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Crime is a serious problem in the developed world. Turkey is no exception to this rule. Despite the relatively low levels of street and organized crime, Turkey faces numerous legal, judicial, and crime issues. As a country that seeks to become a member of the European Union, Turkey makes everything possible to reduce its crime rates. Still, the problem of human rights and hate crimes remains particularly acute.
With the emergence of new social institutions and the growing role of gender in social relationships, hate crimes have become an essential element of daily routines in Turkey. In the meantime, the judicial system lacks any single definition of hate crime, making it difficult to improve the crime situation. Given that democratization trends in Turkey will continue, it is important for the country to develop a specific definition of hate crime, make it one of the crime categories defined by law, create a special department responsible for the investigation of hate crimes, and monitor the enforcement of Article 216 of the Criminal Code of Turkey that outlaws discrimination crimes.
Crime Situation in Turkey
Any Attorney General would be proud of the fact that his country has one of the lowest levels of crime compared with the rest of the developed world. In the case of Turkey, the picture of the low crime rates does not seem to be compatible with the rapid rates of urbanization, industrialization, and population growth (Ergener & Ergener, 2010). The rates of incarceration in Turkey are 100 per 100,000 population, compared with 40 in Japan, 95 in Germany, 125 in Great Britain, and 680 in the United States (Ergener & Ergener, 2010). Istanbul, the cultural and business capital of Turkey, has low rates of crime compared with other metropolitan areas. Although the population of Istanbul is equal to that of Rome, Athens, and Berlin combined, the rates of crime are 50 percent lower than those in each of these cities (Ergener & Ergener, 2010).
Nick Cowen (2012) of the Institute for the Study of Civil Society provides detailed crime statistics for Turkey, compared with other OECD countries. The number of officially recorded cases of crime is roughly 3.3 per 100,000 population (Cowen, 2012). The number of rape cases recorded by police is 1.5 compared with 91.9 per 100,000 population in Australia (Cowen, 2012). Only 11 cases of robbery per 100,000 population are registered in Turkey, against 1762 per 100,000 people in Belgium (Cowen, 2012). Recorded cases of assault are 218 per 100,000 population, compared with 1487 cases per 100,000 people in Scotland (Cowen, 2012). Only 161 cases of burglary are registered against 1939 cases in Denmark, both per 100,000 population (Cowen, 2012).
Hate Crime in Turkey
Turkey has been quite successful in its anti-crime strategies. Nevertheless, certain types of crime remain a stumbling block on Turkey’s way to the European Union. Recently, Turkey has witnessed the growing number of sexual, gender, and religious minorities in the country. Meanwhile, European and American mass media report high incidence of hate crime in Turkey, coupled with the lack of effective law enforcement mechanisms.
Gay rights in Turkey are absolutely unprotected (Turkey’s gay rights groups express shock that LGBT abuse isn’t deemed a hate crime, 2013). The country never explicitly criminalized same-sex relationships, but hate crime remains a serious problem for the Turkish society. Hate crime is often claimed to be based on the traditional Islamic values, which do not accept same-sex relationships (Turkey’s gay rights groups express shock that LGBT abuse isn’t deemed a hate crime, 2013).
The draft of the hate crime law that has been submitted to the Cabinet does not contain any separate provisions against the crimes based on ethnic identity or sexual orientation (Ethnicity, sexual orientation excluded in hate crime draft presented to Turkish Cabinet, 2013). The document causes dismay and confusion in LGBT communities in Turkey (Ethnicity, sexual orientation excluded in hate crime draft presented to Turkish Cabinet, 2013). Time has come for Turkey to expand its democratization ideals and address the topic of hate crime. The goal of the new anti-crime policy will be to minimize the risks and incidence of hate crimes based on ethnic identity, religious affiliation, and sexual orientation, while strengthening the enforcement of the new and existing hate crime laws.
New Policy to Combat Hate Crime
The first step to combat hate crimes is to strengthen and monitor the enforcement of the existing laws. According to article 216 of the Criminal Code of Turkey (2004),
“any person who openly provokes a group of people belonging to a different social class, religion, race, sect, or coming from another origin, to be rancorous or hostile against another group, is punished with imprisonment from one year to three years in case such act causes risk from the aspect of public safety.”
