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EU visa-free policy with Turkey

Think Twice

We must educate our EU Parliament members before they vote

Description of the project

There are 751 elected members of the European Parliament who on a daily basis make decisions which influence the lives of millions of Europeans.  Each decision, therefore, necessitates all relevant information from a wide array of sources.

Soon, there will be a vote regarding the visa-free entry agreement with Turkey. If you agree that this is an important issue please use the following facts to educate your politicians. We should not tell them how to vote, but rather help them make an informed decision. We believe that when many people do small acts, they can create a huge impact. On the bottom of this page you can click on the “Take Action” button to see how you can take part in this educational campaign. 


From a long term perspective, establishing visa-free relation between Turkey and the EU can be considered a step in wrong direction. This concession will, among other things, lead to decreased Turkish motivation to solve the migration crisis and permanently increase the number of Turkish citizens in the EU.

Visa-free relation with Turkey poses following risks to the EU:

  • Decrease in Turkey’s motivation to solve the migration crisis

  • Increase in the number of Turkish citizens in the EU, with or without necessary permissions

  • Increase in asylum applications by Turkish citizens

  • Chance of transferring ethnic conflicts from Turkey to Europe (e.g. Kurds)

  • Difficulty enforcing Turkish obligations to the EU

  • Opening an “official” route for both migrants and radicals

  • Problems reintroducing visa requirements with Turkey

  • Increased impact of political Islam in the EU

Establishing visa-free relation with Turkey brings about a wide array of risks. The chance of repeating the history of liberalized visa relations with the West-Balkan countries is high. Many of the people who migrated to Germany, Belgium, and other places attempted to obtain asylum (unsuccessfully of course), causing administrative congestion and eliciting discussions about re-introducing visas. Turkey is much larger than the West-Balkan countries, has substantial internal socioeconomic differences and deals with deep seeded issues related to the protection of minorities. The number of citizens that belong to low socioeconomic classes or disadvantaged minorities (Kurds, Armenians, Christians) is high in present day Turkey. Additionally, a large number of fraudulent or illegally “purchased” Turkish passports are being provided to migrants from other countries during their stay in Turkey. Considering the plight of Turkish minorities, the EU is an attractive destination for many minority Turkish citizens.

The EU wants to grant Turkey visa-free entry without Turkey fulfilling all the conditions necessary – e.g. adjustment of anti-terror laws. If the EU establishes visa-free relations with Turkey before Ankara complies with pre-established conditions, how will it persuade Turkey make any internal changes? President Erdogan is blackmailing the EU with threats to open the borders and transport migrants to the EU countries.  Ankara’s actions and threats should make it obvious the EU can’t rely on Turkey as a partner in solving the migration crisis. Politically, once visas are no longer required for Turkish citizens, it will be very complicated to reintroduce the visa requirements between Turkey and EU nations.  


To set up the visa-free EU travel for Turkey is a considerable security risk for the EU. Turkey is neighbors with non-democratic or unstable states and its own state organs cooperate with jihadists operating in Turkish territory.


  • Turkey supports ISIS and other jihadist groups

  • Turkey supplies weapons for jihadists and provides their training and medical aid

  • ISIS operates directly in Turkish territory

  • Turkey is in a politically unstable geographic region

  • Turkey shares its 1,925 km long border with Syria, Iraq, Iran or Georgia

  • Visa-free EU travel for Turkey will provide easier entry to the EU for jihadists

Turkey shares its 1,925 km long border with unstable or war torn states, such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, or Georgia.

The Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, in New York City, published research that reveals Turkey's support of the Islamic State (ISIS). According to newspapers or social networks, Turkey's participation in the war in Syria on the side of jihadists (ISIS, Al-Nusrá, etc.) can be easily proven. According to one ISIS leader, most of the fighters, equipment, or supplies for ISIS come from Turkey. It is also documented that weapons for jihadists were brought to Turkey in trucks with supposed humanitarian aid for Syrian Turkmen. There are also documented news reports that show Turkish operatives providing logistic support for jihadists, improving their training, providing hospital care, and permitting safe passage into Syria through Turkey's Hatay Province. British Sky News gained documents proving that Turkey's authorities approve passports for foreign jihadists who try to pass the Turkey-Syria border and join ISIS. ISIS sells mineral resources, antiques, and launders dirty money in Turkey, providing a significant source of its income. Oil is transported into Turkey by fuel trucks and, according to documented sources, through illegal oil pipelines.

