Turkey

Who Stands To Gain If Turkey Restores Death Penalty

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said he favored restoring the death penalty. It would bring back an ugly face of Turkey, both politically and morally.

Death-penalty supporters and makeshift gallows in Istanbul
Death-penalty supporters and makeshift gallows in Istanbul
Mine Söğüt

ISTANBUL — Right-wing Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and his cabinet members Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan were executed after the military coup of May 27, 1960. Regrets and tragedy followed.

After the military memorandum of March 12, 1971, the Turkish Parliament voted for left-wing prisoners Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan and Hüseyin İnan to be executions alongside the chants of "three from us, three from you." Scandal and tragedy continued.

A total of 50 people, including a 17-year-old, were executed after the military coup of Sept. 12, 1980. Shame and tragedy. Tragedy and shame.

Turkish authorities have been using the death penalty as a political tool of intimidation for a long time, from the independence tribunals at the modern founding of the country to the military courts. However, our country stopped the practice of executions after 1984 and removed the death penalty from its laws in 2004.

A judiciary that asks "an eye for an eye" does not improve the people but makes them more savage.

Last week, amid national outrage over the murder of a woman by her ex-husband, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he favored restoring the death penalty.

Those who were born after 1984 in Turkey have grown up in a country in which people are not executed — and not really knowing much about the 712 people (including 15 women) who have been executed in the history of the republic. People have learned how the death penalty runs counter to human rights, public conscience and ethics. They know it does not prevent crimes and, most importantly, that the death penalty offers both governments and loved ones of victims a dangerous kind of authority, by rationalizing revenge.

President Erdogan recently threatened to reinstate death penalty in the country — Photo: Xinhua/ZUMA

Currently some are trying to cover up these concrete facts. They try to popularize the death penalty by favoring American law over the European. A child was raped; a woman was murdered; a military coup was attempted: There is always someone ready to cry "death penalty!" Others try to rationalize some kind of public benefit of capital punishment.

But what drops when the death penalty is used is not the crime rate, but the rate of a nation's civilization. A judiciary that asks "an eye for an eye" does not improve the people but makes them more savage. Only certain politicians benefit from the death penalty. On one hand, they glamorize the feeling of revenge and exploit the sensitivities of the people; on the other hand, they have a powerful judicial card against their political opponents.

This country loses its collective mind.

In his book The Human Rights Problem in Turkey, Bülent Tanör noted that the average number of executions in the years of the civil governments rule in Turkey was 2, while during the military regime years the average was 13.5. This alone is enough reason to never mention the death penalty in a country like Turkey, which has a deeply problematic judiciary and government.

This country loses its collective mind after any kind of political turmoil and then historically regrets afterward having executed people. Turkey came to its senses, in a way, years ago and abolished the death penalty. And now that death penalty campaigners propagandize it at every chance they get, it means the country is running low on sanity.

Especially in these days of injustice when the powerful decide what is a crime and what is not; and especially with a president whose conscience favors the death penalty.

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