Defining Hate Crimes and Other Goodies in the Democracy Gift Box

This post was updated.

The democracy package put forward in December was finally submitted to parliament yesterday. I wrote about the expected contents here. Here is some of the language in its final form, taken from Hurriyet‘s translation (I wasn’t able to locate the original text):

Hate crime:

“A person who bars the selling, handing over or renting movable goods or real property to a person; who prevents a person from using of certain service offered to the public; who bars employment; and who prevents a person from running a regular economic activity, because of hatred stemming from the difference of language, race, nationality, color, gender, disability, political views, philosophical belief, religion or sect, will be sentenced to prison for a period of one to three years.”

The Turkish terms are: dil, ırk, milliyet, renk, cinsiyet, engellilik, siyasi düşünce, felsefi inanç, din veya mezhep

Hurriyet points out that this definition does not include crimes against people because of their ethnic identity or sexual orientation. Sexual orientation was missing in the original draft, but ‘ethnicity’ seems to have been replaced by “language, race, nationality”, which could include some ethnic others, but has no place for people who are culturally different, like the Roma, but who speak Turkish and are citizens. Would the charge of killing a Roma in a hate crime involve proving to the court that the Roma are a different “race”?

The definition of ethnicity in the democracy package is based on a very Kemalist notion of identity in which Turkishness involves language, blood/soy, and nationality. “Ethnicity” for a long time was a dirty word used for those trying to “undermine national unity” through separatist activities. This view is slowly changing and setting it in concrete now in new legal forms is short-sighted and opens potentially damaging problems down the road.

Other aspects of the package are as predicted:

- Political parties and candidates will be able to campaign in any language or dialect.

-Bans are lifted on Kurdish names for places of settlement, allowing those that had been forcibly Turkified to be changed back.

- Parties will be able to have two co-leaders.

- Political parties that receive more than 3 percent of the vote in a general parliamentary election will receive treasury funds of no less than 1 million Turkish Liras. Eg, the Kurdish BDP will be funded.

- From one to three years imprisonment for 1) preventing by force or by another illegal act the freedom to express religious beliefs, opinions and convictions, and 2)  intervening in a person’s choices about lifestyle based on his belief, opinion or convictions and forcing that person to change their choices. 

The devil is in the details, of course. In the slippery definitions of any of these terms and in implementation.

Update: In an essay on T24, Yasemin Inceoglu analyzes (in Turkish) the hate crime component of the democracy package and concludes that the law will not address “hate crimes”, but rather separatism (as I suggested above). She points to the emphasis in the law on economic effects (not selling to or employing someone, for instance) and the absence of mention of violent attacks on people as “hate crimes”. The original proposal months ago, supported by civil society groups, contained mention of ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity, whereas in the version submitted to parliament, these are now gone. In other words, not all groups in society are equal under this law. Inceoglu concludes that the law’s use of “hate crime” is an excuse to actually curtail freedoms.

2 Responses to “Defining Hate Crimes and Other Goodies in the Democracy Gift Box”

  1. so ethnic identities such as laz, hemshin, çerkez, zaza, arap, gurcu, yörük, süriyani, as well as kurdish all would not be recognized under the hate law i take it?

    BTW are there any Nestor left in turkey. i’ve never met any.

    would Sabbatai [Sabatay] be recognized?

  2. Possibly. Depends on how the terms of the law are defined in the courts.

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