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State Department 2021 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Turkey

This 96-page report issued by the United States State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor details human rights abuses in Turkey over the course of seven sections: Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Respect for Civil Liberties, Freedom to Participate in the Political Process, Corruption and Lack fo Transparency in Government, Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights, Discrimination and Societal Abuses, and Worker Rights. Each section gives a detailed account of incidences in Turkey that limited civilians' rights to freedom of expression, participation in the political process, freedom from unlawful prosecution and due process, and freedom of the press. Overall, the report shows the violations against individual and group rights and the democratic backsliding Turkey is experiencing as a result of the current regime.

The current AKP government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has almost complete control over the judiciary and legislative processes and oftentimes does not abide by the freedoms granted to individuals by Turkish law. The criminal justice system violates defendants' right toTurkey's due process and often arrests and detains people on arbitrary and circumstantial evidence. Erdogan has worked to replace judges that do not support the regime, usually ones accused of associating with the Gulen movement, with those who will purge political dissidents as it suits the President. Additionally, the criminal justice system routinely violates human dignity and basic needs through the unchecked torture and abuse of prisoners. On a localized level, police forces often participate in violence, with there being several examples of police brutality in response to peaceful protests.

Affronts to civil liberties are enforced by corrupt policing and are upheld by the judiciary. Checks and balances between different sectors of society and the government are almost nonexistent. Erdogan uses the political structure to his advantage while instilling a state of fear in those who speak out or disagree with his rule: individuals or groups cannot criticize the regime or Erdogan without legal, political, and personal repercussions to their careers or livelihoods. The regime ruthlessly limits freedom of assembly, unionization, expression, and access to information under the guise of anti-terrorism efforts that target those bold enough to protest Turkey's human rights abuses and discriminatory policies.

While Turkey does hold frequent elections, there are significant barriers to entry for opposition political parties. The ruling AKP party currently occupies the majority in parliament, and it is difficult for opposition parties to begin or gain traction. Media coverage largely focuses on and supports the AKP, and censorship and information blocking are defining characteristics of the regime's control over news, social media, and the press. Representation in politics and media remains hostile to women and other marginalized groups despite de jure laws that do not prohibit their participation.

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