DEMOCRACY is beautiful only if people are giving the equal right of participation in governance. This is an established tradition of democracy. No doubt an outstanding aspect of democracy is the freedom of speech and expression it guarantees. But you cannot also dispute the fact that, democracy thrives and succeed only if the tenet of the rule of law is adhered to. That is, when constitutionality take its course in the running of state affairs and not the whims and caprices of the people in power.
In view of the above, many political analysts have criticized the kind of democracy run in Turkey. For instance, putting Turkish democracy into perspective, the principle of democracy is lacking in that society.
The leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his party the Justice Development Party (AKP) has succeeded in destroying the democratic values in that country. Turkey is gradually drifting to a state where all opposing views and muted.
Giving credence to this view was the criticism that trailed the decision of a Japanese University who plan to award Turkish President with a Honourary Doctorate degree of Law. A coalition of Turkish Civil Society group views that decision as a rape on the people of Turkey who have endured the government of the AKP-led administration in the country.
Recently a group of academics, journalists, lawyers and scholars launched a signature campaign on Tuesday to protest a decision made by Waseda University in Japan to award President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is known for controversial practices on the Turkish Constitution, with an honorary doctorate in law on Oct. 8.
The signature campaign was a move to persuade Waseda University to abandon its decision to present Erdoğan with the award. Those involved in the campaign — which is led by the University Academics Association (Univder) — will send a letter to the university administration in which they emphasize that Erdoğan has damaged democracy in Turkey.
A number of prominent intellectuals have warned that the article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which was amended by Parliament in 2008, has been resurrected in the form of TCK Article 299, which is frequently being used as the basis for cases where there are charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Article 301, which was a tool for punishing well-known journalists, authors and scholars on the charge of insulting the Turkish state, its officials or “Turkishness,” was harshly criticized by rights groups, activists and the European Union for limiting free speech. Many Turkish journalists and authors, including Elif Şafak and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, have faced prosecution based on the controversial provision, mostly for comments supporting claims that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenian people in 1915. The disputed provision was changed in Parliament in May 2008.
I have also observed with dismay the decision of this University to award Erdogan with the honourary Doctorate degree of law. This is quite disrespectful to the people of Turkey who have endured many arrests and unlawful detention of perceived political enemies, the victimization of judges handling some of these cases for standing for the truth, job loss through political witch hunts perpetrated by this regime. The AKP does not deserve an award of doctorate degree in law.
The protesters put it thus: We scholars, lawyers, journalists and academics in Turkey are writing this letter to express our deepest concern at your university’s decision to award President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan an honorary doctorate in law.
The yardstick for this protest through this letter was that since the end of 2010, the rule of law in Turkey has been damaged by the actions of Erdoğan’s regime in two key pillars of democracy: 1) Interference in the impartiality and independence of the Judiciary and 2) The imposition of draconian laws that curb fundamental rights and freedoms.
These two elements are the fundamentals of democracy and I kept imagining the rationale behind the decision of this Japanese University to award Erdogan a doctor of Law. It is a known fact that Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights all affirmed the observant of the fundamental human right of citizens.
Erdogan government has also been criticized by prominent human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and international institutions that focus on democracy and rule of law such as Freedom House. They have all disapproved of the political repression faced by the judiciary in Turkey.
“We urge our fellow academics at Waseda University to not run the risk of violating their own ethical codes of scholarly responsibility and not contributing to the ongoing human rights violations in Turkey.”
This is their plea, which I share in demanding that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not deserve a Doctorate Degree in law from anywhere in the world.
• Nasiru writes from Abuja