Thank you, sir.
I thank the committee for inviting me here and for this opportunity.
In my testimony, I would like to focus on the changes in the Turkish political system in the aftermath of the attempted coup. Turkey has changed, because its political system has changed. The state of emergency declared after the attempted coup of July 15, 2016 remains in force. It's been extended eight times, each time for a three-month period. With the last extension, it will run until July 18, 2018.
The extensive and arbitrary course of action of the regime and the collective nature of the purge continue to deteriorate Turkey's society. There are widespread dismissals, arrests, and detentions, none of which are based on the fundamental constitutional order of the republic and its laws.
The state of emergency and the major power transfer to the presidency through emergency decrees enable President Erdogan and his Islamist authoritarian regime to act without any constitutional or legal boundaries. Principally, the separation of powers, a fundamental part of the rule of law and one of the main pillars of the Turkish constitution, doesn't exist anymore due to the regime's state of emergency. The very existence of the constitution is now just on paper. As a consequence of those destructive developments, previously existing constitutional checks and balances disappeared. The political system we are dealing with has nothing to do with the state architecture created by the Turkish constitution. We are not dealing with all of Turkey.
Particularly on the institutional level of the executive, the roles and functions of government institutions, procedures of the bureaucracy and the judiciary, and the decision-making mechanism of the state have been fundamentally altered. The key executive post of the political system of Turkey, according to the constitution, used to be the prime minister. In the new de facto regime, however, the president increased his power to such an extent that he has come to the top of the decision-making hierarchy. The powers of the president were further strengthened as decrees were made by the Council of Ministers under the chairmanship of President Erdogan. Erdogan was also given authority over the national intelligence agency and the power to directly appoint rectors of public universities.
Moreover, the Turkish parliament extensively lost its capability to make laws, because of the fact that the president can pass decrees on any possible issue without approval of the parliament. In this way, Erdogan was able to bypass the parliament's power of scrutiny, get rid of the opposition, and paralyze the parliament. This is the most significant violation of the people's democratic will.
The attempted coup—what Erdogan himself calls a “gift of God”—was used by Erdogan to legitimize his seizure of power. In this way, the regime in Turkey now has obviously crossed the line into dictatorship. All of these indicate only one thing: a civilian coup.
Under the state of emergency, a total of 31 decrees were issued, all of which have the force of law. State emergency decrees made civil and political rights disappear, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the ban on arbitrary detention, the right to presumption of innocence, and others. On the other hand, they enabled the creation of a police state and gave bureaucracy a wide, grey, lawless area to proceed with the extensive purge.
The decrees are not open to any judicial review. They are not even subordinated to the constitutional court. In fact, the Supreme Court has lost its entire power. The decrees affect basic civil rights under the Turkish constitution and laws as well as Turkey's international responsibilities on human rights, such as the right to a fair trial, the right to an effective legal remedy, and the right to protection of property.
According to a cabinet minister, the Turkish state has so far seized more than $4 billion U.S. worth of properties belonging to suspected people, without a court ruling. Among them, there are private companies, universities, and schools.
The regime has appointed trustees to 99 local municipalities, all of whom are in Kurdish provinces. Elected mayors, too, were suspended without a court ruling. Also, 93 democratically elected mayors and co-mayors have been arbitrarily dismissed and arrested within the last three years, and 71 are still in prison, while 11 local administrators were sentenced to a total of 89 years of imprisonment.
Over 150,000 dissidents have been taken into custody since the de facto regime seized power. Over 78,000 dissidents have been arrested. Relatives of suspects were directly targeted by a series of measures including being taken into custody, dismissal from public administration, and confiscation or cancellation of passports or their national IDs.
These practices are major violations of the Turkish constitution and clearly contradict international standards. A a set of unofficial criteria were relied upon to determine alleged links to the Gülen movement, including the attendance of a child at a certain school, the deposit of money in a certain bank, or use of the mobile texting application ByLock, which is a free smart phone application that anybody could download.
In the last two years, since the Erdogan regime's seizure of power, more than 150,000 civil servants, professors, teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, bureaucrats, diplomatic staff members, judges, prosecutors, and many more have been dismissed through those unconstitutional and unlawful emergency decrees. Those dismissals have taken place without any court rule.
I am one of those victims, as a professor, who were arbitrarily discharged from a tenured position at a public university. I was on sabbatical at Memorial University here in Canada when I was charged in absentia through an emergency decree. Thousands of my colleagues have faced the same injustice and persecution. Among those dismissed from the education sector are teachers who are members of the left-wing teachers' union and academics who had signed the peace petition of January 2016.
I am also one of these academics who signed the Academics for Peace declaration. The people who were dismissed and who have not been arrested yet cannot work because they are blacklisted in Turkey by the regime. Due to the fact that their passports are arbitrarily cancelled, they cannot leave Turkey either. Moreover, their family members have also been blacklisted, including their minor-aged children, so that their passports are cancelled too.
While all of those anomalies happen on a daily basis, people in Turkey continue their ordinary life though official narratives of the regime are being propagated constantly around the clock. The regime controls the media in Turkey almost entirely. Following the Erdogan regime's seizure of power, around 150 media outlets were closed down and hundreds of journalists were imprisoned.
The Turkish government has already banned thousands of websites, including those of critical news outlets and social media accounts. In Turkey, even Wikipedia is banned where there have been reports of the introduction of VPNs like those in Russia and Iran.
The witch hunt in Turkey not only includes Gülenists, liberals, or leftists, but also the pro-Kurdish Opposition Peoples Democratic Party, the third-biggest party in Parliament, which has been particularly marginalized, with tens of HDP MPs being arrested, among them both co-chairs of the party. They are still under arrest. Besides that, a lot of HDP MPs have been stripped of their seats in Parliament. Additionally, an MP from the Social Democratic Party, the second-largest group in Parliament, was arrested and initially sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment.
In all of these cases, MPs were subjected to long pretrial detention before charges were presented before the court. Human rights organizations and opposition parties reported serious violations of human rights by security forces, including systematic torture and ill treatment, systematic arbitrary arrests, and systematic violations of procedural rights. Rights violations including kidnappings, physical attacks, profiling, discrimination, threats, and hate crimes have gone beyond Turkish borders.
The Erdogan regime systematically exploits the diplomatic immunity of Turkish diplomatic personnel abroad in order to extend its purge overseas. The fact is that the opponents of this regime are being systematically targeted. Turkish embassies and consulates do not serve those since they are blacklisted and classified as public enemies. They and their family members' passports or IDs are cancelled or seized if they enter Turkish diplomatic missions. They are rejected when they try to register their newborn children, to have birth certificates issued, or to use other consular services. Moreover, the regime has kidnapped numerous Turkish citizens residing in several countries, using its officers with diplomatic immunity.
As a political scientist, I observe the following facts in the Turkish case: first, there is the fundamental rejection of democratic and constitutional rules of the game; second, the denial of the legitimacy of political opponents; third, the limiting of the civil liberties of opponents, including the media, systematically; and fourth, permanent state violence and institutionalized police state methods.
As a victim of this regime, I do believe that the time has the come has come for international society, especially Turkey's allies, to take appropriate measures. Turkey is still a NATO member and a candidate for EU membership in a negotiation process. The Turkish economy is an inseparable part of the global economy. As long as ignorance and the comfortable appeasement policy remain, there will be no change in Turkey. But there must be change. There must be a way back to the constitutional order, a way to normalization and re-democratization in Turkey.
Thank you very much for this opportunity.