Can Dündar, leading Turkish journalist who was arrested, jailed and forced into exile for his reporting on Erdogan’s government, addressed the 13th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy as a panelist on the Fragility of Freedom and Democracy panel – see quotes below.

For the full text of the Fragility of Freedom and Democracy panel, click here.

For links to other speakers’ quotes, videos, livestream, and more, click here.

13th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, Monday, June 7, 2021

On democracy in Turkey under Erdogan:

“Erdogan said his reference is not democracy but Islam…he likened democracy to a train that you can get off when you have reached your destination.”

“That was clearly a message that he would use democracy to destroy it, and this was the moment I realized that we were faced with a danger, a present and clear danger for our democracy.”

“He gradually destroyed Turkish democracy and turned it into a one-man, one-party type of system.”

“Turkey has become the biggest jail for journalists, for example, racing with China.”

On Western complacence in the face of Erdogan’s abuses:

“Western governments were in panic [over the refugee problem]…and they made a refugee deal with [Erdogan].”

“The deal was a kind of dirty deal. The deal was: You keep the refugees in Turkey and don’t send them to European continent, and in return we will pay you back, and we will turn a blind eye to your cruelty.”

On relationship between EU and Turkey:

“Big companies don’t want Turkey to be another Iran, or they don’t want to push Turkey towards Russia, but they don’t want Turkey in the EU.”

“They prefer stable countries. Stable means not necessarily democratic countries. You can be a stable country with an authoritarian rule.”

“I’m afraid they [big companies] were ready to sacrifice the values of democratic regimes for their interests.”

“Denying Turkey’s application to join the EU, the EU has turned into a Christian club, and it helped the polarization of the world.”

“Turkey can be a very impressive model for the rest of the Muslim world, and we can show the world that Christians and Muslims can live together, find solutions to the problems of the world together.”

On fighting for change in Turkey:

“There must be a strong desire for freedom within the country that we can support from outside. So, it’s like global warming or climate change; there are no boundaries between inside and outside when it comes to defending democracy.”

On what people can do to safeguard democracy:

“Just protest. Do something to protest. Show your solidarity with the others who are brave enough to fight for democracy.”

“I don’t trust the governments anymore, but I trust the wheel of the people so that we can work together, fight together.”

On hope for the future:

“I’m really optimistic because, in the last elections, Erdogan lost the big cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir for the first time.”

“There are people resisting, women’s organizations, universities, students, trade unions — really a huge resistance from the people. And we are testing our power.”