Turkish tank in Afrin, northern Syria 2018 (Credit: Photographer: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP via Getty Images)
After the failed coup d'etat of July 2016, President Erdoğan declared a state of emergency that lasted until July 2018. Police incarcerated thousands of people without credible evidence. They were accused of supporting the Fetullah Gülen movement. Severe restrictions on freedom of expression were imposed, including on social media accounts. Disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrests rose drastically. Police brutally dispersed protests and demonstrations.
President Erdoğan has openly expressed his intention to recreate the regional domination of the Ottoman Empire. He has turned the Hagia Sophea, which was first a Byzantine Christian Church, then a mosque, then a museum, back into a mosque. He has sent Turkish troops to Libya, Cyprus, and Azerbaijan and has engaged in naval maneuvers in the Eastern Mediterranean that have challenged free navigation by Greek and other vessels.
In 2018, Turkey invaded the Syrian province of Afrin and forcibly displaced its Kurdish and Yazidi population. In October 2019, Turkey invaded north-east Syria. President Erdoğan explained to the UN that “Operation Peace Spring” was ''to establish a 32km-deep border safe zone for Syrian refugees.'' However, the operation mainly targeted Kurdish forces that had defeated ISIS. Turkey and Syria have crippled the Kurdish self-governing area in northern Syria called Rojava. “Operation Peace Spring” ended with compelling evidence of Turkish war crimes. U.S. troop withdrawals from northern Syria have left Kurdish civilians there at grave risk of genocide.
Repression of freedom of expression in Turkey increased after “Operation Peace Spring.” According to Amnesty International, the government investigated over 839 social media accounts for sharing "criminal content" related to the operation. Thousands of journalists, editors, authors, and human rights defenders were detained on charges of ''membership in a terrorist organization", including the ex-director of Amnesty International Turkey.
In March 2019, municipal elections resulted in a victory for the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in Turkey's three largest cities (Istanbul, İzmir, and Ankara). The elections in Istanbul were declared invalid by the Supreme Election Board. In the re-election of June 2019, the CHP candidate, Ekrem Imamoğlu, again won Istanbul's municipal leadership.
2019 Turkish local election results: AKP (orange)= Justice and Development (Erdoğan) party, allied with MHP (blue)= Nationalist Movement Party. CHP (red) = Republican People's Party (opposition), allied with IYI (Good Party); HDP (purple) = Kurdish People's Democracy Party (opposition); TKP (yellow) = Communist Party; Diger (grey) Independent Party.
The Erdoğan regime replaced the elected mayors in dozens of municipalities in Eastern Turkey, who were members of the Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HDP). The government cited ''terrorism-related investigations'' as the reason for removing these mayors. Amnesty International says 18 out of 32 replaced mayors remain in pre-trial detention.
In October 2019, the United States Congress passed the “Record on the Armenian Genocide Resolution,” which recognizes and commemorates the Armenian Genocide, rejects its denial, and promotes public education about the Armenian Genocide carried out by the Ottoman Turks between 1915-1923.
In November 2019, police attacked thousands of women who marched for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women with plastic bullets and tear gas. Turkey in 2020 had a sharp increase in women's murder and torture following the COVID-19 outbreak and an alarming increase in cases of femicide in Turkey.
Genocide Watch considers the situation in Turkish occupied Northern Syria to be at stage 9 of the genocidal process, Extermination, with the Turkish army and its mercenary allies as the perpetrators and opposition leaders, Kurdish civilians, and Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria as the victims.
Turkey is also at stage 10, Denial of the Armenian, Assyrian, and Pontic Greek genocides perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 – 1923 and Denial of the war crimes Turkey committed against Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria during Operation Peace Spring in 2019.
Genocide Watch considers Turkey to be at the stages of Organization (5), Polarization (6), and Persecution (8) as Kurdish leaders are banned from office and kept in pre-trial detention for "being members of a terrorist organization," and journalists, human rights activists, and opposition leaders are arrested, imprisoned, and "disappeared", and women are victims of increased femicide.
Genocide Watch recommends:
UN and NGO human rights investigators should document war crimes and crimes against humanity in south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria. Turkey should be taken to the European Court of Human Rights for these crimes.
The UN Human Rights Council should demand that Turkey release persons detained without credible evidence, especially journalists and human rights defenders.
Human rights organizations should recognize Turkish crimes against the Kurdish population as genocide.
The UN Human Rights Council and NGO’s should condemn increasing femicide in Turkey.
The EU should renegotiate its refugee and border policies with Turkey to avoid being blackmailed by Turkish expulsions that cause drownings and humanitarian emergencies.