The Turkish government opposed a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) resolution that sought the engagement of member states in Afghanistan conditional on the Taliban’s respect for the human rights of minorities, women and LGBTI people.
On September 30, 2021 PACE discussed the situation in Afghanistan and adopted a resolution that called on member states including Turkey to comply with recommendations on how to handle the Taliban and Afghan refugees who have fled the country.
The resolution was amended to include a provision on vulnerable groups such as minorities, women and LGBTI people and asked members “make any upgrading of their operational engagement with the Taliban conditional upon the respect of human rights, in particular those of vulnerable groups such as minorities, women and LGBTI people, and humanitarian law.”
Under instructions from his government, Ahmet Yıldız, head of the Turkish delegation to PACE and a member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced his opposition to the PACE amendment.
Pace resolution on Afghanistan:PACE_resoution_on_Afghanistan_Sept_30_2021
“These amendments may even backfire — let’s be realistic. We remember what happened during the Istanbul Convention discussions. That’s why we should be realistic and empathetic,” Yıldız said, referring to Turkey’s abrupt withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.
On March 20, 2021 President Erdoğan issued a decree withdrawing Turkey from the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies, sparking outrage in Turkey and the international community.
The move was intended to mobilize the Islamist base of President Erdoğan, who was catering to his core constituency. Turkey, the first member state to ratify the CoE convention that was opened for signature in İstanbul during Turkey’s chairmanship of the organization 10 years ago, ironically has also become the first state that announced its withdrawal from it.
Despite Turkey’s opposition to the amendment on the Afghanistan resolution, PACE approved the provision, endorsed by its Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, regarding the human rights of minorities, women and LGBTI people.
Turkey also opposed a call by PACE that asked member states to shoulder their moral and legal responsibilities as regards Afghan refugee protection and urged them to “introduce humanitarian visas, temporary protection or special visa programmes, especially for women and other vulnerable groups such as minorities and LGBTI people.”
Yıldız took to the floor again at the assembly to object to the wording and said: “I will not repeat my remarks. It is the same issue that I just remind the colleagues that we are talking about Afghanistan [sic]. The situation is well known. Let’s be realistic.”
Yıldız, a former diplomat, had worked as chief advisor to Erdoğan on foreign policy for years. He served as ambassador of Turkey in various countries and was appointed deputy foreign minister by Erdoğan. In the 2018 general election he ran for a seat on Erdoğan’s party ticket and became a lawmaker. He was then selected to head the Turkish delegation to PACE.
Text of the amendment to the Afghanistan resolution that was opposed by Turkey:Amendment_on_afghanistan_resolution_PACE
The former Turkish diplomat apparently was echoing his boss’s thinking on protecting minorities, women and LGBTI people. Speaking on July 20, 2021 Erdoğan himself said his government would negotiate with the Taliban, which he said should feel comfortable engaging in dialogue with Turkey, as opposed to the Americans. He justified his reasoning by underlining that “Turkey has nothing against the Taliban’s ideology, and since we aren’t in conflict with the Taliban’s beliefs, I believe we can better discuss and agree with them on issues.”
The Taliban expressed pleasure with what Erdoğan said and announced it would view Turkey as an ally rather than an enemy after taking over Kabul and cementing its control of the entire country.
Appearing for an interview on a Turkish TV network on August 11, 2021, the Turkish president also said: “Our relevant institutions [meaning Turkish intelligence and others] have been working on [Afghanistan] including holding some meetings. Maybe I can even host the Taliban leader.”