I. Past and Current International Action
In 1946, following the end of World War II and the charter of the United Nations, world leaders gathered and vowed to never allow the horrors of World War II to occur again. The result of this meeting was the drafting of the Declaration on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms: a list with explanations of the thirty fundamental rights that each human being possesses. The drafting of the Bill of Human Rights was taken over by the Human Rights Commission in 1947. At the time, the drafting committee was headed by Eleanor Roosevelt and consisted of eighteen diverse members. After multiple draftings, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Eleanor Roosevelt declared that the document could become “‘the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere’” (Fraser, 2008). Afterwards, the General Assembly commissioned all member states to publish the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to “cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded… without distinction based on the political countries or territories.” (“From Rep. of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” 2011). The Declaration, the first legal document protecting human rights, thrust the issue of human rights into the sphere of international law and the issue has remained prevalent and is still debated in modern times.
Currently, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights serves as the head of the UN promotion of human rights and is tasked with commenting, investigating, and reporting on international human rights cases. The UNHRC, established in 2006, serves as the main independent UN body responsible for human rights and human rights treaty bodies oversee the implementation of rights treaties. The UDHR is still in place today, but many calls for updates and expansions to be made as many changes face the 21st Century world. LGBT rights are not explicitly included in the Declaration and many LGBT people face unequal marriage rights and are unprotected from violence and criminalization. Additionally, an increase in technological innovation has raised the question of digital human rights and a person’s right to information and privacy. Divisions over climate change and environmental crises have also resulted in violence. Finally, problems exist in the enforcement of the UDHR. The Declaration is not legally binding, therefore many nations disregard the Declaration with no repercussions for their immoral actions. These faults leave much room for improvement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
II. Country Position
The Republic of Turkey enforces strict media censorship, which directly interferes with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that ensures the freedom of expression. On July 15, 2016, Turkey entered a state of emergency as a reaction to a failed military coup. This came as a reaction to an increasingly authoritarian regime under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. To combat such opposition, h journalists and parliamentarians were jailed for speaking out against Erdogan. Multiple cases of journalist arrests made Turkey the world leader in incarcerated media workers, with about 150 behind bars. As the election, grew nearer media became heavily censored, all television channels were run by the government and promoted the political line exclusively. (“World Report 2018: Rights Trends in Turkey”). Frequently, authorities disrupt and impose bans on public assemblies and peaceful demonstrations. Yet, the violation of Article 19 of the UDHR is not the only human rights crises occurring within Turkey.
In Turkey, only 34% of women work, which is the lowest percentage of the 35 industrialized countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (Lowen, 2018). This results from the fact that the female role in the household is deeply ingrained in Turkish tradition. Turkish feminist activist, Feride Eralp says “From top to bottom, there’s a view that women are unequal by nature and their place is within the family. They’re expected only to be wives and daughters.” (Lowen, 2018) When women in Turkey get married, they are expected to spend all of their time caring for their husband and children’s every need. Women enter into this sector of life at a very young age. Activists have estimated that a third of all marriages in Turkey include girls under the age of 18. (Shaheen, 2017) The patriarchal culture in both home and religious life have been accompanied by an increase in domestic violence. About 40 percent of Turkish women suffer from physical abuse and roughly 300 to 400 a year will die from trauma related to abuse. (Lowen, 2018). Therefore, women’s rights remain highly threatened in Turkey despite their inclusion in the UDHR.
III. Proposed Solutions
The Delegation of Turkey proposes multiple edits to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Turkey hopes to make compromises with the delegations of SOCHUM to change the document to ensure that the UDHR better reflects the values of all nations including itself. Just as Turkey supported the Declaration in 1948, the Republic is not opposed to supporting a new and updated version that is expanded to include some of the recently emerging areas of human rights that are not explicitly mentioned in the original. However, as a nation who values their own traditions and is on the trajectory to authoritarianism, Turkey will stand firm on issues it believes should not be expanded on in the updated version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are a few specific articles of the Declaration that the Republic of Turkey would like to call attention to.
First, the Delegation proposes that Article 2 which states that “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” be rewritten to explicitly state the LGBT community by name. Since homosexual marriages have been legal in Turkey since the establishment of the secular state in 1923, Turkey is open and welcome to this change. When the document was initially drafted, it was written vague enough to imply the inclusion of the community, but never mentions them by name. By rewriting Article 2 to include the mention of sexual orientation, the community is well represented.
Another solution is to completely remove Article 19 which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. Article 19 interferes with national unity. It allows well behaved citizens to get useless ideas and cause rebellions that disrupt the peace of the nation. Article 19 fuels dangerous attacks such as the 2016 failed military coup in Turkey. The removal of this Article would create more peaceful and united nations.
A third edit proposed by Turkey is the removal of Article 23, “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.” The workplace should be composed of purely men. Women were created with the unique and important job of raising the family. Women’s involvement in the workplace distracts them from their full potential as mothers and wives. The removal of Article 23 promotes unity within family and social life.
In addition, as an increasingly authoritarian nation, Turkey values the level of national sovereignty that is maintained by the current methods of enforcement of the Declaration. However, Turkey would like to address the issue concerning the fact that the socio-economic rights, more valued by OHCHR, Eastern delegates in 1948 are not being addressed as quickly as the civil and political rights valued by the Western blocs. This problem could possibly be addressed by suggesting the formation of a separate body, similar to the human rights treaty bodies currently in place and promoted by the United Nations. This body would be tasked with specifically focusing on the implementation of and holding nations accountable for socio-economic human rights such as the rights to residence, cultural participation, and enjoyment of arts and scientific development. When the protection of different kinds of rights is equal, the Delegation of Turkey believes that enforcement of human rights overall will be much more effective.
IV. Questions to Consider
A. Question 2:
The Republic of Turkey takes issue with many rights, especially civil and political, included in the Declaration due to the nation’s unequal treatment of women. As a country that values their traditions, Turkey has remained strong in the idea that women are lesser than men and therefore Turkish women have fewer opportunities, especially for employment, education, and political participation.
B. Question 4:
Another area of human rights that has recently grown in prevalence, especially in Turkey, is the right to seek asylum. Geographically, Turkey is adjacent to the violence of the extensive Syrian Civil War. Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide, including 3.6 million Syrian refugees (“Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Turkey,” 2019). The nation has maintained that resettlement to a third nation is the most effective solution for refugees.
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