While 39 percent of the participants stated that they have been discriminated against before, 41 percent of those who say they have been discriminated against are women and 37 percent are men. According to political party affiliation, the highest rate is 52 percent for HDP voters. HDP voters are followed by young people in the “new electorate” group in terms of discrimination. In this group, the rate of those who stated that they have been discriminated against is 43 percent. 18 percent of AKP voters say that they have experienced discrimination. What are the reasons for discrimination? 52 percent of the participants said they were discriminated against because of their "ethnic identity," 21 percent because of their gender, eight percent because of their political preference, six percent because of their ideas, five percent because of their lifestyle, and four percent because of their religion. Discrimination based on gender is almost exclusively expressed by women. Discrimination experienced by women due to ethnic identity and gender identity is almost equal. This shows that women experience ethnic identity-based and gender-based discrimination together.
30 PERCENT OF THE AKP VOTERS SUFFER FROM ETHNIC IDENTITY DISCRIMINATION
A striking part of the research is the situation of political parties in the category of discrimination. When categorized according to their political views, HDP voters are at the top with a rate of 63 percent who say that they have been discriminated against. 30 percent of AKP voters state that they experience discrimination because of their ethnic identity. AKP seems to be ahead of other parties with a rate of 48 percent in terms of gender discrimination. Discrimination due to religion and lifestyle is significantly higher among respondents who voted for the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Based on the fact that the CHP voters encountered in the research belong to the Alevi faith and/or have a secular lifestyle, Alevis seem to be the group that says they face discrimination based on their beliefs the most among Kurds.
KURDS TRUST IN BAR ASSOCIATIONS AND NGOs WORKING IN THE FIELD OF HUMAN RIGHTS
When it comes to trust in human rights-related institutions, respondents seem to give the lowest trust scores to government institutions. Participants trust institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union more than the institutions in Turkey. The institutions most trusted by the participants are bar associations and non-governmental organizations working in the field of human rights. 46 percent of the participants think that the presence of international human rights organizations in Turkey contributes to the protection of human rights. The rate of those who do not agree with this view is 13 percent. On the other hand, nearly half of the participants think that human rights violations will decrease if Turkey becomes a member of the European Union.
THE LIFTING OF IMMUNITIES IS CONSIDERED A RIGHTS VIOLATION
The prominent topics of the research report, which include the questions asked to the participants on many issues related to justice, freedom of belief, and freedom of expression, and the answers to these questions are as follows:
Justice: Three-quarters of respondents think that everyone is equal before the law. But less than a quarter think that the legal system treats everyone fairly and equally. Nearly a quarter of them consider the long duration of the lawsuits as a violation of rights. The rate of those who accept the possibility that the people detained by the police are guilty is 29 percent, this means that the legitimacy of detentions is questioned. More than half of the participants think that the judicial processes regarding the unsolved murders committed in the 1990s are not conducted fairly and that the lifting of parliamentary immunity is a violation of rights.
DISAPPROVAL OF TRUSTEE APPOINTMENTS
61 percent of the participants do not find it right to appoint trustees to municipalities. Residents and young people seem to be more bothered in this regard. Three different tendencies are close to each other in terms of quantity in the AKP supporters. 36 percent agree with the proposition that the appointment of trustees is wrong. The rate of those who do not agree with this proposition is 32 percent.
Freedom of Expression: Participants defend freedom of expression and underline that there is freedom of expression in Turkey. The rate of those who advocate that activities such as freedom of expression, demonstration marches, strikes, and protests should be carried out freely varies between 65 percent and 74 percent. However, the rate of those who say that everybody can express their thoughts freely remains at 26 percent.
Freedom of Belief: Half of the respondents believe that there can be conflicts between human rights and belief however, more than half of them think that in such a case, human rights should be taken as a basis. The participants do not support public sphere rules based on faith, less than one-fifth of the respondents argue that there should not be food service at universities during Ramadan. One-third of the participants argue that cemevis should be accepted as places of worship akin to mosques and they think that the current situation is a rights violation. The rate of those who argue that compulsory religious courses cause a violation of rights exceeds 50 percent.
THE ISTANBUL CONVENTION, WOMEN'S RIGHT TO ABORTION
Women's Rights: Three-quarters of the participants think that men and women are equal in all fields. The rate of those who oppose this view is 13 percent. The rate of those who argue that women can do all the jobs that men do in the business world is measured as 70 percent. The rate of those who do not agree with the equality of wages between men and women in the business world remains at 13 percent, and two-thirds of respondents are against this idea. 57 percent of the participants think that leaving the Istanbul Convention is a deterioration in women's rights. The rate of those who object to this view does not reach 10 percent. The rate of those who argue that women can go out whenever they want is 71 percent. Support for women's right to abortion is around 55 percent. 18 percent of respondents do not agree with the proposition about abortion.
Children's Rights: According to 72 percent of the respondents, employing children under the age of 16 is considered a violation of children's rights. Sensitivity to children's rights increases from Southeast Turkey towards Western Turkey. More than half of the participants (56 percent) consider it a violation for children to read the student oath. All political party voters think that the student oath is a violation except for CHP voters. While 29 percent of CHP voters consider the student oath as a violation, 39 percent do not agree with this view.
EDUCATION IN NATIVE LANGUAGE: A BILINGUAL EDUCATION SYSTEM IS DESIRED
Education in Native Language: Participants consider not being able to receive education in their mother tongue as a rights violation, whether it is for Turkish children in Germany or Kurdish children in Turkey. The rate of those who do not agree that this is a violation of rights remains below 10 percent. Participants mostly prefer bilingual education as how the language of education should be for Kurdish children whose mother tongue is not Turkish.
The highlights of the findings in the conclusion of the report are as follows:
- The last 10 years have been very turbulent for everyone in Turkey, but especially for the Kurds. The process for the Kurdish issue to be resolved through negotiation instead of violence both contributed to social welfare and became the basis for improvements in human rights. However, the abandonment of the “solution process” and the resumption of violence in 2015 resulted in the deterioration of human rights almost everywhere, especially in the Kurdish provinces. The State of Emergency (OHAL) regime de-jure implemented in the region and de-facto after the July 15, 2016 Coup d’etat attempt, turned into a process that took human rights back to the 1990s.
- The participants are aware of the human rights improvements Turkey had between 2012 and 2015 and its decline since 2015-16 and compare the current situation to the 1990s in terms of human rights.
- According to the participants, Kurds experience high levels of discrimination and Kurdish women experience this twice due to both their ethnic identity and gender.
- Participants think that human rights are deteriorating in Turkey and they have low trust in state institutions in terms of human rights. On the other hand, it is widely believed that detention, imprisonment, torture, and ill-treatment have also increased. However, more than two-thirds of respondents still feel that they should do something when they witness a violation.