Skip to main content

Restoring death penalty could have major repercussions for Turkey

Turkish leaders keep stoking popular demands to reinstate the death penalty, but the repercussions of such a move go far beyond what the government can afford, observers say.
Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wave national flags as they listen to him through a giant screen in Istanbul's Taksim Square, Turkey, August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal - RTSMIJJ
Read in 

Around this time six years ago, Turkey was bracing for a referendum on controversial constitutional changes that would profoundly reshape the judiciary. To lure opposition voters, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had put a sweetener into the package — an article to prosecute the leaders of the 1980 coup, which had victimized mostly leftist, Kurdish and some rightist quarters.

In a memorable episode in parliament ahead of the vote, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan broke into tears as he eulogized young people executed after the coup, and he read the farewell letter one of them had penned. "The referendum," he said, "will be a score-settling with the mentality that sent young people to the gallows."

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.