Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor


The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Turkey to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Turkey's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at 2009-2017.state.gov.

Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

Through dialogue with the government, domestic human rights NGOs, human rights activists, civil society, and the EU, the U.S. Government has developed priorities to support U.S. policy concerning democratic principles, practices, and values, as well as human rights. The primary U.S. goals are to encourage Turkey to move toward a more democratic government with a deeper respect for human rights and rule of law, and to support legal reforms that lead to more democratic, transparent, and accountable government institutions, including a more independent, objective judiciary. The United States also supports efforts for an independent, responsible, professional press. Public diplomacy efforts form a core part of the general U.S. strategy to advance freedom and democracy and to protect the universal rights of freedom of expression and religion. In addition, the United States seeks to build respect for individual human rights, civil society, and ethnic diversity. The United States continues work with Turkey on the eradication of trafficking in persons in the country.

The United States encourages the government to: continue to reduce restrictions on the use of non-Turkish languages in the public realm and expand freedom of expression; protect freedom of religion and allow the free functioning of religious institutions such as the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary and ensure the continuity of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul; and take concrete steps to address concerns of the ethnic Kurdish and other non-Turkish ethnic communities.

Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

To support the rule of law and a modern, impartial judiciary, the United States has reached out to numerous national legislators, local political leaders, judges, justice officials, journalists, academics, and NGO officials via public diplomacy programs, and has increased training to help develop an independent judiciary. During the first part of 2010 more than 100 persons traveled to the United States for extended periods on a variety of programs to meet their American counterparts, become more familiar with the structure and functions of U.S. political, judicial, and social systems, and observe U.S. human rights and democracy promotion efforts. Public diplomacy showcasing American systems is essential to promoting values that can underscore needed legal reforms in the country. These activities include U.S. speaker programs, exchanges, and disseminating accurate information through public speaking by U.S. officials and at American Corners around the country. The United States funds International Visitors Leadership Program exchanges on topics including accountability in government, civic education, and citizen participation in a democracy. U.S. officials travel throughout the country to discuss human rights issues, hear new viewpoints, and seek partners beyond the large urban areas. U.S. officials participate in conferences, seminars, and programs to explain U.S. policies and American values, and also to highlight Turkish-American shared interests. U.S. officials meet often with members of the EU and other colleagues from foreign missions to discuss human rights and, when appropriate, deliver a unified call for increased freedom of expression and religion and greater tolerance for diversity.

The United States works in support of a vibrant free press that demonstrates objectivity and high professional standards as critical to helping cultivate more democratic, transparent, and accountable government institutions that respect all viewpoints. To foster press freedom and responsibility, journalists from all forms of media participated in visitor programs focused on investigative journalism, the elements of responsible reporting, the U.S. political system, U.S. foreign policy, and human rights issues. Projects for the year included numerous speakers and programs on freedom of expression, the foreign policy formulation process in a democratic society, civil and minority rights, and information literacy.

To encourage further growth of civil society and an understanding of its role, the United States sponsors visitor programs related to religion and the community, the role of civil society in a democracy, managing diversity in a multi-ethnic society, and promoting tolerance through the arts. Visitor programs for NGO activists, religious leaders, and education officials also play an important role in promoting the value of stable, reliable political processes and the benefits of a pluralistic, religiously and ethnically diverse society. Subjects include U.S. legislative, judicial, and social systems, the rule of law in the United States, and the roles of religion and religious institutions in American life. For the fourth consecutive year, a summer student leader exchange program complemented these projects by introducing the next generation of local leaders to these same U.S. institutions, traditions, and processes. During regular meetings with members of the legislative and executive branches as well as with the judiciary, U.S. officials encourage continued broad reforms, such as increased protection for free speech, respect for religious rights, and tolerance for minorities and minority viewpoints.

To expand efforts to promote legal reforms in the country, the U.S. government hosted a conference for prosecutors and judges on criminal pretrial resolutions. The United States co-hosted with the Ministry of Justice a conference on terrorist extradition to promote greater legal collaboration between Turkey, other European countries, and Iraq, and to strengthen professional judicial standards and enforcement of the rule of law. The United States also hosted a regional conference to foster multi-lateral cooperation in matters of terrorism and border security, further promoting Turkey's efforts to reach Western standards in law enforcement matters. The Embassy organized study tours to the United States for prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officers to share best practices on terrorism legislation, children's issues, witness protection, judicial reform, and other legal topics. Helping the country eliminate trafficking in persons continued to be a U.S. priority. U.S. officials remained in close contact with the Turkish government's lead agencies, international organizations, and NGOs engaged in anti-trafficking efforts. Public diplomacy programming in this area included visitor programs on women and justice and cooperative efforts in combating trafficking in persons, as well as speaker programs on various aspects of international human rights law.