Turkey vs France: A state of emergency and not a sea of difference

In the wake of the Nice terror attacks on 14 July, 2016, France extended its state of emergency for three more months and just a few days later when the military decided to stage an unsuccessful coup against the ruling government, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey's president was quick to declare a state of emergency in his own country.

A state of emergency essentially means that the rights of citizens are limited and subject to terms and conditions. However, it would be folly to think that it is only the Turkish emergency that is oppressive in nature. According to the official French website, during the emergency, the french authorities can put people under house arrest if they are considered to be a threat to security or public order. Groups that take part or facilitate acts that can be viewed as a serious threat can be dissolved. Authorities can also carry out searches of property, luggage without judicial warrants and close places of congregation or worship.

According to Upturned lives: The Disproportionate Impact of France’s State of Emergency, an Amnesty International report, after the 2015 Paris attacks, most of those who were interviewed said that "harsh measures were applied with little or no explanation and sometimes excessive force." And it is this abuse of emergency provisions that has caused deeper mistrust in the Muslim community, said Yasser Louati of Collective Against Islamophobia in France in a Human Rights Watch report. He added, "The government has lost the trust of the Muslim community and it is doing nothing to repair the damage."

 Turkey vs France: A state of emergency and not a sea of difference

File image of Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking after an emergency meeting of the government in Ankara on Wednesday. AP

Turkey, perhaps is more familiar with authoritarian rules — especially in the 1980s when the martial law was imposed. However, the emergency provisions in Turkey are not all that different from France. Despite its own shortcomings and flaws, France was quick to "warn" Turkey of consequences, after president Erdoğan carried out a purge post-coup.

AFP reports that the European Union expressed "concern" Thursday over Turkey's decision to impose a state of emergency following the attempted coup, and urged the country to respect human rights and the rule of law. "We are following the developments regarding the state of emergency Turkey has declared after the attempted coup, which the European Union condemned, very closely and with concern," said a statement jointly issued by the bloc's foreign affair's chief Federica Mogherini and enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn.

"This declaration comes in the wake of the recent unacceptable decisions on the education system, judiciary and the media... we call on Turkish authorities to respect under any circumstances the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right of all individuals concerned to a fair trial," the strongly worded statement added.

The Erdoğan government shortly after the unsuccessful coup attempt stirred talks of bringing back the death penalty — this would be a deal breaker for the EU, a league that Turkey has been keen on joining for years. But, Erdoğan had also said: "We will continue to clean the virus from all state bodies because this virus has spread. Unfortunately like a cancer, this virus has enveloped the state."

This statement worried world leaders as photos emerged of those rounded up in the coup in only their underwear, with their human rights being violated.

But Erdoğan insisted democracy would "not be compromised" and lashed out at critics of the sweeping purge that has raised deep concerns about democracy and human rights in the key NATO member. The extra powers, to restrict freedom of movement and other rights, were needed "to remove swiftly all the elements of the terrorist organisation involved in the coup attempt," Erdoğan said.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the special measures may only last up to 45 days, insisting that "we want to end the state of emergency as soon as possible".

Asked about whether the government may impose curfews, Kurtulmus said: "Very clearly no. This is not a declaration of martial law." But he also said Turkey would suspend the European Convention on Human Rights, saying France had done the same after being targeted by a string of jihadist attacks. "The road to arbitrary rule, unlawful behaviour, feeding on violence, has been chosen," complained the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). "Society has been forced to choose between a coup or an undemocratic government."

The Turkish president on Wednesday told French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault "to mind his own business" after he warned Ankara over the crackdown after the coup in Turkey. "He should mind his own business. Does he have the authority to make these declarations about my person? No he does not. If he wants a lesson in democracy he can very easily get a lesson in democracy from us," Erdoğan told Al-Jazeera in an interview.

Ayrault had called for maintaining the rule of law in Turkey in the wake of the coup saying "this is not a blank cheque for Erdoğan" to silence critics.

With inputs from AFP

Updated Date: Jul 22, 2016 13:56:36 IST