The ISIS also operates directly in Turkey, with documented ISIS recruitment operations right in Istanbul and Gaziantep. Meanwhile, Turkey's military group IBDA-C directly supports ISIS. Some web sites, focused on recruiting ISIS fighters in Germany, are operated from schools established by members of the Turkish government’s party, AKP. According to Jordanian security service, Turkey trains ISIS fighters who are designated to conduct special operations.


In the long term, Turkey diverges from the principles inherent to secular democratic states because of its interconnection between government and religion.Political Islam is an obvious component in Turkey, setting its orientation at odds with the rest of secular Europe.

  • Turkey is not a secular state

  • Turkey is becoming significantly Islamised, Political Islam becomes a part of official politics

  • Turkey significantly supports the growth of Islam in foreign countries

  • Through its religious organizations, Turkey tries to influence politics of other states

  • Recent progress leads to autocracy that is according to Islamic doctrine (caliphate)

Although Turkey has made many democratic reforms since its accession talks with the EU began in October 2005, Turkey is still far from a secular democracy. In recent years, Turkey has diverged in significant ways from the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern secular Turkey. Turkey's high representatives, including its president, exhibit strong pro-Islamic rhetoric, especially in relation to legislation and individual freedoms. President Erdogan himself claimed: “Our goal is to be the Islamic state. Our legacy is Islam.” Concerning democracy he said: “Democracy is like a train. We should get off when we arrive in the station where we want to be.” Women are often described as being inferior to men, and their status is determined by the rubrics of Islam.

99 % of Turkey's population is devoted to Islam, and Erdogan's ruling party, AKP, originated in the Islamic movements which were banned in 1998. During its more than 10-year reign, the AKP has strengthened Islam within Turkey: in 2013 the headscarf ban for government employees in offices and schools was cancelled; open disrespect of religion now carries a punishment of between six months and one year imprisonment if the state determines it could potentially elicit unrest; and religious education in elementary and secondary schools (predominantly the teaching of Sunna Islam) is obligatory and under the control of government.

President Erdogan has prioritized changing Turkey's constitution, seeking to significantly increase his executive powers. The Ministry of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) is currently under the direct control of the prime minister, and at present oversees not only the 80 000 mosques within Turkey, but also a program for building mosques in foreign countries. Turkey also plans to use Diyanet in foreign politics. The budget of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs in Germany (DITIB) was significantly increased to approximately 1.8 billion EUR, which is more than the budget of twelve other ministries in Turkey. The number of DITIB employees increased from 72 000 (2004) to 120 000, and in 2016, 970 “state” imams were sent to Turkey's mosques in Germany, those administrated by Diyanet. Turkey, and Erdogan in particular, has provided firm support for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), however it must be noted that there has been a recent growing chill in relations between AKP and MB.

Although Turkey's attitude may look quite surprising, it has support in Political Islam – jihad. Its efforts are ordered to the protection and spread of Islam while allowing Turkey to implement other political goals. Ultimately, it mirrors a similar path trod by Saudi Arabia, which also supports the growth of both Islam and jihadist groups in Muslim and non-Muslim countries.


Secular Turkey intends to ensure and maintain gender equality as a basic human right – despite the cultural and religious traditions in the country that have opposing values. Yet, the ruling political powers seem to be favoring the freedom of men over that of women (who represent 52% of the Turkish population). Since Erdogan’s AKP party came to power, the party has been blamed for “rolling back the status of women and moving the country toward Islamic conservatism”. This is a mindset stemming from the Middle Ages, and there is no place for such conservatism in modern Europe.