The article will become the foundational pillar of the new policy against hate crimes. Its provisions will be enforced and updated to reflect the changing conditions of hate crime in Turkey. It will serve as the basis for developing new provisions to be approved by the Cabinet. These provisions will cover hate crimes based on sexual and ethnic prejudice. Sexual orientation will also be included in the new definition of hate crime.
The second step is to ensure that hate crime is one of the main crime categories fixed by law. At present, the National Police System divides all crimes into four categories: smuggling, public order crimes, security crimes, and terrorism (Bahar & Fert, 2008). Terrorism can be ideological, political or religious (Bahar & Fert, 2008). Smuggling is categorized as involving drugs or weapons (Bahar & Fert, 2008). Security crimes are related to trade union and community incidents, whereas all other crimes fall under the public order category (Bahar & Fert, 2008).
Obviously, none of these categories seems to be suitable for hate crimes, whose nature varies considerably, depending on the circumstances of the case. Consequently, a new category of crime should be created, in which hate crimes will be subdivided into other subcategories, depending on the object of the crime (e.g., sexual orientation or ethnicity). The government and law enforcement agencies will develop a comprehensive definition of hate crime and define its criteria. As such, hate crime will become an important element of the Turkish law enforcement agenda.
The third step will be to create a separate department that will monitor and investigate cases of hate crime. As of today, the Turkish National Police and Turkish Gendarmerie are responsible for all law enforcement activities in Turkey (Karakus, McGarrell & Basibuyuk, 2010). 200,000 employees work in the Turkish Police (Karakus et al., 2010). Many specialized units have been created for certain types of crime. For instance, the Public Order Department is responsible for monitoring and investigating the crimes involving public order, whereas cases of terrorism are investigated and controlled by the Department of Terrorist Crime (Bahar & Fert, 2008).
Various support agencies are actively involved in the processes of prevention, detection, and investigation of crimes, but none of them has any specific obligations in relation to hate crime. With the growing incidence of these crimes, the national police and judicial system need a separate Hate Crime department, which will help to alleviate the problem and create an atmosphere of equity and justice in Turkish communities. Certainly, even the best Attorney General will never incorporate the proposed changes overnight, but they will certainly become the first steps towards establishing peace and security in the Turkish society.
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Turkey is well-known for its effective anti-crime policies. Not surprisingly, the rates of crime in Turkey are among the lowest in Europe. While the developed world tries to solve the problems of rape, burglary, aggravated assault, and robbery, Turkey maintains the atmosphere of relative stability in most communities. Still, the growing incidence of hate crime remains a stumbling block on Turkey’s way to the European Union. The proposed strategy to deal with hate crime includes three basic elements. First, the country will strengthen its law enforcement efforts, to make sure that the existing laws work. Second, a comprehensive definition of hate crime will be developed and included in the list of the main crime categories that are currently fixed by law. Third, a separate Hate Crime department will be created to monitor and investigate the cases of hate crime. These steps will make it easier for Turkey to achieve its ideals of democracy, equity, and civil protection.
Bahar, H.I. & Fert, I. (2008). The debate over recent recorded crime in Turkey. International Journal of Social Inquiry, 1(1), 89-104.
Cowen, N. (2012). Comparisons of crime in OECD countries. London: CIVITAS Institute for the Study of Civil Society.
Criminal Code of Turkey. (2004). Web.
Ergener, R. & Ergener, R. (2010). About Turkey. New York, USA: Pilgrims Process, Inc.
Ethnicity, sexual orientation excluded in hate crime draft presented to Turkish Cabinet. (2013). Hurriyet Daily News. Web.
Karakus, O., McGarrell, E.F. & Basibuyuk, O. (2010). Fear of crime among citizens of Turkey. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38, 174-184.
Turkey’s gay rights groups express shock that LGBT abuse isn’t deemed a hate crime. (2013). Huffington Post. Web.