ANKARA (AFX.COM)–A debate over a report criticizing breaches of minority rights in aspiring European Union member Turkey collapsed when members of a government-sponsored human rights group–which authored the document–clashed in public.
The incident is the latest in a series of rows within the Human Rights Advisory Board–a body attached to the office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan–which highlighted widespread hostility in Turkey to advanced cultural freedoms for the country’s Kurdish and non-Muslim communities.
Nationalist members of the board–which is comprised of government officials–academics–and civic groups–sabotaged a news conference called to formally release the report–which makes some controversial recommendations to the government and excerpts of which were last week leaked to the media.
Shortly after the head of the board–Ibrahim Kaboglu–began speaking–a nationalist unionist grabbed the papers from his hands and tore them to pieces–yelling: "This report is a fabrication and should be torn apart."
Kaboglu was forced to leave the hall–stating: "We cannot even hold a news conference. This is the state of freedom of thought in Turkey."
The EU–which Turkey is seeking to join–has long pressed Ankara to grant equal cultural freedoms to its sizable Kurdish minority as well as smaller–non-Muslim communities such as Greeks–Armenia’s–and Jews.