Turkey's government has become increasingly authoritarian under the near dictatorial rule of President Erdogan. Its ongoing war against the Kurdish minority in the south-east of the country has expanded into Iraq and Syria. Turkey is a major customer for UK arms. The rapid growth of its domestic arms industry is aided by UK technology.

Last updated 27 September 2020


Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish politics has taken on an increasingly authoritarian, one-man rule character. In May 2013, a wave of peaceful protest was met with severe force by the Turkish police. A Physicians for Human Rights investigation reported that there were 8000 injuries due to tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, beatings, and live ammunition.

Since the failed military coup in Turkey in 2016, there has been a crackdown against journalists, activists, human rights defenders, and public sector workers, especially supporters (or suspected supporters) of the Gulen movement, and the Kurdish-led HDP party.

According to Amnesty International, 50,000 individuals were in pre-trial detention in 2017 on charges linked to Gulen membership. Nine HDP parliamentarians were in jail, including its two leaders. 100 journalists were also in detention. Numerous human rights defenders were prosecuted on trumped-up charges of “membership of a terrorist organisation” and similar, including the Chair and the Director of Amnesty International Turkey. Detainees have reported the use of torture and sexual violence in Turkish prisons.

Solidarity with the people of Turkey

SPOT is an umbrella group in the UK, which aims to support those struggling for democracy and fundamental freedoms in Turkey, whilst also contributing to working people's struggles in the UK.


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Turkey’s war against the Kurds

Turkey severely represses its Kurdish minority. A long-running and brutal armed conflict between the Turkish military and Kurdish PKK fighters in the south-east has killed tens of thousands. Turkish military assaults on the Kurdish-majority Rojava autonomous region of northern Syria have killed hundreds of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands.

UK arms sales to Turkey

Turkey is a major customer for UK arms, which have supported its repressive regime and brutal war against the Kurds. The UK has approved £1.3 billion worth of arms sales to Turkey since 2013. UK arms companies helped Turkey develop armed drones, and BAE Systems is helping Turkey develop its own fighter aircraft.

picture of an armoured vehicle on a flat-bed truck

Turkey’s arms industry

Turkey's arms industry is large and growing, and it is a major player in the global arms trade as both an importer and an exporter. Turkey regularly attends the DSEI arms fair in London, and other UK arms fairs such as Farnborough and Security and Policing.


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