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START researcher explores how terrorism affects democracy, compares Turkey and US

Terrorism weakens the quality of democracy in developing and advanced democracies, such as the United States and Turkey, said START researcher Nil Satana during her presentation of "Counter-Terrorism and Democracy: Civil-Military Relations in Turkey and the United States," held at Georgetown last week. During the talk, Satana presented her findings on her study in which she explored how terrorism affects democracies.

"Terrorism permanently changes the rules of the civil-military game," Satana said.

"Regardless of convergence or divergence of preferences of the civilians and the military, terrorism leads to a weakening of civilian control of the military."

Satana says that because countries such as the United States and Turkey present terrorism incidents as acts of war, use of armed forces increases, along with an increase in partisanship and politicization of the military. For decades, Turkey "securitized" Kurdish separatist terrorism, which took its toll on Turkish liberties and empowered the military.

The Turkish government introduced Anti-Terror Law No. 3713 in 1991, which jailed anyone who created "separatist propaganda" regardless of non-violent nature of the act. The law was changed only when the issue was "desecuritized" with the help of European Union harmonization legislation.

In comparison, the United States began to approach terrorism as war in 2001 after decades of taking a criminal justice approach, and has since produced new laws that privilege security over civil liberties to a greater extent than prior to 2001. Satana cites laws such as the Patriot Act of 2001, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 and the Freedom of Information Act's restrictions as evidence of this tradeoff.

Satana said that further scholarly work and data collection are needed on the change of the practice of civil liberties in the United States. The talk is based on a paper Satana is writing for an upcoming special issue of Armed Forces and Society journal. Satana is working from START headquarters this year as a visiting faculty member.