  • Huge gender gap in political, economic and educational participation

  • Arranged marriages and child brides – practices from the Middle Ages

  • Honor killings and honor suicides not handled effectively

  • Equality issues versus political Islam in daily politics

  • Forcing Islamic tradition on women in a secular society

  • Violence against women (domestic and public matters)

Turkey ranks 130th out of 145 countries in the World Economic Forum’s global gender equality report – Global Gender Gap Index 2015. It ranks just slightly higher than Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Women’s political participation in the Turkish Parliament is just 4.4%, far below the European and world norms. Only 14% of all MPs in the last parliament were women, and almost half of Turkey's cities have no female representation. Turkish women are also underrepresented in the workforce: 28% of women are employed compared with the European Union average of 63%. While 36% of University students are female (30% of doctors and architects and 25% of lawyers), there are regions where almost half of the female population is illiterate. On average, the entire population spends 6.5 years in school, less than in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar.

The Domestic Violence Against Women Report of 2014 states that almost 40% of women in Turkey have been physically abused at least once in their lifetime; and one in ten women have been subjected to sexual violence by their partner. According to the UN, domestic violence is 10 times more likely to occur in Turkey than in other European countries. Turkey is ranked 77th out of 138 countries on a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) index of gender equality.

Violence against women has skyrocketed since Erdogan’s Islamic AKP party came to power. From 2003 to 2010, the number of women murdered increased 1400% and the victims’ husbands are responsible for half of those murders. This large increase in domestic violence is directly connected to family honor. The Turkish Ministry of Education found that 1 in 4 Turks support honor killings (statistically Istanbul has 1 honor killing per week).

For many years, those who committed such acts of violence could get a reduced sentence under Turkish law if they claimed provocation. Turkish lawyers and activists say these mild penalties stem from a culture that views women as second-class citizens. Sometimes a woman’s death is not even investigated because the husband claims it’s a suicide or an accident, and the police look the other way. In 2005 as part of Turkey's campaign to join the European Union, mandatory life sentences were introduced as punishment for honor killings. Yet this approach has backfired in other ways. According to the findings of British investigative reporters and human rights activists, the new law has forced many more girls to commit suicide.

As Amnesty International reports, the 2012 Law on Protection of Family and Prevention of Violence against Women “remained inadequate, under-resourced and ineffective in dealing with domestic violence. A number of women under judicial protection were reported to have been killed. The number of shelters for victims of domestic violence remained far below that required by law.”

Almost one-third of all marriages in Turkey involve child brides. Nearly 7,000 girls were married between the ages of 13 and 17 over the past decade –  according to a survey by a women’s rights group. However this number doesn’t reflect the many unregistered marriages taking place with young girls. Such marriages happen out of the public eye in the presence of an imam. “Almost 20,000 families submitted requests to marry off their under-16 daughters in 2012”.

The Turkish government is weakening female power in the country one step at a time. With Erdogan in power, the government has lifted bans on women and girls wearing headscarves in schools and in civil service over the past two years. Burqas have proliferated and hijabs have become legal headgear in government buildings. Mr Erdogan's wife Emine wears a headscarf to official functions, as does the wife of his long-standing AKP ally Abdullah Gul, who was president before him. Erdogan also provoked controversy when he instructed the women of Turkey to stay home and breed, demanding three children from each of them. He referred to women’s’ ultimate Koranic role as mothers to justify his statements, among other sentences like “Women are women, men are men; is it possible for them to be equal?”  His infamous statements resulted in demonstrations in 2013 on International Women’s Day. The demonstrations led to the so-called Gezi crackdown, where Turkish security forces’ crackdown on protests resulted in widespread and well-documented allegations of sexual harassment and violence.

