Oct 31 2017

Turkey’s image “at rock bottom” in U.S. - Fishman

“The complimentary image of Turkey I used to hear described in America has been replaced by one dominant take: Turkey as an authoritarian state.”

A piece in Haaretz today by American academic and long-time Turkey-watcher Louis Fishman laments the state of bilateral relations and the increasingly common perception that Turkey is an unsafe place to visit.

Fishman lists ISIS and PKK terror, mass arrests under state of emergency, the conviction of U.S. journalist Ayla Albayrak in absentia on terror charges, the detention of human rights defenders, the arrest of civil society activist Osman Kavala and the treatment of detained clergyman Andrew Brunson as reasons why Americans might be advised to avoid a trip to the country.

"[B]eware of just being an American who can be used as a hostage", after U.S. media coverage of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, who’s been held for over a year on dubious espionage charges, went up a gear since fears were raised that Brunson is being used as a bargaining chip by Turkey. That was after Erdogan hinted that he could be exchanged for Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric wanted in Turkey for allegedly masterminding the coup.

However, Fishman claims, the United States does not usually pay much attention to human rights issues in distant countries, especially those which are its allies.

“If Turkey hadn't directly provoked the U.S.,” he says. “Reports of its human rights violations would be collecting dust.”

As an example, he asks how many Americans even know that the leaders of the HDP, Turkey’s third-largest party, are in jail.

Yet Turkey’s human rights record has increasingly come in for scrutiny in America both as the country becomes more authoritarian and as it becomes more hostile to the United States.