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MEPs condemn Turkey's Afrin-critic crackdown

Rebecca Staudenmaier
February 8, 2018

The European Parliament has passed a resolution denouncing the arrests of people who criticized Turkey's military intervention in Afrin. One MEP told DW that there's "no respect for human rights" in Turkey.

European Union and Turkish flags fly in Istanbul
Image: Getty Images/C. McGrath

Turkey's detention of hundreds of journalists, doctors and regular citizens who have been critical of Ankara's operation in Syria's Kurdish-controlled region of Afrin, was condemned by the European Parliament on Thursday.

The European Parliament described the arrests as "an attempt to censor criticism" in their resolution.

The European Parliament's Turkey Rapporteur Kati Piri
Piri: "Human rights must remain on the top of EU-Turkey relations"Image: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/A. Belot

Read moreTurkey's military offensive against Kurdish-held Afrin: What you need to know

"We want to show our solidarity with Turkey's population that is going through a difficult period, and at the same time remind EU leaders that human rights must remain on the top of EU-Turkey relations," Kati Piri, a Dutch MEP and the European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, told DW.

Read moreTurkey 'terror propaganda' crackdown sees dozens arrested for social media comments

Rebecca Harms, a German MEP with the Green party, told DW that the human rights situation is of great concern for Brussels and that EU funds to Turkey must be contingent upon change.

Rebecca Harms a German MEP with the European Green Party
Harms: Expansion in EU customs union can only happen "if Turkey returns to the rule of law"Image: DW/A.M. Pędziwol

"The rule of law in Turkey, as we knew it, doesn't actually exist anymore," Harms said. "The level of violence has been raised and there is no more respect for human rights."

She added that if the EU's customs union is to be expanded, "it must be made clear that this can only happen if Turkey returns to the rule of law."

Thursday's resolution states that the EU's aid funds to Turkey "should be conditional on improving its record on human rights." The resolution also urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to lift the state of emergency that enables authorities to crack down on critics.

The battle for Afrin

Warning about Afrin

The European Parliament also criticized Turkey's actions in Afrin, saying Ankara's military intervention raises serious humanitarian concerns.

"[MEPs] are seriously concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the Turkish assault and warn against continuing with these disproportionate actions," the parliament's statement said.

Read moreAre Turkey and Russia at odds in northern Syria?

With regards to Turkey's military operations in Afrin, Piri said the EU parliament "recognizes Turkey's right to protect its borders," but warned of the consequences of military action in the region.

The Turkish army has been fighting against the Kurdish militia YPG in its "Olive Branch" offensive since January 20.

Additional reporting by Kayhan Karaca and Barbara Wesel.