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About Saeed Bagheri

Dr. Saeed Bagheri is a Lecturer in International Law at the University of Reading, School of Law. He can be reached via Twitter as @SBagheriLAW.

Image description: Large number of people walking on the streets in Turkey.

The unlimited inequality, injustice, and serious violations of socio-economic rights in Turkey has triggered public dissatisfaction with the government, demand for political alteration and application of international socio-economic rights in Turkey.

Though there have been serious critiques and anger towards the Turkish government over the past few years, the Turks have shown no tendencies toward regime change. It is worth noting, however, that calling for change arises out of national and international policies of the government which have directly or indirectly affected the citizens due to the widespread violations of the core international human rights instruments including 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which Turkey is a party to.

The Decline of Economic and Social Rights Standards

Article 14(2) of the Turkish Constitution provides that “no provision of this Constitution shall be interpreted in a manner that enables the State or individuals to destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms recognized by the Constitution or to stage an activity with the aim of restricting them more extensively than stated in the Constitution.” Nevertheless, violations of several crucial rights have caused the rise of public dissatisfaction with government over the long run. This includes discriminations against women in violation of the right to equality and non-discrimination under Article 3 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; unemployment and failure to provide the basic conditions for employment in violation of the right to work under Article 6(1); failure to ensure a minimum wage sufficient for a decent living in violation of the rights at work under Article 7(a/ii); violation of the obligation to protect the right to freedom of expression under Article 19(2); and, restriction of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association in violation of Article 22(1).The government’s failed ultra-loose monetary policy exacerbated poverty and widened the existing gap in income and wealth equality, in violation of the inherent right of all peoples to enjoy and utilise fully and freely their natural wealth and resources under Article 25 of 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It is no surprise that the confidence of 76 per cent of the Turks in the government’s economic policy has decreased.

The government’s actions (and inaction) also violate constitutional rights. The right to equality and non-discrimination (Article 20), the right to freedom of association (Article 27), the right to work (Article 28), the right of all peoples to enjoy and utilise fully and freely their natural wealth and resources (Article 43(6)) are the constitutional principles which are not applied impeccably by the government. The Turkish government, however, justifies its economic failure and its defiance of binding international human rights law principles by relying on an Islamic doctrine which allowed Turkey’s President to “continue to do whatever the religious decrees require”. Nevertheless, it does not seem that restrictions upon the fundamental rights beyond the limits set by international law are legitimate and proportionate, and it is not clear how the Turkish government bridges the gap between the social and political inequalities and the religious decrees.

Regression from the Rule of Law

Turkey has adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its democratic character is unalterable in line with the Turkish Constitution (Article 177). It is expected that the government guarantees and recognises universal socio-economic rights, since the protection of human rights is a prerequisite of a democratic governance. Conversely, restrictions on political contestation and widespread violations of socio-economic and civil and political rights form ‘illiberal democratic conditions,’ overtly creating the grounds for public dissatisfaction with government. Political influence over the judiciary and detaining and convicting dissenters—including journalists, opposition politicians and human rights defenders—without compelling evidence of criminal activity are perhaps blatant forms of abuse of power caution erosion of the rule of law and democracy framework.

As long as irresponsibility and abuse of power resulting in the violations of the socio-economic and civil rights are widespread practices, economic and social chaos and demand for resignation of the government officials or regime change will be inevitable.

As a precaution to prevent the chaos of uprisings which call for political alteration, improvement in attainment of international human rights law standards, and commitment to international human rights institutions is necessary. This would improve democratic responsibility in the Turkish society.

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