During my recent visit to Turkey as the leader of a legal delegation consisting of 11 U.S. lawyers and guests, we found
Turkey to be beautiful country with thoughtful, caring people. However, we also found a country divided between citizens who understood that the government was embarking on a consolidation of power and on a systematic campaign to intimidate, silence, and imprison any opposition, and citizens who were content with the government subsidies they were receiving. We also found it to be a democratic and stable country that is a member of NATO, is rich in natural resources, and by geography is in one of the most sensitive regions of the world. There is no question
that Turkey is a country that is powerful in its region, just as there is no question that Turkey is at a crossroads. On the one hand is a secular, democratic state. On the other is the slide toward a religious state with the suppression of freedoms, individual and human rights, and the rule of law.
During our eight days in Turkey, we went to law schools, bar associations, and a courthouse. We met and discussed rule of law issues with numerous lawyers, law school professors, students, bar association officers who are also lawyers, and other non-legal people. Again and again we were told the same thing. Lawyers in Turkey are being arrested and detained because they are fulfilling their duty to their clients and to the justice system.
The charges and upcoming trial of the president and the board of directors of the Istanbul Bar Association are a good example. The Istanbul Bar Association is a voluntary bar of approximately 30,000 lawyers and one of the largest bar
associations in the world. Those of us who are members of one or more bar associations can sympathize somewhat with their plight. I did when I sat in the same room with them and listened to their story. At first it was difficult to comprehend their struggle. My first reaction was to doubt that this suppression was occurring. But after listening to similar accounts by all the people we spoke with, the truth became evident.
To further read about this issue and the article I’ve published regarding Lawyers Under Attack in Turkey, please visit the State Bar of Texas Journal here where it is featured.