Human Rights Watch; 2017 Country Summary: Turkey

On July 15, 2016, elements of the military attempted to carry out a coup d’état against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. The Attempted coup left at least 241 citizens and government law enforcers dead. During the attempted coup, fighter jets bombed Turkey’s parliament. In the aftermath, the government declared a state of emergency, thousands of soldiers and embarked on a wholesale purge of public officials, police, teachers, judges, and prosecutors. Most of those jailed, dismissed, or suspended were accused or being followers of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen. The government, with the support of main opposition parties, accuses the  Gülen  movement of masterminding the coup and labels it is a terrorist organization. However, the crackdown also extended to the pro-Kurdish opposition party, with two leaders and other MPs arrested and placed in pretrial detention, along with many of its elected mayors, denying millions or voters their elected representatives.  

The war in Syria continues to impact Turkey, which hosts an estimated 2.7 million Syrian refugees. There have been regular bomb attacks in Turkey, allegedly linked to individuals by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). Authorities blamed ISIS for a June attack in which three suicide bombers targeted Istanbul airport killing 45, and an August attack on a Kurdish wedding party in Gaziantep that killed 57.  

In August, Turkish military forces entered the ISIS-occupied Syrian border town of  Jarablus  and attacked Syrian Kurdish forces in the area, apparently because of their links to the Turkey-based armed group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK and a related armed group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), stepped up attacks in 2016, including a March suicide attack killing 37 in central Ankara, and a June attack in Istanbul killing 11, as well as regular attacks on military and police targets.  

This report is also relevant to the conflicts in Southeast Turkey, as it analyzes the security operations carried out by the Turkish government in that region, as well as the blanket curfews imposed in various districts, such as the town of  Cizre. In relation to this, the  security forces’ attacks killed and injured unarmed residents including children and destroyed civilian homes. Around 130 wounded militants and unarmed activists sheltering in three bases surrounded by the security forces were killed in circumstances which the state did not explain nor effectively investigated.