(Washington, D.C.) — On October 31, POMED’s Turkey Program Coordinator Merve Tahiroğlu testified in Congress before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the U.S. Helsinki Commission) in a hearing titled “At What Cost? The Human Toll of Turkey’s Policy at Home and Abroad.”
In her testimony, Tahiroğlu described how President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s consolidation of power has caused a precipitous decline in the rule of law. As part of this power grab, he has co-opted the media, overseen mass purges of judges and prosecutors, and rammed through changes to the constitution granting unprecedented power to the presidency.
Erdoğan has weaponized the judiciary against political opponents, Tahiroğlu explained. Nearly 50,000 people are imprisoned today under “terrorism” charges—from lawmakers and journalists to academics and artists.
Turkey’s rule of law breakdown matters to the United States, Tahiroğlu argued. U.S. citizens have been caught up in the dragnet; suppression of dissent fuels anti-Americanism and makes it more difficult for Turkish citizens who oppose Turkey’s actions in Syria to speak out.
Tahiroğlu urged the United States to continue to monitor political cases concerning freedom of expression and democratic rights.
Tahiroğlu testified alongside Henri Barkey of Lehigh University, Talip Küçükcan of Marmara University, Eric Schwartz of Refugees International, and Gönül Tol of the Middle East Institute.
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