Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is actively considering membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a group that’s been described as an authoritarian international for Eurasia’s illiberal regimes, according to Eurasia Daily Monitor analyst Emrullah Uslu:
When asked to clarify whether the SCO is an alternative to the EU, Erdogan said, “The SCO is better and more powerful, and we have common values with them [emphasis added]. We told them, ‘If you say come, we will.’ Pakistan wants to join, as does India. They have also made requests. We could all join together. In terms of population and markets, this organization significantly surpasses the European Union in every way.”
“You should include us … and we will say farewell to the European Union,” Erdogan told Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The SCO has become a vehicle for undermining international standards of human rights and refugee law, according to a recent report from the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
“Whether or not Endogen was once again ‘joking’ about Ankara giving up the EU in favor of the SCO, pro-AKP media outlets have nonetheless catapulted the debate into the public sphere,” writes Uslu:
Turkey has been criticized in the past for seemingly moving away from its democratization process and slowly turning into an authoritarian regime. Therefore, Erdogan’s statement about Turkey’s values matching those of the SCO is politically treacherous. Raising the SCO debate in Turkish politics may inadvertently negatively contribute to the international debate on whether Turkey’s political system is indeed becoming more authoritarian.
The SCO has also been described as “the most dangerous organization that the American people have never heard of” and “one of those international bodies whose proclaimed ideals conceal an often sordid reality.”
The group’s approach to counter-terrorism is modeled on China’s Three Evils doctrine for combating terrorism, extremism and separatism, even if, as one study notes, this has “too often acted as cover for suppression of ….legitimate opposition groups and the cutting-off of trans-regional ties between them.”
The SCO focus on territorial integrity, non-interference in internal affairs, and social stability “contributes to supporting repressive regimes at the expense of national, regional, and global human rights,” according to a recent whitepaper from Human Rights in China.