Deputy Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Leyla Şahin Usta, who had sued Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the past over a headscarf ban, claimed on Saturday that there are no instances of human rights violations in Turkey and that people who complain about such problems are unable to provide any examples.
Usta, who also serves on parliament’s Human Rights Commission, was responding to a reporter’s question on rights violations in Turkey.
Once a victim of Turkey’s strict headscarf ban at universities, Usta said: “It is pointless to say that there are human right violations in Turkey. Ultimately, the law applies to everyone, and Turkey observes the rule of law.”
In reaction to her remarks law professor Kerem Altıparmak challenged the AKP deputy chairman to respond his questions on human rights at a panel discussion. Many others joined him on social media to criticize her and raised examples of recent human rights violations in Turkey, ranging from infants accompanying mothers jailed on charges involvement in a failed coup on July 15, 2016 to Kurdish civilians killed in counterterrorism operations in southeastern Turkey.
According to Usta, Turkey is in many fields even beyond Western countries in terms of human rights standards. She further claimed that Turkey has been a safe haven for many under oppression while the rest of the world closes their doors to them.
Leyla Şahin v. Turkey was a 2004 case filed at the ECtHR when Şahin was a medical student and not allowed to wear a religious headscarf at university, a common practice then in Turkey’s colleges and state institutions. The court denied her appeal but she became a symbol of the headscarf issue in Turkey.
In November 2015, Usta won a seat in parliament from the ruling AKP.
Under AKP rule, Turkey has jailed tens of thousands of people from all walks of life particularly since the July 2016 failed coup, mostly on charges of terrorist links and coup involvement.
Turkey over the years has been downgraded from a semi-free to a not free country on the Freedom on the Net Index published annually by Freedom House.