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Joan Ryan: Turkish, Kurdish people afraid of going home

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Joan Ryan, Enfield North MP, was among the MPs who debated Turkey's human rights record in the Houses of Parliament

Local MP attacks Turkish government’s post-coup human rights record in UK parliament debate

Turkish, Kurdish and Alevi people living in Britain feel threatened and fearful of returning home because of post-coup crackdown in Turkey, a local MP has said.

Enfield North MP Joan Ryan said human rights had been “drastically curtailed” as a result of Turkey’s state of emergency, which has been in place since last July’s failed military coup.

Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers, members of the military and journalists have been sacked and imprisoned in the crackdown that followed the takeover attempt.

“There’s been a clampdown on the freedom of assembly, with military curfews in Kurdish and Alevi neighbourhoods imposed,” Ms Ryan said during the debate in Westminster Hall, a side chamber of the House of Commons.

“Dozens of Kurdish and Alevi news channels have been shut down. I’ve been shocked by the information I’ve received from my Kurdish and Alevi constitutions regarding their family and friends in Turkey.”

The Enfield North MP said many people in her Enfield electoral district – which is home to Britain’s largest Turkish and Kurdish community – had told her they were being threatened and spied upon.

She said she had “many constituents who are very fearful of going back to Turkey and who have concerns about their relatives in Turkey, and yes, I do believe our government should be taking this situation much more seriously.”

Ms Ryan also criticised UK Prime Minister Theresa May for not publicly airing concerns about Turkey’s human rights record during her recent visit.

“The headlines from the Prime Minister’s [Theresa May] recent visit to Ankara related to a £100 million fighter jet deal and the development of a new and deeper trading relationship with Turkey.

“As valuable as our trading relationship is, human rights issues should never play second fiddle to commercial diplomacy.”

The debate, which was continuing as Haber went to press, came at a critical time for Turkey, a little over a month before voters go to the polls for a referendum on plans to grant sweeping new powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Turkish government says the proposals are needed to streamline the decision-making process, but critics say they concentrate too much power in the hands of one man – Mr Erdoğan.

Millions of Turkish citizens living outside of Turkey, including around 80,000 in the UK, will vote on the weekend of 8 April. People in Turkey go to the polls the following Sunday, 16 April.