© 2021 British Association for International and Comparative Education.Drawing on a critical conceptualisation of human rights education (HRE), this study investigates how human rights were presented in a set of textbooks which were used in Turkey from 1950 to 2020. Findings show that the textbooks avoid human rights issues, struggles, campaigns, and activists by sustaining a de-politicised and de-contextualised narrative. They do not even refer to the Holocaust in explaining the historical development of human rights. These findings suggest that HRE gained a curricular status as a matter of window dressing, an ‘escapist’ model developed as a result. This model is characterised by a deliberate avoidance of anything that may be considered as ‘political’. This study concludes that placing socio-political issues at the centre of HRE and encouraging learners to critically reflect on discrepancies between claims and realities of human rights can improve the transformative powers of HRE in nationalist contexts with no strong tradition of rights struggle.