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Turkey’s Erdogan accuses the West of ‘barbarism’ and Islamophobia in the war in Gaza

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes statements with Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after their meeting at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, on Dec. 7, 2023. Erdogan used a speech on human rights Saturday Dec. 9, 2023 to accuse the West of “barbarism” for its stance on the Israel-Hamas war and what he alleged was its toleration of Islamophobia. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas, File)

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used a speech on human rights Saturday to accuse the West of “barbarism” for its stance on the Israel-Hamas war and what he alleged was its toleration of Islamophobia.

“Israel has carried out atrocities and massacres that will shame the whole of humanity,” Erdogan told a packed hall in Istanbul the day before the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“All the values relating to humanity are being murdered in Gaza. In the face of such brutality, international institutions and human rights organizations are not taking any concrete steps to prevent such violations,” the Turkish leader said.

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The human rights declaration, proclaimed by the U.N. General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948, enshrines a standard for human rights and freedoms for all people.

Referring to Friday’s U.S. veto of a United Nations resolution calling for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, Erdogan said a fairer world was possible “but not with America because the USA stands with Israel. … From now on, humanity won’t think the USA supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Turkey’s human rights record during Erdogan’s two decades in power has come under frequent criticism over the targeting of government critics and political opponents, the undermining of judicial independence and the weakening of democratic institutions.

Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention on preventing and violence against women and has failed to implement European Court of Human Rights judgments.

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On Saturday, the president defined Islamophobia and xenophobia, which he said “engulf Western societies like poison ivy,” as the greatest threats to human rights.

He told the cheering audience that the only value “the West holds on to is its barbarism. We have seen this example of the West’s barbarism in all those unfortunate events that they either supported or perpetrated.”

Erdogan cited the 2019 attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which a gunman killed 51 people, as an Islamophobic attack that was “legitimized” and “even encouraged” by the West.

“According to their understanding, non-Westerners don’t have the right to enjoy those universal human rights … they overlook Islamophobic attacks and they show the twisted perception and mentality of the West,” he said.

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In October, Erdogan told a massive protest crowd in Istanbul that his government was preparing to declare Israel a “war criminal” due to its actions in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government said in response that it would reassess its diplomatic relations with Turkey.

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