Erdogan’s colleagues are also propagating the Islamists agenda. For instance, in his latest remarks Babacan mentioned the rising average marital age and “the increase in relationships outside wedlock” as “significant obstructions” to population growth. The deputy prime minister in 2015 addressed a member of the opposing party in the following manner: “Madam, be quiet! You, as a woman, be quiet!”. The name change of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to the Ministry of Family and Social Policy in 2011 highlights a shift in Turkey’s political agenda. Liberal Turks worry that the Islamist-rooted government is motivated not only by demographic concerns, but also by a conservative agenda that targets liberal lifestyles and women’s freedoms.

Christians & Jews

Turkey has a long history of religious and ethnic discrimination reaching back to the Ottoman Empire and continuing into the present day. Despite the fact that the constitution guarantees religious freedom, the Islamist AKP Party and the majority of Turkish society repeatedly violate what’s written there. The gross violation of basic human rights of minorities goes hand in hand with the denial of historical facts surrounding the Armenian genocide and Jewish pogroms. President Erdogan’s official stance on the Armenian genocide reflects this truth: “We did not commit a crime, therefore we do not need to apologise.”


  • Turkish officials deny centuries of persecution of non-Muslims and most notably the Armenian Genocide

  • In modern-day Turkey religious and ethnic minorities are discriminated against and the discrimination is facilitated by the state  

  • There have been numerous attacks on individual non-Muslims and the problem hasn’t been taken up by the government

  • Non-Muslim refugees from Syria and Iraq are treated as second-class citizens in Turkey and receive very little assistance from the government.

Under Ottoman rule Turkey enforced repressive religious laws of dhimmitude against non-Muslim minorities for centuries. According to diplomatic reports from the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century the Ottoman Turks massacred over 200 000 Armenians between 1894 and 1896; the Young Turk regime massacred 25 000 Armenians in 1909; and 600 000 to 800 000 Armenians were slaughtered in 1915 in the first formal genocide of the XX century. As part of this formal jihad between 1914 and 1918, the regime violently converted at least 559 villages to Islam, destroyed 568 churches, transformed 282 Christian churches into mosques, and murdered and tortured 21 Protestant preachers and 170 Armenian priests.

According to the Christian Orthodox Church the population of Orthodox Christians in Turkey decreased from 2 000 000 in 1900 to less than 4 000 today. “Most were forced out.” Jews in Turkey have suffered no less. They were targeted during the Thracian pogroms of 1934, and after WWII they were deported and continuously persecuted by the government, which led to the rapid exodus of 40% of Turkey’s Jews. The process of annihilating people in Turkey accelerated again after the notorious Istanbul pogrom against the Greeks, Armenians, and Jews in 1955, and only 17 000 of the 77 000 Jews from post-WWII Turkey remain.   

Today, religious and ethnic minorities in Turkey live in fear. They are discriminated against in government institutions, the army, state funded schools, (with mandatory lessons in Sunni Islam) and in the cultural spheres of Turkish society. As part of fulfilling the EU requirements for accession, the Turkish government is reportedly planning to remove religion from the ID cards of Turkish citizens within three years. Classification codes for citizens displayed on ID cards, which the government keeps on record, have facilitated religious discrimination in Turkey (according to reports the Greeks are ‘1’s, Armenians are ‘2’s, Jews are ‘3’s and Assyrians are ‘4’s).

There are also numerous reports of violence towards individuals of non-Muslim origin. In 2011, a Turkish taxi driver in Istanbul punched an Armenian customer: “Your accent is bad,” he told her. “You are a kafir [infidel].” On December 28, 2012, an Armenian woman Maritsa Kucuk was beaten and stabbed to death in her home. That same month another non-Muslim woman named T.A., age 87, was attacked, beaten, and choked in her home. And in January 2013 a 40-year-old teacher working at an Armenian school in Istanbul named Ilker Sahin was beheaded in his home. The Turkish authorities have barely focused any attention on these issues.

Discrimination towards religious and ethnic minorities has also touched the recent non-Islamic refugees. Around 45,000 Armenian and Assyrian Christians – who fled Syria and Iraq and have settled in small Anatolian cities in Turkey – are forced to hide their religious identity.

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